Heading to the United States with Qantas Frequent Flyer status? Your shiny card unlocks a raft of perks aboard Qantas’ Stateside partner American Airlines – especially if you plan to fly Economy Class.

With a Qantas Silver card, enjoy priority check-in, priority boarding and one free checked bag. With Qantas Gold, add a second checked bag and lounge access into the mix. Or if you’re a Platinum member (or higher), pack even heavier with three free checked bags: even in Economy.

Armed with a Qantas Gold card, I put the American Airlines Economy Class experience to the test aboard one of its newest domestic planes, the Airbus A321neo.

Check-in, lounge and boarding

Flying out of Orlando at the conclusion of a 5,000-person conference, I’d arrived at the airport in plenty of time. But I needn’t have worried. While American Airlines’ general check-in queues were lengthy, the priority lane was short.

As a Qantas Gold frequent flyer, my oneworld Sapphire status paved the way. Even Qantas Silver (oneworld Ruby) cardholders can enjoy this time-saving benefit. Within moments, my bags are checked, and it’s off to security.

There’s no fast-track screening lane for tiered frequent flyers: only TSA PreCheck and CLEAR, for those enrolled. But the general line moves quickly. I’m stepping into the Admirals Club just 25 minutes after check-in – not bad.

My access comes as another perk of Qantas Gold status. Even though American Airlines is more restrictive with lounge perks for its own AAdvantage cardholders, those same rules don’t apply to frequent flyers of international partner airlines.

If you have a Qantas Gold, Platinum, Platinum One or Chairman’s Lounge card, or a Qantas Club membership, the Admirals Club is yours to explore. In Orlando, the lounge is light, bright and spans two levels.

Mine is a morning visit, and there’s a basic buffet, which is complimentary. A popular choice is a bagel with cream cheese. There’s also machine-made coffee, plus an à la carte menu – with items available for a fee. I can’t help but order a tasty Cubano for breakfast (~US$14 including tax and tip).

We board right on time, where my Qantas Gold status comes in handy again. It elevates me to boarding group three (of nine). This helps ensure my bag finds space in the overhead locker.

I needn’t have worried, though. American’s Airbus A321neo comes equipped with Airbus’ latest Airspace XL overhead lockers. On this very full US domestic flight, there’s space for every single passenger’s bags. Colour me impressed!

American Airlines Airbus A321neo Economy Class seating

In this single-aisle jet, Economy Class comes in a typical 3-3 layout aboard American Airlines’ Airbus A321neos. I’m in one of the standard rows, which the carrier also refers to as ‘Main Cabin’.

Once again, my Qantas Gold status proves its worth. While it no longer grants access to the roomier ‘Main Cabin Extra’ rows, I’m still able to select a seat closer to the front of the plane in a row reserved for frequent flyers. This ultimately makes for a speedier exit on arrival.

But to the flight itself, I’m glad to find a little wiggle room ahead of my knees. Even with a 30-inch ‘seat pitch’, they’re not pressed up against the seat in front.

If you’re a regular domestic traveller in Australia, you may be thinking these seats look a little familiar. They’re of the same style (and same manufacturer) as Virgin Australia’s newest Boeing 737 Economy Class cabins.

Like Virgin Australia, American Airlines’ seats provide a small shelf for balancing a smartphone. By pulling up on a tab, mid-sized tablets can also be held snug in place.

There’s a netted pocket below the main tray table for larger items, with a literature pouch above it. It’s also pleasing to see USB power available at every single seat. International-style AC outlets are tucked below too.

With a flight time of around 2.5 hours, it’s a comfortable ride. Mood lighting adds to the atmosphere on board this very new plane – under two years of age.

I have to say, I wasn’t expecting US domestic Economy Class to be this comfortable. There was even enough space to work and easily type on my pro-sized laptop. Flying in the United States has come a long way over the years, that’s for sure.

American Airlines Airbus A321neo Economy Class food and beverage

Here’s where American Airlines’ Economy Class experience is left wanting. Despite being a 2.5-hour flight at lunchtime, there’s no substantial food available. These days, you certainly don’t expect a meal to be included on a US domestic flight like this. But there’s no option to purchase one, either.

On the food front, AA alternates between offering mini pretzels and Biscoff cookies. It’s only on domestic flights over 1,500 miles that other snacks are available for purchase. But even then, buy-on-board choices are currently limited to roasted almonds and Pringles.

I’m certainly glad to have eaten in the Admirals Club!

American Airlines Airbus A321neo Economy Class – Point Hacks
Pro tip: eat before your flight. But save room for refreshments, as there’s a lot to choose from on the beverage front.

Beverage-wise, there’s a broad selection of complimentary soft drinks and juice to choose from. Tea and coffee are normally included too, but aren’t offered on this flight with a few bumps expected en route.

I’m impressed to find Sprite Zero among the selections. It’s not often you see an airline carrying diet soft drinks that aren’t also caffeinated. Full choices are outlined on the American Airlines website.

Beer, wine and spirits are available for purchase using a credit card. Those charges are waived only for AA’s own Executive Platinum and ConciergeKey frequent flyers. The passenger next to me has the requisite status, and on ordering a bourbon, is offered a double on the house. Cheers to that!

American Airlines Airbus A321neo Economy Class service and entertainment

If your journey allows for some much-needed downtime, you’ll want to bring your own device. In fact, without seatback screens, you’ll need that gadget to access American Airlines’ inflight entertainment on these Airbus A321neo flights.

There’s no app required – just connect to the plane’s Wi-Fi hotspot and open your web browser. Choose from a solid range of TV shows and movies, including new releases such as the latest Bond flick, No Time to Die. Live satellite TV channels are available too – and access also comes free of charge.

Speaking of Wi-Fi, these jets offer inflight internet as well. Of course, on US domestic flights, that’s nothing short of expected. On this journey, I get 30 minutes of free access per device just by watching a video about American Airlines’ AAdvantage program.

Even on that free plan, speeds are very usable. I’m able to file and publish a story from 40,000 feet – aptly, about the United States making international travel easier by scrapping pre-flight testing.

After the free period, paid access costs US$15 for one hour or US$19 for the entire flight. Frequent flyers can also pay US$49.95 per month for unlimited access from flight to flight. Cost-wise, that’s a little steep. A full flight pass on Delta Air Lines from New York to Orlando cost me just US$5 the week before.

Summing up

My Economy Class journey aboard American Airlines’ Airbus A321neo was surprisingly solid overall. That’s especially true given the many perks I was able to enjoy courtesy of my Qantas Frequent Flyer status.

Certainly, the experience without status differs greatly from the above. But when you must fly Economy Class – and in particular, within the USA – having the right shiny card can make your travels significantly better.

Happily, my Qantas Points land in my account the very next calendar day. So too do those all-important Status Credits, helping to maintain my tier for another year.

As one final perk of Qantas Gold from the trip, Qantas’ Status Bonus elevates my reward from 550 to precisely 963 Qantas Points. That’s the base Economy category earn rate for an American Airlines flight of this length, plus a 75% boost for being Gold.

On some trips, frequent flyer status can be a little redundant. But on journeys like this, status makes every stage of the journey better. When AA doesn’t even offer lounge access to most domestic First Class passengers, but does extend that perk to Qantas Gold on any ticket, you know you’re onto a winner.

Photography by Chris Chamberlin, who travelled at Point Hacks’ expense.

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American Airlines Airbus A321neo Economy Class (Orlando – Dallas Fort Worth) was last modified: December 9th, 2022 by Chris Chamberlin