Just Okay; American Airlines First Class Hong Kong to Los Angeles

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My new favorite slippers
This review is part of a series on my travels to Hong Kong and Beijing China in February 2019
See Trip Report Index: A Trip To Nowhere; Sprinkled In With A Bit of Disney
American Airlines AA192 2/17/19
Boeing 777-300ER Seat 1A

Hong Kong to Los Angeles I had an incredible four-hour sprint at Hong Kong Disneyland, before making my way back to the airport for the final leg of this short short trip to Beijing…Hong Kong. My last segment would be in American Airlines First Class (upgraded with a systemwide from Business). I specifically, picked this routing and this plane because I wanted to fly in a first. Since the ticket I purchased was in business class and you can upgrade virtually any fare class on AA ticket stock (space available of course) to the next cabin, this was a great way to redeem one of my systemwide upgrades that increasingly get tougher to use. Use em or lose them is my mantra.

I’ve had the privilege of flying AA only one other time in international first on a trip from Japan to Los Angeles back in 2011 or 12, and at that time they offered first class in a slightly different seat if I remember correctly.

I was flying a 777-300ER which offers eight lie-flat seats in first, 52 lie-flat seats in business and 216 in premium economy and economy. Today I flew in seat 1A. IA week out form the flight I had been checking daily on ExpertFlyer to see how many seats were still for sale and it never got higher than 2 of 8 seats occupied that is until one hour prior to the flight when it was zeroed out. It was going to be a full flight up front apparently.

Boarding:

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Pre-departure canape and Dasani

The flight boarded on time, at about 7:15 PM for a 7:55 PM departure and was slated to arrive at 5 PM the same day. In our case we landed about one hour early due to favorable winds (which I’ll talk about later). Already at my seat was the crummy old business class amenity kit furnished by Cole Haan.

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Such a sad bag and kit

American is in the process of replacing their kits and it appears we “lucked out” by getting the old one, and not the first-class kit, just the sad business class one. I’m not really an amenity kit snob, but I do love it when you get a nice bag with, cologne/perfume and other usable items. I upcycle them, and they end up being my travel toiletry bag and a cord keeper in my workbag. But in this case a cheap plastic heavy vinyl bag that has as much reason to be a barf bag let alone an amenity kit was what they gave out. Good on you American for classing up the joint. Also, at my seat was the Casper branded mattress pad, a duvet cover, pillow, small bolster, smaller blanket, BOSE headphones and slippers that I’m now in love with. Shortly, after this the flight attendant came around with pajamas that were also Casper branded. As I mentioned earlier, the cabin was 100% full, so either a ton of people’s upgrades cleared or there were a bunch of non-revs. In either case it was no big deal.

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In lounge mode with bedding
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Mattress Pad
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My jamalams

Once all the formalities were completed, I was presented the menu and offered a predeparture beverage. I chose Dasani Lime, I know fancy, right? It was accompanied with marinated whole olives and root chips (beets, carrots, tarot etc.). They were fine, in fact, I swear I bought a bag in bulk from Costco last month.

Seating/Entertainment:

Capture1On the 777-300ER American offers two rows of first in a 1-2-1 configuration with direct isle access from all seats. This is not a private suite like Etihad, Singapore or Emirates it doesn’t have a door or an isle privacy screen. It’s pretty open on the isle side, but the seat does have a pivot button that moves you towards the inside of your seating area. So, in my case in 1A it pivots to the window. This feature is a little odd, but what it does is move you away from the isle and angle you directly to the footwell and the tv screen. During takeoff and landing, you can’t use this button, but you can at any other time, which begs the question why not just set the seat that way in the first place.

Anyhow the captain’s chair also offers adjustable arm rests on both sides that gives a little bit more seat width especially when in bed mode. To the left of my seat was a small light, the headphone garage that also contains the power/technology center. Below that was the tethered remote for the touchscreen tv, which is to far to reach from your seat. I know #firstworldproblem. There was also a fixed side table. Inside this, there were two tray tables, one that was much larger than the other and would be suitable for meal service. Also, on the table was a tethered iPhone type device which was the controller for the seat adjustments. It worked well, it was just hard to detach from its holder, not that you really needed to do that to use it. There’s also a large footwell with was a good spot to store the blankets and mattress pad when not in use.

