American Airlines, First Class – Airbus A 321: New York JFK to Los Angeles

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Date: 14. August 2016.
Departure: 10:00.
Arrival: 13:15.
Flight time: 5 hours 25 minutes.
Seat: 2A.

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INTRODUCTION
I spend the night in New York at the Crowne Plaza near JFK airport. Today I am travelling on to the West Coast.

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
Transport:
Hotel shuttle.
Journey time: 15 minutes.
Departs from: Outside the hotel lobby.
Arrives: Departures concourse of Terminal 8.
Cost: Complimentary.

The shuttle will drop you off right outside your terminal on the departures level. Just tell the driver where you are going as you get aboard. There are nine passengers on the shuttle this morning, seven of which are Delta crew on their way to Terminal 4.

CHECK-IN
Location:
Terminal 8, which is the American Airlines terminal and also home to some of the other OneWorld carriers like Royal Jordanian.
Facilities: Web check-in and App check-in.
Counters: The American Airlines Priority counters are located on row 5 of the terminal.

The American Airlines Terminal has a modern, bright and airy feel to it. In fact, it reminds me a lot of Heathrow’s Terminal 5. Of course it helps that the place is not so busy, presumably because it is Sunday morning.

LOUNGE
Location:
C concourse in the satellite terminal.
Type of Lounge:
American Airlines Admiral’s Lounge.
Facilities:
Computer workstations, toilets, showers.
Catering: A small selection of breakfast items – things like bagels with Philadelphia cheese, müslis, oatmeal. Coffee, orange juice and ice water are complimentary. Other beverages are available at a charge.
Internet:
Complimentary wifi is available in the lounge.

Only passengers who have status in American Airlines’ frequent flyer programme are entitled to use the lounge, even if they are travelling in Domestic First Class. The transcontinental services from JFK to Los Angeles and San Francisco are exceptions. If you are travelling in First Class on one of these services, you are entitled to use the lounge and may even avail yourself of the international lounge on the main concourse.

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BOARDING
Priority Boarding:
There is a separate queue for Priority passengers and First Class passengers are invited to board first, followed by Business Class and then Economy Class passengers.

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CABIN
Configuration:
1 + 1.
Seat: American Airlines operates the Airbus A 321 in three different configurations. The aircraft that operate the transcontinental flights has four cabins: First, Business, Main Cabin Extra and Economy. The total capacity is for 102, which is very low for the Airbus A 321. The seat is a flat bed with 180 degree recline. There are 10 seats in the First Class cabin.
Pitch: 62 inches.
Length: 82.5 inches.
Width: 21 inches.
Facilities:

  • AC power port and USB port.
  • Wifi is provided by AirCell gogo.

Audio and Video:

  • 4 inch HD capable monitor with touchscreen.
  • Bose noise cancelling earphones.
  • 15 games.
  • 350 audio programmes on demand.
  • 75 films and 150 television programmes on demand.

The seat is comfortable and feels intimate and private. The only complaint I have is that the cabin looks rather drab, given that everything from the bulkhead to the seats is dark grey.

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Seatmap courtesy of seatguru.com

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SERVICE
A pillow and blanket as well as the menu have already been placed at the seat as I enter the aircraft. There is also a bottle of still water and an amenity kit with eye shades, socks, dental kit and some other travel goodies.

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Other than that, the crew a friendly and chatty and make a lot of effort to make sure passengers are comfortable.

THE MEAL
Welcome drink on the ground:
A selection of orange juice, still water or champagne.
Towel before the meal: Hot but not scented.
Pre-meal drink:
Coke Zero served with a ramekin of warm mixed nuts (plus refill on the nuts…).
Choice:
Two choices for the starter, three choices for the main course and two choices for dessert.
Delivery:
À la carte service.
Type of meal:
Early lunch.
Meal:

  • Tomato and goat cheese strata with pickled ginger vinaigrette.
  • Salad with fresh strawberries and hearts of palm with a choice of dressing.
  • Selection form the breadbasket.
  • Pan seared crab cakes with jicama slaw and tomatillo poblano cream sauce.
  • Vanilla ice cream with a choice of topping.

The meal hits the spot nicely, but it is way too much food. Perhaps I should not have had that second ramekin of nuts. Especially the sundae with hot fudge and nuts for dessert is divine – probably the best dessert I have ever had on a plane.

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I spend the rest of the flight reading and, well, basically eating. First the crew brings me two packets of sea slated crisps, then the smell of warm freshly baked chocolate chip cookies starts wafting through the cabin and I figure it would be a shame not to try one. Oh okay, maybe two so I have something to go with the coffee…

ARRIVAL
Eventually we touch down on the northernmost runway at Los Angeles airport. The view out the window is quite spectacular. There are already four A 380s standing there and just behind us, Air France arrives to make it five.

TRANSFER IN LAX
American Airlines uses Terminal 4 in Los Angeles. From here I need to transfer to Terminal 3 for my onward connection. Apparently, there is a shuttle bus that links all of the airport’s terminals but I am unable to locate the stop. Eventually I figure it is a nice enough day here in Los Angeles, not too hot. And so I walk to Terminal 3 instead. It only takes about seven minutes to walk across.

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