American Airlines’ premium transcon flights are getting a big upgrade

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If you’re flying cross-country, American Airlines is gearing up to take you in style.

In recent weeks, the Fort Worth-based carrier has made some notable updates to its premium transcon flying, giving the inflight experience a welcome boost.

The A321T is back

The first is the return of the swanky Airbus A321T. This single-aisle jet is outfitted with just 102 seats, spread across three cabins: 10 Flagship First pods, 20 Flagship Business lie-flats and 72 coach seats, with half in the extra-legroom Main Cabin Extra configuration.

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Pre-pandemic, this jet was exclusively deployed on the hotly contested routes between New York and both Los Angeles and San Francisco.

In November 2020, American temporarily swapped many of its A321Ts and instead flew wide-body Boeing 777s on the aforementioned routes. That led some to question the future of A321T sub-fleet, but American is back with great news.

Beginning on April 2, all premium transcon routes from New York-JFK will be operated by the posh jet. Cirium schedules show that the carrier is planning up to seven daily frequencies between JFK and Los Angeles (LAX) and up to three daily flights to San Francisco (SFO) for the months of April and May.

American shares in a statement that,

As we prepare for increased demand, we’re thrilled to continue to operate the A321T on flights between New York and San Francisco and New York and Los Angeles. We’re also looking forward to introducing the A321T on service between JFK and Orange County beginning in July.

Related: Pods, lie-flat seats and recliners: A look at premium transcon service by airline

Miami to L.A. gets a plane boost

But that’s not all.

With long-haul international travel largely suspended for the near future, American still has a plethora of unused Boeing 777s. Instead of grounding them, the carrier is upgauging another transcon route, between Miami (MIA) and Los Angeles.

From May 6 through (at least) June 2, American will exclusively fly either the Boeing 777-200 or longer -300 variant between the cities, marking the first time that the route will be exclusively operated by widebodies in Cirium timetable history, which dates back to 2003.

Deep-pocketed flyers looking for the top inflight experience will seek out the up to twice-daily Boeing 777-300 service. With a dedicated first-class cabin, the 777-300 is American’s flagship jet. These four-cabin widebodies are outfitted with eight Flagship First suites, 52 Flagship Business pods, 28 premium economy recliners and 216 coach seats.

American is only selling the first, business and coach cabins, meaning that savvy travelers can select a premium economy recliner for the cost of an extra-legroom coach ticket.

Fares start at $50 in coach and jump to $825 in Flagship First, and premium-cabin award availability is quite plentiful. There are a handful of dates with business-class awards starting at 20,000 AAdvantage miles. Flagship First awards are much more limited.

Related: American Airlines schedules wide-body jets on 3 unexpected domestic routes

The premium transcon market is heating up

American’s move to upgrade its transcontinental flying comes as the carrier is poised to face intense competition on these routes.

United Airlines is returning to JFK after a five-year hiatus and will offer daily flights to both LAX and SFO. Scott Kirby, the carrier’s CEO, has said he thinks United’s move to pull out of JFK was a strategic mistake. The Chicago-based carrier now plans to fly its “high-J” Boeing 767s, arguably the poshest jet in United’s fleet. With a whopping 46 Polaris business-class pods, the carrier is seemingly banking on a return in premium demand.

Meanwhile, the heat is on in South Florida. Despite American’s new Northeast alliance with JetBlue, the latter is busy growing its fledgling Miami presence.

Related: United Airlines plans ‘aggressive’ return to New York-JFK

American has long operated a fortress hub in Miami, though JetBlue will now compete head-to-head with AA on five routes, including on flights to Los Angeles. On Feb. 11, JetBlue started flying Mint business-class equipped planes between Miami and Los Angeles.

As for American’s transcon passenger experience, the business-class-only Flagship Lounges are closed networkwide. Premium-cabin flyers will still enjoy lie-flat seats, multi-course meals, Casper bedding, amenity kits and seat-back entertainment once onboard.

Despite Flagship Lounges remaining shuttered, the good news is that the Airbus A321T is coming back in full force.

Several reports surfaced in late November questioning AA’s commitment to the premium-heavy jet. Some rumored that the plane would never return, theorizing that American would convert the jets to a standard, domestic configuration with a handful of first-class recliners and a large coach cabin.

Fortunately, for AA flyers, the latest schedule updates appears to squash such rumors. Plus, with the carrier gearing up to launch a brand-new JFK to Orange County (SNA) transcon route with the A321T, the future is bright for American’s swankiest jet.

Featured photo by Zach Griff, TPG

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