The battle for transcontinental business travelers got a lot more heated this week with the launch of American Airlines's new A321 jet on flights between New York and Los Angeles. (Come March, the plane will make its debut on New York-San Francisco routes.) The new aircraft—the only three-class plane making the transcontinental trip—takes American's commitment to front-of-the-plane fliers to new heights.
In a first for American, first-class fliers no longer have to choose between window seat and aisle access, thanks to a unique 1-1 seating configuration on the narrow-body plane. These ten travelers will also enjoy exclusive use of the plane's new espresso machine, and luxe amenity kits stocked with Akhassa Asian spa products.
Both business and first-class cabins are outfitted with lengthy lie-flat seats and 15.4-inch touchscreen entertainment systems. Bose QuietComfort 15 Acoustic Noise Cancelling headphones and an enhanced gourmet menu complete the new package.
Back-of-the plane passengers will benefit as well: Gogo's improved ATG-4 network is standard, and every seat comes with an 8.9-inch touchscreen monitor with on-demand enterainment (a godsend for parents), a universal AC power port, and a USB port. In the slimmer aircraft, the number of seats in the main cabin is shrinking from 128 to 72, half of which are reserved for those splurging for “Main Cabin Extra” with its four inches of seat pitch (from 31” to 35”). To compensate, American is upping the frequency of these daily transcontinental flights from two to six by the end of January.
The new Airbus plane comes into play less than a month after American’s merger with US Airways, and only a few weeks since the carrier began allowing customers to bid on class upgrades. Now, the enormous plane makes the auction for a premium seat look all the more appealing.
Melanie Lieberman is an editorial intern at Travel + Leisure.