Genius12
Topic Author
Posts: 228
Joined: Wed Aug 08, 2007 3:49 am

Operation Oahu: British Airways Club and American Airlines First Class to Hawaii

Sun Apr 02, 2017 9:37 pm

Operation Oahu: British Airways Club and American Airlines First Class to Hawaii

After the best part of four years as BA Silver (oneworld Sapphire), it was time to return to Gold (Emerald) in anticipation of a much busier travel year for 2017. There’s only one way to do this relatively quickly and inexpensively - the famous HNL tier point run! After finding the routing and fare on the excellent ITA Matrix, this trip was booked around 3 months prior to travel on AA’s website, which has the advantage of charging ex-EU bookings in GBP (thus avoid any forex fees on credit cards), together with no credit card payment fee. The positioning flights to and from Dublin were booked with Avios.

LHR-DUB

Departure day didn’t get off to the most auspicious of starts as my taxi was 20 minutes late arriving having evidently forgotten completely about my booking - my first and last time using this new company. Thankfully I had left ample time before my positioning flight to DUB, and still arrived at LHR T5 with a good couple of hours to spare. I’m increasingly using mobile boarding passes through apps these days when travelling with hand baggage only as I was on this trip, but for some reason my notes inform me that I used one of the self service check-in machines in Zone H (Club check-in) to print a paper boarding pass, having received a friendly welcome from the lady guarding the entrance.

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After a quick stop at Travelex to collect some pre-ordered dollars it was on to Fast Track North, as South looked pretty busy. This is consistently the better of the two Fast Track departure options at T5, although I’m looking forward to the opening of The First Wing next month in Zone J, which will provide First and Gold passengers a direct route from check-in to the Galleries First lounge (and onwards to the Concorde Room through the main lounge lobby). This should also have the advantage of relieving pressure on the two existing FT options for Club and Silver passengers. A typically officious security officer tried to make me decant my liquids into one of Heathrow’s plastic bags, despite my own being completely compliant and having been used on countless previous occasions through the same airport. Thankfully another officer nearby heard my response and let me continue on.

I dropped briefly into Galleries Club North for no reason other than I hadn't been in the lounge for a few months and wanted to see if anything had changed. Rather predictably it hadn’t (and was still an odd shape and typically crowded), so I quickly decanted to its Southern sister. I headed straight away to the grandly titled but always disappointing Chef’s Theatre for a spot of lunch - the chicken, root vegetable and barley casserole with rice was adequate in the way a Waitrose microwaveable meal is. I like to sit at one of the small tables for two to the left of the buffet area before moving to an armchair to relax. In BA’s ever-increasing desire to eek out every ounce of revenue from their space (and passengers), for many months space in all of their T5 lounges was occupied by Samsung promotional stands - with the main one in Galleries Club South occupying the space where the individual dining tables normally are, meaning I sat at one of the less than comfortable communal white tables. Thankfully by the time of my return visit the next day, the stand had disappeared as presumably the contract had ended - not before time.

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I whiled away the last hour before my flight in the quieter area of the lounge near the Cinema, with a latte and my book (an always excellent Poirot). The magazine selection in the Club lounges is notably poor, with no copies of The Economist to be seen.

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Boarding at Gate A9 was an efficient affair with Club Europe and Gold passengers called first. I was second down the airbridge, and after a short wait at the door for a visually impaired passenger to be escorted down to their seat and the escort to come back up the aisle, was welcomed onboard 16 year old G-EUOC, my third time on this particular A319. My jacket was hung as I settled into 2A in a four-row CE cabin, that ended up having 9 out of 16 seats occupied and an off-duty member of flight crew in the last row. I’m pretty sure the windows seats in rows aft of the first offer less legroom than the aisle seats, as legroom felt tighter than the advertised 30”. My preference is usually for window seats in Club, but when in Y I’ll normally opt for an aisle seat to avoid feeling trapped by anybody in the middle seat. I used the hot towel to clean the rather smeary window just as the captain announced a long 20 minute taxi time and the usual one hour flight time across the Irish Sea.

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The curtain behind Row 4 was closed shortly after takeoff from 27L and the attentive crew jumped into action, distributing small trays with the familiar Club Europe afternoon tea service as we were treated to a beautiful sunset above the clouds.

