Incidentally, this flight took place on N776AN, which was the airplane that was chartered for Pope Francis’ recent visit to the US. It’s nice to know AA put him on such a classy 16 year old plane…
This report will also serve as a reminder of the disparity in long-haul premium cabins. Both AA and JL operate flights NRT-LAX that depart at the exact same time. I tried to get on the JL flight operated on a B77W with SkySuites, but it was already full when my ticket was booked 3 days before departure so I ended up with AA. Why did AA still have seats? You’ll see soon.
After clearing immigration, I had 20 minutes until boarding was scheduled to start. A quick look at the FIDS, which already marks my flight as “go to gate.”
I decided to make a quick pit stop in the JAL Sakura Lounge on the way to the gate.
Entering, the counter was swarmed with people and I had to fight my way to the counter to get scanned in. The agent barely acknowledged my presence, just scanned my boarding pass and told me to go downstairs. A little bit of foreshadowing… Down the escalators we go.
The seating area downstairs runs along the windows.
The food offering is quite poor for a hub, just some onigiri and packaged snacks.
I grab a coffee and tea and head to a seat.
I quickly finish my drinks, and then make a loop around the lounge before heading to my gate. Business center in the corner.
Pay phones for Kevin.
JL B788 getting ready to leave for SAN parked in front of the lounge.
I walked to the main dining area and was met with this sign denying my entry.
A quite disappointing visit to the JAL Sakura Lounge. It was overcrowded and just not that nice looking. Boarding for my flight was already underway, so I had to rush off to Gate 71. Arriving at my gate, a peak down shows priority boarding is already going on.
My plane ready to go. Yes this is NRT, even though there are 3 AA heavies visible in the background at the satellite terminal.
American Airlines, AA 170 Equipment: Boeing B777-200ER [N776AN “Shepherd One”, delivered May 1999] Departure: 17:25 (ATD: 17:48) Arrival: 11:25 (ATA: 10:38) Flight time: 8:50
I board with economy. My boarding pass gives a red light (I didn’t bother exchanging the boarding pass that JL gave me at NGO). I get pulled aside as they manually board me. I get the thumbs up and head down into the jetbridge. Fuselage shot.
Entering the cabin, the one FA standing there wasn’t even paying attention and I didn’t even get a welcome as I entered the plane. Another foreshadowing moment for what is to come. I just went back to my seat where my seatmate was already waiting.
Since the J cabin was already full, no shots. This antiquated cabin is not very photogenic; it looks really tired with the vintage angled seats in a 2-3-2 configuration in J. The seat pitch is not that good for J. I can’t get out without bothering my seatmate.
Pillow/duvet were preplaced on the seat. The amenity kit and slippers were preplaced in the cubbies in between seats.
The AA slippers (black with red piping) and TWA amenity kit. The TWA kit is perfect for Christmas. The AA kit is so-so, I don’t like the closure mechanism and the contents are average, but at least there is a pen!
The battle worn armrest.
The vintage center console that is really small, with rather unresponsive seat controls.
The plastic wall containing a small IFE (Y sized) that was extremely poor quality. There were wavy lines through all the programs. I’ll talk more about content later on.
Pre-departure drinks were offered. I’ll gladly take this champagne from a plastic cup. This is long-haul J and you are serving me in a plastic cup… I wouldn't be surprised if AA charges for water cups in Y… (I shouldn’t speak too soon; this might be coming soon to a UA flight near you!)
A peak out my window is the big shiny silver wing. Even if the cabin is 15 years old, the paintjob on this plane is really nice.
The front door closes 10 minutes before the scheduled time. My seatmate and I both look at our watches and then give each other glances of shock. Leaving early: a first for an American carrier. We didn’t get pushed back for another 15 minutes though.
During this time, my seatmate noticed that the 5-seats to our right were empty. He casually slid over into the aisle of the middle section. An FA immediately approaches him and asks him where his assigned seat was. He points at 13B, the FA rather rudely tells him to get back then walks off. Another FA (that will serve my row) passes and my seatmate asks why he can’t take an empty seat. She says that there was an infestation in the crew rest so they had to block off 5 seats in J for the crew to sleep. We both look at each other in disbelief. Did she really just say that we are on a plane with a known infestation? Taking into account that information, the load in J was 100%. This is what the cabin looked like when I checked in at NGO, so there were some upgrades and reorganization of the cabin.
