To get to London I was flying first class on American Airlines A321T from LAX to JFK and then first class on the 777-300er from JFK to LHR. I was able to get first class seats by using my second systemwide upgrade which is good for an upgrade on up to three segments so getting both flights upgraded was a nice value for me. I checked in online and went straight to security at T4. I then proceeded to the Tom Bradley International Terminal for breakfast.
The TBIT is far and away the nicest terminal in any airport in the US. It is visually stunning. It was peacefully deserted at 6:30 in the morning, as the first rush of international flights isn’t until later in the morning.
I made the trek to the international terminal because it is home to the Qantas First Class Lounge; my favorite lounge in the US.
After a light breakfast I headed back down to earth, terminal 4. I got a quick shoeshine where I met an AA pilot whose daughter is a chef at Commander’s Palace in New Orleans, which was cool. As I got to the gate the flight was already boarding. Within no time I was seated in my seat, which I significantly prefer to the JetBlue Mint seat I had on my flight to California.
Fist class on the A321T is eerily similar to business class on the 777-300er, which isn’t a bad thing mind you. The seats are reverse herringbone. Each seat is angles towards the window and flattens to a complete bed. The flight left on time and was uneventful. I turned down any meals on the flight as I wanted to try out the flagship dining facility in JFK and I’m also trying to eat less while I travel, as it’s a sedentary time and easy to eat non-stop. It’s too easy to eat way too many free meals when you travel first class between the multi course meals onboard and the free meals in the lounges. I did have a cappuccino on board, I love that more and more flights are installing espresso machines on planes. The flight was over soon enough and I did get some work done which is always nice.
Upon landing in JFK I had 50 min before boarding my flight to London. I was on a mission to checkout the new Admirals Flagship Lounge.
After leaving the lounge I proceeded to my gate where they were beginning boarding. I was the first person to board and basically ran down the jet bridge to maximize my time alone on the plane. When I got there they were woefully unprepared to begin boarding. The plane was full of maintenance and SkyChef employees stocking the plane. There was a huge bundle of newspapers on the seat behind mine. First class passengers are often times overly entitled snobs who act as if the world is ending if things aren’t perfect. The newspapers almost caused this type of scenario.
The first class flight attendant later confessed that they arrived late. We weren’t offered any pre-departure drinks and I later found out, upon asking, that they forgot to stock pajamas on the plane. They had one pair of smalls, which didn’t do me any good. As someone who collects first class pajamas as mementos of the flights I was disappointed not to get the new American pajamas. Ultimate first world problem I know. And no I didn’t cause a scene because of it.
I chose seat 1A. All the seats are fairly identical. As a solo traveler I recommend one of the 4 window seats and couples in the middle. There is a barrier that can rise in between middle seats though making those ok for solo travelers too. I love looking out the windows though and you have 3 of them here!
The amenity kit is fairly nice and made of high quality leather and doubles as a tablet pouch. It’s nice to see them make an amenity kit that at least has potential for further use. It was stocked with all the usual suspects: socks, toothbrush, pen, eye shades, ear plugs, and lip balm, and hand and body creams by 3Lab. After a cursory search I found that 3Lab products are very expensive, more so than I realized hand lotion could ever be. Either way I left them on the plane unopened and took the Cole Haan pouch.
The lavatories, although handsomely appointed and stocked with 3Lab products, aren’t much bigger than those in economy unlike some other airlines.
Shortly after take off the meal service began. And although having just eaten at the lounge I sacrificed for the sake of the blog and had dinner on the flight. One huge improvement from the last time I flew AA’s first class is the champagne they now offer: Laurent Perrier Grand Siecle, which retails for about a buck 25. Although not the best Champagne offered in the skies this is a huge, welcome improvement over what they used to serve.
To start I had a lobster salad which was fairly good although I only ate the lobster not all the accouterments. I skipped the soup and salad courses and proceeded to the main course for which I selected the beef filet. I’ve had one good filet in the air and it is usually tough and chewy. I stopped ordering it for a time but resumed again recently because I don’t want to make it easy and order what I know they can hold hot for hours without suffering.
Part of the experience in flying premium cabins is the food and I want them to give them the chance to impress me and a well cooked piece of meat with the equipment I know they use fits the bill. This one was no exception. It was actually the most overcooked piece of meat I’ve eaten in a while. The sides, however, in particular the spinach hominy greens, were very good. All this while I drank the Champagne as it was far and away the best option on the drink menu. For the first time on an AA flight I turned down their signature Ben & Jerry’s sundae as I was comfortably full by this point. I opted just to have a glass of vintage port they had on offer, which was Quinta dos Muros from 2014. I preferred the Alvear Pedro Ximenez they used to offer, but you can’t win them all I guess.
After this point I had them preform the turn down service and decided to try and get some sleep as I had a long day ahead of me in London and beyond. I told them not to wake me for breakfast and went to bed. I slept for almost 4 hours before the comotion of the breakfast service began to wake me up. I ordered a cappuccino and prepared for landing.
Upon landing I spotted a row of 4 British Airways A380’s flanked by slightly smaller planes. I thought it made for a cool picture and the tail of the American aircraft made it all the better.
After clearing immigration I headed to the AA arrivals lounge for a shower and then hit the ground running with a Full English Breakfast after arriving in central London.
Overall American’s New First Class is an adequate way to cross the Atlantic although I’d never in a million years pay the retail prices they are asking of over $6000 round-trip. Especially since business class fares are dropping considerably. As much as I enjoy it I know that it’s a mediocre at best first class product on the world stage which is why I’m super excited about some of my more exclusive trips coming up in the next 12 months. Heck, I should have a nicer flight on my return to the States! So stay tuned.