American Airlines Airbus A321T business class – Photo: Jason Rabinowitz
It is no secret that true international-style first class service is quickly becoming an endangered species. Airlines like American and United are either eliminating or drastically reducing the number of three-class aircraft they operate, but a few exceptions remain. On American, lie-flat first class can still be found on the flagship Boeing 777-300ER, unrefurbishedÂ 777-200ERs, and also the subfleet of Airbus A321Tâ€™s operating the premium transcontinental routes.
Occasionally, American will operate a three-class aircraft on different and unexpected routes. When that happens, savvy passengers in the know (thatâ€™ll be you in just a few minutes) can fly business class for the price of economy, or maybe even true first class if theyâ€™re lucky enough. Thatâ€™s exactly what happened to me on a flight between Boston and New Yorkâ€™s JFK Airport.
The American A321T at JFK – Photo: Jason Rabinowitz
Rather than have the aircraft sit all day (an aircraft on the ground doesnâ€™t make any money), American occasionally schedules the A321T to operate between JFK and Boston or Dallas, and the 777-200ER between various hub cities. When I noticed one of my business trips to Boston happened to coincide with one of these turns, I immediately booked the flight.
When American operates a three-class aircraft on a non-standard route, business class is often available to anyone booked in Economy. The seats are right there on the seat map when booking, but how many people would even think about clicking on a business class seat when booked in Economy? Not many. At some point before the flight, Business Class was locked down to elite status passengers or full fare Y (economy) ticket holders, but I was in before the cut. Oh, I almost forgot to mention. If I wanted a Main Cabin Extra seatÂ instead of my business seat, I would have had to pay extra.
Business Class on the American A321 – Photo:Â SouthpawCapture
I live in the Dallas area, and donâ€™t often fly transcon flights. However, I recently needed to go to both LA and New York close to the same time, and I thought it would be fun to try Americanâ€™s new Airbus A321â€Tâ€ they are flying between JFK and both LAX and San Francisco.
I am an Executive Platinum AAdvantage member (Americanâ€™s top-tier elite for the unitiated) so I can often, but not always, upgrade on a regular coach fare. I looked for the flight with the most available seats in business class, reasonably figuring that this would give me the best chance of upgrading. It was a midweek flight leaving LAX at 1 PM, arriving at JFK at around 10 PM local time.
If itâ€™s not obvious, I am a typical top-tier elite member – very spoiled. Sitting in the back of the bus is for the great unwashed, not I. Seriously, no, I am not above sitting back there, and as I make lots of last-minute changes, I often wind up squashed in with everybody else. Plus since I own my business, travel costs come out of my pocket. No high-end business class fares for me.
American’s A321 in flight – Photo:Â SouthpawCapture
So when you have the opportunity to take â€œAAdvantageâ€ of the few perks you get with business travel these days, you grab it. Considering this was a five-hour flight and I was already very tired, I was REALLY hoping for the upgrade, to say the least.
When I got to LAX, the upgrade still wasnâ€™t there, and I was pouting. To make things worse, the flight was listed an hour late due to weather in JFK. But about 45 minutes before the flight left the gate, the clouds parted, the sun shone, and the upgrade gods smiled on me. Business class it was, Seat 8F on the new A321.