Why NOT to Fly on American Airlines’ New A321 Planes

American Airlines New A321 Seats Are Tight When Person In Front Reclines

American Airlines New A321 Seats Are Tight When Person In Front Reclines

I’m a fan of American Airlines (AA). They have great customer service, especially on Twitter, and I love the fact that they haven’t gone to the dark side with their frequent flier program by going revenue-based instead of mileage-based (Boo Delta and United). But everyone in the industry knows that that will switch over once their merger with US Airways is complete, sometime in 2015. But for now, I’m still giving AA the majority of my business so I can earn as many miles as possible and keep my elite status.

LAX to South Florida
That’s why, when asked to speak in Boca Raton at the Florida Governor’s Conference on Tourism, I chose to fly into Miami (from L.A.) this week instead of flying into one of the closer airports like PBI or FLL. American does have a nonstop to PBI from LAX but it’s seasonal and doesn’t start up again until November. I didn’t want to fly Virgin America, JetBlue or Spirit to FLL since I wanted my AA miles and besides, MIA is just 25 miles down the road. (You can see actual driving distances on AlternateAirports.com.) Also, I could use a free UBER ride. If you are a first-time Uber user, you can get $30 off your first ride and I will get $30 off of my next ride if you sign up here.

American Airlines New A321 Main Cabin Extra

American Airlines New A321 Main Cabin Extra

Main Cabin Extra
So I booked L.A. to Miami on one of AA’s brand spanking new A321, which is so new that SeatGuru.com and SeatExpert.com don’t even have it listed. That meant I wasn’t entirely sure which seat to choose. Since I have Platinum status with American (I fly at least 50,000 actual miles a year), I was definitely choosing one of their Main Cabin Extra seats that have extra legroom. They cost an extra $78 to $90 to the general public but for frequent fliers it’s free.

American Airlines New A321 Seat Map

American Airlines New A321 Seat Map

Best Seats To Choose
I’m an exit row aisle kind of guy but they didn’t have any available except in the way back of the plane. Instead, I chose seat 12A, a window seat in the second emergency exit row towards the front of the plane. Normally, that seat is golden but I learned the hard way that it’s not if the person in front reclines and you plan on working on a laptop. It’s so tight that it makes it really difficult to work, even with my small 13.3-inch Acer Aspire S7 laptop. My suggestion is to choose row 8, 11 or 24. Or seats 12F, 25A or 25F, since none of these have a seat in front of them.

Slim-line Seats
As for the A321 – it’s no doubt a beautiful plane but American put one (or three) too many rows in it. I will say that it felt and smelled brand spanking new since it was just shipped 30 days ago (according to the flight attendants). Its beautiful slim-line, black leather seats look cool but aren’t all that comfortable since the seats are too tight together (even in Main Cabin Extra). They also come with the most ridiculously small mesh pocket that replaces the old, germ-filled seatback pocket. I would have given it high marks if they had just made it a few inches bigger so it could hold more stuff instead of just one bottle of water or a can of a soda. It didn’t even fit my laptop comfortably, that’s for sure.

American Airlines New A321 Entertainment Systems

American Airlines New A321 Entertainment Systems

Entertainment Systems
The best part about the plane is the 8.9-inch HD-capable touchscreen monitors with a variety of options: “In Theaters Now” movies cost $8, “Best of the Big Screen” (older movies that include Moneyball and Captain Phillips) for $6 per movie, a “Premium Package” for $5 that includes unlimited 150 network shows on demand and 300 albums, 20 games and audio books. There’s also a Disney option for $4 that includes a variety of kids movies, TV shows, games and music. Finally, they have “Complimentary Programming” that has NBC Universal on American and American Airlines Radio network.

NOTE: The floor storage below the window and aisle seats have the Inflight Entertainment (IFE) systems which prevents many carry-on bags from fitting under your seat (mine included). Why they didn’t store these below the floor panels is beyond me.

Electrical Outlets and WiFi
Every traveler will appreciate the 110 volt universal AC power outlets and USB jacks at every seat and of course, Gogo inflight WiFi, which makes everyone happy since they can stay connected at 35,000 feet. FYI: Currently Gogo only works over the Continental U.S. and if you buy in advance, it costs $16 for a day pass, which will save you some money.

