Greetings Flight Report community and thanks for stopping by. I was about 13 years old when I flew in International Business Class for the first time. It was 1987 and it was an L-1011-250 flying from ATL-LGW. My memory of the cabin is somewhat faded but I think it was a 2x4x2 and only slightly more pitch and recline than Y. I remember the amenity kit rather well, a brown leatherette pouch, since I had never seen such a thing before. I remember collecting a few that were left behind by other passengers. The reason I mention this 30+ year old memory is that travel in Business Class has come a LONG way since then. That brings me to the nexus for this adventure. Qatar Airways is a renowned carrier for excellence in Business Class. The latest generation of their J product, known as the Q-Suite, is a evolution in terms of space, privacy, comfort, and entertainment. The goal of this trip was to take a Q-Suite on a test drive. American Advantage is a great program for redeeming miles for QR Business Class so that's where I went. Long story short I booked the round-the-world adventure on 3 tickets, 70k AA miles for LAX-IAH-DOH in QR J, 50k miles for DOH-SIN-KUL-NRT in QR J, MH J, and MH F, and finally 87, 520 Lifemiles for NRT-SFO-SNA in NH F and UA Y.
Carrier, route, equipment, class, lounge, and procurement method:
I decided to just roll out of bed and head to the airport and do my grooming there, after a bite to eat and some coffee, perhaps A flight that boards around 6:30 means I have to leave my home in Orange County at 4:00 to have time to allow for any traffic anomaly (Interstate 405 in Orange County is in the process of a major expansion so there are nightly closures that last until around 6am) and have time to get through security and enjoy the lounge and shower. It's an early call. On this day the Uber was near by, the traffic was non-existent (Saturday) and so I was at the curb in front of T4 at 4:50am. Pre check was a breeze and I was in front of the lounge just before 5:00.
I study the lounge access rules pretty carefully as I want to plan accordingly. I know that connecting to a long haul Oneworld flight in J grants access to the Flagship Lounge. I know of (through personal experience and hearsay) occasions where the Oneworld lounge rules are not as well known by the staff manning the lounges. So, as I entered I was prepared to have to educate the staff on the rules but my concerns were unfounded. The agent scanned my AA boarding pass to IAH and explained the Flagship access to me and handed me an invite card. It was all exactly how it should be. It's a sad commentary that a process working as it should is noteworthy, but it is to me, with regards to American Airlines.
I rode the elevator upstairs and found a virtually empty lounge. I'll also note it was a cold,and rather dark lounge too. It's just now 5am and the staff is already setup and on point with friendly greetings and an impressive breakfast spread.
A look around the lounge.
There's also a nice relaxing room that is separate form the main hall, and presumably quieter. Great views too.
In California, probably similar in many states, alcohol cannot be served between the hours of 2:00 - 6:00. In light of this, and my desire for a glass of champagne to kick off this fantastic flying adventure, I decide to have a shave and shower prior to enjoying breakfast. I inquire with the agent inside the Flagship Lounge and she offers me a variety of amenities and sends me to shower room 1. I accept a razor and toothbrush for the event.
The shower rooms are very spacious and there are quite a few so wait times should be minimal even in peak usage periods.
I enjoy a very satisfactory grooming experience and return to the dining area rejuvenated and ready to start the extended day of flying. Lets have a look at the buffet offerings. I'm impressed with the selection and presentation of the breakfast items.
By this time the lounge staff are setting up the Champagne bar and main bar. Their work is complete and the magical 6:00am hour is upon us yet on one in the lounge moves in the direction of either of these indulgences. OK, I'll be first. I walk to the Champagne bar, select a glass, remove the resealable bottle topper and pour. Before I can replace the bottle topper I'm joined by two other patrons, the first even says don't bother with the top as he's pouring two. A Funny thing about human nature and stigmas, no one wanted to be first. I thought it was common knowledge that there are not "appropriate drinking hours" in airports ;)
A selection from the buffet and a glass of bubbly, now we're traveling. Yes, I enjoy my charcuterie and cheese with chopsticks.
The sun is lighting the ramp now and I'm sitting right above a tow in gate. I assume it's SYD or AKL pulling in at this hour.
In the interest of a complete flight report I find it's compulsory for me to review the bar offerings. It's a self serve arrangement with a good selection and even a spotlight on the Bloody Mary cocktail (Caesar for Hometoyyz). Kudos for AA on the extensive selection of regalia to adorn your creation, a critical part of any Bloody Mary.
Quite content with my AA Flagship Lounge experience it's time to fly and I'm off to gate 42A.
I assume my position among the lice. Am I a louse even though I know, by virtue of sitting in First, that I will be among the first groups called?
Pre-boarding and Concierge Key are called and then First. We're welcomed at the door and I take seat 6A. I tend to like the rear most row in the cabin, I guess so I can observe the service flow and interactions. Dougie and Bob haven't had a chance to rip out the IFE on this 737 so it's an anomaly in the fleet and definitely NOT the experience they want for the self loading cargo.
Boarding is complete, the door is closed on time and we're off. It's an impossibly sunny day here in the Southland, which is normal, unless Rewardflying is in town, then all bets are off.
A short roll down 25R and we're airborne and out over Dockweiler Beach and the gorgeous refineries and waste water treatment plants of El Segundo, CA.
Our routing turns us Southeast past Long Beach with a view of the snow tipped San Bernardino Mountains. San Gorgonio Mountain is 11,503' which, by coincidence, is the total height of all "mountains" in the Sate of Texas ;)
Service started rather promptly after the 10,000' chime with a warm towel.
Drink and meal orders were taken next. I had per-ordered the "brakfast sandwich" on aa.com and this choice was confirmed by the flight attendant. I requested some club soda and a Bloody Mary to accompany. The bar service was done as a separate service which I appreciate. My cocktail effort in the lounge was far superior but i had a far better equipped toolbox than the crew.
Breakfast was served and it was rather sad. The "bread" for the sandwich was poor and the contents were bland. I only managed a bite. On the other hand the fruit was fresh and the yogurt was tasty too. I found the biscuit to be nice as well. A bagel was the other choice from the bread basket.
After breakfast the lights were dimmed and the crew assumed their standart post meal service positions. The curtains were left open with no regard for the many who were napping due to the early morning departure. In fairness there could have been many offers of service for those who were awake but I was among those who dozed off.
I woke up to arrival announcements and put my seat upright and we were vectored for an early arrival.
After alighting the aircraft I spotted an Admirals Club right by our arrival gate so I stopped in to have some water and use the loo. It was a recently remodeled club and it looked quite nice. I'll include some pictures here.
American Airlines Flagship Lounge
Los Angeles - LAX
Houston - IAH
The Ground Service: N/A for a domestic first class flight.
The Lounge: I like what American has done with the Flagship Lounge system. I find the food and beverage offerings to exceed my expectations of a Business Class lounge. The facilities are very comfortable and the staff, both AA and contract, are friendly and well meaning. The shower facilities are clean and spacious with ample amenities.
The Cabin: This 737-800 with Boeing Sky Interior is a glimpse of what American could be and the direction they were heading before the merger. Oh well, wasn't meant to be, I guess.
The Crew: Smiling and friendly service was prompt and professional.
The Food and Beverage: The entree for breakfast was terrible. The club soda and Bloody Mary were quite standard.
Overall: On time, safe, friendly service and in relative comfort make a nice experience.
Thank you for reading and happy flying.
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