We had booked in December and for weeks leading up to departure the Business Class cabin had been fully booked. Around a week before travel the same could be said for every flight AA operated that day from JFK to LAX.
Route: New York – John F. Kennedy Int. – Los Angeles - International
Airline: American Airlines
Flight Number: AA83
Aircraft: Airbus A321-231
Seat: 7F (Business Class)
Distance: 2475 miles
Duration: 5hrs 36mins
We arrived at JFK around 3.50pm, just over two hours prior to departure. Given the holiday weekend it was somewhat unsurprising that the terminal was busy but this was borderline chaotic. Thankfully we were travelling light so a stop at one of the kiosks across from Flagship Check-In to grab boarding passes and we escaped quickly for security. We’re both TSA Pre Check and managed our way airside within about five minutes, despite the best efforts of the apparent hordes of children in the Pre Check line. Incidentally it was the first time I’d seen three boarding pass checkers at the Pre Check line in Terminal 8.
The new International First Class lounge (soon to be renamed back to Flagship Lounge) is a rather nice facility but the bustle of the terminal was certainly mirrored in the lounge too. We took less than optimal seating in a raised area not far from the centre bar area. Champagne was called for so I fetched some glasses of the Bollinger NV and my other half looked over the food options, which have been the same on all four of my previous afternoon/evening visits to the new lounge since opening in December. The one bonus was from my position I was able to have an improved view of the ramp action below, and the Manhattan skyline further beyond…
JFK International First Class lounge – some photos taken on previous visits
The people watching was a little more interesting than normal, I saw my first emotionAAl support dog with Flagship Lounge access and the guy who sat next to us decided to fill a paper cup with the maximum number of snacks that he could, almost to an OCD level…
Thankfully the lounge emptied somewhat and we relocated our bags and champagne to some more relaxing seats near the window.
I tracked our incoming aircraft using the FlightRadar24 app and the 6pm departure time was becoming increasingly ambitious with every passing minute. I peered out of the window and watched as N116AN tracked over Brooklyn for its tour of Long Island. The flight had left San Francisco a little late but touched down on 22L just 33minutes before our scheduled departure time. Our flight was still showing as being on time so just after it landed I went to the front desk just to see if we were being moved onto a different aircraft and something wasn’t showing on the FIDS. The agent was impressed with my detective work and said to come back at 6pm for an update as she couldn’t quite tell. Indeed, on my way back to my seat the AA app and FIDS updated to a 7.45pm departure. Our dinner reservation in West Hollywood was looking in jeopardy…Nevertheless there were worse places to stick out what really was a minor delay.
At around 7pm we packed our items and headed off to Gate 36 in the satellite concourse anticipating a potential early boarding. There were a few premium cabin gate lice all lined up in the Priority lane already and for some undetermined reason the gate agent flipped the sign around so the Priority and Main cabin lines were switched so they all had to move over
After Concierge Keys and a full First Class cabin were boarded Business Class followed and we headed to the middle section of the aircraft, home to 20 business class seats in a 2-2 configuration. Menus, headphones, amenity kits and Dasani bottles were already waiting at our seats. Despite the full cabin there was masses of overhead space available and I grabbed my bag from the overhead to go change into slightly more comfortable clothes as I normally do for these longer flights. We were offered a choice of pre-departure drinks; orange juice, water and “champagne” though more likely Prosecco given it was the bubbly option listed in the menu.
At 7.55pm the doors shut and we were on our way, taxiing around behind Terminals 1, 2 and 4. For some reason we were one of the few aircraft to head off on our own, stopping at the Kilo Echo hold for 31L.
This at least had the benefit of us heading in the correct direction for our destination! Alas, we held at KE for a good ten minutes, then on the actual runway itself for another two before the IAE V2533-A5s spooled up hard. From the starboard side I got a great view of the city with all the sights nicely visible.
Those poor sods on the Belt Parkway!
The service began around 20mins into the flight and without sounding too much like an alcoholic I was primed and ready for the first drink. A couple of weeks beforehand I’d spotted these “Carry On Cocktail” kits in a cooking store and having just disembarked a flight where I was thinking of ways to do better cocktails inflight I purchased one. With the missing components requested from the FAs we were good to go! The ever present nuts were also brought out.
Whilst certainly not the standard of a Moscow Mule from a proper bartender it was a fun way to start the flight and the little tin will certainly be useful.
After 40mins aloft the nuts were withdrawn (having been offered top-ups shortly before) and the meal service proper began…
The smoked salmon cheesecake was delicious and a great way to start off the meal service. Sadly for my other half (though not for me) she’s not a huge fan of smoked salmon so I got to enjoy most of hers too!
The huckleberry chicken was something I’d pre-ordered and had read very good things about in places where people comment on such banalities as airline food and I have to say it was indeed very good indeed. Certainly a cut above other meals I’ve had recently in premium cabins on AA.
The sundae was as good as ever (I do all the toppings except the nuts), although a switch of flavours from vanilla ice cream would be welcome…
With dinner over just as we crossed into Illinois it was relaxation time. Snack baskets (similar to those on shorter domestic flights) were placed in front of row 6 although after devouring the not insubstantial meal I was not ready to dive into further snacks, not even for later consumption.
The good ol’ RBV J230 AIR J80 MCI J24 SLN J102 ALS J44 RSK J64 PGS RIIVR3 transcon flight. A classic….
My other half settled in, reclining the seat to its fullest extent and pulling the blanket over her. I was happier with a deep recline and fired up the wifi, burning up my two free hours that T-Mobile grant me on Soundcloud. On this particular flight the one time pass was $34, which for what I wanted to use the web for was a little unnecessary.
Around 90 minutes before landing the smell of warmed up cookies wafted through the cabin and I enjoyed a couple of them so much I forgot to take a picture!
As we approached southern Utah the otherwise smooth passage of flight was interrupted by some light chop which developed into heavier chop. By this time we’d dropped to FL260 having been at a peak altitude of 34,000ft and sustained hold at 32,000ft.
Around 50mins before estimated touchdown I made for the cubicle ahead of 6A and 6C to change back into my street clothes. I picked my timing wisely as the guys in the front noted the initial part of our descent into LAX would be rather choppy and so the cabin was secured around 30mins before landing. This wasn’t a drill for sure, the LA area was due pretty serious rain by LA standards and we were certainly experiencing some of the periphery of that.
Final stages of time aloft
The weather had put to bed any chance of a scenic view of the Los Angeles area during approach and compared to the overwhelming majority of my flights into LAX this was to be from over the water. We flew directly over the airport from a north easterly direction, then turned twice before landing onto 7R, only breaking through the cloud 1100ft off the ground. We touched just down after 11pm local time and pulled onto a taxiway beside the runway with rain lashing the aircraft. Not much happened for a while until the front office informed us the gate was occupied. We were put into a ground based holding pattern with other aircraft across from the American Airlines “Eagles Nest” whilst they also waited for their stands to become available. After almost an hour on the ground we pulled onto Gate 48 just after midnight, the purser’s welcome announcement starting, “FINALLY!”.
The walk of the length of Terminal 4 blew the cobwebs of 7hrs of sitting down away and we piled into the back of our friend’s car for the drive up the 405…