Overall the A321 is a very nice plane but it’s difficult to get any work done unless you are in the rows/seats mentioned above or first class. It’s so tight that the flight attendants agreed with me and even told me that they hope more passengers will write complaint letters to the execs so they will take some of the rows out. If they don’t, I would go out of my way NOT to fly American’s A321.

Have you flown on this plane? Do you agree or disagree with me? Let me know in the comments below.

Johnny Jet

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Why NOT to Fly on American Airlines’ New A321 Planes
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About the Author

Johnny Jet

I used to be afraid to fly and at times even leave the house! I conquered my fear (long story) and now I travel to 20+ countries a year sharing my firsthand knowledge, tips and deals with friends, family and readers. Please sign up to our free newsletters and tell your friends!

65 Comments on "Why NOT to Fly on American Airlines’ New A321 Planes"

  1. Hey Johnny, just an FYI, that is a 737 in the top picture, not an A321.

  2. Alaska Airlines had these same seats (minus entertainment system) in the planes I flow to Las Vegas and back in. They were terribly uncomfortable. So much so I swore I would never fly Alaska again…and here is America using the exact same crap.

  3. I wonder why the IFE boxes are under the seat….I guess it’s an Airbus thing, I don’t recall the same issue on the new(ish) AA 777-300’s, that have the same system.

    I hate how the ‘premium’ economy sections of most of the major airlines are really just the same as ‘regular’ economy a decade ago, at least in terms of space, and now even that seems to be getting squeezed. Not sad to see the MD80’s getting retired though, those things were really starting to look worn out.

  4. Uhmm, so what you mean is, don’t fly ANY of American Airlines short-haul plane. Because it’s all the same with their B737 aircraft or B757.

  5. Just flew in one of these ribs trip LAX to Tampa and agree with everything you said. The seats felt smaller than normal and we’re far more uncomfortable. Talk about sardines.

  6. A320 family are the best narrowbody aircraft ever made, much better tan B737, very thin and uncomfortable for passengers. I always choose A320 family if possible. Great error by Boeing no to build a clean sheet B737MAX wider !!!!!!!! They gave more tan 60% marketshare to Airbus. I hate 737s, easy to get claustrophobia in flights longer tan 2 hours. A32 family: grat aircraft, congratulations to Airbus, and American Airlines to buy “European”

  7. The seats are very “Spirit Airline-y” small, slim, uncomfortable. The AC plug and USB are great. The headphone jack on the touchscreen is kind of a bad design if you are not in a window seat. They have to be unplugged when anyone in the row wants to leave his or her seat. Also, I flew yesterday on Virgin SFO-DFW, taking me over 30,000 miles in 2015 so far (btw an awesome experience EVERYTIME) I had my normal every-flight carry-on roller with me like always. Today I was stopped, rudely I might add, at the gate telling me I have to check my bag. I did, but now I have added time and hassle at my destination. By the way I see about 15 bags the same size in front of me. If the one thing I do like about american , the aadvantage program, does change there will be nothing unique about AA and I will go out of my way, and even pay more for flights on other carriers, like Virgin.

  8. I just flew back from Philadelphia to Loa Angeles on an A321 – Miserable configuration and I was First Class! First Class? No pillow, no power, no foot rest, no entertainment!!! Don’t book through American for USAir until after October 27 I was warned. They have too many glitches in their booking system now. I am going to Tampa and again the only planes are A321s… horrible prospect of two flights, a race to the plane in DFW and again no pillow, no power, and no footrest or entertainment…. If I didn’t want to keep my frequent flyer designation I would travel on any other airline but I’m compulsively attached to American – which used to be easier and roomier and more accomodating. Please also notice the staffing… cutting down a little, aren’t they?

    • The A321 you flew on sounds like it was originally a US plane, not a new AA one. There’s no glitch. The website shows you which carrier is operating the flight when you book. If it’s US, it won’t be a new plane and it will suck, even in first.

