American Airlines Expected To Drop First Class On Cross Country Routes In 2024

American Airlines is the only airline offering first class in addition to business class on some cross country flights. They do this with a dedicated fleet of Airbus A321T aircraft. However this special fleet, and special product, seem unlikely to last.

American’s Airbus A321T is outfitted with just 102 seats, including a true first class that’s just one seat on either side of the aisle. It was developed under legacy American Airlines management and when US Airways took over they were highly skeptical of the premium configuration. One legacy US Airways Vice President told me the configuration wouldn’t last, even before it took its first flight. However they kept it and pre-Covid it was very popular with corporate customers on the Los Angeles – New York JFK route.

American Airlines Airbus A321T First Class

Nonetheless before the pandemic American Airlines told employees they had no plans to refresh the Airbus A321T cabins despite their interiors getting a bit long in the tooth. They offered a fantastic and competitive product when first introduced at the start of 2014.

Back in April I wrote that I expected the Airbus A321T to be replaced on premium cross country routes by the new Airbus A321XLR. Noted aviation insider JonNYC now reports this as well.

The Airbus A321XLRs that American has on order were supposed to start arriving in 2023 but are now expected to start arriving in 2024. They’ll feature new business class seats and be capable of flying to Europe.

  • This would mean a new business class product on premium cross country flights
  • It would allow American to reconfigure the A321T aircraft to match the rest of their A321s
  • That would mean more seats, fewer premium seats, and less legroom in coach on those A321s (as well as the removal of seat back entertainment screens)

American Airlines Airbus A321T Business Class

The new A321XLR will likely feature a better business class than what is in the A321T, but it won’t offer first class, and it won’t offer as nice a coach experience. It is, however, expected to offer premium economy which the current A321T does not have.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. If the intention truly is to minimize subfleets, that means the plane will just be a typical two-cabin setup with no lay-flat seats. AA would have an uncompetitive premium cabin product on transcon routes.

  2. The perpetual airline cycle.

    “If we built a nice product, we could sell it!”
    “Why are we catering all this nice stuff when we only give it away to upgraders?”
    “Let’s just get rid of it all together!”

  3. I personally think it’s a smart move. XLR can be used on transcon and trans-atl. The 102 configuration is widely in-efficient and with a more efficient aircraft in the XLR and a Mint – Suite type product and PE plus MCE, I see an additional 40 to 50 seats, still providing a premium experience and better cost per passenger and more through put. It will also provide better fleet utilization.

    It just make business sense and still provide a product that is as good or better than DL or UA.

  4. American plans on lie flat business seats with aisle access on the A321XLR. Which would be similar to JetBlue Mint Suites. So once the A321XLR takes over the trans-con routes, the J seat will be a nice upgrade over the existing A321T J seat and will be almost as good as the existing A321T F seat.

  5. The current FF seat is the Diamond seat used in long-haul business. The question is what type of seat will AA use for trans-con business going forward.

  6. It will be interesting to see what impact this has on Flagship First dining in the JFK + LAX lounges. With so few F seats in the network, it almost has to be phased our as it’s an inefficient use of space.

  7. Narrowbodies are vastly inferior to Boeing 767s & Airbus A330s for any flight longer than 4, maybe 5 (maximum) hours, especially for economy class pax – except perhaps for AA’s low density A321T’s, JetBlue’s low density A321LR’s or Airbus’s A220, which the only narrowbody that offers comfort resembling 7-abreast 767s or 8-abreast A330s for Main Cabin flyers!

    When a widebody is available for flights >4 hours, unless the departure & arrival times are impossible to make work, chances are the widebody flight will be booked over narrowbody A320/321, or especially worst in class, 737s, which are flat out AWFUL for any flight longer than 3 hours unless in 1st/Biz class.

  8. This is a confusingly written article. Are the new 321XLR’s going to be used for transcon or not? If so, great, the A321T’s are indeed kinda beat, and both F and J are overpriced for what you can get from their competitors. If their transcons don’t offer lie-flat, well, then AA’s F/J customers are gonna go elsewhere.