Menus were distributed (I’ll show this later) and the safety video fired up as we were pushed back.
Some spotting as we taxi to the runway. A JL B763.
Hmm, this plane looks familiar. It’s the JL B738 that I arrived on from NGO still sitting on the tarmac.
EY A345 lurking in the distance.
By the time we got to the runway, there was no wait and we were quickly on our way as we lift up over Narita.
The cabin on take-off. If you notice, an older Japanese man took one of the crew rest seats, he’ll be kicked out soon.
The safety card is located in this small slot in the center console. There is no other inflight literature in these seats.
The duvet and pillow are both high quality.
As soon as we level off, Bose headsets are distributed.
The childish IFE remote.
Oshibori are distributed. These are really thin and are the same that NH offers in Y.
Aperitif service: a Kirin to go along with my ramekin of warm mixed nuts. You can see how quickly the center console gets cluttered.
Thankfully there is this rather useful fold down tray on the seatback.
The menu for this flight.
A nice feature of AA is that they offer a Japanese meal on their flights, but you have to pre-order it. I had called the day before to request a special meal. I figured that Japanese food ex-NRT is probably better than what AA will offer on its Western menu. After looking at the rather uninteresting Western menu (vegetarian appetizers are becoming standard on AA!), I’m glad I did it.
Meal service started with linens being laid.
As the cart arrives, I can confirm that mine was the only special meal loaded.
The FA lays down the pathetic caprese salad for my seatmate, then looks at me and says “You had the Japanese meal, right?” I eagerly nod. She pulls it out, says “I don’t know why more people don’t do this…” Then sets down my first bento box, hands me another Kirin, and offers me bread.
The lighting wasn’t great, but the presentation was all up to Japanese standards and it was nice to get some fish for my appetizer.
Not a bad offering, I was happy with my choice.
The cabin mid-service. Notice the overhead projector on the bulkhead? Old school.
When the cart arrived with entrees, my seatmate got a rude awakening when he was told there was only one option left: chicken. He grumbled and took it. He took only one bite of the meal so I don’t think it was well received. As always, AA serves even flights front to back and odd flights back to front, so pick your seat accordingly since they under load their catering severely.
My first bento box was taken away and I received my second bento box.
The vegetables were so-so and the presentation doesn’t look great. The fish did taste good, so that was at least a positive. Again, I don’t care for fried rice; just give me plain steamed rice. The miso soup was rather insipid, a miss for NRT catering.
The cabin after mains were cleared showing the designated crew rest area.
When the dessert cart arrived, I was not given the option of a sundae… Is this gone from international flights? It was on the menu, but it was nowhere to be seen. I got stuck with this blueberry tart. The blueberry tart tasted frozen and was not very good at all. I also declined the cheese plate. I got a Baileys and coffee to wrap up the meal.
Meal service took 2.5 hours, which is really long on a flight that is less than 9 hours. We were almost to the date line by the time we wrapped up service and had the cabin lights dimmed.
Water bottles were distributed.
I tried my best to put my seat into “bed” mode. I must have been really tired because I actually slept for 3 hours in this seat and no wedgie waking up.
I woke up around here.
I also woke up to find that I have an iPad now. Actually that’s just my seatmate’s, who felt it necessary to put it on my side of the center console.
I did some acrobatics to get out of my seat over my sleeping neighbor. The lavatories on this plane were pretty crappy. Not even close to what is on offer in the refurbished B772s.
Cabin shot (with phone).
Settling back into my seat, I fired up the IFE. Pretty prehistoric and slow.
Let’s look for some movies and see what they have for “new releases.”
Two movies listed as “new releases.” That’s it?
Most of my time navigating the IFE was spent looking at this screen.
To amuse lagentsecret, let’s look at the music offering.
Three rock albums…
One of the FAs noticed that I was up and came to me and asked me if I wanted anything to eat from the galley since I was trapped in my seat. I asked for a banana and a water, which was promptly delivered with a smile.