  9. Just flew on one of these AAL A321S aircraft from ATL to DFW. Got one of the “exit” row seats you mentioned…that still lets the real exit row seat in front of me recline into my space. Glad I wasn’t intending to watch a movie/show on the entertainment screen…who the heck thought that it was good idea to NOT make the screens tilt adjustable? I’ve been on other aircraft where if the seat in front tilts back, you can tilt the entertainment screen back up a few degrees to make viewing easier. On this extremely poor design, the viewing screen tilts down with the seat back making the image very poor. Otherwise, I thought it was a pretty good aircraft…but again, I had the little extra leg room.

  10. Agree with all mentioned. The Armrests are a joke. The pocket is worthless except to hold the plane brochure. Could not even fit a bottle of water in the pocket.

  11. Worst headset. The wings that fold outward are so small – there’s not chance your head can actually rest on it without rolling off. Do they do any design testing with real humans before they put these things out to market

  12. I just flew from Philadelphia to San Juan round trip on a American Airlines A321 business class.
    No entertainment, noisy, uncomfortable seats, old, to sum it up “No Class”. Previously I flew to Miami and Punta Cana from Philly on US Air A330 business class, what a difference. AA NEVER AGAIN.

  13. Struggled but managed with the seatback table and my laptop, which is one of the Thinkpad X1 Carbon series — smaller than some but still basically full sized. I managed but could see others with bigger laptops were screwed esp. if the person in front leaned back at all. May have to get a used netbook or other small-portable just to have something small enough to work on :(

    Power adapter was really nice to have, though. Was refreshing to not need weird airplane/12v car socket adapter.

    Entertainment system was balky on our flight– you couldn’t get premium movies, though other things worked.

  14. Just went back and forth with AA a couple of times until they finally agreed to refund the extra amount I paid for my row 12 “exit row seat.” I don’t know why they’re still showing this as exit row in their seating chart map, as it is most certainly not. Argue with them long enough and they’ll give you a refund, though.

  15. I am almost always on AA’s 737-800 when I travel between BOS and LAX each month. They’ve just added the A321 to one flight in each direction so I’ve now had a chance to compare the two.

    Yes, the seatback pocket on the A321 is definitely useless but it certainly wouldn’t stop me from flying on it. However, be prepared to hold your water bottle for takeoff, unless you’re happy stowing it in your carry-on. The entertainment units definitely take up a bit of space underneath the seat, but since I travel with a soft-sided bag, it’s not a problem. The A321 has one more lavatory than the 737-800 and it’s located mid-cabin. It cuts down on the lines at the back. Finally, I noticed my body was not as tired or achy after flying 6+ hours on the A321. I do think its seats are more comfortable than the 737’s and that for whatever reason, the cabin air quality is better.

  16. Sitting on the taxiway now heading to LAX from Boston and this is by far, the worst seat I’ve ever had on a plane in 19 years of flying. I think I’d rather walk. Never flying American again after this experience. I wonder if the Executives have ever flown back here? Really nice plane otherwise though!

  17. I am on this plane now. My USB for my Galaxy Note 4 does not fit into the power outlets. The whole power outlet grid on the seats do not have any outlet or USB option for Android users.

  18. People, you are all typical “1st World” complainers. You are all a bunch of whiners. Grow up and be grateful.

  19. Just did SFO-PHL-SFO on an ex US A321 which didn’t seem like an old plane but was bare bones. First Class looked pathetic. So many rows. I don’t remember 757s feeling so cramped. Thanks for the 5 minute long sales pitch for Citi card.

    • Hahahahahahsha….they went up and down the isles with applications…not one person accepted…..can I just get on the plane and fly without having to be a captured consumer…

  20. Completely agree. I’m ashamed to be an American Airlines frequent flyer, Gold elite customer.

    The depth of the back seat thick plastic is over 6″ and even if the traveler in front of you leans back 2 inches, it is nearly impossible to get any work done, even a little 12″ laptop!

    The plane’s seats are rock hard and the upper storage bins shake like crazy and are very loud on landing.

    The seats are super narrow and there is no room. The room by your feet is quite ridiculous as well. A big metal piece takes up 1/4 of your leg room and inadvertently half the passengers have to stick their one foot into the aisle.

