Review: American Airlines Economy Class A321(Sharklets) Chicago to Los Angeles

Review: American Airlines Economy Class A321(Sharklets) Chicago to Los Angeles

Although writing airline reviews on domestic economy class flights aren’t nearly as entertaining as international business or first class flights I believe they are equally important. Especially given the current state of the American Airlines fleet. With an interesting mix of new main line aircraft and older “updated” legacy US Airways aircraft it’s often difficult to know what to expect from the New American Airlines as they continue to Go For Great. With that being said let’s jump into the review.

American Airlines Flight 2223
Airbus A321S (Sharklets)
Economy Class Seat 11E
Scheduled Departure: 1:28PM

Public Transportation To Chicago O’Hare International

Since I had plenty of time to get to ORD airport I decided to take public transportation. Traffic from Chicago proper to Chicago O’hare International is notoriously bad. Often public transportation from the north side of Chicago is easier and more predictable than taking a cab or Uber. Not to mention public transportation is considerably cheaper.

I started at the Addison Red Line stop which is just steps from the historic Wrigley Field. Just in front of the CTA Red Line stop is the 152 bus stop. The 152 bus takes passengers west from the Addison Red Line stop to the Addison Blue Line stop and beyond. The CTA Blue Line takes passengers directly to Chicago O’Hare.

The whole journey takes approximately 50 minutes and costs well under $5.00. Currently bus fares cost just $2.00 and the “L” train costs $2.25. Additionally, the cost to transfer from a bus to an “L” train is just $0.25. If traveling to the airport during peak rush hour times I highly suggest taking Public Transportation. The Blue Line runs through downtown Chicago and tracks the expressway toward the airport. I’d only advise against public transportation if carrying a lot of luggage or with kids.

Arriving At Chicago O’Hare International

The CTA Blue Line arrives directly beneath Chicago O’Hare International. After a short walk you’ll find a central corridor which directs passengers to either Terminal 1, 2, 3, or 5. American Airlines currently departs from Terminal 3.

After a short 5 to 10 minute walk you’ll find yourself in the Terminal 3 Departures area. The area is completely overwhelming during peak travel times. There are several security checkpoints, but given the current setup there is an entire security checkpoint dedicated to TSA PreCheck passengers.

I have TSA PreCheck thanks to my American Express Platinum card which allowed me to use the TSA PreCheck only security checkpoint. Since my flight departed during the afternoon the line wasn’t too long and I made it through security in less than 5 minutes.

Late Inbound Aircraft

As I took the Blue Line to Chicago O’Hare I checked the American Airlines mobile app for my flight status. My flight (AA2223) still showed as on-time, but the inbound aircraft information showed a delay. The aircraft left Los Angeles late and was now showing a 12:58 arrival. Flight AA2223 still showed an on-time departure of 1:23PM. Clearly the crew would have less than 30 minutes to turn the plane around for us to leave on time.

Since I knew the inbound aircraft was late I decided to walk around ORD Terminal 3. I finally arrived at the gate at 1:00PM to find an empty space where our Airbus A321S should have been. The plane didn’t connect to the Jet Bridge until 1:03PM. At that time our gate departure board still showed an on time departure. Finally 15 minutes after our schedule boarding time passed American updated our departure time. Our 1:28PM flight now departed at 1:58PM.

Late Inbound Aircraft
Late Inbound Aircraft

I honestly don’t mind delays, I’ve flown enough to know that’s just part of the deal. The issue I have is that American refuses to update their departure boards to show the delay. This is an issue because you must be in the gate area to receive an upgrade or a standby seat. It’s frustrating when you’re in a lounge or eating a meal in the terminal and leave early to sit in the gate area and wait. It’d be nice to know you can sit back and relax a little rather than rushing to the gate.

American Airlines Airbus A321(Sharklets) Seat 11E

The most important word in the above header is Sharklets. American now has many versions of the A321 aircraft, but the Sharklets or A321S version currently offers on-board wifi, seat-back entertainment, and in-seat power outlets. The A321T is the transcontinental version and the A321 without a letter is the version with wifi, but without seat-back entertainment or power outlets.

Once you know which version of the A321 aircraft you’re flying on I’d highly suggest checking SeatGuru for updated seat maps. The A321 has some incredible exit row seat which make the 4 hour flight much more enjoyable in economy.

On my aircraft row 11 was the exit row. 11A is arguably the best economy seat on the whole plane. It features nearly unlimited leg room and has an open foot-well which allows for under-seat storage. 11B comes with plenty of leg room, but the emergency raft blocks the foot well in front and you have to store everything above. 11C and 11D are great aisle options and 11E is unique.

American Airlines Airbus A321S Row 11
American Airlines Airbus A321S Row 11

11E doesn’t have a seat to the right. Instead it’s a cutout for the crew’s jump-seat. In 11E you have all the legroom you’d ever need and plenty of lateral shoulder room as well. You also get storage under the seat in front of you. It’s a great seat, but does have the downside of not having a true window. Overall it’s a great option!

American Airlines A321S Exit Row

American Airlines Service And Entertainment

As with all domestic flights on legacy carriers in the US the service isn’t anything to write home about. Passengers get free bisscoff cookies or pretzels, free soft drinks, coffee, water, or juice. Alcohol, food, or energy drinks (sounds terrible on a flight) are all paid extras.

My flight featured seat-back entertainment and all movies and tv shows are now free on American. There are plenty of pre-loaded movies or tv shows to keep you busy on the relatively short 4 hour flight. Since I was in the exit row I had a flip-up monitor rather than a seat-back screen.

American Airlines A321S In-Flight Entertainment
American Airlines A321S In-Flight Entertainment

Wifi is also offered, but passengers must pay for Gogo In-flight internet. Since I’m a T-Mobile customer I receive one free hour of Gogo internet plus unlimited in-flight texting for the duration of the flight. It’s a great feature of T-Mobile’s service.

One of the things I love most about seat 11E or 12F is the proximity to the crew jump-seat. I enjoy hearing about the life of a flight attendant and am always curious about where they’ve been or where they are going. The flight attendant on my flight was extremely friendly and a pleasure to speak to during departure and arrival. Not to mention she offered me a free premium beverage during the drink service. If you’re somehow reading this,  Thank You!

Arrival At Los Angeles International

Los Angels International is currently undergoing a major renovation. We arrived Thursday afternoon at approximately 5PM and leaving LAX was a nightmare. Passing through the terminal wasn’t a problem, but getting a ride out of the airport was difficult. We ended up waiting nearly 30 minutes for our Uber to travel from the In ‘N Out on Sepulveda Blvd to the Terminal 4 departures level. If you’re planning a trip to LAX in the near future make sure to budget plenty of time to catch a ride out of the airport.

Final Thoughts

American’s A321S is my favorite narrow body to fly long distances on. It’s great having seatback entertainment and power to charge your devices mid-flight. I also love the A321 in general because of the incredible leg room offered in the exit rows. Since I currently only maintain AAdvantage Gold status I only have access to premium seats 24-hours prior to departure, but usually am able to grab one. AAdvantage Platinum elites and above have access to premium seats at the time of booking.

All in all this was a lovely flight despite the slight delay. I especially loved this flight because I was able to get a great price on an American Airlines Special Fare and earn EQD and EQM based on the miles flown rather than the price paid. I’ll definitely look to book future domestic flights on American’s AA321S whenever possible.