Review: American Airlines A321 First Class San Francisco to New York JFK

Review: American Airlines A321 First Class SFO to NYC

This American Airlines A321 First Class Review is one of several American Airlines transcontinental first class and business class reviews. If you're wondering about the differences with Business Class, see our Review of American Airlines A321 Business Class New York to Los Angeles.

American A321 First Class Cabin and Seat Selection

There are 10 first class seats in 5 rows in a 1-1 configuration on American Airlines transcontinental A321 aircraft, which makes it the only domestic U.S. premium cabin where all seats have direct aisle access (since on JetBlue Mint, there are only 4 suites; the other business class seats are in a 2-2 configuration, similar to American A321 business class).
As always, I recommend avoiding the first and last rows, and instead selecting seats in rows 2 or 3 if available, so you have the convenience of being closer to the front when deplaning, but also aren't potentially bothered by light or noise from the galley and lavatory, especially on late night flights or any flight where you're trying to sleep.
American Airlines A321 First Class Seat Map
American Airlines A321 First Class Seat Map, Courtesy SeatGuru

American A321 First Class Seat

The First Class seats angle away from the aisle and toward the windows. The seats are quite well padded and comfortable enough upright, and at 21 inches across, do provide more width than business class, which is about 19 inches.

Seat 2A, American A321 First Class Review

There's some convenient storage space on one side, and that's where I stashed my sneakers. American doesn't provide slippers, but I'd brought a pair from the Loews Regency San Francisco which came in handy as my plane slippers.

Review: American A321 First Class-Storage Compartments

A plastic wrapped amenity kit and bottled water were easily accessible in a side storage compartment.

American A321 First Class Review-Shelf with Amenity Kit, Bottled Water

Seat controls are prominent and intuitive, and adjacent to them are the audio jacks and USB port.

Seat Controls and Reading Light, American A321 First Class Review

American A321 First Class Menu and Food

After being welcomed onboard, we were offered a pre-flight drink. Both my son and I chose orange juice, which was fine, although not fresh squeezed as in Air New Zealand Premium Economy.

Pre-Flight Drink, American A321 First Class Review

We were also provided menus, although it was interesting to me to see completely different selections to what I'd seen on the pre-order menu. You can pre-order your meal selection 30 days in advance until 24 hours prior to your departure, and I did so, selecting a Thai red curry for me and a cheese quesadilla for my son.

The menu we were given sounded great, and the head flight attendant actually went so far as to take our and other passengers' meal selections, before realizing that the menu didn't actually match the meals that had been catered for the flight. She came around to apologize and to provide the actual menu choices orally.

American A321 First Class Menu San Francisco SFO to New York JFK

The wine list for the flight did in fact match what was onboard:

Wine List, American A321 First Class Review SFO to JFK

I'm not a big champagne drinker, but decided nonetheless to starte off with a taste of the Castelnau Reserve Brut Champagne, which was refreshing and about the quality I would expect on an AA flight. The Castelnau tends to retail for about $30 a bottle.

Champagne de Castelnau Reserve Brut, American A321 First Class Review

Mixed nuts were served, but to my memory they were room temperature, not warm. I accompanied them with some of the Montes Sauvignon Blanc from Chile, which I also drank during the meal since there wasn't any Gewurztraminer on offer, which is what I usually pair with Thai food as a non-beer drinker.

Mixed Nuts and Sauvignon Blanc, American A321 First Class Review

I really enjoyed my beet and goat cheese salad, which was very fresh–no wilted greens–and enlivened with some orange segments as well.

Beet and Goat Cheese Salad, American A321 First Class Review

Meanwhile, my son loved his smoked salmon appetizer, and managed to mainly fill up on it.

Smoked Salmon Appetizer, American A321 First Class Review

That turned out to be fine, since his main course of quesadilla was pretty average. The accompanying pico de gallo salsa and guacamole were good (although insufficient for the amount of quesadilla) but we make better quesadillas at home.

Quesadilla, American Airlines A321 First Class Review

I liked but didn't love the Thai red curry with beef. You can't really expect great Thai food on an airline (even Thai Airlines' Thai curry in Thai First Class was quite average) but I appreciate the effort to provide something a little less bland than the usual fare.

Thai Red Curry with Beef, American A321 First Class Review

Dessert is always the hot fudge sundae, and while squarely comfort food, I wasn't complaining. The times airlines have tried to push culinary boundaries with cutting edge desserts have always failed, in my experience.

Hot Fudge Sundae, American A321 First Class Review

American Airlines In-Flight Entertainment

I only sporadically use the IFE, but appreciated the film selection on the American A321. I enjoyed watching Burnt, with Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller, and also watched a bit of The Danish Girl, with Eddie Redmayne. Unlike last time, my headset audio jack worked fine. The only thing I don't care for is that the headphones are collected about a half hour prior to landing, so you have to switch to your own at that point.

IFE, American Airlines A321 First Class Review

American A321 First Class Bed and Sleep Quality

I'd thought it was odd what my husband described in his review, that the ottoman that connects to the reclined seat when in flat bed position is at a slight incline, but I too found this to be true. The seat cushions themselves recline to near perfectly flat, but then the ottoman part slopes down slightly. I'm not sure why it was designed this way, but the AA A321 business class bed is actually more fully flat.

Flat Bed Not Completely Flat, American A321 First Class Review

The Verdict

We enjoyed the slightly greater seat space, direct aisle access and privacy of American Airlines A321 transcon first class. But the food was only slightly better and I actually preferred the more fully flat business class bed in AA A321 business Class. I would definitely not pay any significant difference on a paid ticket, and in all likelihood would not pay the incremental difference in miles either to fly AA A321 first class over business class, certainly not if I was traveling with my son or husband. The most compelling case is if you highly value privacy and direct aisle access and are flying solo.

If you've flown American Airlines First Class on the A321 recently, what was your experience?

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