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The crew addressed me by name which is always a nice touch on these short flights, and offered warm scones from the basket along with several drinks top-ups. The afternoon tea product is much maligned, but I find it quite acceptable - the sandwiches were fresh and nicely flavoured, and the pistachio madeira cake (which I saved for dinner at the hotel that evening) was moist.

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I closed my window shade to avoid blinding the passenger across the aisle just as we started descent from our 32,000ft cruise. As there was nobody behind me I was able to try out the full extent of the recline on these latest Club Europe seats - surprisingly good for a standard shorthaul product, although I try and avoid reclining on short flights if there are passengers behind.

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As is the norm at DUB, the gate didn’t have an airbridge and so we descended via stairs (both 1L and 2L were used) before walking the short distance to the terminal building across the apron. There was a short queue at immigration, and then out to find the poorly signed shuttle bus to the Radisson Blu Dublin Airport. I spent a good few minutes walking around the short stay car park at the front of the terminal building before realising I needed to walk back to the bus lanes, all in an area that looked distinctly uncared for that clearly hadn’t seen a paint brush since the last century. Thankfully my sojourn to the car park hadn’t made me miss a shuttle bus, as one rolled up within a couple of minutes of my arrival.

Radisson Blu Dublin Airport

With the DUB-LHR sector departing at 08:45, a night at the airport was a must. I opted for the reasonably priced Radisson as it was the closest chain hotel to the airport - there is a Hilton, but it’s a little farther out and every second counts when you’re waking up early. The shuttle driver was pretty informal but I was at the hotel in 5 minutes. First impressions weren't the most positive, as the welcome was less than warm but check-in was nevertheless efficient and I was soon on my way up to the 4th floor where my standard room awaited.

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Described as featuring ‘stylish, modern decor’ on the website, it was clear that my room hadn’t quite got the message and had yet to be refurbished as although spacious and clean, it was very dated. The furniture in particular was rather odd, including a random desk with no chair and the two armchairs by the table disgustingly stained. Other annoyances included an empty minibar - defeating the point of convenience, no safe or ironing board, no power sockets near the bed, a stained towel in the bathroom, slightly smeary windows and a lack of green teabags. The room in general was just a little run down - the bathroom featured old fixture marks in the tiles for instance.

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However, it wasn’t all bad as the free wifi was a fairly fast 22mbps, there was a nice large space for suitcases (something which so many hotels don’t provide these days), the TV had HD channels with no fussy menus (what a concept!) and the bed did the job of providing an adequate night’s sleep, despite a few noises being audible from the corridor and water pipes.

The bathroom featured rather boring thisworks amenities and was pretty stark, with a distinctly odd placement of the toilet facing the wall with little legroom. The basin tap was pretty fierce which caught me out on the first use.

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After calling several times for room service and getting no response, I resorted to walking down to reception to order. The lady at the desk was apologetic and gave me some complimentary bottles of water instead of adding them to the room service order, which was welcomed. My requested ironing board and slippers arrived promptly in the room just ahead of my light dinner of a salmon salad, which was perfectly adequate but otherwise unremarkable.

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Check-out the next morning was quick and efficient, and once again I’d unintentionally timed the shuttle well as it left just a minute or two after check-out. This time I shared the ride with three other guests, and we made a quick stop at T2 before proceeding to the next door T1 from where BA flights depart.

DUB-LHR

I wanted to use a desk this morning to check my AA ticket was in order, particularly as I hadn’t been able to check-in online for the flight to Newark later that day. As I suspected, when the agent at one of two empty CE desks printed off my boarding passes, I saw that I had been selected for secondary screening for that flight. The agent commented that I ‘had a long day ahead of me’ as she handed me four boarding passes all the way through to HNL. I noted happily that I was, unsurprisingly, sequence number one to check-in for both the EWR-PHX and PHX-HNL sectors both of which were the following day. Fast Track security was quick and efficient, and even had friendly security officers manning it, perhaps still merry from New Year celebrations.

