Heresy: I prefer Business to First on AA’s Transcontinental Service

Over the past year I have had the chance to try the American Airlines A-321 3 class service which flies from JFK to Los Angeles and San Francisco.

I have reviewed the service in First Class before – October 2014 and September 2014.

I have been using BusinessExtra rewards in order to upgrade to First, or using BA Avios to secure a free ticket on this service. The BusinessExtra certificates allow confirmed upgrades subject to ‘A’ space being available. The ticket must be an American Airlines issued ticket.

I was recently travelling on a British Airways ticket which precludes the upgrade and so I got to try out the Business Class cabin.

After problems with standing-by for an earlier flight, where I secured a seat and was then off-loaded, our boarding started earlier than on the boarding pass. I have noticed this a lot with AA; you really need to be at the gate ten minutes before advertised boarding in my experience.

You pass through the First Class cabin to get to Business as they board through door 1 in my experience.

The First Class Cabin is 5 rows arranged 1-1.

AA A321 First Class seats

The Business cabin is 2-2, using seats very similar to United’s BusinessFirst service. The seats feel open and spacious and the cabin, whilst less private is brighter and airy.

AA A321 Business Class seats


There were pillows and duvets on each seat and plenty of overhead bin space. The seat converts to a fully flat bed. The view of my partners seat is of the video entertainment system. As you can see the seat foot rest on the window side is pretty slim.



After boarding had finished we were told of a mechanical problem which they were not expecting to take very long to fix. In the end it turned in to a long delay where many people knew they might mis-connect. Personally I hoped we might pick up a little time as I knew I could connect pretty fast at LAX, but in the end it didn’t happen quite like that.

Service started with a drink, followed by lunch. There was a starter of tuna and salmon with a small salad with strawberries:

AA A321 Business Class meal

I had pre-ordered the chicken which was one of the best airline meals I have eaten a long time. The sauce was served on the side and really complimented the meat.

AA A321 Business Class meal

Dessert was a choice of fruit and cheese or a sundae. I picked the sundae which was made from the cart:

AA A321 Business Class meal


I then had a reasonable nap for a couple of hours and watched some movies through the supplied Bose headphones.

The WiFi was working and so I was able to keep an eye on arrival time as is free, which kept slipping so that we were due to arrive just as the connection to Honolulu was due to leave. The onboard crew really didn’t care about connections telling anyone who asked to go to the re-booking centre.

We landed on the southerly runway and taxied to the gate in record time. Indeed we arrived just as the flight to Honolulu was supposed to be leaving and came in at the gate right next door. Many of those connecting, including some others from Dublin, ran off the plane.

a screenshot of a flight schedule

There was no one at the podium, and so I left to get to the Admirals Club to be rebooked. As it happens the connection waited 30 minutes whilst it loaded bags so could have accepted the mis-connects. Instead we had to wait over 2 hours for the last flight of the day. Luckily the AA twitter team had held me a seat on the new flight in First.

So, why do I prefer Business over First on these planes? Well, the seat feels less closed in, the cabin is brighter and more open, and the food is just the same. So if you’re thinking of trying First Class on this plane, give it a go once, but be happy with Business is my advice.



  1. I find the first class suites mildly claustrophobic, especially when lying down.

    That chicken looks good but they could have tried a little harder with the presentation of the sauce. The container is a bit … cheap!

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