I left the LAX Flagship Lounge at what I assumed to be about 25 minutes before boarding would begin for my flight to JFK, and I was surprised to see that the airplane hadn’t even arrived yet once I reached the gate. Uh oh. But the flight information boards and the American Airlines app on my phone both insisted flight would still be departing on time. I’m a pretty skeptical guy most of the time so I had a pretty good hunch that we’d be facing at least a minor delay.
Los Angeles, CA (LAX) – New York, NY (JFK)
Sunday, December 20, 2015
Seat: 5A (first class)
It was right about then that I was having second thoughts about leaving the serenety of the Flagship Lounge too soon. Terminal 4 was really busy, with standing room only for as far as I could see. It was loud, crowded, and I was giving serious thought to ducking back into the lounge for a bit to escape the chaos.
I do like to people watch though (and LAX never disappoints) so I simply ended up wandering the entire terminal back and forth for a while until our aircraft eventually arrived and boarding started.
The gate agents knew they were under a time crunch from a late-arriving aircraft, so they made an announcement saying that they were going to expedite the boarding process this morning. I don’t really know what that meant though, since I boarded as soon as they called for first class and I have no idea how they handled they rest.
I was really surprised to see that they were boarding from door 1L today – I guess I always thought that they would try to keep first class passengers as segregated as possible on these premium transcon routes, but that isn’t the case at all – at least today anyway.
Every passenger walked through first class on the way to thier seats, and to be honest it did seem a bit weird to me. Not that I think I’m above everyone else or anything, but what I mean is that a lot of celebrities take these flights so I would think that American Airlines would do a better job of making the first class cabin more discreet. Oh well – I was really just looking forward to trying out that first class seat so none of this bothered me!
All in all, first impressions of this first class mini-suite were really good. Not quite as good as the Asiana Airlines A380 first class suites, but very good for a domestic US product.
I will have to say that the gate agents did an excellent job getting everyone on board in an orderly and expedited fashion once the ground crew had serviced the aircraft. We actually ended up pushing back from the gate just a few minutes late – which was much better than the huge delay I was expecting. On top of that, the flight time was projected to be a short 4:45 today thanks to some pretty strong tail winds. Not bad!
The only other thing I’d like to mention about pre-departure is the fact that drink orders didn’t come until nearly everyone was onboard, and I (and nobody else for that matter) was personally greeted by the lead FA. I guess I was expecting a bit more from this service – but we hadn’t even departed yet and the soft product had already let me down slightly. International-level first class service this was not. Menus were distributed before takeoff.
We departed off runway 25R, then made a long and gradual right hand turn towards the east coast.
Soon after departure, I realized that the passenger in front of me had brought a dog onboard and it’s squeaky crying was getting to be a little bit annoying. Luckily I wasn’t the only one distracted by the noise – I did hear the flight attendant mention to her that other passengers had been complaining.
Thank goodness for noise-cancelling headphones! Speaking of noise-cancelling headphones, I did find it slightly annoying that they would produce a bit of crackly static whenever I had my GoPro or iPhone plugged into the adjacent USB port.
Hot towels, drinks, and warm nuts (along with those noise-canceling headphones) were distributed about 10 minutes after departure, and the meal service came very soon after that.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to choose an entree due to the fact that there weren’t any choices left by the time they got to my row. It was the curry beef or nothing. I wasn’t thrilled about that, but I accepted it. The woman across the aisle from me was none to pleased though and she let the flight attendant know. He handled it well though and let her know that she can pre-order next time if it would be more convenient. She seemed satisfied with the suggestion.
I watched Despicable Me 2 while eating lunch, a movie I’ve seen twice before already but I didn’t mind one bit. I loves me some Minions! And while on the subject of in flight entertainment, I’d like to go on record as saying that I found the movie and TV show choices to be sub par on this flight.
I quite liked the interface though – it’s one of the most nicely designed UI’s in the sky IMHO, but there aren’t very many current movies ant TV shoes to watch. On top of that, I found most selections to be family and children-oriented.
It had been a pretty eventful day up until this point, and that first class seat was pretty darn comfortable so it shouldn’t be surprising that I couldn’t resist converting it into its lie-flat configuration and getting a bit of sleep. I normally prefer to stay awake as much as possible when traveling in first class like this so I can soak up as much of the ambiance as possible, but resistance was futile.
I slept deeply for the last portion of the flight and was awoken by the landing announcements and the lights in the cabin being turned on. That was perfect timing, because we were just about to fly over Manhattan and and I got a pretty good view of the city all lit up.
The strong tailwind we had during the flight across the country meant that we actually touched down at JFK right on time despite our slight delay out of LAX that morning. It was a fairly long taxi to the gate, but no matter – I wasn’t in much of a rush anyway.
In conclusion, American Airlines first class bettween Los Angeles and New York is good. Really good! However, at the time of this writing, I have nothing to compare it against. I will be trying Delta Airlines business class (Delta One) on the way back to Southern California though, so that should be a good way to pit this product against another.
Hi Scott, I very much enjoy your blog. Your attention to detail and pictures are wonderful. One thing I’d like to recommend on your trip reports is including the flight time when you provide the detail about your segment. You usually mention the flight time within the review, but it would be great to have it with all of the other detail about your flight. Thanks for the great site and happy travels!
Thanks Tim – glad you like the blog! Yeah, I’ve been considering adding flight time to these trip reports, but it’s a hard thing to track manually and most of the time I’d probably forget. Haha! But now that I think of it I think FlightAware might provide that info, so if they do, I’ll definitely start incorporating it from now on. Thanks for the suggestion!
You don’t even mention if you liked the food….?
Yeah, I guess I should have mentioned that! It was pretty good actually – on par with what I’ve experienced on some better international business class flights.
I just finished my flight from LAX – JFK and just sat down over at gate 6. I got to fly first class just like you and the seat was great! 2nd time in my life I got to fly in the lie-flat seat. Love it! But I was very disappointed in the soft product. Now the service was good and the flight attendants did all they could during the trip but we got no breakfast! Almost no real food. We got some bag lunch sandwich with some crackers. Now this was not the flight attendant fault. They gave some reason that LAX was having “food” issues and you could tell they were embarrassed. They also gave us as plenty snacks but I was hoping for a nice breakfast on my way over to JFK. My flight was #118 on 11/3/2017
Wow, very sorry to hear that Chris! Did they at least give you bonus miles or any other sort of compensation for the lack of a real meal? If not, you should definitely ask for it as this is their flagship product and I’m sure they want to make everyone happy. Anyway, you’re exactly right – the hard product on these AA transcon flights are some of the best in the sky. Glad you enjoyed that seat!
I flew AA117 JFK-LAX in November 2006 on the B-767-200 in First. And I enjoyed the hot fudge sundae.
I’m bummed that I never got the chance to try the AA 767-200 – I was planning on doing it right before it was retired (and replaced by the A321T), but I got busy and I missed out. You should feel lucky for having that experience!