Since my last visit to the airport-operated DAA Executive lounge in 2015, the security area had encroached somewhat on the stairway entrance. Once inside, I was welcomed at the desk and opted to use the left hand side of the lounge, which seems to be consistently quieter (and is more spacious) than the right. The lounge has had a light touch refurb recently, with new and re-covered seating and flooring, with the effect of making the space seem brighter and more welcoming although there are sadly no more power sockets than there were previously. As third party lounges go, this one is not bad at all, and I enjoyed a light pre-breakfast of a granola pot and pastry, with some juice and coffee. The breakfast selection was attractively laid out and featured fresh smoothies amongst other welcome surprises.

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Boarding was already in progress as I approached Gate 204. With just a short queue at Priority Boarding and General Boarding not yet having started, I was onboard G-EUOF (an A319 delivered new to BA in 2001) in no time at all and settling into the fourth row of a seven-row CE cabin this morning. 4F seemed to have more legroom than 2A on the outbound. My jacket was hung and hot towels were passed around as a flight time of 50 minutes and cruising altitude of 29,000ft was announced by the flight crew.

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After a prompt pushback and short takeoff roll the cabin crew were quick to commence service on this very short flight. Breakfast today was a choice of traditional English or continental option, and as usual I opted for the vegetarian hot option (I don’t eat certain processed meats) which is on request only. This morning the vegetarian dish was a pepper omelette with mushrooms, tomato and potatoes, all drowning in a sea of greasy water. Whilst visually unappealing, these CE breakfasts are without fail unhealthily satisfying. Warm pastries and breads were offered from the basket, but as I had just eaten in the lounge I passed on these and instead concluded the meal with the fresh but slightly mean-looking fruit plate. The single grape that used to grace these fruit plates appeared to have been enhanced away. Further breads and pastries were offered along with drinks as the flight progressed, and I popped my headphones in as the young children the row ahead of me increased in volume presumably at the prospect of another croissant.

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A landing on 27L afforded the usual great views of London on approach, and we arrived at the Southern end of T5A into Gate A23, one of the few gates equipped to handle Republic of Ireland arrivals at T5. A lot of passengers on this flight were transferring as almost the whole CE cabin ended up getting onward BPs checked at the gate in order to enter the international arrivals area. As is often the case at T5, the queue for connections was lengthy but after a little navigation between barriers I found the Fast Track to be thankfully empty. As my BP was scanned the agent reminded me that my flight to EWR would be departing from C Gates and that there was no lounge in that satellite.

LHR-EWR

Through security in an acceptable but not exactly record beating 7 minutes, I popped along to Galleries Club South for a brief visit before deciding to decant to the Galleries Club lounge in T5B, which was as expected much quieter than the T5A lounges.

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This lounge, being slightly newer and less trafficked than the lounge in the main building hasn't yet had new flooring fitted, but does benefit from a smattering of the new-style furniture as well as a dubious collection of items from the old LGW lounges. I whiled away the next few hours reading my book and the day’s Times, occasionally glancing down to the gates, at one time observing a rare perfectly executed boarding procedure for a flight to Shanghai from Gate B45. One thing I do like about the recent partial refurbs of the T5 lounges is the inclusion of tables with power and USB sockets, a much needed improvement in a world much changed from the mid-2000s when these lounges were being designed. Sadly the same cannot be said for the washrooms which are falling apart across T5, in stark contrast to the non-lounge toilets which are still in pretty good condition after 9 years of much heavier use.

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Instead of waiting for a transit train I opted to use the walkway to T5C, where there was a short wait for boarding to start at Gate C61.

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After pre-boarding, Priority Boarding commenced with First, Club World and Golds all being called together, although I’m not sure the line was enforced to weed out Silver/Bronze passengers. I didn’t hang around to find out as I already knew I would have to go through the secondary search before boarding. Sure enough, I was led downstairs from the desk by a G4S agent for a rather perfunctory check of my laptop bag, case and a brief pat-down.

