With all the time I have now and because this is the most recent aircraft I have flown on (March 2020) I thought I’d add another review of American Airlines Domestic First Class. Some of this is really just rehashing many things from my reviews of American’s A321’s http://patstravelreviews.com/american-airlines-a321-first-class-review/ and B737’s http://patstravelreviews.com/american-airlines-737-first-class-review/ but I can update their Wi-Fi and Inflight Entertainment (IFE) options which have become a little obsolete since these reviews were published. Plus, now this review will come up when doing a search specifically on American’s A319 First Class.
First Class on the A319 only has two rows in a 2×2 configuration for a total of 8 seats. Much like American’s A321’s there are two versions of the A319. The ones inherited from USAir (averages almost 20 years old) that American refers to as Version 2 and the ones AA purchased before the merger (delivered in mid 2010’s) that they refer to as version 1. Also, like the A321’s there are several variants to the older A319’s. Different leg room, especially in the bulkhead. Some planes have a cut-out in row 1, others do not. The seats with the cut-out have at least two inches extra leg room and is much more comfortable than the ones without. The seat pitch between the two versions are the same (38″) in row 2, however, the newer (version 1) planes have more pitch (distance from back of chair to wall) in the bulkhead, meaning it is easier for the passenger in window seat to get by their neighbor. All the USAir seats have been renovated, and like the A321, they kept the original seat and just reupholstered them. Well, there is one change (and I am also seeing this on more A321’s). Every USAir A319 I have flown on has had a storage area under the center armrest that also has a power plug in it. This is a big improvement over the seats that did not have a power port (like many of the USAir A321’s still don’t). So the seats have the same tray table and same recline as when USAir took delivery of them. This also means that there are some signs of aging even though the padding is brand new. Like the B737-800 and A321’s seats with TV screens, version 1’s recline is less intrusive as it slides forward a little as well as the seatback. This is a nice feature if sitting in row 2 as the forward seat does not intrude on your space nearly as much. They also have a storage area (were it says “No Storage” :)) in the outer armrest and non-bulkhead seats have two small drink trays (bulkhead has one). On some of the renovated B737’s (planes with a row 1) the tray table has a device you can place your tablet to watch their personal device entertainment. I have yet to see an A319 with this. The seat back pockets are smaller in the bulkhead and some of the renovated seats (row 2 only) have a different take on seat back pockets (3 separate spaces).
As of now one big improvement the A319 has over the A321 is all the A319’s have Main Cabin Extra (Rows 8-10 and exit row 14), whereas, not all the A321’s (nor A320’s) have dedicated rows with MCE (AA purchased does), just the bulkhead and exit row. Hopefully they will do same with the A321’s as they have with the A319’s. Unfortunately because of this, there is no way to differentiate what version you will be on during the booking process. The newer A321’s were designated as A32B, but they did away with that (you can still tell what aircraft by looking to see if plane has MCE). Now the new A321neo’s are designated as A32Q’s, but with the A319, it is just labeled as A319. All seats are grey leather with an adjustable headrest and have a comfortable width of 21 inches. They have generous sized overheads and unlike other airlines (UAL) with only eight seats in First, the forward overhead bins are left empty so all eight passengers should have enough space for their carry-ons.
American uses the A319’s on mid to short range flights and to secondary markets. My most recent flights were between PHX and Fargo. Some other routes I have flown on the past year or two are MCI & MSP to PHX, ORD to EWR, STL to DFW, LAX to OKC to name a few. The service is the same with all domestic flights regardless of aircraft (regional jets may differ). A blanket will be on your seat as you arrive and a pre-departure drink may or may not be offered. I am not sure whether this is just my imagination, but it seems on flights that most likely have former USAir crew (to/from PHX, CLT, PHL) will serve a pre-departure beverage of choice. Whereas, flights to/from DFW, ORD, etc (AA crew) may not. Whether it is my imagination or not, pre-departure drinks are not always offered. The other inconsistency with American (and honestly with many airlines – and not just in US) is the service. For the most part the flight attendants on American are great; friendly & helpful. But, like other airlines they have their share of jaded, disgruntled, and bossy flight attendants. The one thing I’ve noticed as an Executive Platinum member and Million Miler is I’m treated like any other First Class passenger. This doesn’t bother me but I do notice (a friend who flies Delta pointed this out to me) if I fly Delta (where I’m also a million miler, but rarely fly them anymore) they always make a point to thank me for my business. I never get this on AA. It personally does not bother me and actually makes things fairer with the meal service. Unlike United who used to (may still) take meal orders in order of passengers status, American mostly takes orders from front to back. Of course, you can also pre-order your meal choice 24 hours to 30 days prior to departure (one of my favorite things about American). Now, like with pre-departure drinks, there is some inconsistency in how flight attendants will take your order. American had a policy called FEBO; Orders are taken from the Front on Even numbered flights and from the Back on Odd, but I don’t notice it as much as I used to and it could be AA crews follow this guideline and former USAir crews just start in front. Either way it is a much more equitable way of getting your meal choice. Especially for those that purchase First Class tickets (as opposed to someone who gets upgraded at last second). On most flights with meals a hot towel will be handed out before the meal service starts. This wasn’t the case on my recent flights to and from Fargo, but I’m assuming that was an anomaly.
