American Tells Employees: No Refresh of the Premium A321T Cabins, But We’ll Clean Them Better

American Airlines has the best seat flying between New York JFK and Los Angeles, New York JFK and San Francisco, and at times on a handful of other routes. That’s because their ‘A321T’ aircraft has three-cabin first class — a seat similar to what the airline offers on its long haul Boeing 777-300ER in business class, but in a “1-1” configuration which means one seat on each side of the aircraft with an aisle in between. That’s great for both comfort and privacy.

Their business class is largely competitive with what others offer on the route, two fully flat ‘Diamond’ business class seats on each side of the aisle.

This is a premium-heavy plane. It has just 102 seats, compared to 181-187 seats on other (non-neo) Airbus A321s in the fleet. Half the coach cabin is “Main Cabin Extra” extra legroom seating, while even the mere 36 standard coach seats still have a comparably generous 31 inches of pitch, the distance from seat back to seat back.

These planes have been in service for five and a half years. Conceived of by previous management, it was widely expected that US Airways leaders would remove three-cabin first class from the planes. Indeed an American Airlines Vice President who had come over from US Airwaystold me this right as the product was set to launch.

However the airline learned that there’s real premium demand, especially on the Los Angeles – New York JFK route and for them especially originating out of Los Angeles. The cabins are getting worn, and there’s been recent speculation we could see a retrofit of the aircraft with a newer interior, or even other planes dedicated to the premium transcon routes.

Vice President of Customer Planning Jill Surdek addressed the interiors of their A321T aircraft in an employee question and answer session last week.

I was actually in Los Angeles last week and heard some similar feedback [that interiors are a little bit fading and dated, and that it’s time for a refresh]. I do think it’s an amazing hard product, our customers love it, I think we provide a great soft product with the food and amenities.

People have been sharing with me they feel like it’s a little bit worn, and that’s something I raised within the maintenance teams and the cabin appearance teams that do the cleaning in both JFK and LA.

I don’t know of plans on a full refresh of the cabin but taking better care of what we have. I know it’s more a lot of bags banging against the first few rows of the seats and the entry bar so it’s something we have the team working on.

Personally I’m hoping the airline doesn’t do a cabin overhaul of the A321T, or assign different aircraft to the route, because any retrofit would almost certainly eliminate the premium-heavy economy offering with generous seat pitch and video screens way in the back.

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. Back in May, when we last flew F JFK-SFO on this aircraft, 4 of the 10 seats were broken or had broken IFE. Ridiculous, but I guess AA doesn’t care since this always basically been crew class cabin.

  2. I had assumed based on your article yesterday, that in lieu of a cabin refresh they were enhancing the quality of their apologies.

  3. No refresh is actually a good thing. “Refreshed” cabins have resulted in less room, less comfortable seats, micro-lavatories, and no PTVs.

  4. The style of the interior is nice in a timeless way with the brown hues

    More regular cleaning and replacing panels sounds like the right answer

    Maybe a touch less aggressive schedule to get the broken seats fixed more timely

  5. After the first 2-3 years I found the A321T coach tray tables were all brown and stained. AA often does a poor job keeping its new aircraft looking good. A pity that it consistently thinks it can skimp on the operating budget after laying out the capital… no surprise to anyone who flies them though.

  6. This is what happens when a ULCC management team tries to run a full service airline. They skip and skimp on things like interior maintenance and cleaning while keeping the veneer of a full service first class carrier.

    I’m amazed flagship dining happened its so out of character with every other decision they have made.

  7. @Gene – I have to disagree. It’s generally a really quiet space, not a zoo. There’s better libations (Krug even). And some of the food is quite decent.

  8. My seat of choice on this aircraft is 2A and on the last 5 flights between LAX-JFK the armrest won’t move up until the FA places a knife in the side and pulls it up. Guess they don’t bother filling out a report on this, and since I take flights at different times, I’m sure I’m not on the same plane…

  9. @pdtaylor – That actually was the cleaner they used to clean the tables. They discontinued the use of that cleaner because it gave such a stained appearance to an otherwise cleaned tray table.

  10. Let’s be glad the legacy AA management had the vision for the 321T and moved it forward otherwise it would have never seen the light of day. I guess same goes for the 777-300

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