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The aircraft stand for Gate C61 is one of the furthest from the satellite building, and so a rather long walk later I was boarding G-ZBKM, a 787-9 delivered last year, through the single airbridge to 2L. I had selected 7K for this flight, the last row in the mini J cabin behind F. As a rear facing window seat, 7K has direct aisle access (unusually so for window seats in Club World), as the seat faces the bulkhead to the galley at Doors 2. I like the subtly updated design of the CW cabin that BA have used on their 787s and A380s - the darker colours are more practical and add a more refined air than the 747/777 cabins, although there’s no hiding the fact that the majority of seats do not have direct aisle access or much storage, and the cabins are still pretty tightly packed. Let’s hope the rumoured new seat for the A350 makes some improvements in these areas.

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Headphones, a pillow and blanket were on my seat when I arrived, and shortly after I had settled in my jacket was taken and PDBs of champagne, water or orange juice were offered. Naturally, I opted for champagne (which I believe was the inoffensive but unremarkable Castelnau). Our flight crew announced a flight time of 7h10, cruising at 38,000ft. This announcement was swiftly followed by the cabin crew passing through with newspapers and menus.

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Pushback came ten minutes late as a few bags had to be offloaded. A change in wind direction since landing from DUB that morning meant 09R was this afternoon’s takeoff runway for us to power almost silently into the sky.

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Once airborne, landing cards were distributed along with amenity kits - the usual rather basic CW offering, featuring Elemis products to match the onboard washrooms and worldwide lounges.

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Hot towels swiftly followed, once again coming in handy to clean the window. I was addressed by name as orders were taken for a late lunch - this is usually the sign of a good crew, and today was no exception. Lunch commenced with a bar service, which I took as my cue to slip my shoes off, change into the amenity kit socks and fire up the IFE to watch the latest Jack Reacher film.

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It took me a good while to work out where the split screen mode was to see the map and film side by side, as unlike in First on the Rockwell Collins-equipped aircraft there is no button on the screen. Instead, on these Thales-equipped aircraft, there is a small airplane icon on one of the buttons on the handset; pressing this will reveal the split screen mode which I find useful to dive in and out of as the flight progresses. I found the Thales system to be pretty laggy at times, but the content choice was reasonable (except for the limited music selection), as was the picture and sound quality. One slight annoyance was that the progress timer didn’t count down to show how much of the film was left, only showing how much of the film had elapsed. A back button on the handset would also be very useful to save having to interact with the laggy touchscreen.

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As the meal service commenced we began chasing the sunset across the Atlantic, a truly beautiful sight to experience, made all the more wonderful by the cracking view of one of the aircraft’s Rolls-Royce engines and wings without so much as needing to turn my head.

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A consequence of having the table in use for lunch was that the lack of seat storage became magnified - aside from the low level drawer, inaccessible if the table is deployed, there is no storage whatsoever, leading to the need to balance items such as my phone on the armrest.

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To start I opted for the wild mushroom, quail egg and artichoke salad, which was very nice indeed, and one of the best starters I’ve experienced in a business class cabin - a good combination of flavours and nicely presented with it. The starter was presented on the fairly new CW china, on a tray alongside the fairly ordinary but fresh and crisp side salad, with warm bread offered from the basket. I do find it odd that BA insist on placing chocolates on the tray when they could so easily be handed out with the hot drinks service at the end of the meal - it might be irrational, but I don’t like sitting through the whole meal service looking at the chocolates! The small paper sachet of salt and pepper is also distinctly un-premium.

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The roasted breast of corn-fed chicken, hand delivered from the galley, was above average for a CW main course, despite its dubious presentation and unimaginative ingredient combinations. Ignoring the slightly hard and not very well roasted potatoes, the rest of the dish was edible and the chicken itself was nicely moist. As further bread was offered, I fashioned a bread plate from the base plate of the main course. I was drinking the Chardonnay with this meal which was… nice. You’ll have to forgive the lack of description as I’m very far from being a wine buff.

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Desserts were delivered via trolley as with the starter. The salted caramel slice was divine. I rounded off this late lunch with a peppermint tea, which was brought by the cabin crew along with a little dish for the teabag - a great practical touch and something I haven’t experienced before. Bottles of water were handed out before the cabin lights were dimmed and the galley curtains (strangely on my side of the cabin only) finally closed.

