First Photos: American Shows Off First Airbus A321 Transcontinental

By Jason Rabinowitz / Published December 17, 2013
Photos by author

AA's first Airbus A321T rests at the gate prior to a tour at New York JFK. Photo by Jason Rabinowitz / Airchive

AA’s first Airbus A321T rests at the gate prior to a tour at New York JFK. Photo by Jason Rabinowitz / Airchive

NEW YORK JFK: At American Airlines, things are changing. Last year, the carrier began a massive undertaking to rejuvenate their fleet starting with the with the 777-300ER. American has since taken delivery of the Embraer E175 and Airbus A319, both set to replace older aircraft. On Tuesday, American began yet another chapter in its fleet renewal strategy as it unveiled its first, brand-new Airbus A321 Transcontinental aircraft in New York.

“This airplane represents yet another chapter of the modernization of American Airlines and putting the customer at the center of everything we do,” said Jim Carter, Vice President – VP Eastern Sales Division at American. “This airplane will be flying on one of the most important routes.”

It’s no secret that the premium transcontinental routes are full of competition in the United States: Every airline flying between New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco is upping their game. JetBlue recently showed off “Mint,” United just finished upgrading their fleet, and Delta will finish upgrading their fleet next year. Meanwhile, American has been flying ancient 767-200s which lack modern amenities like personal in-flight entertainment and lie-flat beds. That changes today, as AA unveils the A321.

While some carriers have opted to remove first class from their transcontinental fleets, American decided to doubled down. The new First Class cabin has a spacious 1-1 configuration, giving all ten passengers direct aisle and window access. Each of the lie-flat seats in first class, along with the twenty in business class, feature a 15.4-inch HD-capable touchscreen monitor with seat-to-seat chat, live text news and weather updates, 3-D moving maps, airport maps, and connecting gate information. American will become the only airline operating a three class configuration on the premium routes.

EXTRA: Seatmap from Seatguru

AA321 6 AA321 4  DSC_0115 American Airlines A321T Jason Rabinowitz / Airchive
Clockwise from top left: the new first class, economy, business, and the first A321 flies into JFK yesterday.

In Business Class, American has opted for twenty seats in a 2-2 configuration. The seats have been upgraded to fully lie-flat. The Business Class cabin benefits from the same in-flight entertainment system as First Class, where all content will be provided free of charge. Economy Class will have a small selection of free content, but most movies and other content will be paid content.

Economy Class passengers stand to benefit greatly from the enhanced passengers experience, but seats in the cabin have been reduced by nearly half from 128 to 72, half of which are allocated to Main Cabin Extra. While the drop in capacity was an obvious side effect when American opted for a narrowbody aircraft to replace the widebody 767, American plans to overcome this issue by increasing frequencies on the routes.

Without question, the A321T is a generational leap for American. Everything on board is new and focused on significantly enhancing the passenger experience in all cabins. But will it be enough to lure premium transcontinental passengers back to American?

Airchive will be on the inaugural flight from Los Angeles (LAX) to New York (JFK) on January 7, 2014, the latest development in a long history of AA with transcon routes. The carrier was the first to do nonstop cross-country flights in 1953, and later utilized the Boeing 707 on the first jet powered transcontinental flights in 1959.

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