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My little office for the next 14 hours
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TV and footrest
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BOSE headphones
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Tech garage

Above the footwell, was footrest and the tv. I found the area to be spacious but at the same time not. My issues, with the space were these. There were no cubbies to store things like glasses or your cell phone let alone a computer or tablet. There’s a gap between your seat and the table armrest, and you could shove pillows and blankets there, but it was definitely NOT suitable for small and or valuable items. It was just a hole, not a cubby. Also, if you did change into your own or the provided PJ’s, unlike other airlines having a personal closet for your items, you’d need to use the overhead storage bins. Again, not a huge deal, but when your competitors all have something like this, or in the case of Singapore and other airlines, they provide hangers and then store in a locker for you. American just doesn’t do that, and I wonder how they can compete with other airlines that provide such an amazing experience.

When it did come time to sleep, there was a note that said they would provide turndown service (on an airplane) I know right.  Since they didn’t ask I just did it myself. It was no big deal. The pad and duvet as well as the comfy pillow were perfect. I was very comfortable in my spot. My only complaint is I couldn’t decide what position to put the armrest in, so I kept futzing with it. That being said, I know I got 6-7 hours of good sleep, minus the incredible turbulence we had for 9 straight hours. It was so bad, that the seatbelt sign went on at taxi and literally didn’t turn off till 9 hours after take-off. Did this prevent them from serving food etc. No, it was pretty bad at times, and I was just thankful stuff didn’t go flying around and I didn’t hear anyone get hurt. Was it the worst turbulence I’ve ever had? No. but it was up there, and because it was so bad for so long, I think that made it feel worse.

Lastly, the entertainment. American offers a pretty wide variety of music, tv, movies and games. From a western perspective, there’s nothing different then what they offer in a seatback entertainment on domestic flights. Just a larger screen. As for foreign language films and tv, it looked like they had a fair amount. I didn’t really spend much time watching tv, so I don’t really have much else to say.

Meals:

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Because of the evening departure, American serves dinner shortly after takeoff. In this case it’s a plated affair with an incredible variety of options. Definitely a larger choice then what they offer in business and I’d say on a more international level, the variety of choices were on par with some other big airlines. Now that doesn’t mean there the same quality or truly the same variety, but the fact that they had soup, salad, small plates, mains and then side dishes was a novel concept. It really was a nice touch and from what I can remember from my last time being up font on American, a lot more choices today. My issues though, were that I didn’t see much I liked and even more importantly, I was not that hungry. I’d had a huge meal at the Cathay Pacific Pier lounge and was just not super hungry. I did give it the old college try thought! They also offered mid-flight snacks which again looked very edible and had large variety of. I didn’t get any snaps of them, but they have whole and cut fruit, sandwiches, a large variety of chips, cookies, chocolate truffles and espresso and lattes. YUMM I did have two of those just for good measure. Then shortly before landing they did serve breakfast, which to this day still bugs me. Why serve breakfast at 3 PM local time, when you should be serving a linner type snack. Oh well, they didn’t ask me to provide menu suggestions.

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Caviar and smoked salmon with a chilled leek soup
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Beer and cheddar soup…Not so good
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Pork sliders and a potato and cheese gratin
Breakfast was eggs with a side of dragon fruit with figs accompanied with yogurt and muesli. The fruit was 100% inedible and the eggs and yogurt were the only things that were.IMG_2933IMG_2934

From a meal perspective I was impressed with the options, the overall presentation and taste were just okay. Was it the worst meal I’ve ever had no. Was it the best meal I’ve ever had no. It was just okay. I know I’m not giving you hope that they serve better food, but maybe I just picked wrong.

Conclusion:

Did I enjoy my flight, yes? Was it the best flight I’ve ever been on, no. Would I fly up front again on American, yes, but. With that last statement, I need to clarify. I would not avoid them, and I would not seek them out either. If I have an opportunity to take them or someone else and cost and class of service are the same, I’d probably take someone else first. Now don’t get me wrong, for the past seven years I’ve been and Executive Platinum and have enjoyed many great travel experiences on One World Partners with miles and some good ones on AA too. And if I was using the same number of miles and had a choice of American or Etihad or Qatar (who I’ve never flown), AA would be the last of the three I’d pick. Now if it was AA or United, I’d pick AA, but to be fair United doesn’t have first class anymore, but I’d still fly AA business over United business too. I know it seems like I’m basing AA, and I’m truly not. I like them I just know that many foreign flagged airlines are better. BUT when I have upgrades to use and I can redeem them for first or business instead of flying coach I’ll be first in line. Other items to note, the food options were really extensive. You’d not starve for sure. The seat was comfortable, and I was able to get great sleep in it. The cabin was quite and was spacious too. And anytime I have a chance to fly up front on AA I’d take it in a heartbeat, because the alternative…

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