American’s updated A321 first-class product is a fantastic way to travel between Chicago and Los Angeles.
The pros: Updated plane, seat back entertainment, friendly service, and good food.
The cons: Narrow body jet with a slightly cramped cabin and small bathroom.
Late last month I was traveling to Los Angeles to celebrate my brother’s birthday. For my outbound flight, I paid for a one way ticket on American Airlines and I got an amazing deal. I flew back on a mileage ticket in the same seat and cabin. I used my Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard to book my ticket, spending a total of $112 one way. After completing the flight, I earned a total of 1,745 Elite Qualifying Miles, 1 Elite Qualifying Segment and $91 in EQDs.
A few days before my flight I received an alert that I had been upgraded to first class. As an Executive Platinum I recieve free upgrades when available, but is very rare for the upgrades to clear so early before a longer flight. This was a welcome surprise and made me even more excited for my upcoming trip.
Check-In and Lounge
I usually get to the airport with some time to spare. I went to the Admirals Club to relax before my flight. The lounge is currently going through a renovation, which American was nice enough to inform me of via email a few days before my trip.
Some of the renovations at the lounge were already complete. The floor plan has been rearranged and the new bar is up and running.
Although it was very crowded due to the renovations, I had no trouble finding a place to sit — they have done a great job of adding in seating during the construction. The lounge was decorated in various combinations of American’s color scheme and felt completely new and modern.
American has added a great feature at many of its Admirals Clubs, a fresh guacamole bar! Who doesn’t love guacamole?! You can customize your dish and it is a great, fresh snack before getting on the plane.
I made my way to the gate about 20 minutes before we were scheduled to board. When I got there, we were waiting for the plane to arrive so there was a small delay. Once boarding began, I was one of the first to board the plane through the American Priority lane.
Cabin and Seat
This particular A321 was equipped with first class, Main Cabin Extra and Main Cabin seats. The main cabin was divided into 38 Main Cabin Extra seats arranged in a 3-3 layout with anywhere from 34-35 inches of pitch, and 127 Main Cabin seats, also in a 3-3 arrangement, with 31 inches of pitch. Every seat had a personal seat back in-flight entertainment (IFE) screen loaded with content.
The first-class cabin featured 16 standard seats arranged in a 2-2 layout, with 39 inches of pitch. I sat in seat 1A, the bulkhead, and had plenty of leg room.
The seats themselves don’t offer a ton of privacy, but they’re certainly comfortable enough for a domestic flight. Each seat had a powerpoint, a USB port and a headphone jack. There’s also a pocket that stored reading materials as well as a basic remote control for the IFE screen.
Overall, the seat was very comfortable with plenty of room for a 4.5 hour flight. American recently added the A321 to the ORD-LAX route and it is a welcome upgrade from the dated 737s that used to fly the between the two cities, and the in-flight entertainment is a huge plus!
Food and Beverage, Amenities and Service
After we took off, first-class passengers were served a beverage of their choice and warm nuts. I chose to have a prosecco, my favorite travel cocktail. For me it is always the perfect way to relax during a long flight.
After taking off, I dove into the IFE system, as I was eager to relax and watch a movie or two before arriving in California. The system was great, had many options, and the screen was very clear.
Soon after we were airborne, the flight attendant made his way around the cabin taking meal orders. We were given two choices. I opted for the pasta dish (I usually think the pasta is a safer bet than the meat option), which was served with a side salad, some salami and cheese, and was follow by a delicious mint chocolate sundae. The food was by no means the best I’ve ever had, but it was a dinnertime flight and overall I was impressed with the quality of the food. I enjoyed my meal and would be happy to have it again.
After finishing my meal, I was eager to recline my seat, relax and enjoy a movie. As you can see in the picture below, I love to prop my feet up and stretch out during along flight. My bulkhead seat was perfect!
The flight attendant was very attentive and friendly throughout my trip. He came around, consistently taking drink orders and checking in with passengers. In general, I’ve received very good service on American flights, even when I’ve flown in economy.
I really enjoyed this flight! It was great to find such an affordable fare, and secure a free upgrade thanks to my Executive Platinum status. The upgraded equipment was a nice perk, allowing me to catch up on movies and television during the flight.
Have you ever flown in American’s first class aboard the A321? Tell me about your experience, below.