Recent AA A321T transcon premium-class experience, anyone?

Discussion in 'American Airlines | AAdvantage' started by kansaskeith, Nov 8, 2014.  |  Print Topic

  1. kansaskeith

    kansaskeith Gold Member

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    Now that it's been flying much of the year and they've had a chance to iron some things out, has anyone recently had premium-cabin experience in the "Legend is Back" 321T transcons between California and New York Kennedy? Specifically, is F class worth the extra miles or fare over J class on the new bird? I know that F is 1-1 seating an J is 2-2, but both are flat-bed. I know that F gets you "Flagship Check-in" and the "Flagship Lounge," whereas J gets you "Priority AAccess" and "Admirals Club." I know that F even has a spot to stow a small dog, which I don't have :) But beyond that, how about food, wines, stAAff attention and service, etc? Is the difference worth it? And, if anyone knows, how does their F and J compare to DL's "Business Elite," UA's "Business First," VX First, and B6 "Mint?"
     
  2. jbcarioca
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    jbcarioca Gold Member

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    Good question; I'd like to know also. Waiting for good experience info.
     
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  3. brodyf

    brodyf Gold Member

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    I have flown the 321T in J but not F. I have to say that was one of the best flight experiences I have had in my long flying career. The seats are excellent. The food was great. The flight crew was young and attentive and cheerful. The IFE system has a huge screen with tons of choices, and the plane is extremely quiet.

    While I haven't experienced F, I have heard it isn't worth the extra expense. Unless you just want to sit alone.
     
  4. kansaskeith

    kansaskeith Gold Member

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    Thanks, Brody! The type of input I was looking for. If anyone else has some, please add in!
     
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  5. dayone
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    dayone Silver Member

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    F is worth it if you have the miles. The extra space, privacy and access to Flagship Lounges and Check-in combine for a nice package of valuable benefits. J is comparable to VX F and, from what I've read, DL BE.

    Service is very good in J and even better in F. Staff attention will be dependent on, well, the staff. Many are outstanding (usually).
     
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  6. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    The AA J seat is substantially the same as the DL and UA J seat on the 752s.

    The VX seat is roughly 2 generations older at this point. And the J seat is not the newest generation of product on the market.
     
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  7. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    But does AA have purple mood lighting during the boarding process?
     
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  8. dayone
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    dayone Silver Member

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    You are correct, as usual. I was comparing the total VX J experience. I've found the VX soft product, especially the service, to be quite nice. I don't sleep on transcons so the VX J seat is fine for my needs.
     
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  9. flyforawg

    flyforawg Silver Member

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    • Flagship lounge in JFK really isn't all that special. Small and cramped compared to the rest of the lounge and the food is meh. Dry parmesan chicken and so so sides. Lousy beer selection and nothing on tap that I could see.
    • Greeted warmly when boarding.
    • Offer of PDB and substitute for a nearby passenger who didn't want one of the three default offers.
    • Very friendly and attentive throughout flight.
    • Never an empty glass until I wanted it to be empty.
    • Good meal presentation.
    • Pre selected meal for me was shrimp scampi. It and all the food and snacks were very good.
    • Would prefer the seat to be more adjustable. The older J seats seem to allow more flexibility over how to adjust seatback and leg angles. The leg support doesn't extend as long as I would like when elevated. Feels odd on my legs. The older J seats have extenders that I like.
    • Fully lie flat is nice, but since I have bad sinuses, I don't tend to like to lie flat anyway.
    • Overall probably would have been just as fine back in J, but worlds better than Y a very nice experience.
    Tried to keep this just to data points from my experience. All of our value propositions are different.
     
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  10. mmgm

    mmgm Silver Member

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    I flew F once and J several times. I actually preferred the J seat and changed a future F award to J.
     
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  11. timfrost

    timfrost Silver Member

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    I have flown the A321T in economy three times and J once so far (flying J again on Monday 11/17 and that will make my second J transcon since the A321T came online) Flying J in October JFK-LAX was positively delightful. I found the seat to be much more comfortable than on the 762 and considerably better than than the angle-flat on the 752I/763/772. The TVs are enormous and easily viewed from both upright and bed mode. I'm 5'04 so I can't complain about legroom or bed length no matter what, but it seemed to be quite ample for anyone of size. My complaint about the angle flat seats is they are too deep from seatback to edge of the seat and therefore uncomfortable for my short legs. This is not an issue in the new seats. The service was spot-on, meals plated attractively. I had trouble deciding among the wines, so no complaints there. The only issue I could see is difficulty leaving your seat if you're in the window and the aisle seat occupant has their seat in bed mode. You'd probably need to be very friendly, a contortionist, or both to get out without disturbing the person on the aisle. If you need to get up frequently, you may want an aisle seat just in case. To me there is no comparison between AA J and VX F, I think they're completely different (and AA much better) but that's just my two cents. Also, for whatever it's worth, I think economy on these planes is really quite enjoyable. It's a nice small cabin, plenty of space in MCE, and since there are two flight attendants for just 72 people the service is fairly good in the back of the bus too. The in-seat IFE also has a surprisingly responsive touch screen, much easier to deal with than the ones on VX.