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After my film concluded I went for a little wander down the aircraft through the main CW cabin to the World Traveller Plus cabin, but found my route into World Traveller blocked by the trolley so made a hasty retreat back to my seat, stopping at Club Kitchen along the way. The selection was fairly limited although nicely presented, and comprised chocolates, biscuits, nuts and crisps along with a small selection of drinks, including some fresh (as opposed to from concentrate) orange juice which I thought was only for First. I recalled that the menu had stated ‘a selection of whole fresh fruit’ was available, so asked in the galley only to be rather gruffly told that unless there was any in the Club Kitchen (or ‘larder’ according to the crew) they didn’t have any loaded. I returned to my seat and started watching the latest Jason Bourne movie.

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When the CSD came around offering drinks, I asked again about the fruit and was kindly brought a (rather large) selection of cut fruit from First (albeit on CW service-ware) which went some way to undo the sin of the salted caramel slice earlier.

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The washrooms on BA’s 787-9s are pretty unremarkable, and I think they have missed a trick by not opting for a window. One of the washrooms had a rogue Aromatherapy Associates hand wash bottle in it, which seemed to have made a bid for freedom from the First cabin and got cosy with the more usual Club World Elemis products.

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The mood lighting was switched to sleep mode around 2.5 hours out of Newark, something I’ve never understood on day flights arriving before night time even by UK body clocks. With Jason Bourne having finished terrorising London some time ago, I switched to a few episodes of Family Guy as afternoon tea was served with 70 minutes of the flight to run. Would it kill BA to unwrap the sandwiches and plate them properly? Despite the poor presentation, the sandwiches were fresh and the Dundee wedge and chocolate Opéra cake pleasant. Warm scones were offered from the basket.

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We landed around 10 minutes early, the captain apologising on the taxi in to stand at Terminal B for some turbulence earlier in the flight. There was a reasonable queue at immigration, principally due to very few officers being on duty despite a flight from China having arrived just ahead of us. This did, however, mean that there was a huge queue for customs, with a lot of students being escorted to the side to have their bag searched. When I eventually got to the front of the queue a good 10-15 minutes later, the officer waved me through after collecting my landing card and I was out to the train for the couple of stops to the pickup point for the shuttle bus to the Hilton.
 
Genius12
Topic Author
Posts: 228
Joined: Wed Aug 08, 2007 3:49 am

Re: Operation Oahu: British Airways Club and American Airlines First Class to Hawaii

Sun Apr 02, 2017 9:38 pm

Hilton Newark Airport

The shuttle bus took around 5 minutes to circumnavigate the roads around EWR, pulling up to a typically corporate looking entrance at the hotel, the driver helping with bags. Inside, there was just the one member of staff on reception and quite a wait whilst two other guests were dealt with before me. When I eventually got to the front, my Honors Gold status was acknowledged although after a little prompting I was told there were no suites available for upgrade. I was handed a paper bag containing two bottles of water which seemed a little OTT given there were already two complimentary bottles in the room when I arrived a few minutes later. I was also offered a choice between a complimentary breakfast or additional points, and with an early start the next morning and breakfast waiting for me in the Admirals Club, opted for the points.

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My Deluxe room on the 9th floor was a pretty typical bland but modern Hilton affair, and seemed not very far different from a standard room. The website advertised a higher floor (with a view of the airport in the far distance), the two complimentary bottles of water, premium internet and an ‘additional vanity kit in the bathroom’ as the only differentiators. I have no idea what this additional vanity kit was as I couldn't see it anywhere amongst the usual Hilton Peter Thomas Roth amenities, and the internet was a measly 2mbps, so not exactly premium speed.

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The room was perfectly adequate for a night before a flight, and particularly useful for me to break up an otherwise rather long westbound journey. There were a few irritations in the form of a cushion on the floor behind the sofa on arrival in the room, a couple of old plastic bags in one of the drawers and a very noisy empty fridge by the door which I had to unplug at night in order to get some rest. The menu for the TV also cycled tediously with no option to manually control it or view the channel listing.

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I got a good night’s sleep on the comfortable king size bed despite some noises from the corridor being audible in the room. I particularly liked the easily controllable LED lighting in the bedroom, although a master switch would’ve been useful before going to sleep. A very powerful shower ensured I was fully awake by the time I was checking out and on the shuttle bus back to the curbside of Terminal A the next morning.

