American’s New Airbus A321neo Will Load Into Their Schedule Tonight – And Cram In 15 More Seats

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.

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. Granted it is a dense configuration but it’s also important to note, some of the space comes from having only 6 exit doors rather than 8 on the current 321.

  2. I suppose there won’t be even the slightest recline option to the new seats and that instead we will be forced to sit ramrod straight at all times.

  3. We’re all familiar with the figure of a seat in an airline’s configuration. Pretty soon they will be circles instead of depictions of a seat. The circles will represent poles, against which passengers will be standing and harnessed for the entire flight. These new “seats” will require the least legroom of all.

    Retired now, if I can’t get a business class seat for a reasonable price I just drive (domestically of course). I just add a few extra days for travel, enjoy having a car and free hotel nights courtesy of points. No worries and no cattle cars.

  4. Densification will be the reason I finally leave AA.

    Will this planes be shown on the AA schedule in a way that you can distinguish them without looking at the seat map (like the 737Max is shown as 7M8).

  5. So the choices are American with horrible seats but easy ways to get a ton of points and reasonable redemptions, United with their horrible customer dragging you off the plane service but reasonable ways to earn and redeem points, then Delta, with the best service and operations, some planes with bad seats and hardest points to earn and ridiculously high redemption rates, or Southwest also getting the jammed seats in 787 Max, with the best customer service, very easy to earn points and very low redemption rates. Many trade offs in this game.

  6. @fred lmao, my thoughts exactly. new day and new rant about AA.

    @amapas thanks for pointing the emergency exit door situation out.

  7. Coming out of Africa tonight and have had a dozen flights all but one on time, all very comfortable in economy. Flight attendants all pleasent. Operations on the ground all pretty poor. When can we have what even the third world has in air flying comfor?

  8. @Beachfan – It no longer really matters since the regular 738’s are now quickly being densified with “Oasis.” When you book a regular 738 flight, you could easily get an “Oasis” plane configured just like the Max.

    @Fred – If you don’t like what he says, then you’re free to not read it or comment on it. But it is true that many of us have been (or are being) chased away from AA by this ridiculousness. These horrible configurations and reconfigurations are real–this isn’t just some personal grudge that Gary has.

  9. @FormerAAFlyer – are you having an “I can’t quit you AA” moment? Give up the pining, AA just isnt interested in you anymore.

  10. @Fred – They’ve made the message loud and clear. They are not interested in my money. Their loss, not mine.

    I haven’t flown them in months and couldn’t be happier.

  11. @formeraaflyer It does matter for a while as the densification of the 321s are not being done as soon as the 738s. Plus until it’s all sense, one is a 50/50 odds of denser while the max and bro are 100% sure.

  12. Seriously have you flown DL or UA? They are worse then the AA configurations on many aircraft. Note that most people have a tablet or laptop and WAY nicer then using DL crappy seat back screens. Also you gain a TON of under seat space.

    I agree, stop whining. AA is nothing like Spirit or Frontier or Allegiant. A lot of people have commented positively about the new seating and configurations. Give me big bins, power and a device holder with highspeed internet over a seat back screen with 12 decade old TV shows.

    BTW. . Merry Christmas and Happy 2019 to everyone!

  13. It’s amazing how bad the latest generation of domestic F seats are across UA/AA/DL. Sure they have power ports and iPad stands…but man it would be nice to have proper padding and lumbar support.

  14. Wow. And yet aa will still have less seats on their CEO vs delta and still have fewer seats vs Delta’s NEO; excited to see your outraged post about that. Or does your credit card sales agreement not cover that outrage with Delta?

  15. @Sun Viking – I have a tablet and a laptop and it isn’t the same as a nice IFE screen. I greatly prefer having the screen for many reasons. As you’ve been told as nauseum, the new, modern DL IFE technology uses streaming to the screens rather than those boxes. And AA has somehow managed to make the new configurations have even less underseat space than the aircraft with IFE, at least in some cases!

    But I will congratulate you on the lengths you will go to to spin facts and defend Dougie at all costs. You really should be compensated for this (maybe you already are, I’m not sure).

    @Jeff – They will have two fewer seats. DL will still have 12 fewer seats on the 738.

  16. Reduced legroom in any Airline, is a very important issue for All passengers, especially for:

    – Passengers with reduced mobility
    – Pregnant women
    – Elderly people
    – Athletes

  17. @Former AA Flyer – respectfully, you are incorrect, as is this article. AA’s A321NEO will have one FEWER seat than Delta’s A321NEO (196 vs 197), and AA’s A321CEOs, even after the Oasis reconfiguration, will have two FEWER seats than Delta’s A321CEOs have today (190 vs 192). Delta’s A321s are more dense than AA’s.

  18. @Joe – that’s what I meant when I said “they will have two fewer seats,” that AA’s CEO’s will have two fewer seats than DL’s.

    That still doesn’t change that AA will have twelve more seats than DL on the 738. 12!

    Also, given that the seats will be more comfortable with more underseat space and will have IFE to boot and the staff will not treat me like a nuisance, I’ll go with DL even where there are a few more seats.