As we approached the California coast, the sun started to rise.
I was still feeling peckish, so I did a backflip over my seatmate to get out. This was the lowly offering in the galley. Looks pretty Y to me.
An FA saw me poking around the cart and asked me if I wanted to try one of the mid-flight snacks. She pulled out both trays and asked me if I wanted one. I decided to try the udon. I also asked for coffee, she said she’d bring it to my seat in 10 minutes.
The udon is served with the sauce in the jar. I don’t really like cold udon or soba, but it was okay. The fruit was good. Overall, the presentation was very good on this mid-flight snack.
The big shiny wing.
Some more snacks from the FA. The FA working my aisle was very attentive to me so I think I got lucky.
About 2 hours to arrival, the lights were turned on and the meal service started. It is now daylight outside as we are really close to San Francisco.
I was asked which option I wanted, I went with the lighter fruit option. Pastries were offered. I was also offered a mango smoothie that was really good. Note, that there was no linen laid for this meal service nor oshibori distributed. This was the entire breakfast offering.
Flying over Marin County.
We headed south from San Francisco down into the valley.
What polluted city is under all these clouds? LA!
We swing in over Malibu.
Thousand Oaks and Simi Valley.
A U-turn to land from the east over a smog covered LA.
What an eclectic bunch as we land at LAX: MU, LY, and NK.
Nice spotting as we taxi around to TBIT.
CM and DL B737s.
UA B788 in the hangar.
The Aussies are here in force.
AA B757 in tan can livery.
Another AA B757 in tan can livery.
Asian heavies at TBIT.
NH B77W that beat us from NRT.
AA operations at Terminal 4.
Whose gate is this? JL62 (JL's flight NRT-LAX that leaves at the same time). At least we beat them to LAX, a small moral victory.
We stop short of our gate and have to get towed into our gate at Terminal 4. We didn’t arrive at TBIT so will have to take a bus back to TBIT for immigration. Deplaning, I was bumrushed by Y since no one blocked off the J cabin. The Y passengers immediately encroached into our cabin and no one stopped them. Casual bye as I left the plane. Our plane on arrival.
Out onto the tarmac to get on to the bus, for the 1-minute bus ride across the tarmac.
Immigration at LAX was slow. My bag was already circulating by the time I got through immigration. Then I was met with a 20-minute line to clear customs. Very inefficient. I took the shuttle to pick up my rental car. As a bonus, there was some plane spotting from the rental car parking lot as I walked to my car.
Thanks for stopping by this report and please check out the rest of this series!
JAL Sakura Lounge
Tokyo - NRT
Los Angeles - LAX
My first time on AA in international J. Not the greatest of first experiences. I think that if I was on any other aircraft than these crappy old B772s, my experience would be much different. The cabin and IFE really drag down the experience. The Japanese meal was probably better than normal AA catering, but the breakfast was a little light. Crew was a mixed bag.
Cabin comfort: Full cabin and vintage. It wasn’t a very comfortable flight. These seats are really jammed in there and you can barely get out of the window seat even if your seatmate is in the full upright position. AA needs to pick up the pace on the refurbishing because these cabins are disgusting and non-competitive. I did get 3 hours of sleep, so it wasn’t that bad, but it’s still not acceptable in the current market. Don’t even want to touch the “infestation” issue.
Crew: Non-existant crew boarding and deplaning. Some rude remarks from some crew members to some passengers regarding the crew rest. They seemed rather frazzled at the start. The FA working my row was quite friendly so that really made up for some other negative interactions with some crew members.
Meal and catering: The pre-departure drinks in plastic cups is cheap. The Japanese meal was good, I’m glad I requested that. The first tray was better than the second, but I was happy with my selection. AA’s western catering just doesn’t look inspiring. The vegetarian appetizer needs to go. The dessert situation was also not good. The mid-flight snack options were okay (udon), but the snacks in the galley were poor. The breakfast was on the light side.
Entertainment: A joke. No newspaper offered. The IFE is 15 years old and looked every bit of it. Blurry screen, low resolution, no content. Not a very good offering.
On-time performance: Perfect, landed almost an hour early, which is a great gift when in a crappy cabin.
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