Comparing American’s A319 That Goes Into Service Today to the MD-80 It Replaces (Guest Post)

Today American begins flying its A319s between Dallas/Ft Worth and Charlotte, Cleveland, Memphis, and Wichita. Many more markets are coming soon as this airplane begins to replace some flying that’s currently done by MD-80s. Kevin, someone many of you have dealt with at Cranky Concierge, was at the rollout a few weeks ago. He compared the experience between the two airplanes.

As a born cheapskate, I’ve grown accustomed to flying economy. I’m based near Dallas/Ft Worth so that means many, but not all, of my flights are on American. I, like many people, am loyal to one thing: price. But as I get older I’m more concerned with in-flight experience. All things being equal, or close enough, I’d rather be comfortable. Who wouldn’t?

Today, American begins service on its newly received Airbus A319. Although it’s a smaller plane (number of seats), the A319 will replace old MD-80s on the vast majority of the initial routes it takes. So let’s compare the old with the new.

A319 Seat

Gone is the 2-3 seating configuration from the MD-80s. The new A319s are 3-3 across which means there are now middle seats on both sides of the aisle. While I’m not a fan of having the middle seat, it does mean that both sides of the plane have full size overhead compartments. The mid-galley in coach and the engines right next to the cabin are also gone.

Seatback Entertainment

The in-seat experience is significantly improved as well. The overflowing pouch of magazines and safety cards has been moved up higher on the seat, so legroom is a bit better. Each seat back has a touch screen with entertainment options, USB power, as well as regular plug power. The plan is to upload connecting gate information to the screen as well, so that the flight attendant running down a list prior to landing will not be needed. As you would expect there is wifi throughout the cabin as well, the one thing the MD-80 also had.

Entertainment A319

There will be limited complimentary programming in each seat, as well as some paid options. Each display has a privacy screen on it, which AA says will prevent the kids from watching those rated R movies in the seat next to them. I say it just keeps me from running a splitter with my wife and saving $5. That’s no good. I’m not a huge fan of where they put the power outlet (encroaching on my knee room) but they also have the USB charger up by the screen. The leg room isn’t great (I’m 6’2″), but I notice and appreciate the magazines being higher to free up some room.

American A319 Exterior

The A319 has many of the bells and whistles you would expect to find on a brand new plane. It’s nice to see things typically reserved for long haul flights, starting to be implemented on short haul routes as well. It’s a big change from the MD-80, that’s for sure.

31 Responses to Comparing American’s A319 That Goes Into Service Today to the MD-80 It Replaces (Guest Post)

  1. SirWired says:

    While the upgrades will be nice, am I the only traveler that doesn’t mind flying coach on the DC-9 and variants? I really liked the 3-2 seat layout and didn’t find anything else objectionable about the aircraft vs. planes of similar size.

  2. ANCJason says:

    Does FAT-DFW get the A319 as an MD-80? If so, I wonder if AA will give FAT-ORD a try considering it is the highest PDEW market from Fresno unserved.

  3. John G says:

    I’m a very frequent flier…Executive Platinum on AA. What I don’t like about the 319 is that they cut the number of first class seats, yet they are using it on longer flights.

    On the M80, they have 16 first class seats and 119 coach seats. The 319 has only 8 first class seats, and 120 in coach. It will be FAR more difficult to upgrade on these planes. If you are gold or even platinum, you can forget about getting one. There are also only 18 Main Cabin Extra (Economy Plus) seats on this one, compared with 40 on the M80.

    AA is going for the squeeze, and the cash. This BTW, Cranky, has Doug Parker’s fingerprints all over it.

    • Kyle says:

      Here’s an idea: purchase a First Class seat. Problem solved!

      • Good point Kyle. Don’t whine you can’t get an upgrade, just buy a ticket in the cabin if you want to sit in it.

      • Graham says:

        Yeah, but you’d have to agree John that 16/119 is high, right? Good high, but high nonetheless. Also Kyle, no one buys first class tickets. Are you high?