    I would love to meet the imbusol team members who designed this plane, and also the American Airlines executive team who approved this plane for purchase.

    Just plain pathetic.

  21. The planes have no room, never again American

  22. Flown from Philly to las, and back 5x since July 18th….first with spirit in a A319….felt like a bus ride standing up from chintown to the bronx…..next 4x with AA and their A321…I’m 6ft 260bs…as long as no one is next to me or half my size I have no complaints….can’t understand..if the nite owl flights from Las Vegas back east on sun and money are full why just not a larger plane?

  23. Johnny–I’ve got the 12F seat on two upcoming flights. How do they handle the entertainment screen since there is no seat in front? Do they provide a hand-held? And is there a power outlet for that seat?
    Do you think the seats in the next section forward (rows 9+10) would be better or are they again just standard with the guy in front of you intruding when he reclines? Thanks for any tips.

  24. Just FYI…. Seat back pockets are not for stowing laptops and devices of similar size, it’s actually an FAA regulation…. Ant the tv boxes aren’t stowed under the floor so they can be quickly replaced….. Also, the seat back pockets are smaller so everyone doesn’t shove all their crap in there, such as you did… It’s not a trash respectable. That’s all.

  25. Flew PHL to SFO on American A321 “first class” – no entertainment, no outlets, $40 do in flight wifi with rental movies but what’s the point without power. Dreading my red-eye return in the same.

  26. You are suggesting row 11 which is an emergency exit row. Do you know if these seats recline? I called airline and they couldn’t give me a straight answer and Seat Guru has it listed as not reclining. You also recommend row 8 which Seat Guru has it listed with limited leg room and no under storage. Please let me know. Flying from LAX to Kauai approx 6 hours and want to be as comfortable as possible. It’s the A321 Thanks!

  27. Do you know if row 24 reclines? I had a similar experience calling AA and couldn’t get a straight answer. I would like to pay for the extra legroom but not if the seats don’t recline. LAX-OGG. Thanks!

  28. Hi Johnny – Taking a 32b overnight from PHX to MIA this week

    Am in 9A but have option of 11e or 12 f – am a big guy 6’2 275 – – not worried about the ife since I j use my laptop…..

    is 11e one of those 3″ narrower seats like USAir has or normal width?

    And if it was your choice would you take 9a, 11e or 12f for an overnight flight?

    Thanks

  29. Was on one yesterday, 1C ended up going back, and finding an empty row LAX LIH lie flat in the rear, was appreciated…after a few during and the meal…

  30. Jimmy, I paid to up charge for “main cabin extra” (75 dollars) just to find the seat to narrow to sit in !! 60 flights so far this year and this is a first . the flight attendant said ” you paid for “leg space not comfort”

  31. Aloha, we moved from row 10 to row 8a, 8b and 8c. I have read that the bulkhead space is narrow for my 6 foot husband. Do you see us having problems with leg room in those seats? Thank you for your input!

  32. I flew back and forth from abi to san on a new 321,Buddy !!! That’s ok for a 3 hr flight,that’s it as I had seat 36b .does seats do not recline,the noise coming from the hydraulics was horrible,to say the least,what i saw,the First class seat had no foot rest and about the only advantage was that u probly had more room around you,free food movies and drinks and about the only good thing on that particular ac is its looks both inside and out but to me that’s about it and I’ve been flying since 1949

  33. Two comments…I flew to MIA from LAX yesterday. First, the seats are definitely too close…I was in row 14 and when the passenger in front reclined, I was forced to recline also (or else I would be studying his scalp for the whole flight). Second, upon landing, the deployment of the speed brakes (flaps) on the leading edge of the wings as well as the reverse thrusters produced a wild flapping noise, like I’ve never heard before. Otherwise, the flight was great. The plane was brand new (2015 stamped in the door as I entered the plane in LA). The pilots were fantastic. We flew at 23,000 feet for a short part of the flight as the pilot actively tried to find a turbulence free corridor for us…and he did! Love the staff. But I want them to reconfigure the seating and check the speed brakes.

