American Airlines Airbus A321T Business Class New York-Los Angeles – Launch Flight Review
While it was the coldest day of the year so far, 9° F (-12.8° C), with wind chills that made it feel even colder, I was undaunted as I headed to John F. Kennedy International Airport for my flight to Los Angeles, where it was slated to be sunny and significantly warmer. The grass may very well be greener on the other side of the country.
The inaugural flight of a new airplane is always an adventure, especially in a week during which tens of thousands of flights were delayed and cancelled leaving travelers stranded across the country.
On this flight, American was launching its new Airbus A321T subfleet, designed specifically to be flown on the premium flights that link New York with Los Angeles and San Francisco. American is replacing fairly large widebody Boeing 767-200s, which seat a total of 168 passengers, with the smaller, single-aisle A321Ts, which carry 102 people. Don’t let the numbers mislead you – most of the shrinkage is in economy, which drops from 128 to 72. First class remains the same, with 10 seats, and business class goes from 30 to 20.
American is moving to a shuttle-like model with its transcon service, so while there will be fewer seats on an individual plane, the overall number of seats available on a given day is unlikely to be changing very much.
The plane offers first- and business-class passengers fully lie-flat seats. Those in first are in a 1-1 configuration while the business-class seats are configured 2-2.
Boarding for the flight, scheduled to depart at 3:45 p.m. Eastern Time, started around 3:15 p.m. First class passengers were invited to board first, followed immediately by business-class passengers. I was one of the first on the plane and headed to my seat, 6A, a bulkhead seat in business class.
American Airlines employees were on the jetbridge with gift bags for all passengers to celebrate the inaugural flight.
As boarding proceeded, flight attendants were in the aisles directing passengers, offering pre-departure beverages, and hanging up coats. Everyone – passengers and crew alike – were acquainting themselves with the new aircraft.
Because of a runway change and a subsequent 30-minute tour of JFK, the actual departure was delayed until 4:35 p.m. Takeoff was smooth and we leveled off at 32,000 feet around 5 p.m.
Our flight plan took us over Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri and we turned a bit more southwest as we approached the southeastern part of Colorado, flying over Arizona and then New Mexico as we approached Los Angeles.