      • mharris127 says:

        Since there are only eight first class seats it may be impossible to even purchase that seat unless you are reserving your flight at least a month in advance. As a first class exclusive flyer (I literally don’t fit in coach) that could be a serious safety issue if a captain were asleep at the switch and allowed a too big flyer to attempt to fly coach. This coach cabin also looks extremely cramped so more people will be forced into first class due to size.

        As for Kyle being high on some drug, he isn’t. If you are over 300 pounds or taller than approximately five feet eight inches tall you can forget coach on US airlines in my experience. I am excluded from coach on both counts (I am 450 pounds and six feet tall).

      • John G says:

        Kyle, you’re quite the smartass, aren’t you? Perhaps if you flew in my shoes you’d be less so.

        I’m assuming you are NOT a frequent flier or travel for work. I do. I pay tens of thousands of dollars in airfare every year. And do you know what, Kyle? My ticket costs more than yours. A LOT more. I buy tickets without six weeks advance purchase like you, and they charge more for them.

        My average ticket costs twice or more as much as your cheapo

        • John G says:

          Accidentally sent before I was done…

          My ticket costs two or three times what yours does. I spend my life running for airplanes, hitting the security lines and getting molested by TSA. I fly late at night to get there for an early meeting then I fly late to get to the next one.

          I’m not whining…but spare me your sanctimonious BS about buying a first class seat when you get the same service I do for maybe third of the cost I pay.

          • Arcanum says:

            A touch of DYKWIA-ism, John?

            Regardless of how far ahead you booked the ticket or which fare bucket you chose, the fact remains that you purchased an ECONOMY ticket. You are entitled to an ECONOMY seat. Fly 200 times a year for work? You’re entitled to 200 economy seats.

            As stated by A below, first/business class in the US has been completely degraded by the practice of free upgrades. The reason no one pays for the front cabin any more is because the quality of the hard and soft product now reflects the premium paid for it (i.e. nothing in the case of upgrades).

            Ideally there should be three cabins – economy (for the plebs), crappy Greyhound-esque business (for upgraders), and proper first class (for paying customers). Separate the true 1% from the over-entitled traveling salesmen and mileage runners currently clogging the front cabins.

            Obviously that’s not feasible on most routes, but AA and JetBlue will be trying on the transcons with their new configs.

          • John G says:

            My ECONOMY class ticket costs two or three times what yours does. I understand that time is money and later purchase tickets have value. But at the end of the day it is for the same product.

            Business travelers get gouged and screwed for last minute tickets. The opportunity to upgrade to a “first class” seat that is only a big larger than a coach seat is a small perk for that. If airlines don’t differentiate further, then they will start losing lucrative business travel to the ULCCs.

            If AA et al charge me more than other passengers but don’t offer a product worth having I might as well fly allegiant or spirit.

          • Business travelers get gouged, because they’ll pay that rate. If the airlines didn’t charge that rate there might not be seats left for the business travelers that are buying really late.

            Since, you’re willing to pay that price, so I think the airlines have the right price on the tickets.

          • Jason H says:

            If you’re a frequent flyer for work, then you should be negotiating with your employer for a first class seat, less flying, or whatever other benefit. Besides it’s not even you paying for the seat, it’s your employer, so I’d say your complaint should be with your job, not the airlines.

    • DL doing the same thing to me with the 321s and 757s…Sadly, with so few people paying for it, the airlines don’t want to spend the money on it.

      @Kyle–unless your business requires you to buy a coack ticket, and usually deep discount economy can’t be upgraded. Beyond that, its not like a once a month “suck it up” thing. People who fly 2x weekly or more would like a little love from the companies they send thousands of dollars to each year.

      • A says:

        “People who fly 2x weekly or more would like a little love from the companies they send thousands of dollars to each year.”

        The airline could argue that they are providing you the service you pay for and giving you anything extra is their own decision. The practice of upgrading frequent fliers to 1st class has lessened the value of it. As has been said nobody (or very few) actually pay for it. If becoming a status frequent flyer were more rare I could accept the practice but so many people have it that these days it’s often a plane 50% full of frequent fliers and then some poor saps in middle seats.