  19. @Former AA Flyer – apologies for misunderstanding your comment. Yes, every AA A321 configuration will be less dense, with fewer seats, than the comparable Delta A321 variant.

  20. @Joe — Thank you for noting that AA’s 321s will actually be less dense than DL’s. DL actually led this densification — introducing the “small lav,” for example — and Gary didn’t make a peep. But once AA “copied” (ahem) this strategy, it became THE END OF THE WORLD and something that every customer had to actively avoid.

    Since I am a very frequent flyer who doesn’t value premium cabin travel very much, I probably fly on more airlines and more different aircraft in coach than just about any traveller. Reality check: the comfort of your seat is far more dependent on the aircraft your flying than your airline, especially with US airlines. The reality is that the fleets are a mishmash of different planes and different seats. Like in the past two weeks, the most comfortable “regular” coach seat I flew on was an old AA 320 and the least comfortable was an old DL 737-700. Of course, both were OK. Not in my wildest dreams could I imagine taking any steps to avoid one narrowbody aircraft type over another. It would be my last consideration (after schedule, price, etc).

    I would also note that the densification of aircraft is definitely NOT the end of the world. The new seats are better engineered than the old ones. You may actually find yourself as comfortable — indeed, perhaps MORE comfortable — in one of the newer seats. I would not take Gary’s word for it and would try it yourself. And these new “space bins” that hold more luggage are a truly worthwhile and useful innovation.

    Oddly, the one seating change that DOES matter which Gary has devoted relatively few keystrokes to is the densification of the 777. DL is still at 9-across, while AA and UA went to 10. This DOES matter, especially since these flights are long. Like if you’re heading to Hawaii, it used to be a treat to wind up on a widebody. Now, in coach, you might want to look for a routing that avoided the 777s. I would do the same on Asia flights in coach. Ditto Europe, but perhaps those routes are short enough that other factors (schedule, fare) might make you willing to suffer a bit on the 777.

  21. @chopsticks – Delta at least tries. It may be putting lipstick on a pig, but they are making an effort to commit to IFE screens, to serve free light meals in coach on transcon routes, to offer free snacks in coach and a greater selection in “Comfort Plus,” etc. And as you point out, they have stuck with 9 across on 777’s, which is huge. AA insists on copying all the bad DL does, but very little of the good. The general attitude from AA is “we will not do ANYTHING.” To me, an effort to do anything at all for customers means a lot. It just sets a different tone, and I think a commitment to offering at least SOMETHING has actually contributed to a much more positive and respectful attitude among DL staff and the refusal to offer simple services has contributed to the low morale and terrible attitude of AA staff.

    Not to mention, I am not familiar with DL planes that have no underseat space as is apparently the case, at least in F, on the Oasis 738’s (even without IFE boxes!).

    When you say you don’t care about traveling in a premium cabin, that makes me think you just don’t care about service. And that’s fine, but many of us do, and when we have an option for a comparable price (and in some cases, even slightly higher) where we will be treated like human beings and where the airline will at least pretend it cares, we will go with that other option. It’s really pretty simple. It honestly has much more to do with the attitude that offering SOMETHING conveys versus the product itself.

  22. Who cares what AA does. If I saw the aircraft was a 737-MAX I would cancel the reservation. If you continue to financially support companies that treat their customers like dirt then you will continue to be treated like dirt. It’s like the republicans in Congress who failed to reign in bad behavior by our president so he continues his bad behavior. If you want to change behavior you have to be willing to do something about it not condone it. Bottom line is unless I need to fly somewhere I don’t do it anymore. No more 150,000 miles/year in flight. They can go after all the Spirit and Allegiant customers they want.

  23. For me, it isn’t the densification of the fleet compared to Delta, though the 737-800s and MAX 8, border on offensive. And frankly, I don’t care about the small lavs. The underseat storage issue for the new seats in F is an issue that I pointed out on Travel Update. I think it’s the overall deterioration of the airline, its inability to fly a published schedule, and accomplish the basic blocking and tackling of air travel that has done me in. Sure, Delta’s A321s are slightly more dense (2 or 3 seats?) than the AA NEO airplanes, but Delta is a better airline, offers a better overall product, is less likely to be delayed, delivers checked bags (when I check) within reasonable timeframes, etc. Heck, they even managed to keep those IFE screens that I don’t personally worry about, but are nice to have, and make more money than AA to boot. You offer a product people want to pay for, they will buy it. Unfortunately, I don’t see the revenue premium DL holds over AA changing with the path that AA is currently taking. I’m willing to be wrong, and hope I am.

  24. Is there a chance that there is one small silver lining in this densification? I believe current A321s have either 36MCE (LAA) or 15 MCE (LUS) seats. Gary indicated above that these will have 47MCE. Hopefully that means a lot more MCE than the current LUS “basket of deplorables”.

    Now, I’m guessing the pitch on MCE is reduced as well, but hey, at least there are more seats for elites to escape some of the impact of densification.

    Anyone seen a seat map to confirm the 47MCE or the pitch of the new MCE?

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