I recently booked a flight to LA for the labor day holiday on American in first class. After doing the PHL-LAX circuit every week for about 7 months, I’ve been scarred and refuse to fly West on transcon flights in coach. It’s just too long of a flight to be tucked away in a tiny seat — especially at 6-foot-3.

Anywho, I know that on some transcon routes American flies lie-flat Airbus A321s and on others they fly garbage legacy US Airways A321s, which are basically just seats in a metal tube. Some cities like Philly fly an A330 once per day, which is nice, but good luck getting a SAAver seat on that, let alone two.

When the American A321T’s came out (with the lie flat seats), they were marked with the A32B designator on the booking page. What I did not know (and shame on me for this) was that some airplanes marked with A32B are just A321s with Sharklets and some other amenities, but no lie-flat seats.

Which planes are bad?

Unless you’re flying from New York to Los Angeles or San Francisco on American, you won’t get an A321 with lie-flat seats. However, this doesn’t mean the plane you do fly will be terrible (more on this later).

You absolutely want to avoid the legacy US Airways A321s that fly mostly out of Philadelphia and Charlotte. These planes have no seatback TVs and no power ports. When booking your flight on AA.com you’ll want to click the View Available Seats button and take a look at the seat map.

If the seat map looks like this then you don’t have lie-flat…

Another way to check is by going to FlightRadar24 and inputting the flight number. You’ll then be presented with the tail numbers of the airplanes operating the flight (subject to change). Once you’ve located the tail number, visit the American fleet site. Once on the fleet site, click A321 Classic link and Ctrl-F for the tail number. If your tail number is located on this page, you’re flying on an old US Airways A321. Womp, womp.

Which planes are good?

Now that we’ve established the fact that if you’re not flying JFK-LAX/SFO you won’t be in lie flat seats, what’s the best alternative? You first want to avoid Philadelphia and Charlotte as these cities have the old clunkers. But to determine if your particular A321 has seatback IFE and power ports, go to the American fleet site and click the A321 Enhanced page. If your plane is on this page then it’s a good one! The A321s with lie-flat seats, otherwise known as the A321T, have F, J, and Y seats. The new, but non-lie flat planes have only J and Y seats.

I hope this helps! If you have any questions, e-mail me or drop a comment — dominic (at) theshortfinal.com

Featured image courtesy of Alan Wilson.

10
Leave a Reply

avatar
6 Comment threads
4 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
7 Comment authors
Dombill begsbySam TrainBick RowenZ Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Harold
Guest
Harold

Thanks, Dom. I do hate the LAX-PHL crappy A321 First Class seats.

Marshall Jackson
Guest

Please know I completely agree with the overall premise of your piece. But I did want to point out that some of those “old clunkers” originally ordered by US Airways were delivered as recently as 2015. Crappy, yes, with no power outlets, IFE, etc for a cross-country flight. But not necessarily old.

Z
Guest
Z

Wait until October when cross metal flying begins with flight crews. You will see these garbage planes on routes all over the network.

Bick Rowen
Guest
Bick Rowen

Or, simply dial the AA travel desk to have to AA agent book a the quality of seating desired.

AA’s worst a321 beats any 737 any day.

Sam Train
Guest
Sam Train

Dom,

If you’re so frustrated please hop in your car and drive!

Thanks
Sam

bill begsby
Guest
bill begsby

I guess you can always buy your own airplane. The price might be a little higher! You get what you pay for.