    I can't see how F would be that many miles better unless you just can't stand sitting next to someone. The seats are pretty and all, but for the extra $/miles... I'm skeptical.
     
  12. kansaskeith

    kansaskeith Gold Member

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    Thanks, Tim. Great report.

    Yesterday, though, I did spring 32.5 K miles (less a 10% Citi miles rebate), to fly F on the a321t between Lalaland and Jamaica Bay this coming Tuesday (the day after your next A321t trip, Tim). I'll just see how it goes, and will advise. Nine-tenths of the time I really don't object to sitting next to another passenger. At times, I even enjoy it. So maybe it isn't worth the extra miles, but they're booked now, so I'll just see. F will give me a chance to use Flagship check in and the Flagship Lounge in Los Angeles.

    One side note: for all the talk about American Airlines being stingy of late on sAAver seat availability, I was relatively stunned at the amount of flights I could find with sAAver F availability on fairly short notice here in what I guess is the slow fourth quarter. Certainly not all flights, but several. Maybe the oft-vilified revenue management folks aren't such devils after all! Interesting to me.
     
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  13. timfrost

    timfrost Silver Member

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    Tomorrow is actually my 8th transcon in 3 weeks which is why I opted to treat myself and do the money/miles upgrade... I've survived six of them in coach... and two on 757s without wifi. I think $75 and 15k miles is 100% worth it for the confirmed upgrade - but only on the 321T or maybe a 767/777 MIA-LAX I need the earned miles to make PLT again for 2015 (this was a light travel year for me overall but next year speeds back up) but have plenty of miles to burn, especially now that the westbound transcons have been pushing over the 6+00 mark to LAX and SFO.

    While we're half on the topic, anybody aware of any issues during this last winter when the A321s came online having to make tech stops for refueling? I know that has been an issue for both B6 and VX in the past for the A320s but haven't heard a peep about it happening with AAs 321T. It seems the plane would be a little on the light side anyway with only 102 passengers.
     
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  14. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    I'd be very surprised if the A321T needs a fuel stop based on the low number of passengers.
     
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  15. jbcarioca
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    jbcarioca Gold Member

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    It is almost inconceivable for the A321 to need a fuel stop JFK-LAX. The range os the A321 is approximately 3000NM while JFK-LAX is slightly less than 2148 NM. The range is calculated using normal load density which is 185 pax plus luggage etc, while as mentioned here AA flies light with <130 total including crew.

    As a note: just as with all aircraft the version is crucial to range and load capacity. The A321 and the B737-900ER are the longest range in their class at the moment with >3000NM ranges, although both have other versions with much shorter ranges and lower capacity. FWIW, both of these versions were launched with coast to coast US, inter-Asia and Europe-Middle East as key markets. Soon, if Airbus does as expected, there will be a A321NEO with the transatlantic range of the B757, thus finally making all those medium/low density transatlantic routes formerly of the B757 serviceable again.
     
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  16. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    Minor point of pedantry, but the A319 has a longer range than the A318/A320/A321. Similarly, I believe the 73G has a greater range than the 73E but I'm not certain.

    And the A320 is listed as 3,100nm max range for the type but still has had to make fuel stops westbound on transcons in the winter. I'm not sure if that's because the 3100nm number only comes with extra fuel tanks or there are other considerations but the issue there has been very real.

    As to the A321neoLR, it is expected to have the range to replace the 757-200W but also be smaller and offer slightly lower capacity. It is not really a perfect replacement for the type but it may be the only option available for some time.
     
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  17. jakem4800

    jakem4800 Silver Member

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    Yup, PHL -SEA on the A320 we had to drop in GEG for fuel cause of headwinds.. (Us air) They should consider using an aircraft that can make the entire trip..
     
