Yesterday I had a chance to get onboard American’s new A321T (the “T” stands for ‘transcon’) which will be flying New York JFK – Los Angeles and San Francisco. It’s a new narrowbody plane configured with tons of updated premium seats. Its inaugural flight in commercial service will be January 7. (Disclosure: I bought my own tickets to get to and from New York to see the plane, but did eat three pieces at sushi at the event.)
There are (10) first class seats, (20) business class seats, (36) main cabin extra (coach with ~ 4 inches of extra legroom), and (36) standard economy seats. That’s a cabin that’s mostly premium, and an A321 (the ‘stretch’ version of the A320) with only 102 seats.
A Very Competitive Business Class Product
The point of thee planes though is in the premium cabins. American’s 767-200 premium products are antiquated, a decade old while the competition has updated.
Their new business seat is essentially equivalent to United’s. It’s a fully flat product, and the current service standard includes bedding for the seats, as well as meal service that draws on the same appetizers and entrees that are being served in first (I don’t think they’ve finished decision-making on the soft product elements).
Personally I found the bed to be pretty narrow, but that’s more than fine for me as I sleep on my side. That’s no surprise, really, since they have 5 rows of 2×2 business class seats — fully flat seats in a narrow body aircraft,. They’re meeting the modern industry standard here. Combined with frequency you certainly won’t have premium passengers book away from the product, and many will prefer it.
The Real Differentiator is First Class
The killer app — and I do think they’ll be able to find enough customers to pay for it to sustain it, since there’s no one else offering it anymore and so no competition — is the first class cabin.
The first class seat is very similar to what American offers in business class on their 777-300ER.
They’re the only airline offering a separate first class cabin in the New York – Los Angeles and New York – San Francisco markets. There isn’t as much demand for first class as there once was, LA moivie studio contracts now allow business class whereas they once required first and business class in many ways is better than first used to be. But with 10 seats per flight not just on American planes but on any planes they should be able to sell to the premium banking and studio markets via corporate contracts, as well as Asian markets — American and joint venture partners serve both Tokyo – New York and Tokyo – Los Angeles and San Francisco and these flights connect those.
The Coach Product
My initial sense was that the plane didn’t have enough ‘regular economy’ seats, New York – Los Angeles and Sea Francisco are premium routes, but they aren’t only premium. United first introduced its “p.s.” product a decade ago and had their entire coach cabin as economy plus extra legroom seating. They reverted to a mix of coach and economy plus because they weren’t going to be earning a premium on all of their seats.
- The legroom of main cabin extra
- Here’s Wandering Aramean off in the distance opening an overhead bin, and considering jumping inside.
Bulkhead, Main Cabin Extra
While 36 seats of standard coach, and 102 seats per flight, may not seem like a lot the name of the game will be frequency. Fewer seats per flight, more flights, should help them earn a revenue premium as the most convenient carrier in addition to offering a strong product.
Coach slimline seats are surprisingly comfortable. There’s no footrests or cup holders like Singapore Airlines offers in their new (long haul) coach product, but there’s power ports and that new plane smell.
Coach monitor ports
The tray may extend out too far — but can be opened only half way
The plane is pimped out with inflight entertainment. At a conference last year I heard Doug Parker say that every airline executive cursed the person who invented this idea, since equipment is heavy and expensive — and the future is people bringing their own.
They’ve loaded the system with about 200 movies, 180 TV programs, and 350 audio selections, plus 20 games, This is all complimentary in premium cabins, and business and first class get 15.4-inch HD touchscreen monitors.
Coach will have some of the content free and some for pay, although it’s all free even in economy March 31, 2014.
Get Onboard and Get Bonus Miles
First flight will be Los Angeles – New York JFK the morning of January 7. There still seats available for purchase!
By January 15 there will be 5 flights a day with the new plane. You can identify which flights are scheduled for the new plane by the equipment listing “32B”in the schedule.
American is offering up to 7500 bonus miles per flight on the route.
Bottom-line: It’s a really gorgeous new plane, and I can’t wait to fly it! Award availability gets quite good, too, once the number of flights ramps up in the spring. And it’s a great way to include a flight with New York stopover coming back from Europe, or LA/San Francisco stopover coming back from Asia.