American Airlines Unveils its New Airbus A321 Transcontinental
Big changes are happening at American Airlines: a new livery after 46 years, a merger with US Airways to become the world’s largest airline and the reintroduction of Airbus aircraft into its fleet. Most recently, its latest aircraft addition was on display at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK). Its first Airbus A321 Transcontinental (A321T) was delivered last month but before it begins revenue service in January 2014, NYCAviation was given an opportunity to check it out.
Once at American’s Terminal 8, we were escorted from the Flagship Lounge to Gate 46 where the new plane sat amongst a snowy backdrop. This A321T (registration N101NN) was scheduled to travel to Los Angeles later in the day for a similar unveiling, but not before receiving her New York debut. American provided quite a welcome for the media. The gate area was lively and excitement was building prior to boarding. We were welcomed and given a brief overview of the Airbus A321T by Jim Carter, Managing Director of American’s Eastern Sales Division. Not long afterward, we were welcomed onto the aircraft to get a first look at the upgrades.
Even while waiting to board in the jetway, we were still able to catch a whiff of that new-airplane smell. Upon entering, the spaciousness of the cabin was immediately apparent, especially with the two abreast (1-1 configuration) seating in first class. Previously, these seats were only available on long haul, international flights. As such, American is the only domestic carrier to offer all three classes on these routes. The 10 first class seats are all fully lie-flat with a 21-inch width, 62-inch pitch, a bed length of 82.5 inches and an HD 15.4-inch touchscreen at each. The remote has its own smaller touchscreen, which not only controls the entertainment system, but also doubles as a secondary display so you can check out your live position on the map without needing to interrupt anything playing on the main screen.
The same lie-flat seating applies to business class as well, albeit with four abreast seating (2-2). Nonetheless, business class also gets you the same 15.4-inch IFE. It’s definitely by no means cramped, either, with a seat width of either 18.5 or 19.5 inches depending on whether you’re in the aisle or window seat, 58-inch pitch, and a bed length of 75 or 78 inches, again depending on your seat. The cabins on the A321T roughly split the aircraft into thirds. The aft third consists of half Main Cabin Extra, and half Main Cabin (economy). Main Cabin Extra offers a 35-inch seat pitch, an extra four inches of pitch over economy’s 31 inches, and up to six inches of extra legroom. Both Main Cabin and Main Cabin Extra feature 8.9-inch HD touchscreen IFEs. The Airbus A321T is the largest of the A320 family which also includes the A318, A319 and A320, while sharing the same type rating for pilots.
American will gradually replace its Boeing 767 service to Los Angeles (LAX) and San Francisco (SFO) with the new A321T. Carter broke down the schedule as follows:
• Out of the initial 10 daily flights between JFK and LAX, two are to be operated with the A321T beginning January 7th. That increases to five per day on January 15th, up to eight on February 12th, and finally 13 frequencies on June 11th.
• On March 6th, two of the four flights between JFK and SFO will be operated by the A321T and that will increase to five on June 11th.
American Airlines’ new airplanes for these routes and the service provided represent a significant improvement from the antiquated Boeing 767-200 not just in terms of capacity, but also amenities. Several of American’s competitors either already have or are in the process of upgrading their offering in the transcontinental market. American is now keeping pace, and the changes will likely please travelers, especially those who frequently fly American between JFK and SFO or LAX.
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