Greetings Flight Report community and thanks for stopping by. I plan to share a series of flights that provided a chance to try several First Class products and lounges that were new to me and also enjoy some familiar but fantastic experiences along the way. A while back I had enough Krisflyer miles in my account to wait list for SQ25. This is a tough nut to crack for us mere mortals. (Rewardflying uses Jedi mind tricks to secure space on a whim.) I went about searching the SQ award engine for the rest of the year and wait listed on the only 4 dates (that could possibly work with my schedule) where even wait listing was available. I wait listed for both JFK-FRA and JFK-SIN. Fast forward several months and the magic email arrives telling me I have 48 hours to confirm my booking but only on the JFK-FRA segment. I'll take it!
If I'm going to be in FRA and flying Star Alliance I will all too sad not to drop in on my German friends and their spectacular lounges. The problem is I cannot book LH F through Krisflyer until space opens two weeks prior to departure. This date would come after my 48 hour window to book SQ. In comes the trusty Star Alliance member Asiana and their ever present F availability. I booked JFK-FRA-ICN on SQ and OZ as a place holder until LH comes calling. The SQ change fees are so very minimal it was worth it to me to have something. Worst case scenario is 10 hours in an OZ A380 suite. Concurrently I place flight alerts on Expert Flyer for just about every LH flight heading east form either FRA or MUC. The two week window arrives and the emails start flying in. Well, not really. FRA-PEK, FRA-PVG and, most interesting to me, MUC-PVG all offer O class space. Munich piques my interest as I have never done LH F from there and I know they have a new F lounge as well as a remodeled F lounge. Oh and expert Flyer was showing F8 for MUC-PVG.
I can't leave the table while I'm up so I start looking for where to go after PVG on this ticket. I would like to get to Tokyo but the connections don't work without an 8 hour wait. International to International MCT at PVG is 2 ours, just FYI so the other options didn't allow enough time. What about Osaka? I do like Osaka a great deal for night time food and adult beverage consumption. Plus, it's closer to Tokyo… Great, let's add PVG-KIX and book this thing! The Krisflyer rep on the phone had me hold to verify this was a legal routing but I'm confident. Shortly I have an email confirming JFK-FRA-MUC-PVG-KIX. What fun!
Now to get to JFK. I had a little snafu, you may have read about, with a ticket issued by American Airlines. Due to a date error i wasn't able to use it when I expected. I think I will try to use these miles/ticket to get to JFK. Then, in a somewhat miracle fashion, the points blogosphere blows up with news of AA releasing a lot of F and J space on the LAX-JFK transcon routes. Normally this is none. OK, this was meant to be. I look up my date and low and behold it's there. F space from LAX-JFK that fits perfectly. A call to AA and a super agent even waived all the fees. She siad technically I'm upgrading to a higher class of service so she can waive the change fee on the award ticket. Never mind that the city pairs had changed… I had to kick in 20k extra miles but i was excited to try the new AA F experience with new lounges and dining.
There is now one hole. TYO-LAX. I suppose you know how that ends. ANA of course. My favorite redemption, for 110k Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles, I booked NRT-LAX-NRT with the outbound to complete this mission and the return to begin another adventure in November. Enough talk, let's fly.
Behold the visual representation courtesy of gcmap.com:
Carrier, route, equipment, class, lounge, and procurement method:
I was dropped in front of LAX Terminal 4 by an Uber at 21:45 at the Flagship check in entrance. Upon exiting the vehicle and arranging my bags I looked over at the entrance and saw a smiling man standing at a podium. He bid me hello and we both took a step towards one another. He inquired if I was flying with American tonight and I replied in the affirmative, AA30 to JFK. He offered to take my bags and took command of my roll aboard and we went inside. We approached a two position check in counter staffed by another AA staff, again with a friendly smile and she welcomed me as well. I handed over my passport as my ID so she initially thought I was off to HKG but we sorted that out quickly. A bit of friendly banter and I had my boarding pass. She reminded me about the Flagship Dining and seemed pleased that I was keen to visit. The original gentleman was still in command of my roll aboard and requested that I follow him. We went out a door attached to the main check in area where he deftly negotiated a small pre-check line and positioned us at the front. After the TSA ID check we continued to the x-ray machines where he arranged my bags on the belt and wished me an enjoyable flight. I was inside the terminal by 21:50. I just about fell over, is this really American Airlines?!? It is and this is just the beginning.
I made the short walk down T4 to the Admirals Club / Flagship Lounge entrance.