  34. I flew on the Airbus A321 from PHX to CAN last month. Major issue with the audio as when I plugged in my Bose Quietcomfort headset there was a loud noise and they haven’t worked since. Epic fail.

  35. I almost never make postings, but I flew yesterday DFW-SFO on the A321, and I had
    bought a premium seat. HORRIBLE. Too narrow, and the pitch is really bad. Seat 13D.
    I usually prefer American, but this has been a game changer. Avoid this plane like the plague!

  36. On my recent flight, Jan. 28, 2017, I flew from DCA TO DFW and then to PSP. The first leg was in a 321 and the second was in a 738. I found the first leg very comfortable in seat #28D (I prefer an aisle seat), and the craft was surprisingly quiet. The flight in the 738 was miserable. NOISY! Wow! And the seat would recline about 2 inches. Worthless. Despite the caveats above, I will be looking for a 321 next time I fly and will be very determined to avoid a 738.

    • Thanks for the info. I just booked the first part of that flight this year, too!.. I’m recovering from a car accident injury & worried that this might be a crunchy-bad experience?!.. Sounds pretty standard… Plus, I’m used to crowded Air India overnights to fly across the ocean, so I’m sure can take it! :)

      • ….so long as I can keep my bags from going from JFK to Mumbai again…LOL!! ;)

        • …still grateful that I got everything back in perfect condition—from Mumbai international & personally delivered to me in Austria?!.. Now THAT was a wacky flight adventure!! :) LOL!!..

          • (Thanks to staff at Heathrow & Air India for the recovery).. Still remember the Londoner shrieking about TSA accidentally breaking her suitcase, “My knickers!! My knickers are falling out everywhere!!!”…

  37. Hello All,
    Please confirm the business/first class seat in 32B (Miami to SFO) has a fully flat bed seats or recline only? It is a A321.

  38. How does american airlines a321 compare to jetblue’s? I am planning a trip from PR to San Diego.

  39. Reminds me of my high school sweetheart. Sexy, clean, fast, and one tight bitch to squeeze into.

  40. I’ve been flying AA frequently b/t DFW and SAN and I don’t have status so i sit in the “big room” (aka Main Cabin). During my trips i’ve noticed inconsistencies in in-seat entertainment among the A321’s. Half the time i have an in-seat monitor with all movie options, and other times there’s no screen at all. This is apparently b/c the A321’s AA acquired from the US Air didn’t have the in-seat entertainment upgrades installed. My question … is there a way to know during the booking process if i’m selecting an A321 with the in-seat entertainment option?? I’ve noticed a Sharklets designation in parentheses beside the aircraft/equipment info.. What’s that telling me?? Thanks!

  41. I was on one of those AA Airbus A321s on a flight from ATL to LAX last yaar…and from DFW to SFO just last night. Those seats are BRUTAL. I’m 6’2″ and there is no legroom at all. My knee kept bumping into the hard metal frame of the tray table, and I had to keep finding ways to rest my right foot because of that metal box under the seat in front of me. Add on top of that the 3.5 hour delay, and sitting on the tarmac at SFO for another 30 minutes, and you get why I’m not happy. I like AA, and I’m an AAdavntage member, but they’ve got to do better than this.

  42. how did you conquer your fear of flying? i need to learn.

    • I will have to do a post on it since I get this question all the time. It all depends what you are afraid of – not being in control, crashing, claustrophobia…??? If it’s crashing then you shouldn’t be afraid since the chances of dying in a plane crash are 11 million to 1. Just look at the stats. If it’s claustrophobia pay extra for an exit row, bulkhead, premium economy or better yet a first class seat. If it’s a control issue you have to realize if something really does go wrong with your body they could make an emergency landing (as long as it’s not over the ocean) but chances are you would be fine.

      I used to go to the airport and pretend I was getting on a plane to get used to my anxiety. Or I would listened to my favorite music or read the sports page of a game I really wanted to know the results in.

      Also speak to the flight attendants and you will then realize these people do these flights multiple times a week or month (depending on the route).

      Or you can look into taking a fear of flying course.

      Hope this helps!

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