The airline with the best average rating is Virgin America with 8.0/10.
The average flight time is 5 hours and 19 minutes.More information
Greetings flight report community and thank you for stopping by this report.
I've read about mistake fares but have always been too late to the party. That trend reversed as I sat in my den with my laptop on 12/31/18 and, as I often do, surfed over to one of my favorite miles and points blogs to see a post about some rather incredible airfares ex. Vietnam, in first class too. For fun I pivoted to an OTA website and sure enough, these fares were still live. I picked some random days and a few clicks later the tickets were purchased. Jennifer and I would be taking two trips to Vietnam and we were ecstatic. Please visit this post to read more about the planning and the first trip.
This series of posts will cover the second half of the mistake fare ticket. On this trip we added a visit to Laos and the enchanting Luang Prabang.
Positioning to JFK was another opportunity to try the highly acclaimed JetBlue Mint product but again the price was beyond our budget. Instead I found a couple of seats in AA J for $599.00 and upgraded them to F with 15,000 Advantage miles and a $75.00 co-pay for each of us. It was definitely a splurge of debatable value given the difference between F and J on the AA trans-con is limited but the lounges are what tips the scales for me.
Our Cathay Pacific flight left JFK in the morning so we opted to spend the night before in a JFK airport hotel rather than take a red-eye and connect directly. This plan allowed us more time in the Flagship F lounges and better rest and pacing to enjoy the entire experience.
The noon departure allowed for us to get a reasonable night sleep, say goodbye to our boys in the morning and Uber up to LAX at a comfortable hour. We arrived at the Flagship First check-in entrance at around 9:00. The woman at the podium on the sidewalk asked my destination and I replied JFK and she walked us in to the check in facility.
In the Uber to the airport I explained to Jennifer that we had "a lot to do" at the airport given the Flagship Lounge, Flagship First Dining (FFD), and the Qantas First Lounge all required our attention. I think she thought I was joking.
We didn't have bags to check nor did we need boarding passes (already checked in via the AA app) but the experience of the private entrance is all a part of the package. The AA agent at the counter was very friendly and seemed disappointed that she couldn't add any value to our interaction. She remined us to enjoy the FFD and wished us pleasant trip.
Pre-check was fast and we presented ourselves at the AA lounge complex. The process is rather involved for access to the FFD. The first agent downstairs verifies you access eligibility and hands you an invitation that is stamped with the date and hand written flight info. Next we took the elevator up one floor the the lounges. The Admirals club is to the right and the Flagship Lounge is to the left. The upstairs agent noticed the invitations and welcomed us to the lounge. She takes the invitation and walks you to the FFD protion of the Flagship Lounge.
The FFD was quiet as is my usual experience and we were shown directly to the table of our choosing. I opted to enjoy the Krug Grand Cuvee to start.
The breakfast menu was presented.
For a breakfast service I was impressed with the diversity and creativeness of the menu. Jennifer and I decided to order a few items and share all of them. The portions are quite substantial so we ended up choosing an item or two too many.
We started with the coconut turmeric oats. Despite the oh so LA sound of the dish it was quite good. Fresh and flavorful with a good variety of textures.
Also from the "Chilled" side of the menu was the salmon gravlax waffle, a fun attempt at a play on the New York bagel. It was also a satisfying dish. Again the portion was too generous.
For hot items we opted for the Steak, Eggs, Frites, and the Shakshuka. Both were served with terrible hotel buffet potatoes but other than that failure they were satisfying.
During our stay we experienced attentive service and refills of the Krug. Minor gripe in that the server didn't' bring the bottle to the table rather she would bring a fresh glass, poured at the bar, I presume.
Anyhow, no time to rest, and I rousted Jennifer from her content glass of Champagne and marched her over to the Tom Bradley International Terminal.
This morning revealed another lightly attended lounge.
I meandered over to the bas and requested a Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Rose for Jennifer and a Gin Spritz for myself. The drinks were delivered to the table along with some waters.
Jennifer had to take some work calls so I looked around a bit.
I poured a taste of the Penfolds and it was surprisingly tasty for an inexpensive wine.
As boarding time approached we requested some coffee drinks with Jennifer enjoying a Latte and myself an espresso. Tough to beat the barista made Aussie coffe drinks.
We started our walk to the gate about 10 minutes before the stated boarding time. We boarded after Concierge Key and extra time folks.
I selected 5A for myself and 5F for Jennifer. This configuration is more about privacy and space rather than conversation but we were going to be together for a week so a little space on the airplanes would be fine.
On the seat was the amenity kit and pillow and blanket bundle.
The APL branded bag touted American's involvement in the Stand Up to Cancer program. The contents are through.
Excellent B&O headphones.
A look at the seat controls, IFE controls, reading light, and storage. Oddly tehre was no water bottle at the seat as there usually is.
Looking back to the J cabin. We had a funny chat with the FA pictured. I was pointing out to Jennifer that the J cabin was nice as well, also with flat beds, etc. and she interjected that she doesn't like the J seats. She didn't really say why. She then told us an unsolicited story of a couple sitting in F who couldn't be part so the cuddled in one of the F beds for much of the flight. Strange information to offer.
