American Airlines has 100 A321 ‘neo’ or ‘new engine option’ planes on order (22 of these deliveries have been deferred). Back in August we learned that American would take delivery of its first neo in January. It would be a new ‘dense’ configuration with more seats than the airline has ever put into an A321 before. And that it would become the template for going back and adding seats to existing Airbus A321s as well.
At the end of September I revealed the details of just how American would be squeezing more seats into their Airbus A321 fleet just like they are doing with their Boeing 737s as well as adding more first class seats.
- Legacy American A321s (not the cross country A321Ts) get 15 more seats in the same amount of space while legacy US Airways A321s get 9 more seats.
- A321neo aircraft will have 196 total seats (remember: one flight attendant per 50 passengers, one more row would have cost them more money to crew the planes).
- It’s 20 first class seats (5 rows, rather than the current 4), 47 Main Cabin Extra seats, and 129 regular coach seats.
This new Airbus A321neo aircraft is going to be loaded into American’s schedule overnight tonight and the first flights will be bookable starting Sunday.
American Airlines Airbus A321
Less Space For Each Passenger Means More Passengers
You might think that the Airbus A321 is a smaller aircraft that carries fewer passengers than a Boeing 757. And that’s normally true. However this configuration would actually cram more people into a smaller airframe than the current dense 757 American uses for Hawaii flights which has 188 seats!
They accomplish this with less distance between seats, less padding for each seat, and smaller lavatories.
The planes also get bigger overhead bins and on a separate faster track also get satellite wifi. There will be no seat back video in these planes, replacing the screens on legacy American aircraft with streaming entertainment you watch on your own device. American says most passengers already have their own devices — and while I never watch the stuff myself, customers say watching movies on their phones isn’t the same as a seat back screen.
Even first class has less legroom, and the standard first class seat they’ve been using is less comfortable too.
American’s New Less Comfortable MiQ Domestic First Class Seat With Less Legroom
Here’s the seat map for the new configuration:
Note that the arm rests in rows 8 and 17 as well as seat 27B do not move.
Flight attendants won’t like the layout — more customers to serve, especially more first class customers without any extra crew. So the layout document highlights more jump seats and dedicated power for flight attendants to charge their devices.
American’s defenders will say that this plane has just 4 more seats than Delta’s Airbus A321s. Three years ago Delta had 195 seats (compared to American’s 196 in this layout) but took away 3 seats because it was just too many and didn’t leave crew enough room to work.
Indeed it was just January when American’s CEO Doug Parker mocked the 195 seat Delta configuration, that they walked back, joking that it required putting crew seats on the lavatory doors.
Where and When the Plane Will Fly
American bases a given aircraft type in a specific city when it can. Just like the Boeing 737 MAX heavily centered on Miami, the A321neo starts out on the West Coast, based in Phoenix and Los Angeles.
The goal is that these planes will fly Phoenix and Los Angeles to Hawaii and Los Angeles to the East Coast. Hawaii flying with the aircraft is expected to start in September.
The very first flights, though, are planned for April 2 — domestic flights out of Phoenix and Los Angeles including the super long Phoenix – Anchorage flight for the summer schedule.
American will be operating a Boeing 787-8 this summer Dallas-Fort Worth – Anchorage, with lie flat business class seats (albeit an uncomfortable 9-across in economy). Phoenix – Anchorage isn’t that much shorter and will get the new densified first class and extra legroom coach. I know which flight I’d rather connect onto.
The flight won’t be nearly as bad as American’s new Boeing 737 MAX Brazil service, though!
The first flights for the A321neo load into the schedule overnight and become bookable on Sunday, December 16th. Three and a half months out, though, and with a new aircraft type that the carrier hasn’t flown yet, these schedules shouldn’t be considered firm.
American’s new densified domestic fleet — becoming more and more Spirit-like each week — is becoming harder to avoid. There are now 17 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft in the fleet — and 37 Boeing 737-800s have been retrofitted to be just as uncomfortable as the MAX.