Meals can differ by flight time and distance. On shorter flights a snack basket is passed around. Contents of the snack basket differs from time to time (nice to have variety). On those flights that are around two hours (also depends on time of day and route) or red-eye flights, AA may serve a small cold plate of cheese & fruit or hummus, I’ve also just received a cup of warm nuts and a chocolate chip cookie. It is to complicated to go into great detail (especially now that they are not even serving meals on most flights) of which flights have a meal or not. As an example ORD to the NYC area serves a full breakfast, but may serve a snack for lunch and most other routes of that length would only get a cold plate at best. On flights designated as breakfast, lunch or dinner, two hot meals are usually offered. There is always a vegetarian choice which is usually pasta. On some lunch flights I’ve seen a salad with side of cold chicken as a choice along with a hot dish. Breakfast is the same. Usually an egg dish or oatmeal, but I have seen a fruit plate as an option as well. Breakfast always comes with a choice of bread (bagel, cinnamon roll, croissant, etc). A warm small bowl of premium nuts always precedes lunch and dinner and usually a choice of a chocolate chip or snickerdoodle cookie for dessert (usually served separate). On longer flights (4 hrs) ice cream will be served for dessert. For the most part I find American’s catering to be edible, and more times than not, enjoyable. As I said on my other two reviews what I like most is the meals are always served hot. Other airlines (especially United) can learn a lesson from this.
In-flight Entertainment (IFE) on American’s A319’s is also similar to their A321’s and B737’s. Version 1 have seatback monitor’s, whereas version 2 only has personal device IFE. However, current and recent deliveries (B737Max & A321neo) will not have seatback screens. Further, American has started to remove the screens from those planes that had them (not International fleet) and unfortunately this process has been sped due to the grounding of planes during the Covid-19 outbreak. So at some point in the future all domestic aircraft IFE will be thru Wi-Fi on your own device. In the meantime, even those aircraft with seatback monitor’s will also have access to wireless programing. I prefer the seatback IFE. The TV’s are touchscreen and HD capable. They are slightly bigger than 12″ (8.9″ in Economy) which is much more screen than a tablet. Plus, it keeps the tray table clear to eat. You can access programming either by touch screen or hand set (in armrest). While for the most part the content is the same, the seatback IFE has games, music, info and a moving map which wireless does not. But, personal device has 12 channels of live TV (CNN, ESPN, NBC, CBS, FOX, CNBC, NFL, Telemundo, USA, Disney, TNT, and Bravo) and access to Apple Music (only on flights with ViaSat Wi-Fi) in addition to movies and television programs. As I said one of the reasons I am writing this review is to update American’s Wi-Fi. Currently American uses two companies for Wi-Fi. Gogo inflight or AA inflight. AA inflight is through Viasat which is replacing gogo. Most flights I’ve been on actually have the ViaSat version, but all of the A319 flights I’ve been on had gogo. I assume they are updating by aircraft type and the A319’s (and probably A320’s) are the last to change to Viasat. I like gogo because it has free messaging and one hour free Wi-Fi for T-Mobile members. Both have free access to AA.com as well as a few of their partners. The advantages of ViaSat is the speed is much better than gogo and it is available from gate to gate. Gogo still starts and ends at 10,000 feet. For some reason the rates are still inconsistent. Based on either per hour or by flight. The entire flight rates makes sense as it is based on flight time and I have seen as low as $8 on short flights and up to $18 on cross-country flights. By the hour can be either $12 or $14. To access AA’s Personal Device Entertainment you must first download the American Airlines app before your flight (can download it onboard, but you’ll have to pay for the Wi-Fi). There is a nice selection of Movies and TV shows on all of their IFE options. Recent releases, classic movies, a few international selections and best of all, most, if not all of the content is uncensored.
I was surprised to read that American Airlines is the largest operator of the Airbus A319 in the world with 133 jets in their fleet. Because of the Coronavirus Pandemic they are currently cutting their fleet size by early retiring some of their older B737’s and their entire B757 fleet. While they do not have any future order’s for the A319 and some of them are over 20 years old, I think American will be flying these for years (especially if the MAX stays grounded). With the exception of MCE and leg room this review should also cover the A320 as well. All American’s A320’s were inherited from USAir so should be similar to version 2. Despite American reducing seat pitch on their B737’s (AA’s B737 had/have up to 40″ of legroom), new A321neo’s & B737Max’s, and doing away with the seatback entertainment that still keeps them in line with United (also does not have seatback IFE on new deliveries) and Delta. I wish American had another row in First Class on their A319’s, but other than that it is a nice plane that can provide jet service (as opposed to regional jet) service to smaller markets (LAX – OKC) and allows for longer non-stop service to mid-size markets from their hubs (LAX – STL).