Aviation News

December 18, 2013

American Airlines Unveils its New Airbus A321 Transcontinental

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By: Douglas Wint and Mark Hsiung
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American Airlines' newest addition to the fleet parked at JFK's Gate 46. (Photo by the author)
American Airlines' newest addition to the fleet parked at JFK's Gate 46. (Photo by the author)
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.

Jim Carter, American's Managing Director of Eastern Sales, welcomes the VIPs in attendance. (Photo by the author)

Jim Carter, American’s Managing Director of Eastern Sales, welcomes the VIPs in attendance. (Photo by the author)

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.

New lie-flat seating and large personal in-flight entertainment available on the A321T. (Photo by the author)

New lie-flat seating and large personal in-flight entertainment available on the A321T. (Photo by the author)

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.

More photos by the author:

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Douglas Wint is a freelance writer and aviation enthusiast living in New York. You can view his blog or follow him on Twitter.


  • Zinka

    Which specific seats are the ones with wider seats and/or longer beds?

    How are the foot wells? There are a lot of complaints from United p.s. fliers that their feet don’t fit there at all if they’re over 6′ tall.

  • Guest

    Well, as a 6′ tall individual, I can say that the foot wells were barely enough space for my feet but that was with shoes on. I’m sure it would be more comfortable with shoes on.

  • Tovena Dan

    The 767 is a jumbo jet that seats significantly more passengers. By switching to the smaller narrow body A321, American is reducing capacity on trans-con flights. In other words, they are limiting the supply to increase demand and subsequently charge more to fly across country. Most people will no longer be able to afford this flight, let alone the FIrst and Business class cabins pictured here. Truly shameful!

    • http://nycaviation.com nycaviation

      Well maybe the demand is decreasing with increased competition. It’s not just about AA’s capacity, but the overall route’s capacity. It isn’t just UA and AA anymore. It’s Delta, Virgin American and JetBlue all vying for customers to LA, for example. ^P

    • Tovena Dan

      Considering New York City and Los Angeles are the #1 and #2 cities in terms of population, and the NYC to LAX route is the sixth most traveled route in the nation, demand is not decreasing. Moreover, there is less competition due to airline mergers. It isn’t UA and CO anymore, just UA and it’s not DL and NW anymore, just DL. Both of those mega carriers are reducing capacity as well. Regardless, the A321 has 66 coach seats, which is significantly fewer than the 181 coach seats on the 767. At ten JFK to LAX flights a day, American is removing 1,150 seats from the market daily. More people vying for far fewer seats = much higher prices. You do the math.

    • http://nycaviation.com nycaviation

      You forgot about JetBlue and Virgin America…ADDED capacity. I agree that capacity is not decreasing overall, but is being spread among like 6 carriers. That spreads some of it away from AA, and warrants their need for a smaller aircraft.

    • Tovena Dan

      How many seats did JetBlue and Virgin America add to offset the thousands of seats lost by American alone? Moreover, the airlines you mention only fly small narrow body Airbus aircraft compared to American’s Boeing 767 utilized on trans-con flights. Resultantly, capacity IS DECREASING and not being spread out evenly as you wrongfully suggest. The result will be much higher ticket prices for the consumer. Again, DO THE MATH!

    • http://nycaviation.com nycaviation

      The two arilines also added thousands. Several flights each day on 130-150-seat aircraft.

    • Tovena Dan

      They did? When? What types of planes and how many seats of additional capacity were added? Numbers please?

    • mike

      why do you keep saying A321T has only 66 coach seats? is AA not selling 6 coach seats? cause i have read that they have 72 coach seats total.

    • Tovena Dan

      on the seat map it is 66. I would love for it to be 72!! Hopefully you are right. Even still, it represents a tremendous loss of capacity.

    • Robert Franklin

      Typical Union idiot…So what’s your idea dude? I guess the airlines should fly 747′s transcon for $100 so your family of 7 can fly? Oh and they shouldn’t make a profit right…and pay the unions as much as humanly possible…
      FYI YOU are the reason airlines outsource!

    • Tovena Dan

      Unions built the middle class Robert and all employees deserve a contract and a livable wage. Without a contract you are an “At Will” employee and can be fired at any time for any reason with or without cause. Unless you like economic stratification, employment instability and paying more for less, then you are the one who is an idiot Robert.

    • ekaneti

      I don’t think that AA’s three class 767-200s have 181 coach seats. Those 767s with 181 in coach are the 767-300s for international that have two classes.

    • Tovena Dan

      the two class 767′s have 181 in coach, and yes American flies them on the trans-cons as well.

      http://www.seatguru.com/airlines/American_Airlines/American_Airlines_Boeing_767-300_MCE_V2_new.php

    • George Andritsakis

      Considering most of the JFK-LAX flights are pretty much owned by corporate travel contracts, then it’s no big deal, this is what those contrats require. To hell with the one-off passenger going to LA for a weekend.

    • ekaneti

      Not if they increase frequency. Also in the JFK-LAX market what is important is capacity of premium seats, not low yielding coach seats which are priced at JetBlue fares.

    • Tovena Dan

      But they are not increasing frequency. For the airline, increasing premium seats is important, but the average member of the flying public it is not. It means that those premium seats are taking real estate away from coach making flying much more expensive. Expect to see much higher fares as more people vie for fewer seats.

  • WilliamBrantree

    This is gonna be a a total drag in terms of cargo capacity. Great idea for to up their passenger yield.

  • Francisco Arvelo

    Obviously,Tovena Dan has no clue what they are talking about. Yes, the 767 is a bigger plane. HOWEVER, the version that American has been flying from JFK to LAX almost exclusively, has less seats that the 737, 757, and soon to be introduced Airbus 321. With the replacement of the 767-200 with the Airbus 321, AA will be adding more seats to the route.

    • John Iii

      Not correct unless they add frequency on the JFK-LAX. The transcons will seat 102 passengers, while the 767-200 seat 168. Substantial DROP in capacity per flight that in unlikely to be be completely replaced with increased frequency. You Fran seem to be the one you dont know what your talking about here.

    • Tovena Dan

      John, you are absolutely correct! This is substantial drop in capacity to increase yields. And yes, Fran, you seem to be the one who doesn’t know what your talking about.

    • Tovena Dan

      Really Francisco? How many seats does the 767 have in comparison to the A321? Number please!!!!!!!!!!!