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  18. timfrost

    timfrost Silver Member

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    What a shame. GEG is practically spitting distance too. But... Not appropriate gliding distance! :-P
     
  19. jbcarioca
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    jbcarioca Gold Member

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    The catalog ranges depend on load; the quoted range numbers are typically presented with standard configuration loads in place.
    A319 3740nm 156 pax (but in executive configuration range can be as much as 6300nm- due to much raduced load and supplemental fuel tanks making MGW roughly the same as a typical A319)
    A320 33000 nm 150 pax
    A321 3200 nm 185 pax
    My earlier post did not explain details, so did not explain that reducing pax and freight loads in the larger aircraft produce ranges greater than the smaller ones with nominally longer range.
    The same principles work for Boeing as well. From time to time versions are developed that use the wings, fuel capacities of the largest versions with a truncated fuselage- Boeing 747SP the classic example, gaining lots of range but diminished loads.
    The upcoming China A330 version uses the largest passenger capacity with smaller fuel capacity thus making a short range large capacity aircraft, just as Boeing did for the Japan domestic B747.
    My comments about the A321 of AA are correct except that their own versions range is greater than the standard A321, but is not published as a distinct A321 version because the cabin configuration was the primary load-limiting device, thus permitting no new certification requirements for the AA version, other than the standard cabin certification and probably a few STC's.

    The pendants opportunity here is to debate specific ranges based on cabin weights and capacity as well as fuel, luggage and freight capacities, all of which are regularly manipulated, even seasonally.
     
  20. jbcarioca
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    jbcarioca Gold Member

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    These days that only happens with high winds in the jetstream plus a very heavy load on the aircraft. Some carriers choose a fuel stop if the revenues of the extra load outweigh the inconvenience. Nobody yet has built an aircraft that will do full seats, full freight and full fuel all at the same time while going anywhere near maximum range with unfavorable winds. Normally these things happen in the winter when the winds are higher. It still happens fairly often on long range flights, transpacific more frequently than most others IIRC.
     
  21. Pizzaman
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    Pizzaman Co-founder

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    Depends on your tailwind. ;)
     
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  22. kansaskeith

    kansaskeith Gold Member

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    OK, I'd like to thank everybody for their input on this thread I started on November 8. Fast-forward one-week plus, "saver" availability was out there, so yesterday and today I flew round-trip LAX - JFK, F on AA's 321T one way, and back to Los Angeles in J on United's two-cabin "premium service" 757, to compare the two companies' offerings. Attached below is a piece I wrote for a couple Facebook groups to which I belong, but I am posting it here too, if any of you are interested in my conclusions. Obviously it is a little long, but if interested feel free to plow through it. Or not :) And as always, Your Mileage May Vary!

    Some of you may know I spent 32.5 K sAAver miles to sample AA Transcon First yesterday, A321T from Los Angeles to New York Kennedy, and another 25K MileagePlus saver miles to return to LAX today on UA 'premium service' 757-200 'Business First' J (United has no F transcon product).

    Whether one agrees with my use of miles or not, to fly and sample the premium product was the sole purpose of this award trip. I stayed overnight in Queens and didn't even visit wonderful Manhattan this time around.

    Further, for a lot of reasons this comparison is unscientific. Among them: (1) only one transcon on each (small sample size), (2) F on one and J on the other, and (3) it ignores other competitors in the market, Delta Business Elite, JetBlue Mint and Virgin America First. [I would have loved to sample the others, but it just wasn't in the (membership) cards as I am not active in their programs.]

    All that said, I'm gonna compare anyway, so here it goes:

    Biggest single impression: flight crews. From the moment I boarded UA, eye contact and smiles, it was clear that crew was outstanding. They kept it up, too. And, from the moment I boarded the AA flight, lack of eye contact and smiles - heck, little if any recognition F pax were even there, - it was clear there was going to be a problem. And there was. PDBs? On AA F, forget it! UA, sure, and with big smiles. Coat hanging: far easier to get it done graciously on UA. The attitudes continued through the flights, though on AA I think the purser saw me taking a bunch of pics and typing like crazy, suspected I was blogging about his flight, and warmed slightly. Nowhere near where the UA crew was from the start, though. Both crews were in their late 20s and 30s. I am aware each airline has inconsistencies among crews, but on my flights, UA won this by a mile. (And my two UA flights from ICT to LAX to begin this saga - one segment in coach and one in F - had equally wonderful Friendly Skies crews. Did I luck out, or what?) Had to wonder if the recent AA contract defeat or other merger pressures left those people sour, but I don't know that.

    Other comparisons:

    Cabins: the AA 321T is spiffier than the revamped UA 752. Yes, I was in F as opposed to J but I looked in AA J also, and AA has the better cabins transcon.

    Seats: Both offer lie flat, 2-2 in J and 1-1 in AA F. Seats are comfortable on both. The fancy schmancy 1-1 AA F seat is nice, but I thought its emphasis on privacy made it a little cramped. By the way, it is noticeably tighter than its lookalike big brother on the 777-300 F. Overall, a draw.