    Assuming that the 321XLR’s will offer lie-flat and be used for transcon, and having flown the A321T recently in F, I can’t say this doesn’t come as good news. The existing F product costs significantly more than competing J (in cash, anyway), but the seat does not feel superior to UA Polaris or JetBlue Mint suite. (I never fly Delta, so I can’t compare to them). The ground experience is nice but for a transcon flight I don’t care that much. The seat feels very exposed to the aisle, and the angle feels awkward. Meanwhile the J product on the same flight is dated, without all aisle access (similar to UA non-Polaris business); perfectly fine, but not as good as J elsewhere.

  9. The Hollywood / fashion / celeb peeps won’t be loving that. I’ve seen the transcon flagship JFK-LAX first cabin filled with privacy seeking celebs many times. Taking away their private single seat will surely depress them.

  10. The A321T strategy has not made financial sense since B6 announced Mint which depressed premium cabin transcon flights. AA tried to keep the premium cabin passenges that were on their former 767-200s but cut economy passengers and they came up with the A321T configuration.
    Also, the A321T fleet are A321CEOs so could not reliably fly transcon routes year round. The A321NEO fixes that. Also, AA gave up a lot of share – largely to Delta – which uses mostly 767-300s on its JFK-LAX and SFO transcons and also carries millions of pounds of cargo per month.
    DL is also reportedly going to configure its next batch of A321NEOs into a 4 class, ~150 seat configuration to replace the ex-TW 757s which are used on other transcon routes.

    AA undoubtedly is responding in part to the economics of its transcon flights, the possibility of having to pull back the NEA, and the changing competitive environment.

  11. @Lone Gunman – AA does not use the Diamond seat for long haul business, they use the Super Diamond (they did use the Diamond seat on the 757s but those have been retired)

  12. To me, it makes sense to have more consistent seating configurations where possible. Using the A321XLR on premium transcontinental routes will facilitate the use of 787-8s to add capacity on those routes since the onboard product will be similar.

  13. Ghost,
    the economics of using a new current generation widebody aircraft on U.S. domestic routes. Gary might cover the rumors that UA is about ready to place an order for versions of either the A350 or the B787 but both are designed for longhaul international flights and are too heavy to get good economics when used on domestic flights including transcons.
    US airlines used alot of widebodies on their domestic networks during the pandemic and some widebodies will be used because there is “time” available between international flights or to reposition aircraft. UA uses high capacity 777-200s on domestic flights while DL uses 767-300ERs on domestic transcon flights but both are older aircraft and both offer capacity on certain routes that cannot be easily used with narrowbody aircraft.
    The chances are low that AA will use 787s on transcon flights other than to “fill out” aircraft schedules.

  14. correction
    the economics of using a new current generation widebody aircraft on U.S. domestic routes are not favorable.

  15. In other cost cutting news American brings back the MD 80 and Fokker with upgraded cabins

  16. Did three transcons on the A321T last month in the F cabin and these were the best AA flights I’ve had in years (well, in the years before COVID given the past two have been pretty much grounded). Both hard and soft product (such personalized service by each of the three different FAs was exemplary but not cringe worthy artificially patronizing as I find on Asian and M3 airlines) met every expectation (and no, I’m not a Dom/Krug snob nor demanding of a second pot of caviar!) I could have even of a transoceanic flight. But we’ve come to expect a continuing spiral of dismantling all that used to make AA worth flying from the US management team.

  17. “The new A321XLR will likely feature a better business class than what is in the A321T, but it won’t offer first class, and it won’t offer as nice a coach experience.”

    Unless you are sitting in the first row of coach on the A321T it already has long been not a nice coach experience; it’s a cattle car. But the first row of coach with the massive legroom is decent. The remaining 11 rows — not many rows — are cramped.

    So an already not-nice experience will worsen — that’s the takeaway.

  18. Wow, the beginning of the end for AA. It’s starting to become more plausible day by day. The noise is starting to get jus too loud!!

  19. I never understood why airlines would cater to rich people and not people with a lot less money. I’m glad they’re doing away with first class . On JetBlue 321’s it has over 175 seats because they don’t cater to just the rich they cater to all. That’s the way it should be. I fly free thank goodness. But with people that can’t afford seats to begin with yet still needs to get from place to place for whatever reason. JetBlue is the way to go.

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