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Having recently returned from a family vacation in Hawaii I thought I’d share some observations on American Airlines (Business/First) flights – we took five in all. LHR-LAX-HNL and OGG-LAX-ORD-DUB
I booked ex-Dublin returns in the Christmas sale – I thought £1,300 was a good deal, given that a return to Dublin from LHR and overnight stay at Dublin Airport can be managed with little effort and expenditure. The AA website lets you try multiple itinerary options to suit your preference on timing and budget. The complete itinerary gains enough points to renew Silver status.
On the ground
The AA lounge at T3 is a bit dull, but has lots of seating. Eating options were reasonable, and if you were so moved, the build your own hamburger option could hit the spot. Otherwise there were plenty of sandwiches/cheese and biscuits etc.
The Admirals Lounge at LAX is currently undergoing construction and looked a bit tired. It has a strange and rather random arrangements of rooms, which got quite crowded. Certainly the main room with a view was standing room only when we visited, with fairly limited food options.
LAX is a total scrum from beginning to end. We arrived at T4, but then had to go on a route march underground to the International terminal to join the interminable immigration queue, and having a US passport doesn’t help. Trying to pick up hotel transportation outside the terminals is like trying to hitchhike in the middle of the dodgems. A lot of waving and yelling required – this is no place for a shrinking violet. Complete nightmare – as everyone will tell you. Trying to get back into the airport isn’t necessarily any easier. The lesson here is leave loads of time.
No lounge in Maui and no time to visit in ORD, though from previous visits I know it has good views and a pleasant clubby feel.
The 77W business class hard product is definitely up there with the best as many others have attested to on this forum. Very comfortable seat with lots of storage and turning into a comfortable bed. We had the smaller forward cabin to ourselves, except for one other passenger on the other side that we couldn’t see. This made for a very peaceful journey. The bar/buffet set up just behind the cabin makes for a pleasant place for a stretch. The washroom at the R2 door is enormous. One thing to note is that the seat rows aren’t aligned in the forward cabin. I was in row 4 which is some way behind the central row 4 seats, so no good if you were planning to converse with other members of your party. Also for a night time flight the window seats may get disturbed by galley noise, although it didn’t bother me on a day time flight. There’s nothing like that sound of ice being smashed to know you are on US airline!
The A321 first class seat is a wide dark grey leather recliner, with a large screen. These versions used on the Hawaii flights still have a new/clean feel. The A330-200s are still as previously used by US Airways. The seats are in a reverse herringbone, and more open to the cabin/less private. However, I actually quite liked the open/airy atmosphere. This seat also had more space than many business class seats and made for a very comfortable and quite soft bed. My least favourite was the 737-800, but for some reason I’ve never liked 737s of any sort. The A320 series is noticeably wider. Having previously flown on an AA Sky Interior -800 I can vouch for them being better, and I believe they are all due for an upgrade in due course.
For international flights pillows and duvets are provided, while domestic flights have pillows and fleeces. Bose noise cancelling headsets are provided internationally but gathered in some while before landing in exchange for comparatively poor quality buds. But you can use your own buds/headphones throughout if you wish. All flights had a good selection of inseat power outlets.
Well here’s a thing – they were universally good. I have to confess to starting out with some reservations. Sitting at the gate at LHR we watched what could only be described as a Halloween Parade as the crew of the JFK bound flight walked past. My heart sank as “motley” wouldn’t cover it. I know the uniforms are about to be upgraded so those out there are probably on their last legs – but this was something else. Shapes and size apart, I’ve seldom seen such a gruesome bunch of people. My daughter commented that not one of the female crew members appeared to have brushed their hair. They looked plain scary! Thank goodness then that our transatlantic crew were the nicest bunch of people you could wish to have look after you for 10 1/2 hours. I guess it helped that the business section wasn’t full, but they were constantly on hand to check if we needed anything. We found ourselves immediately on first name terms – but it was natural and we certainly didn’t mind.
The domestic flight crews were similarly extremely attentive – there was never an empty glass, and lots of chatter. The ex-ORD crew were all former US Airways. The purser was a real character, and talked to herself and the whole cabin if we were one and the same. But somehow the crew created a pleasant and friendly atmosphere. OK they may none of them have had the highest level of polish, but the point was they were concentrating on the customer and not themselves, and that got my vote. (e.g. an FA declined to serve me the coffee I requested until she had had a chance to brew some fresh as she thought I’d enjoy it more!)
I always find US airline food to be somewhat over seasoned, and no tray can escape a smattering of ubiquitous cranberries and blue cheese. There were 4 entrees on international flights and two on domestic. Wines were punchy but reasonable. The highlight for me was the ice cream sundaes – by far the best airborne desert i’ve encountered. The buffet selection on the 77W to LAX was extensive, though a little odd. Lots of jellies and deserts with few savouries. But it was all nicely displayed and the crew were happy to make drinks throughout.
A fair number of new films – though not many that I really wanted to watch. Quite an extensive collection of classics, which I found more diverting. The personal TV screens are large with excellent resolution.
A few things I learned along the way…
My ex-Dublin ticket actually took me back to Dublin from ORD without a dog-leg in London. I’d booked a separate BA ticket return between LHR and DUB. I tried to book my luggage through from LAX to LHR but wasn’t able to do so. Not because it was a separate OW PNR – they were prepared to do it – but because I didn’t have the MCT at Dublin. So next time if booking this sort of itinerary I would do my homework better. We actually caught the connecting flight by the skin of our teeth, but that was largely thanks to the kindly EI staff who helped us re-check in. Also make sure you have your printed confirmation of onward travel to hand when you go through Irish immigration if you are just transiting. I didn’t, and it got a bit sticky for a moment.
I had the opportunity to visit the Aer Lingus lounge at LHR T2 on the way out. What a measly offering. Tacky decor, just cheese and crackers and a horrid cauldron of Knorr soup. They could at least have pretended it was fresh! And a grumpy lounge dragon to boot. I’d also make sure I took my own food and drink on a late day EI flight. On our late running flight after 8pm they’d run out of lots of things, as apparently the plane is only catered at the beginning of the day. EI shortfall is to my mind a second rate LCC.
If traveling on BA through Dublin take an umbrella. Its a long run in the pouring rain between the terminal and the aircraft, as they don’t seem to park that close! (The Club Europe service on this short hop was excellent – two experienced pursers showed how it could be done!)
If travleling on Hawaiian Airlines between islands in Hawaii, it is worth considering First Class as you don’t have to pay for luggage, which considerably closes the gap with the Coach fare. And you get lounge access thrown in. Fares are very expensive as there’s no real competition, so it pays to book early.
If sitting next to a deadheading crew, never start a conversation with an FA along the lines of “is it true you only get paid once the plane starts moving”. A guy sitting behind us did this and about 30 minutes later was still listening to the rant response!
Also from eavesdropping it sounds like the new AA uniform is causing some consternation among FAs. One particular line made me smile “I’ve been told I can’t wear these socks anymore!?” No I didn’t look to see what was what with the offending items!
Overall I would definitely choose American again for transatlantic and domestic travel. Maybe we were just very lucky with the crews, but they made each journey very pleasant and with cabin refits in progress and new 787s coming on line, things would appear to be on the up.25 Sep 2016
“no tray can escape a smattering of ubiquitous cranberries and blue cheese”
Haha reading this i suddenly had a flashback of all the meals I had on board AA. So true!
Good and detailed review thanks26 Sep 2016