Forward view from 5A.
In addition to the bedding on the seat there is a day blanket and lumbar pillow.
The purser (who was a complete doppelganger for Huey Lewis) presented the menus which were photo copies of the regular menu. Poorly folded at that.
I wasn't offered a drink but I asked him for a Bloody Mary. It was thin and watery, only managed a couple of sips.
Excellent IFE selection.
The lunch, drinks, and wine menu.
The door closed about 10 minutes late. We pushed back and taxied out of the cramped ally between T4 and T5. As we began to taxi the female captain announced that there was an ATC delay and we were now slotted to take off at 12:46. She taxied the aircraft and parked near the 24R threshold and we waited about 15 minutes.
The morning marine layer had burned off to reveal a lovely bright day as we lift off of 24R.
Our departure course was unique. The Great Pacific Airshow was taking place in the skies over Huntington Beach, CA today. Normally this flight would depart and turn left and fly southeast initially and then turn northeast over Huntington Beach or Newport Beach. Today we flew west longer than usual and once enough altitude was gained we turned 180 degrees to go right back over LAX thus avoiding the airspace to the south. Not only was the path unusual but the climb was odd in that thrust was added and then backed off several times during the climb. This had to contribute to the ATC delay we experienced on departure.
Service started with a hot towel. The other male FA (a Conan O'Brien look alike, including the height) passed the towels.
The crew was in a hurry so rather than perform the bar service separate they set the tables completely before offering a drink. I opted for a glass of Champagne to start and it was served with warm nuts and olives.
Conan passed bread from a foil "basket."
I opted for the Seared Tuna "small plate" to start. It was anything but small. One third of this portion would be sufficient.
The mixed green salad was fine, if a little uninspired. I skipped the soup even though it sounded good. The large portions make so much waste as I wasn't even close to finishing any of the dishes served.
I added a glass of the Merlot at this point and was served half of the bottle.
I selected the grains and greens bowl for the main. The menu says the chicken was available on request, I did not request it, but it was served. This was a great concept and fairly tasty dish. It's just too big! I had surrendered my two forks with the first two dishes so I was stuck without one. It took a bit of time to get the FA's attention to remedy. Huey apologized that he was off his game after a vacation.
I passed on dessert and settled into a movie after lunch, Olivia Wilde's directorial debut, Booksmart. I enjoyed the film. Coffee and cookies were offered over the Great Lakes.
Shortly after the B&O headsets were confiscated and earbuds were offered as replacements.
The tail winds in flight meant that we landed nearly on time.
Having dinner wasn't really necessary after a large breakfast and lunch but I couldn't pass up a visit to the lounge. At first I was thinking just drinks but that devolved into food too.
Quiet lounge about an hour before closing time. We selected a booth and some Krug to start.
The JFK lunch/dinner menu.
FFD wines and cocktails.
A cucumber fizz. Too sweet.
The baby kale salad was very good if a bit over-dressed.
The tuna tartare was a perfect small taste portion. Maybe they're catching on to how much food they waste.
A nicely prepared halibut. Again, a perfectly sized portion. Thank goodness.
The dessert menu.
After diner drinks.
I think we went with some bourbon to finish.
The dark chocolate cake to round out another nice FFD experience. The service at JFK was not exactly smooth but it was all well intentioned and generous.
We made the walk to the Airtrain and waited for the shuttle at Federal Circle to get to our hotel. We were hopeful to sleep but my excitement for next day always makes sleep a challenge.
The Ground Service: Very good ground service, especially if you have checked luggage. Porters are available to meet you at your vehicle and handle your bags through to check in. The private check in location has never been busy so if you require those services they are efficient. Finally the proximity to the precheck line makes for a quick trip through TSA land.
The Lounge: I find both the Flagship Lounge and Flagship First Dining to be quite good. The FFD experiences on this day were good on both ends of the flight. I appreciated the diverse breakfast menu in LA and the wines and cocktails in NY. Service was good at both facilities with NY struggling a bit as the lounge filled up prior towards closing time. The Qantas F lounge is always a treat, even if for a quick cocktail or a coffee.
The Cabin: The AA A321T sets the standard for USA Trans-con service hardware. The seats are relatively private, facing away from the aisle, and convert into spacious beds with no need to step over anyone to exit your seat.
The Crew: Conan and Huey were not actively rude or malicious, they were nice enough. They performed the service they wanted to perform, not the service their employer specifies. There was no effort made to make it a first class experience.
The Food and Beverage: An extraordinary amount of food is on offer and I have to imagine it's very wasteful in terms of partially eaten dishes and items that are never used. The dishes I sampled were all acceptable. I found the main to be an interesting and fun take on a healthy-ish group of ingredients.
Overall: With the FFD on both ends and the addition of Qantas on the LAX end this is a worth while experience and decent way to get from one coast to another.
Thanks for coming along on this series of flights and leaving any feedback along the way. Happy flying.