I had a chance to crawl around American’s new Airbus A319 in a hanger during a layover a DFW. They had the plane parked and they were doing media tours. Turns out the tours were scheduled for the afternoon I was coming through in late morning but they were happy to accommodate.
There were several planes parked, both in the old and new livery.
I actually like the new American logo, overall the paint job has grown on me and even the tail looks a lot better in person than it did in the renderings the day it was released. The planes parked side by side, viewed from the terminal, are actually quite nice. But I do find the tail to be a bit much.
I climbed on board to get a closer look at the A319.
When the seatmap for the aircraft first came out I said I was going to avoid it. That’s for one simple reason: there aren’t many first class seats so upgrades will be tough on many routes.
The plane has just 8 first class seats, compared to 16 on American’s 737s and MD80s (the latter being the plane that these new aircraft are ostensibly intended to replace). Cutting the number of first class seats in half is not conducive to complimentary upgrades, so as an elite flying I don’t want to see them scheduled. There are too many coach seats!
And while the seats themselves seem quite nice and reasonably comfortable, coach is coach with tight pitch.
But if I were confirmed in first class, or if I was going to be flying in coach regardless, this is the plane I’d want to be on in American’s domestic fleet for short and medium-distance flights. Because it’s seriously pimped out.
The exit rows and ‘main cabin extra’ are much more desirable of course.
In fact, I thought I was onboard a Delta Song aircraft (back in the day Delta’s low cost carrier provided a better coach flying experience than mainline did). Actually it was like being on a Delta plane, only brand new and with better seats.
If I can actually get into the front cabin it offers a comfortable experience.
The A319 features all leather seats even in coach, naturally it is equipped with wireless internet, and every seat has power and USB outlets. There’s a personal TV at each seat as well, with plenty of options (some complimentary, some for pay, and the pay options are free up front).
In fact, the A319 will have a more advance Gogo internet system than existing American aircraft, offering triple the bandwidth. That’s great, because internet was crawling on my flight yesterday. This should make the experience far better and give me tons more value out of my monthly Gogo membership. (American has plans to upgrade the internet speed on their existing fleet as well.)
Even the overhead bins are sleek and stylish, with a brushed metal finish on the handle.
Of course, having full sized overhead bins on each side of the aircraft will be an improvement over the MD80s these are slated to replace though it comes at the expense of having only 2 seats on one side of the aircraft in coach. On the other hand it’s a tradeoff I’m actually happy with because the Airbus A319 has an extra inch of width in each coach seat compared to a Boeing 737.
Overall the Main Cabin Extra product is one I’d be happy to fly for a couple of hours, and I’d be thrilled with being up front for a transcon flight — though if I was going to be flying this on a flight over three hours I think I’d want to confirm my upgrade in advance rather than chancing getting one of only eight seats on a complimentary basis.
The new plane that I’m really looking forward to seeing enter American’s fleet (now that the 777-300ER is becoming a mainstay) is the A321 that will fly New York JFK to Los Angeles and San Francisco. I only have to wait until January for that one!
Here are the routes that the A319 will be initially rolling out on:
- September 16th: Dallas – Charlotte, Cleveland, Memphis, Wichita
- October 1: Dallas – Dayton, Huntsville
- October 14: Dallas – McAllen, Toronto
- November 21: Dallas – Atlanta, Bogota, Corpus Christi
- December 19: Dallas – Vail, Gunnison/Crested Butte, Jackson Hole
- December 19: Los Angeles – Vail
The theory is to use this plane for greater frequencies than previously offered on MD80s or 737s. But I don’t ever take that at face value, deployment decisions will certainly change over time and this plane lets American throw capacity at different markets in more granular ways — both more capacity and greater frequencies as well as offering fewer seats.
Regardless, it should represent a better flying experience overall even if it also represents a much tougher upgrade for American’s elites.