My First Flight in American’s New Slimline Seats (Trip Report)

By my standards, I’ve been traveling a lot. It’s been a draining and emotional couple weeks, and to make things more challenging, I’ve been fighting a head cold. I had already committed to attending American’s Annual Leadership Conference, but I wavered since I just wasn’t feeling great. In the end, I went, and I’m glad I did. I was able to experience the new American coach seat for the first time. It’s not bad.

[Disclosure: American provided flights and hotel]

American 321 In Seat Video

I was originally going to fly on Tuesday and I had picked a flight on a 767 (pre-refurb, so it would have been… not great). But I was just finishing antibiotics for a sinus infection and I wasn’t really up to it. Instead, I asked American if they could push me to the next day and on a slightly later flight so I could rest. The flight, on a brand new A321, was pretty open and they were happy to help.

I was really glad to see American give me a seat in regular coach and not in Main Cabin Extra. On domestic flights, I really like trying out the standard coach products. That’s especially true when slimline seats are involved.

On the morning of the flight, I still wasn’t feeling great, so it was time for drugs. I had been told by a doctor that I should shoot some Afrin up my nose an hour or two before the flight and I’d be good to go. Holy crap. That’s an understatement.

Afrin is some serious stuff. I shot it up my nose and it burned like a mofo. After that, I think it started to eat my brain from the inside. My heart started racing and I got a bit dizzy. But sure enough, my head was cleared out.

I left home at 10a, parked at Quikpark, and made my way to Terminal 4. As usual, the Pre Check line was empty and I was on my way to the gate. It’s a much nicer experience when I’m not sitting in rush hour traffic.

I passed one gate showing an earlier DFW flight had canceled, so I knew my flight wouldn’t have an empty seat. As usual, there was a crowd of my nemeses, the “group 3” people, just blocking the boarding area. I had to weave through before I could get into the jet bridge with my group 2 boarding pass.

February 18, 2015
American 2419 Lv Los Angeles 1144a Arr Dallas/Ft Worth 445p
Los Angeles (LAX): Gate 49A, Runway 25R, Depart 2m Late
Dallas/Ft Worth (DFW): Gate C2, Runway 18R, Arrive 4m Early
N126AN, Airbus A321-231, Ugly Flag colors, ~99% Full
Seat 30A
Flight Time 2h28m

Boarding took forever. I finally made it all the way to the back and took my seat. This was my first time in American’s new coach seats (other than a visit on the new A321T that I didn’t fly on), and it looked pretty good.

I took my seat and found plenty of legroom, but as with other slimline seats, the magazine pocket and the screen seemed pretty close. I decided to reserve judgment until I had been in them for a couple hours.

View From Gate 49A at LAX

The flight attendant that was manning the PA was not in a good mood. She barked that people better hurry up and sit down because we were 5 minutes from departure time (we were really more like 10). Then a couple minutes before, she came on again sounding resigned to a late departure. Turns out we pushed 2 minutes late.

I had started my inflight entertainment on the ground. The NBC in-flight stuff that’s usually on an overhead screen was free. Movies were $5 to $8. I just flipped on the NBC stuff and used it as background noise.

IFE Options American

We taxied down and then took off into a soupy murk. It was a foggy/hazy mess just off the coast of LA, but we were above it soon enough. By the time we had turned back around over land, I was able to break out my laptop and log on. I was shocked that I was able to open it up and put it on my tray table with no trouble. If the guy in front of me had leaned back, it would have been bad, but this was still better than my experience on United’s seat on the A320.

I started working and the flight attendants came by with drinks. I just had water, and was feeling pretty good in my Afrin-induced state. But they didn’t do another service and I started coughing toward the end. Sorry about that, seat 30B.

After a couple hours, I decided to really evaluate the seat. First off, it was comfortable. I couldn’t believe it. Thirty minutes into a Southwest flight and I’m in pain. That United A320 was torture. But this? I was totally fine with one big problem, as you can see below.

Big Entertainment Boxes on American

The inflight entertainment system was good, and the interface was well-done, but there is a massive box under the seat for both the window and middle. It’s awful. I’d much rather just scrap the screens entirely on a domestic flight. Give me wifi and a working power outlet and I’m good. International is a different story.

The flight attendants have a different aspect of the inflight entertainment system they hate. The call button on the screen is really easy to hit accidentally. It was going off constantly on our flight, and you could see the frustration on the faces of the flight attendants.

Flight Attendant Call Button on American

A couple hours in, we were rudely interrupted by the famously despised US Airways-era credit card pitch. If you’re going to put inflight entertainment on the airplane, you really shouldn’t interrupt me to sell a credit card. Not cool.

But at least they don’t need to interrupt with connecting gate info anymore. That’s all on the screen. We landed right on time.

The Annual Leadership Conference was interesting, as always. But most interesting was the briefing we had afterwards about the complaint against the Middle East carriers. I’ve seen the information that was given to the feds, and it’s certainly thought-provoking. I wondered before what they knew that we didn’t. Now I know. I can’t write specifics yet, but hopefully it won’t be too long.

For my return, I had asked them to put me on a later flight than originally scheduled so I could at least sleep in and rest a bit. That was helpful, and I made my way to the airport for the noon flight.

We were at gate C33, and I quickly learned that checkpoint didn’t have Pre Check. So I walked to the next one down since I didn’t have a time crunch. Once though security, I found the gate and prepared for boarding.

Incredibly, there were not a million people blocking the boarding entrance. The guy doing the announcements had the most pleasantly-mellowing voice. It was a surprisingly nice boarding experience.

February 20, 2015
American 2433 Lv Dallas/Ft Worth 1210p Arr Los Angeles 133p
Dallas/Ft Worth (DFW): Gate C33, Runway 18L, Depart 1m Early
Los Angeles (LAX): Gate 48B, Runway 25L, Arrive 7m Early
N852NN, Boeing 737-823, Silver Eagle colors, ~99% Full
Seat 24A
Flight Time 2h59m

Once onboard, I found that I was on a 737 with the older interior and the old paint job. It’s always a guessing game with these guys, but at least I was able to admire the shiny fuselage on the way on to the airplane. I still don’t like the new livery.

I took my seat and read as we taxied out on a cloudy day. We were told it would be a long three hour flight with hefty headwinds. Oh well.

We took off into the low clouds and made it into the sunshine shortly after. I logged on to wifi and did work the entire way. We sat in a high cloud layer much of the way, and that’s no fun. It was a little bumpy so the seatbelt sign stayed on most of the time, but it wasn’t anything notable.

Sitting in a Cloud Layer

The flight attendants came through and did two drink services. I had some water and that was it. I did pay close attention to the seat since this was an older interior. You know what? My legs were more fatigued on this one than they were on the new seats coming out. That was a surprise.

American 777 and 737 with Winglet

We finally came out of the cloud layer over Palm Springs and descended in for an early landing. By this time, my head was pounding so I was really glad to be home.

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