One of the more popular posts I wrote this year was about the best non-first class way to fly across the country… although, let’s be honest: most of us try to avoid flying transcon in any seat that doesn’t convert to a bed. For whatever reason, the transcon product I’ve most wanted to try is American Airlines’ first class seat on their special A321. It’s a pretty cool plane in any cabin, since it only carries around 100 people (as opposed to over 180 on a normal A321) in a very premium-heavy configuration.
First class is especially cool, with a 1-1 configuration that features the only narrow-body example of a reverse herringbone seat. (The business class cabin also looks pretty nice – it consists of 5 rows of B/E Super Diamond seats in a 2-2 layout, same as you’d find on United and Delta’s 757s.)
The thing is, most reviews of AA’s transcon first class are mixed, since the food and service aren’t actually that good. Plus, despite only having two seats per row, the width of the A321 cabin requires the use of a narrower seat than you’d get on a 777. I already know that I don’t particularly love this seat, having flown something fairly similar on Delta’s A330. And I’m on record not liking most things about American Airlines to begin with, although I’ve been flying them more and more lately (mostly due to the fact that they’re the usually the cheapest option in first class between ORD and SFO).
On the other hand, everyone raves about JetBlue’s Mint suites, which are also in a 1-1 configuration but include sliding doors and significantly more personal space. Plus JetBlue’s catering and in-flight service is as good as you’re going to find on a US airline, so I’m unlikely to enjoy AA’s first class any more than my Mint flight from earlier this year. So I guess what I’m wondering is, why am I still so excited that I’ll get to fly it next year?
To be honest, if I had the choice, I would have saved 35,000 miles (across two tickets) and booked business instead. However, like United and Delta, American is incredibly stingy with award space on this route. I actually think they’re a little better than the other two, but that’s not saying much. The other problem is that when they do release space, it’s almost always on the 7AM flight, which just doesn’t interest me. Given the general lack of availability, imagine my surprise when I was booking the second half of our MXP-JFK-SFO itinerary next year, and the day I wanted to fly matched up with the only first class saver seats for the entire month. Even better, I was able to grab an afternoon flight, which is rarer still.
Although I’d rather not splash out 50,000 miles per ticket (well, less after the 7.5% credit card rebate) for a transcon flight, it seemed like an especially nice note on which to end our trip, and I didn’t really have a ton of options anyway. Now I get to indulge my excitement for a flight that will probably be somewhat of a letdown, but I’m still really looking forward to it.
Here’s my preliminary comparison of this flight with JetBlue Mint (keeping in mind that I’ve only flown one of the two):
- I think the lounge is going to make a big difference. Even if JetBlue is demonstrably better in flight, if you look at the entire trip from airport to airport, American looks pretty good by comparison. Leaving JFK, your only lounge option on JetBlue is the execrable Airspace lounge, which is honestly shittier than the terminal itself. On the other hand, American offers private check-in, the nicest lounge in their network, and a private sit-down restaurant. That ain’t nothing.
- I liked the JetBlue seat, but I didn’t love it. I think people care way too much about the door, which honestly isn’t that cool. It doesn’t go up very high, which means that it mostly offers privacy against people crawling down the aisle on their hands and knees. If you’re standing up, you’re gonna see over the door.
- I’m quite sure the service and food will be a letdown, since I’ve found American crews generally to be the least friendly, and the service on my Mint flight was as good as everyone says it is.
- I don’t know which seat I’m going to prefer in the end. I’ve spent a total of 18 hours in the JetBlue seat model (also used on Swiss, Brussels, Austrian, and a bunch of others), and as spacious as it is, the seat is very coffin-like in bed mode, and the footwell is super narrow. I think this aspect of it may end up being a wash.
- Finally, I’m excited to try a new in-flight product, and American’s new lounge will be a nice bonus. I have a hunch that JetBlue is better overall, and it’s worth noting that JetBlue is also much less expensive. Still, as I mentioned in the title, I’m irrationally excited about this flight on American. I can’t wait to be let down!
Am I the only one who gets irrationally excited about certain planes or seats? I’m curious if anyone else has any planes or seats they’re irrationally excited to fly.
Dude I’m your reverse. I’m about to fly my first Mint (in row 2), nonstop JFK-PSP, and I’m all tingly about it. We will see.
I’ve flown the A321T 1st class twice now, and was also all excited about that, though after the second time I’m a little more over it. It’s pretty much as you’re expecting: I love not having a seat neighbor, and a feeling of a whole console to myself. The service is thoroughly indifferent which kind of spoils the fun, and I think that much more so because the cabin is often filled with nonrevs.
The lounge access is great (and you can go to the sit-down dining at JFK for breakfast if you arrived on a red-eye). The secret priority check-in at JFK is fun, though I haven’t really needed it since I didn’t check a bag or anything and there was no TSA line when I used it. I don’t find bed mode all that comfortable — def not compared to United’s 757 and 767 biz class seats, where I sleep like a baby (and the Polaris duvet and pillow trounce AA’s offerings).
50K is a lot to blow, but what else are you gonna do with your AA miles, and you’ll never see biz saver. (Plus UA is up to 60K for transcons, and DL lol). The loungey lounge is nice, and not having to be aware of the existence of other humans is nice, so enjoy your flight. Just don’t expect the FA’s to give two shits.
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