Tried & Tested

Flight review: American Airlines A321T business class

30 Apr 2014 by Paul Revel
American Airlines A321T_aircraft_
BACKGROUND American Airlines’ new transcontinental A321 service started in January. All 11 of the carrier’s daily flights on this route are expected to be operated by the aircraft by this month. It is configured in three classes, four if you include Main Cabin Extra, a quasi-premium economy. Following our review of first class in the March issue, here is a review of the business product. CHECK-IN I arrived at LAX Terminal 4 at 1400 for my 1500 flight (AA22). There was kerbside check-in but it was just as quick to go inside to the business class desk, where there was no queue. I moved relatively quickly through fast-track security and headed to the Admirals Club upstairs, directly opposite Gate 40 from where my flight would depart. LOUNGE The Admirals Club lounge is large and bright with plenty of natural light from the full-height windows, and seating for more than 300 guests. It offers free wifi, work cubicles, computers and showers. Coffee, beer and wine and a few snacks are complimentary. Premium drinks, spirits and meals are charged for. I was also able to visit the Flagship lounge, hidden behind a smoked glass door just off the main reception area and accessible only to business class passengers with AAdvantage Executive Platinum or Oneworld Emerald status. Smaller and quieter, it has a self-service bar with a choice of wines, sparkling brut and premium spirits, plus sandwiches and pastries. BOARDING This had started by the time I reached the gate and was via an airbridge. There was a priority boarding lane for business and first class passengers. Once on board I asked for my jacket to be hung and was offered a glass of prosecco. THE SEAT The business cabin comprises five rows (six to ten) configured 2-2 (A-C, D-F). Window seats do not have direct aisle access so you have to step over your fellow passenger or be stepped over. The seats are upholstered in charcoal grey fabric, and an opaque dividing panel adds a modicum of privacy. There is a decent amount of stowage, including a cubbyhole with UK mains power and USB sockets, and a shallow shelf below the 15.4-inch touchscreen for a laptop. You can also stow a bag under the ottoman footrest. The width of the seat (19 inches/48cm) feels reasonable, and my neighbour, who was more than six-foot tall, could stretch out on the fully-flat bed. A pillow and quilt are provided. The in-flight entertainment was very good, and Bose noise-cancelling headphones were provided. WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE? If you want direct aisle access, opt for seats C or D. Choose the front row (six) to disembark or receive food and drink first. THE FLIGHT We took off on time and the drinks service started 25 minutes later, with a meal being served about an hour after take-off. Service was very friendly and solicitous, in an easy-going, informal American style, with the attendant greeting passengers by name. The afternoon meal included a starter of smoked salmon with seared ahi-tuna, a salad with strawberries and pecans, and a choice of bread. The gorgonzola-crusted beef fillet with broccolini was the only disappointing part of the meal. AA’s signature ice-cream sundae comes with hot fudge and butterscotch sauces. Later, the aroma of freshly baked cookies heralded the serving of pre-landing snacks. ARRIVAL Arriving at JFK as a domestic passenger is bliss for a Brit – in the taxi in no time, avoiding the tribulations of US immigration. Arriving after 1100 meant an easy, traffic-free drive into Manhattan. VERDICT A pleasant way to travel coast-to-coast. The service is hard to fault, with a comfortable seat and space to work, relax or sleep. FACT FILE
  • SEAT WIDTH 19in/48cm
  • SEAT LENGTH 75-78in/190-198cm
  • SEAT RECLINE 180 degrees
  • PRICE Internet rates for a return business class flight between Los Angeles and New York in June ranged between £2,159 and £2,909 depending on flexibility.
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