Amer­i­can Air­lines

First Class, New York-Los Angeles

Business Traveler (USA) - - TRIED AND TESTED -

BACK­GROUND AA has a new plane for mid-haul transcon­ti­nen­tal flights – the A321, with fully-flat beds in first and busi­ness class.

It’s cur­rently on se­lect daily ser­vice be­tween NewYork JFK and Los Angeles; by June, when the fre­quency goes up to 13 times daily, it will be on all LAX flights. It also flies the JFK - San Fran­cisco ser­vice.

CHECK-IN I ar­rived at JFK Ter­mi­nal 8 at 9:20 AM. There is curb­side check-in, but the bit­terly cold tem­per­a­tures forced me in­side to Zone 1, where the pre­mium check-in is. The check-in at­ten­dant was very help­ful and of­fered to put me on the 10:30 flight since I was so early, but I elected to stay on the 12:00 de­par­ture. From there it was a short walk to se­cu­rity, where de­spite there be­ing only a few pas­sen­gers it took over ten min­utes to be pro­cessed.

THE LOUNGE AA has a few lounges at Ter­mi­nal 8. Since I had time, I went into the Flag­ship lounge by gate 12 and re­laxed, had some break­fast from the buf­fet and did some work. I then headed to­ward the gate, which means tak­ing an es­ca­la­tor to go un­der one of the taxi­ways and then com­ing up on a dif­fer­ent con­course. I spent 20 min­utes in the large Ad­mi­ral’s lounge there and got to the gate about 11:30.

BOARD­ING There was pri­or­ity board­ing for pre­mium pas­sen­gers through the door­way at the front of the plane, which meant that ev­ery pas­sen­ger walks through First and then, if in the main cabin, the busi­ness sec­tion as well.

THE SEAT The air­craft is con­fig­ured in three classes, four if you count the Main Cabin Ex­tra. The five rows of First, con­fig­ured 1-1, are all an­gled to­wards the win­dows. The seat is sim­i­lar to that on the 777-300ER, and fully flat is just as com­fort­able.

The in-flight en­ter­tain­ment (IFE) has a wide choice of en­ter­tain­ment – 200 films, up to 180 TV pro­grams, more than 350 au­dio se­lec­tions and up to 20 games. How­ever in­stead of the more tra­di­tional hand­set, there is a touch­screen hand­set. I found this very tricky to use. There was also a fault in my sys­tem so when I paused a film it would not restart. De­spite hav­ing my sys­tem re­set, this prob­lem per­sisted. I tried to lis­ten to mu­sic, but the mu­sic jumped around so I gave up al­to­gether, and in­stead just worked, keep­ing my lap­top charged us­ing the in­di­vid­ual power plugs.

The price of Gogo’s up­graded ATG-4 WiFi was $11 for one hour, $22 for two hours (but with one free, so three hours), or all day $28.95. I thought this was ex­pen­sive and did not con­nect, but at least four of the six pas­sen­gers in First did, so per­haps I’m alone in that.

THE FLIGHT My coat was taken af­ter a few min­utes, and I was of­fered a ei­ther Cham­pagne, wa­ter or or­ange juice. We backed away from the gate at noon. Menus came around shortly af­ter take-off, and the op­tion of an­other drink. This was done in­di­vid­u­ally (i.e. not from the trol­ley). The menu in­cluded a salad with sea­sonal greens and ei­ther chicken pot pie (“An Amer­i­can Clas­sics item”) or lemon and dill grilled sal­mon. The por­tions were huge, and it was all very tasty, par­tic­u­larly the salad, which came with the op­tion of two large grilled chicken breasts which made it en­trée size.

Through­out the flight the ser­vice had a sense of be­ing al­most im­pro­vised. I re­clined the seat and re­laxed for a while. I didn’t get much sleep, how­ever, be­cause of all the flight at­ten­dants laugh­ing and talk­ing in the gal­ley. But later on in the flight, when I asked my flight at­ten­dant if they had herbal tea or any­thing with­out caf­feine, he said he didn’t, but then both he and a col­league went into their own flight bags to of­fer me what they brought along for them­selves. So how do you rate ser­vice like that?

AR­RIVAL We ar­rived on time into LA and there were no prob­lems get­ting off, with First given pri­or­ity. As I was ar­riv­ing as a do­mes­tic pas­sen­ger, I was quickly out of the air­port.

VER­DICT It was dis­ap­point­ing that the IFE didn’t work on this flight, but this was true of all three Amer­i­can Air­lines flights I took in busi­ness and first on three con­sec­u­tive days. The ser­vice was very good at times, and not so great at oth­ers. BT

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