    IFE: Both high quality in variety, and both offer Bose noise-canceling headsets. No complaints, though UA has the better in-flight map. A draw.

    wi-fi: Gogo is offered on both. We lost it for 30 minutes it so on AA, but I understand that is rare: overall, a draw.

    Food: IMHO, UA by a considerable advantage. Both in presentation and in quality, though I did enjoy the ice cream sundae and apparently return to baked-on-board cookie on AA. Dang, forgot to order a cappucino on AA F, and that crew certainly wasn't going to volunteer one - or, if it was part of their question as to my type preference when I asked for coffee, I didn't pick it up.

    Booze: insufficient data. AA's wines seemed okay but I am hardly an expert. UA is an early morning flight, and while there is some liquor on offer, I don't see any being taken. Amenities kit: AA had kits (with the previous company logo) for F pax, don't know about J. UA J had no kits, but offered each pax out of a basket: eyeshades, ear plugs and tooth-brushing sets. Conclusion: insufficient data.


    Communications with pax: This goes back to people skills, and UA cockpit and GAs kicked butt here. Unfortunately we were almost to the runway and the 752 had a significant mechanical that brought us back to gate (100-minute delay). The captain was truly wonderful in communicating throughout, and the gate agent was helpful too......No serious mechanical on my AA flight, though the cockpit did an okay job of communicating difficulty in approaching the Jetbridge after landing. However, on a scheduled AA Transcon flight a couple hours before mine at LAX, turns out the plane was leaking fluid at the gate, flight cancelled, and pax said this was very poorly (un)communicated to the people waiting to board. UA wins.

    Clubs: Without a membership, premium cabin customers can use the airline clubs/lounges. The Admirals Club (J) and Flagship Lounge (F) at LAX are better than the rundown United Club at Kennedy, and for that matter the one at LAX. AA wins on this one, though I did think the much vaunted "Flagship Checkin" for F transcon pax was a little overrated.

    Premium seat (saver) award availability: This one surprised me. This time of the year, advantage AA, by a sizeable degree, particularly looking at 32.5 transcon F seats. AA J were tighter, but even there looser than their UA counterparts. This despite recent member complaints how stingy AA has gotten on sAAver seats overall, and UA saying systemwide it has better award availability. But in my sampling this time, AA eAAsily won this one.

    -----

    My overall conclusion. Look, our worries are ‪#‎FirstWorldProblems‬. By comparison with so much of humanity, those of us here are blessed with the opportunity for safe and relatively reliable and luxurious cross-country travel. But I have to say my impression, from a whole one transcon on each, UA premium service delivers, while with AA, despite immense effort to revamp the product (and despite winning some categories above), to paraphrase their ads, 'The Legend is {not quite} Back.'.

    So yeah, I guess you might say at least with me, people really DO make a difference.

    Still in the air with UA as I file this. If they screw it up, I'll come back and revise. But seeing this crew, I doubt they will:) Now, if I could just arrange to sample DL, VX and B6 transcons. Safe travels, all!
     
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2014
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  23. Bay Pisco Shark
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    Bay Pisco Shark Gold Member

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    Here's a report from VX from a few months' back on TOBB:

    http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/virg...o-airlines-both-say-virgin-america-plane.html

    And my VX experience has been repeated by plenty of people on UA and AA - depends on your crew.

    I liked the AA A321 J product. I didn't love it. My one time that was supposed to be in F didn't happen due to IRROPS and I ended up in F on a 762 (one of the last flights). While the seats were crap, the F crew was fantastic.
     
  24. BigAppleCoder

    BigAppleCoder Silver Member

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    I flew JFK to SFO in J the Sunday before Thanksgiving on a 321T which was my first time flying transcon since the 762 days. Overall, I found it to be an excellent product with the lie flat seats being a vast improvement over the 762s J product. The flight attendant was extremely attentive and helpful and went out of his way to help make it a very pleasant trip. The meal was quite tasty and the hot fudge sundae afterwards was very welcome. The only downside is that I miss the 762s middle section in J that allowed each person to have an aisle seat.

    As an aside, I flew back SFO to JFK on United in the PS product. I had not been on a United flight in over 3 years and I was pleasantly surprised with the new cabin. The IFE offered many choices which allowed me to pass the time quickly. Not sure what was going on, but I found the United crew to be especially friendly, nearly jovial and extra-attentive to me even though I was only in E+. One flight attendant even offered to hang my suit jacket. Though I was in E+, I did manage to check out the business first seats upon disembarkation and on the surface they appear to be quite similar to the AA J seat.
     
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  25. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    Not only do they appear to be quite similar, they are quite similar. Basically the same seat on the DL, UA and AA transcon narrow-body planes now.
     

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