        • Andrew_DC says:

          It really bothers me to hear frequent business travelers being called “over-entitled.” Yes, the decision to upgrade frequent fliers is that of the airline, and is done primarily to keep those thousands of dollars from being spread around to their competitors. I keep most of my flying on United because of this reason, and they benefit from it as well. When the airline lowers the benefit, the risk is that they will also make it less attractive to keep loyalty with the airline. So, the business traveler didn’t pay for the seat, but the airline could also lose thousands (aggregate millions) in revenue if they upset this lucrative base. Let’s be honest, all companies do this with their customers. I’ve had Redskins tickets, Ravens tickets, and even “customer appreciation” weekends in Hawaii from my suppliers. It is about generating loyalty. You can’t blame the business traveler for expecting what the airline has been freely giving him for years. As my wife frequently says, she has “paid” for that upgrade with literally years spent apart at this point.

    • @John G hopefully Parker’s fingers are nowhere near this, since AA is still independent.

      • John G says:

        Sorry, not buying that. Everything that has been done through the merger process has been done at the direction of Parker. The changes so far are his. Don’t believe me? This is a good example. Everything else on AA has a bigger percentage of first class seats. But this is in line with US Airways’ much smaller percentage.

        Don’t fool yourself. AA is not “independent”, and has not been. Anybody in a position of authority is doing things Parker’s way, or they will be run off when the merger is done.

        • Jason H says:

          I’m pretty sure these planes were ordered before any talks of the merger or any of Doug Parker’s influence on AA.

  4. I’ve always like the MD80ish family of planes. They always looked long and sleek, and who doesn’t like only two seats in a row when traveling alone or as a couple.

  5. Joe C says:

    On the surface, I agree that it’s something of a bummer to lose First Class capacity, but a few things come to mind:

    - AA’s entire fleet of MDs is not being replaced by the A319 (AA has about 170+ MDs, and about 60 A319s on order, if wikipedia can be believed)
    - I’m Gold and I *never* expect I’ll be high enough up the list to get a First Class seat anyway, so no big difference to me
    - Generally speaking, aside from the room of MD 80 first class, the A319 economy and def. MCE seats appear to be a more pleasant place to be (when I’ve been fortunate enough to get upgraded, the seats are pretty dilapidated, in my opinion)

    my .02

  6. Ed says:

    Hopefully the additional information on the passenger touch screens will decrease the number of inflight announcements, which appear to be getting longer and louder. Stop the noise pollution!

  7. PF says:

    The MD80 remains one of my favorites because it’s quiet in the front, and if you are in coach the AB side isn’t bad. I’ve flown a lot of miles on it, and have been seated towards the front of the plane in coach, or in first class. I don’t recall a mid galley in coach – I’ve seen one in the front, and one in the back that was downsized (ovens removed) with two rows of dreaded seats behind it.

  8. Axelsarkis says:

    When the 319s go to the MZJ, the pilots will fly back on the MadDogs, power plugs and AVOD be dammed.

  9. JohnG says:

    I’m not the ex-plat John G that has also posted here – I’m just plat. But I too will miss the MD-80s when they are gone. In coach the 2 side is fantastic, the seats are an inch wider than anything else in the fleet, the AC vents seem to blow harder, the trays are sturdier, and who cares about IFE when they all have wifi and you brought your own device(s)? The 12v power ports on the MD80s are also, in my experience, much more reliable than the 110v plugs on the 737s. I also don’t like the smaller F section on the 319s, but don’t think it’s the end of the world – the F section on the 738 is still good sized, and the 738 is half of the MD80 replacement equation. I see why they bought the 319s, but I’ll take an MD80 if I have the choice.

    Disclaimer – this comment was posted from 6F of an MD80.

  10. The A319 in the new livery is a beautiful looking airplane. I would have liked to see the MDs in it too. Rumor says that some of the B752s are going to be repainted.

  11. Ned F Audeh says:

    The economy seat on A319 of AA is not fit for any one who is more than 5 ft 2in tall. I am not a tall person, and I could not read my book comfortably without leaning my seat back.I could not store my book in the cute mesh bag in front of me. The plane is made for midgets. Why should I buy a first class seat. Am I not entitled to fly without torture. AA has done us disservice.

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