Loungeside Luxury to Back of the Bus: Flying American’s A321 in Economy From Miami to NYC
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To The Point
A nearly three-hour economy flight on American’s A321 was exactly how I think short hops in economy should be: not too memorable for any particular reason. The fun part was a visit to the Centurion Lounge in MIA’s D concourse. Pros: You don’t have to fly in first to access Centurion Lounges. Cons: The flight itself was about as memorable as a Greyhound bus trip.
This summer, I had an unparalleled experience interning at The Points Guy, and right before my last week of work I had the opportunity to review Royal Caribbean’s completely revamped Mariner of the Seas (stay tuned for the full review!). I flew down to my hometown, Miami, where the ship was ported. When I returned to Miami from the cruise three days later, I headed straight from the Port of Miami to Miami International Airport (MIA), where I flew back to LaGuardia Airport (LGA) on AA Flight 1550 on an Airbus A321.
Booking this flight was about as straightforward as it gets. I spent a few minutes on Google Flights to find a flight that best fit my schedule. Just about all of the one-way flights on my travel day were similar in price, so I had the luxury of selecting my flight based on what was most convenient for me … how refreshing!
We used The Platinum Card® from American Express to buy the $132 ticket in order to take advantage of the card’s 5x bonus category on flights purchased directly from the airline or through Amex Travel. In total, we earned 660 Membership Rewards points, which are worth about $13 according to TPG’s latest valuations. Since this was a paid ticket, I was able to earn miles with AA as well — in this case, I earned 550 redeemable AAdvantage miles, 1,097 elite-qualifying miles and 110 elite-qualifying dollars.
Check-in and Airport
I arrived at MIA at around 8 am to allow myself ample time to eat and get a spa treatment at the Centurion Lounge (near Gate D12) with enough time to make my way to Gate E9 before boarding time, 10:45am.
I visited the American Airlines kiosks to check my luggage and then got in line for the bag drop. The line was moderately full but moved rapidly. It took under 10 minutes for the process, and then I was on my way to security.
TSA PreCheck was a breeze, and, after getting through, I made my way to the Centurion. I had access to the lounge because I was an authorized user on my dad’s Amex Platinum Card, and unless I’m flying out of a distant terminal, I never skip it.
I always enjoy a visit to the Centurion Lounge, though it does get very crowded at peak times. It’s also one of the few Centurions that offers free spa services, and ever since I turned 18 I’ve wanted to try one out (per the terms and conditions for Centurion Lounges, those under the age of 18 aren’t permitted to enter without a parent or legal guardian).
To my (contained) excitement, the kindly woman who checked me in informed me that there were spa services available, so I scheduled a manicure. I normally would opt for a massage, but I had just gotten one on the cruise.
Once I made it into the lounge, I grabbed breakfast. I chose a quiche and crafted a parfait complete with berries and coconut flakes. (My mom, who I’d just gone on a cruise with, wasn’t around to tell me not to have dessert for breakfast, after all.) Both were filling and fresh for a light meal, which was exactly what I was looking for, since it was still fairly early in the morning.
The buffet also featured pancakes, potatoes and oatmeal.
The tables weren’t completely full when I arrived.
I decided to take a spot at the bar to save tables for people traveling in groups larger than my party of one. Plus, I love the ginger beer that the Centurion Lounges carry, so I asked the bartender for one. I ate my food while I waited for my manicure.
The manicure was simplified and only took about 15 minutes, which was ideal for travelers and maximized appointment slots. There was a limited selection of shades for the nail polishes, but I appreciated that the lounge carried a fast-drying formula. All in all, the nail technician did a great job, and I enjoyed the express pampering before catching my flight.
For my remaining time in the lounge, I recharged in the more quiet seats and finished my ginger beer.
Once boarding time was nearing, I made my way to Terminal E. Gate E9 had plenty of seats, and boarding started right on time — definitely something that I don’t take for granted anymore. Passengers boarded the two-year-old Airbus A321, registration N988AL, in a surprisingly orderly manner.
Cabin and Seat
Upon boarding the Airbus A321, I passed four rows of first class in a 2-2 configuration. The seats looked comfortable and spacious, but on my college budget, I probably wouldn’t opt for the seats unless I had a free upgrade thanks to elite status. That is, unless I had a bag to check and the upgrade price was comparable to the price to check the bag. Know what I mean?
I then passed six rows of American’s Main Cabin Extra product, which features the same seat as the regular economy seats but with a few extra inches of legroom.
Economy was in a 3-3 configuration. I found 19D, the aisle seat that would be my home for the next two and a half hours.
The width of my seat was 18 inches and a pitch of 31 inches, standard for economy these days, and I was comfortable for a fairly long-legged person. The flight was smooth and uneventful, and we departed right on time and arrived a bit early.
Economy seats had a net pocket, an in-flight entertainment screen (yay!) and a tray table. I was happy that I was flying on board this aircraft rather than a 737 MAX, which doesn’t have IFE screens built in.
The amenities on the flight were standard (read: minimal). The IFE system had tons of music and movies loaded, including new releases like “Blockers,” the movie I watched during the flight. (Again, no mom.) Since my flight, the airline has introduced live TV for passengers to enjoy.
Built into the IFE screen was a USB port, which is always appreciated. When I wasn’t using the IFE, I mostly listened to music and rested. Since the flight was short, I didn’t connect to Wi-Fi.
Food and Beverage
For a snack, I chose the textbook airline food: Biscoff cookies and ginger ale. A timeless classic. And delicious!
My flight from Miami to New York reflected what most of my travel looks like. There was nothing too special about my flight back to NYC, and even though I would prefer a more glamorous experience (I’m sure we all would), I don’t mind the simplicity.
What takes my economy travel to the next level is always the airport experience. I’ve come to love flying American out of Miami because of the Centurion Lounge. Many economy flights don’t include the experiences that the Centurion provides — such as spa services and gourmet food — in the price of entry. As long as I can squeeze a bit of luxury in before my flight, I’m happy to fly AA in coach again. And believe me, I will be.
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