Passengers are admitted to the lounge on the ground floor and the respective lounges are one floor up. You are also given your invite to the Flagship lounge and Flagship Dining at this interaction.
At the top of the stairs there is another cadre of agents that can help with flights and direct guests to the appropriate lounge.
I am welcomed by an agent and I surrender my Flagship Lounge invite. He asks if I would like to dine at this time, after seeing my dining invite. Yes, please. He asks me to come with him and I am walked through the Flagship Lounge to the back corner where I am handed off to a server and welcomed to the Flagship Dining.
My table of choice has a view of course.
The view from my table.
The view of my table, the two top in the corner.
A look around the dining room. A group of Kiwis were doing some extensive filming. Not sure what that was about.
The server presented a menu and beverage list. She informed me that the menu had just changed the day prior.
I ask for the the Collins and some sparkling water with lemon. The Collins is unremarkable.
I start with the crab, pancetta and corn soup. It's beautiful but cold.
Next I have a taste of the scallops. These are prepared very well. A beautiful crisp crust with a rare soft center. Excellent cookery and flavor.
I request the Tattinger with the scallops. The bar tender delivers the Champagne so I ask him about the list and his favorite cocktail. The agave cooler is his recommendation so let's have a go on that one. Great recommendation for a refreshing and balanced cocktail.
The lobster pad Thai is my main. It's really quite nice but way too large of a portion. This is a theme for me on this visit. I should have asked for a tasting portion.
In the interest of a well rounded review I should sample the sweets.
The Creme brulee and the cheese plate are my choices.
The brulee is perfect.
The cheese is beautifully presented but not of high quality/ Also, I really don't understand serving this much to a single diner after a full meal.
A nice Macallan 18 too.
On balance a really great experience in the Flagship Dining facility. It was not crowded at all and the service was well intentioned but not very polished. I ended up staying the dining room and working on my laptop as the quiet atmosphere was very pleasant.
I saved a few minutes to walk through the Flagship Lounge before boarding.
After you leave the dining room there is a rest/nap room directly to the left.
The hallway has some fantastic posters of celebrities that American has carried over the years. Seems LA appropriate.
Along that hall is a branch for the shower suites. There seems an ample supply for AM arrivals.
There are a few ante area as you approach the main lounge area. One seating and one "theater" style.
The majority of the lounge is in one large hall, as before, overlooking the ally between T4 and TBIT.
Flight info and literature rack.
The food offering, even at this late hour, was very impressive to me. A wide variety and tasteful and appetizing presentation.
The beverages are self serve.
The Bollinger is abundant!
The 77W making final preparations to depart for HKG.
AA30 LAX-JFK (Now I found the AA that I know)
I pried myself out of the very impressive lounge complex and made my way to the gate where boarding was already well underway. The premium (or whatever AA calls it) line was clear so I was able to board directly.
I was greeted cordially by a male flight attendant who would turn out to be the purser. He was an interesting guy who was full of contradictions. I was initially encouraged by witnessing him offer very enthusiastic greeting s to passengers, especially families with children. He had a great way of making people feel welcome and to put a smile on their faces. He just wasn't too interested in the rest of the job requirements.
I found seat 1F quickly, of course.
The seat was setup with the new Casper bedding (large pillow and duvet as well as light blanket and lumbar pillow), excellent headphones, an amenity kit, bottle of water, and menu.
Snack menu for red eye. Shouldn't there be a wine/drinks list?
IFE screen is good size. The fold down screen from the overhead is present and deployed and retracted several times but there was nothing on the display, even during the safety video.
A try with water was passed as the PDB. I can't imagine this is SOP.
Funny announcements were made too. I think they were an attempt to pre-apologize for the lack of service. It was something to the effect that, "This crew is really tired, we flew out earlier from JFK. Also, we usually work trips to South America so we're not really familiar with this transcon thing."
Another delightful service element, we haven't left the gate yet mind you, was when an FA from J or Y came up to the front, during boarding, and loudly complained, "Oh they in rare form tonight. They want wine, they complaining the controller isn't working." Classy to complain about the customers…in front of the customers.
The purser came to ask if i wanted anything after takeoff. I wasn't hungry but I wanted a little something to review so i asked for the fresh burrata from the "Small Plate" section of the menu. He replied we don't have that. I pointed out that it's listed on the menu. He asked to see the menu and then left with it. I could hear him talking to the FA who was in the galley. She was sure they did not have it either. Finally he decided to look at one of the setups and found that the burrata was already on the base tray, hence the confusion. He never returned the menu.
