Trip Report: A Much Better American A321 LAX-JFK First Class Experience than Adam’s “Horrible” Experience

One of the most interesting things about trip reports is how much experiences can vary for the same flight. When I read Adam’s American Airlines A321 (32B) LAX-JFK first class trip report last week I laughed for two reasons: 1. Coincidentally, I was planning my next trip report to be for the same flight; and 2. My experience was completely different from Adam’s.

One of the reasons my experience was so different than Adam’s was because my expectations and mindset were different. Had I ordered the halibut and not liked it, as was the case with Adam, I would not have been happy. However, I was not hungry and, since this was the latest LAX-JFK flight departing shortly before midnight, all I was interested in doing, as it appeared to be the case with the rest of the first class cabin, was relax and try to sleep. And I was able to achieve that, thanks in great part to the crew. More on that a little later.

There is not a more comfortable way to fly domestically than first class on this aircraft and I am not sure that is even debatable. I was seated in Seat 4A.

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Seat 5A

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Blurry picture of Seat 5B

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The business class cabin behind me was extremely quiet, to the point that it almost felt that the only passengers on this flight were the first class passengers.

The seat was extremely comfortable, regardless of whether you were seated, lounging or the seat was in the bed position. Having a 1-1 configuration on a narrow-body plane was a strange feeling. It kind of felt like a private charter.

Unlike on Adam’s flight, Bose noise-cancelling headphones were handed out. The headphones, along with an amenity kit, blanket and pillow, were already in my seat when I boarded.

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Shortly after boarding, pre-departure drinks were offered. I had champagne.

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Menus were also handed out at this time.

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As I explained above, I was not hungry and wanted to relax and try to sleep so this was one of the few instances in my life in which I skipped a premium cabin meal.

This flight/route is supposed to be a hotbed for celebrities and there was actually one on my flight, albeit not a very exciting one. I did not know the guy’s name, but knew he was a comedian. Upon doing some research, it turned out be Jim Gaffigan. Here is a blurry picture I took of him:

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After take-off I realized that I was far from the only one with a plan of skipping meal service and eating. At most, there were two meals served. In record-time the lights were dimmed down as much as much as possible and seemingly stayed that way until about 30 minutes prior to arrival. Since the cabin went dark so fast I could not take any more quality pictures.

The inflight entertainment system on this aircraft is great, even for economy class passengers. Adam covered it in detail in his trip report. I watched the first few episodes of Orange Is the New Black to see if I could get hooked on the show, but I fell asleep during the third episode and had no interest in continuing to watch the series. Not a fan.

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Orange Is the New Black episode

Even though it is convenient for them not to have to do much, I was impressed by how well the flight attendants cooperated with the “sleeping mood” throughout the cabin. I have been in far too many overnight or redeye flights on which you could clearly hear the flight attendants chatting among themselves even with my noise-cancelling headphones on. That was not the case at all here. A five hour flight felt much closer to a two or three-hour flight. That is always a good sign.

I had a 39-minute connection at JFK before continuing home (a risk I only decided to take so I could try the first class product on this aircraft). Therefore, even a five-minute delay could put my connection in jeopardy. However, the flight parked at the gate exactly at the scheduled arrival time. Fortunately for me, my connecting flight would be departing from the gate directly in front of our arrival gate. I literally exited one aircraft and entered another without ever having to stop walking. Great timing!

I wonder how different my experience would have been had I taken a morning, afternoon or early evening flight from LAX to JFK or if I’ve had a different crew. I hope to have the chance to find out soon.

Speaking of which, this route is one of the most negatively impacted by the upcoming AAdvantage devaluation. The current saver level rate for any domestic first class award including a transcon first class flight within the contiguous 48 is 32,500 miles. For flights booked on or after March 22, 2016, the rate jumps to a staggering 50,000 miles! If my math is correct, that is a 54% increase. Ouch!

Therefore, if you are interested in an AA transcon first class award, make sure to complete your booking before the devaluation takes effect. Availability is surprisingly good (proportionally speaking).

After the devaluation, the only instance in which it will make sense to fly AA transcon first class is if said flight is part of an international first class award to other regions and even that is debatable with the award rates increases post-devaluation.

Need assistance with your next award trip? Consider the Juicy Miles or PMM Travel Consulting award booking services for all your redemption needs.

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  1. Isn’t it much better “Had I ordered the halibut and not liked it, as was the case with Adam, I would have been unhappy.”

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