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EWR-PHX

As my BPs for the next two sectors had been printed by BA back in Dublin the previous day, I wanted to get a couple of AA-stock boarding passes so headed straight to the Priority desks on arrival where there was no queue. A female agent welcomed me, first checking I was travelling in F, and then getting slightly confused as I confidently stated I was traveling to Honolulu via Newark. Perhaps that power shower hadn’t quite done as good a job as I’d originally thought at waking me, as of course I meant Honolulu via Phoenix. Security took a little while as although there was a Priority entrance, this was only for the BP check and not for the actual security line. EWR’s Terminal A was designed in the 1960s and built in the 1970s, and is really showing its age. Designed at a time when security wasn’t nearly the rigmarole it is today, security is now squeezed into a particularly unglamourous narrow corridor that only seemed to amplify the barking TSA agents.

Despite American Airlines operating to just five destinations from Newark, the Admirals Club is surprisingly spacious. Whilst obviously rather dated (there are still payphone cubicles, for instance!), the lounge appears to have received new furniture and carpets fairly recently, and benefits from great apron views. The lounge is located just after security but requires passengers to go back on themselves in a narrow area between the search area on one side and the lounge wall on the other. I was warmly welcomed and did a quick lap of the facility, noting the large business area, meeting rooms and multiple groups of seating arranged principally in groups of six. One consequence of the lounge being a little elderly (like the rest of the terminal) was a lack of power points, although AA have tried their best by introducing power strips (from Staples no less) to some of the tables.

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I settled into an armchair by the window and enjoyed a light breakfast of yogurt, cereal and some fresh fruit along with a cappuccino, all the while being frozen by the air conditioning. The bar was manned if I had fancied something a little stronger (and didn't mind parting with some dollars). Other options on the small buffet included porridge, a selection of breads and rather bizarrely cold boiled eggs. As time passed I came to appreciate the lounge more and more - watching the sun rise over some United Express regional jets was a jolly nice way to start the day. Unlike BA’s flagship business class lounges, this lounge featured several copies of The Economist (albeit the last December edition), and wifi that wasn’t quite operating at a snail’s pace (7mbps).

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I strolled down to Gate A38 just as Priority was being announced 30 minutes from SDT, and from where there was a great view of the Manhattan skyline on the horizon beyond N978AN, a B738 delivered to AA in 2001.

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As I was getting established in 4F (the second row in a full four row First Class cabin), my jacket was hung. PDBs were conspicuous in their absence. The cabin of this aircraft had yet to be refurbished, and whilst the seats looked a little faded they were comfortable at a pitch of 38” and had functioning power, with large blankets placed in the seat back pockets. A pretty limited selection of complimentary wireless IFE streaming (to own devices) was offered along with expensive wireless internet access at USD40 per day (although access to aa.com is free - a useful feature for the flight time countdown and connecting gate info). A small basic in-ear headphone set was placed one between two seats for those who wanted to watch the main screen IFE - presumably more were available on request in case the whole cabin wanted to experience IFE from the 1990s.

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A flight time of 5h17 cruising at 34,000ft was announced by the flight crew just prior to takeoff and a sharp bank around EWR with Manhattan off to our starboard side.

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An FA made a request over the PA system to shut window blinds to aide viewing of the main screens, something which I rather object to on day flights, particularly as most passengers seemed more interested in their own devices. I partially complied with the request, lowering the blind just enough to shield the higher part of the cabin but still affording me a view and enough light to take semi-decent photos of the meal service.

I have never understood the obsession by US-based carriers to keep the seatbelt sign on right until the top of climb (and often much longer). In my experience, this leads to passengers simply ignoring the sign altogether in order to use the washroom or get something out of the overhead locker.

With a 10am departure, I wasn’t sure initially whether this flight would fall into breakfast or lunch for the meal service, but ordering online it was clear that we were in lunch territory. Service commenced with a bar service, including the always delicious warm mixed nuts served in a ramekin. I requested sparkling water, but only soda water was loaded. Hot towels were passed around following the bar service.