Eventually we get our turn int he busy ally to push back, taxi, and depart.
Drinks were offered by the female flight attendant who was far more "present" in her work. I asked if there was Champagne on board and she said she would be right back. It's a Prosecco, but OK, why not have a go. It was decent and the nuts were warm.
I started the movie "Murder on the Orient Express" but had no chance of finishing.
The table was laid shortly there after and the burrata was served with a choice from the bread basket. The bread was warm and soft and the cheese was tasty.
The galley "curtain" didn't really block much light.
I setup my bed and was off the sleep.
I conked out over New Mexico.
I woke up while most of the cabin was still asleep but of course there was one narcissistic a-hole who had his window shade open.
The menu states a scone and smoothie service prior to arrival but his wasn't offered. In fact, nothing was. I understand as the pursor was busy. He changed into jeans and a plaid shirt before we arrived! The shirt is covered by his shabby, balled up, AA uniform sweater in this picture. Pretty amazing amount of apathy.
The weather from the day before was gone but the wind was blowing a bit on arrival and the evidence of the storm was on the ground.
The taxi was long and were parked out in the satellite building so I made the walk to the main terminal to check out the Flagship Lounge and Flagship Dining, JFK style.
Flagship Lounge and Flagship First Dining - JFK
Similar to LAX teh Flagship First Dining is located inside the Flagship Lounge. There was some confusion on the Internet as to whether a passenger has access to this on arrival as well as departure. With this in mind I presented myself at the check in desk for the Admirals Club and Flagship Lounge. I was welcomed by a friendly agent and she scanned my boarding pass. She noted that I am arriving from LAX and asked if i would like to dine with them this morning. I enthusiastically said yes, please. I was then, as at LAX, escorted through the Flagship entrance and to the dining room and handed over to the staff there.
Again the dining room is beautiful and very similar to the LAX version.
Fantastic view from the window table i selected.
The menu is pretty interesting for a breakfast service. By the way I am sorry for the appalling photos, I know now that the site cannot handle photos shot in portrait. It completely mauls them.
I ordered a Bloody Mary and some sparkling water. The cocktail was sufficient but nothing particularly crafty.
For breakfast I ordered the Steak Eggs, Frites. It is described as toasted brioche, short ribs, crispy potatoes, poached egg, Merlot hollandaise and hash brown potatoes. It was a very nicely done breakfast plate.
The service was very good throughout my visit int he dining room as well. Frequent offers for additional food and or beverages. I was most impressed and was very disoriented by the fact that this was American Airlines.
i had a day hotel room booked a the Courtyard Marriott from 10:00 - 16:00 so I wanted to make it there as close to 10:00 as possible and go to sleep. So, I had time for a quick pass of the Flagship Lounge before hitting the Air Train to Federal Circle and catching the shuttle. Again, it's a fantastic lounge.
There is a wide variety of seating options.
There is a Champagne and wine bar.
Tattinger is the house on the east coast.
The buffet had a nice breakfast spread.
I love a Bloody Mary bar and this one was well stocked.
Finally I took a look at the showers. Apparently there is no need to check with reception to arrange a shower as there is at LAX. The room are plentiful, spacious and well appointed.
American Airlines Flagship Lounge
Los Angeles - LAX
New York - JFK
The Ground Service: Amazing. The Flagship check in was superb. Staffed with friendly motivated employees. The curb to security checkpoint service was way beyond my expectations and on par with any top airline in the world.
The Lounge: The new Flagship Lounged are excellent. They are on par better than most Business Class lounges I've experienced. The Flagship First Dining is outstanding. Sure a little more polish in the service would help but the core of the product is there. The food and beverage program is very well done. The cocktails are interesting and the meals are diverse as well. I am very impressed.
The Cabin: First was full but all but four of us went to bed straight away. The set is comfortable, as is the bed. There is some storage as well.
The Crew: Now this is the AA that I have come to know. Service ranging from apathetic to confrontational. Such a shame too. They have given the IFS crew a great set of tools to work with but they were not interested on this flight. It's inconsistency that dooms any service enterprise and the US3 airlines seem very prone to this downfall.
The Food and Beverage: Prosecco in First Class? The rest of the food seemed appropriate for a late night departure.
Overall: On the whole I was blown away by the new AA infrastructure. They have the *potential* to deliver a world class product.
Thank you for reading and happy flying.
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