If you are flying American Airlines, which plane and onboard experience are better, ERJ 190 vs. A321 short-haul Domestic First?
While I was in the States for work, I had to take a flight from Boston to New York. For this flight, I took the American Airlines Shuttle, which is an hourly flight from New York to Boston, and vice versa. These flights were designed for the business crowd and have dedicated check-in facilities and baggage carousels. At Boston, there are even workstations at gates so that people can continue working until the last minute!
I have written a short review on the A321 flight which I took from Orlando to New York, so I thought it would be interesting to compare and contrast these two short flights.
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American Airlines A321 Flight Review
For this flight, I was in American Airlines A321 Domestic First Class, which was a small cabin of 16 seats in a 2-2 configuration. The plane had another 165 more seats for economy and economy plus, or what American calls Main Cabin and Main Cabin Extra. These seats were in a 3-3 configuration.
I was in seat 3A, which was the left window seat on the third row of First Class. Waiting for me on the seat was a wrapped blanket. These planes are quite new, with an airy, bright interior and the all-leather seats, classier than the old blue cloth seats. The A321’s recliner seats in First feature 2 inches less pitch than most other AA aircraft (38 inches vs. 40), but there was still enough legroom.
For short-haul domestic First class, American Airlines provides a standard wide recliner chair. This one was no exception. It was 21 inches wide and had a pitch of 38 inches. In front of me was a 15.4 inches TV screen host to the entertainment system. This flight did not have Wifi, so there were no streaming services available for those who brought their own devices.
The remote controller for the entertainment system was located on my left armrest, while the right armrest contained the stowaway table. There were also 2 power plugs and the USB power sockets, which were located under my right armrest.
As we waited for the plane to be fully boarded, the air stewardess came around and handed us welcome drinks. I opted for a cup of water.
Shortly after we finished boarding, we taxied to the queue for the runway and took off after a long while. As I was quite tired, I just decided to sleep. I managed to sleep most of the short 2-hour journey. I didn’t try the meal service as I was too tired.
All seats in Main Cabin featured personal screens at each seat too, but they offer only a very limited amount of programming for free. In First, you get enough entertainment for free to amuse you during your flight. In Economy, the chances are you will have to fork out to watch everything you want to.
The A321 is a good plane choice if you are flying AA plane. It features leather seats, a decent in-flight entertainment offering, and, usefully, power and USB ports at each seat.
American Airlines Embraer ERJ 190 Flight Review
For the Boston to New York flight, the plane used was an Embraer ERJ 190 (pictured above), which is a departure from the Boeing or Airbus duopoly that I am normally accustomed to.
This Embraer ERJ190 was a smaller flight compared to the A321. There were 11 seats in First class, in a 1-2 configuration, and 88 seats in a 2-2 configuration for economy and economy plus, or what American calls Main Cabin and Main Cabin Extra. In contrast, the A321 had 16 seats in a 2-2 configuration for First Class, while 165 seats in a 3-3 configuration for Main Cabin.
For this flight, I was seated in seat 4A, the left seat on the last row of First class. I was definitely happier because I did not have a seatmate next to me compared to the previous flight with the 2-2 configuration. One small downside, however, is the width of the seat. While both planes have a 39-inch pitch – that is, the distance from one point of my seat to the same point in the seat in front of me – the Embraer ERJ190 First class seat was only 19 inches wide as compared to 21 in the A321. Nonetheless, this really was not a dealbreaker for me as I am not a large person.
I must point out that the texture of the leather on the seat also felt different. The A321 ones felt more worn, while the ERJ 190 one felt newer. On this flight, there was no TV screen in front of me. As such, there was no remote control by the armrest. The seat was really just a bare minimum recliner seat – there was also no power sockets. In this aspect, the A321 is slightly better.
As there were no TV screens on the backseat, the ERJ 190 is fully equipped with Wifi, which can be used to stream American Airline’s entertainment options. In contrast, my previous A321 flight was an older plane and did not have Wifi.
My flight was an evening flight around 7:00 pm to New York. The flight was slightly delayed, but that is life. Eventually, I boarded the plane around 7:30 pm. Waiting for me on my seat was a wrapped blanket. After putting my luggage into the overhead bin, I sat down and waited for the plane to be boarded. The stewardess came around and offered us some pre-departure beverages. I got some Diet Sierra Mist and waited.
One cool thing about the American Airlines Shuttle is that there are complimentary snacks, beer, and wine for all cabins. This is not the case for the regular flight on the A321. For First Class, there is even a bunch of snacks to choose from! I took some healthy Chia seed bar, some butter cookies, as well as a pack of potato chips. In contrast, for the A321, there were not that many choices. I also fell asleep and did not bother to take the snack for the A321 flight. On this point, the Shuttle service’s offerings do put it ahead of regular short-haul flights.
Unfortunately, for this flight, there were further delays when we boarded the flight. Something to do with a light signal that turned on when it should not have. As such, we were literally waiting inside the plane for about another 30 minutes while the engineers came in and out of the plane in an attempt to fix the problem. I was quite annoyed, but such unfortunate incidents are part and parcel of frequent flying. Instead, I just continued watching my downloaded shows on Netflix on my phone.
Luckily, the problem was fixed, and we managed to push back at about 8:10 pm. We were soon airborne, and the lights were dimmed, and the curtains are drawn. I eventually had another Coke light while in the air. In my previous A321 flight, I was sleeping the whole trip as it was an early morning flight on a Monday to start the week. In this case, I was just watching Netflix and relaxing, as it was an evening flight on a Friday night to end the week.
We landed in LaGuardia Airport in New York at about 9:20 pm. Overall, with the delays notwithstanding, I was quite pleased with the flight.
American Airlines ERJ 190 vs. A321: Which Is Best?
The chair and service were better than the A321 short-haul flight. While I don’t look forward to taking the American Airlines shuttle regularly for work, I will be contented to take them if the traveling is necessary!
You can read my flight reviews on American to see what you will experience long haul:
American Airlines Premium Economy launched on their Boeing 787-9, which we have reviewed below. You can now book Premium Economy on long-haul flights on an American Airlines Boeing 787-9 or an AA 777, A330, or 787. Read More.
I have flown with American Airlines a number of times and have reviewed their long haul Business Class and First Class flights. My trip reports can be found below. Read More.
Note: Benefits offered correct at the time of writing but may be amended at discretion of the vendor.