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Main course options for lunch were new school nicoise salad with (cold) salmon, or a hot option of quinoa with roasted vegetables. I had pre-ordered the salad and this was presented on a tray along with a side salad of classic shrimp cocktail and breads offered from the basket. I do like the fact that the main meal service seems to be conducted without the trolley in AA domestic F which must particularly please those in aisle seats who don’t have to contend with the trolley right next to them. Presentation of the trays could be improved; whilst AA switched to flat white chinaware in the last few years, the beige table cloth does not compliment the branding well, the Coca Cola branded serviettes are rather garish, and the doily for the bread looks about as out of place as I do in economy. The salad starter was fresh and crisp (although the prawns were slightly rubbery), whilst the main course salad was surprisingly good and the salmon quite flavourful despite being a little over-done.

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Lunch concluded with a New York cheesecake, which I enjoyed along with a cup of tea (served with a paper cup to deposit the teabag in - not quite as elegant a solution as on my previous flight, but a nice touch all the same). The single FA serving the F cabin commented that the cheesecakes were some of the largest portions he’d seen recently, noting that normally they barely fill the little plates. Service throughout the flight was pretty attentive with regular drinks top-ups, but was not particularly smiley.

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I passed the rest of the flight listening to some music on my phone and reading the Business Traveller that I’d picked up in the BA lounge the day before. The last two hours of the flight the curtain (if you can call the small piece of mesh that US-based carriers believe is an acceptable cabin divider) remained open, meaning there was a small but steady trickle of Y passengers coming forward to use the washroom. The forward washroom didn’t appear to have any amenities exclusive to F, other than CO Bigelow handwash (to match that available in the Admirals Clubs and I believe the transcon/international amenity kits).

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As we neared the top of descent over the red landscape of Arizona, the FA came by offering personal connections information to each passenger, informing me that the arrival gate had changed from the B area to A, which would mean a little longer walk (not that I minded after the best part of 6 hours sitting down). Bottles of water were offered along with mints (the latter featuring the old AA branding), and before long we arrived at Gate A3 just a few minutes behind schedule.

PHX-HNL

Phoenix is another airport in desperate need of renovation, although happily the airport authority seemed to have got the memo as ongoing refurbishment work was visible in a number of areas. AA operate three Admirals Club lounges at PHX - a facility in Concourse B which I didn’t get time to visit on this occasion, and two smaller facilities in Concourse A. I headed initially to the newly refurbished Admirals Club near Gate A7, which sports the latest in AA’s interior design. This was my first time in one of AA’s latest concept lounges, and I have to admit to being a little nonplussed - whilst a huge improvement over the older style lounges which never really had a consistent design theme between locations, the design didn’t provide a single ounce of ‘wow’ factor. It was just a little bland and plastic-looking. I’ll be visiting the new JFK Flagship lounge next month so am keen to see how the concept applies to larger premium lounges. The lounge is located upstairs above the concourse, and whilst very small, does manage to pack in all the features one would expect from an Admirals Club: seating, a bar, buffet, small business centre and washrooms, all in one rectangle with views over the apron to one of the runways in the distance and the mountains beyond. I was given a complimentary drinks voucher at reception due to my oneworld Sapphire status (at the time of travel), which made me wonder why I didn’t receive one at EWR that morning - perhaps due to the early time of arrival at that lounge, although I didn’t receive one at the other PHX lounge I visited during this layover either.

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With only around an hour’s layover, I was keen to get moving, so after a whistle stop tour around the lounge headed along the walkway to the higher gate numbered area of Concourse A from where my flight to HNL would depart, and to the Admirals Club near Gate A20. I slightly confused the agent at the desk who seemed unfamiliar with the fact that non-AA oneworld Sapphire/Emerald members can access oneworld lounges when departing on any oneworld flight without needing to be an Admirals Club member or travelling internationally. Presenting my BA Silver card seemed to work, and I was eventually permitted entry. This tiny lounge was still very much clinging on to the days and style of US Airways, and featured two tiny seating areas with cracked leather seats, a makeshift buffet area and small bar. This is not a lounge I would want to spend any more time in than necessary, and refurbishment (presumably on the horizon soon now that AA have embarked on their ‘extreme makeover’) can’t come soon enough. I struggle to believe this design concept was ever on-trend, even when it was new one assumes at some point in the 1990s.

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I headed to Gate A22 where I had just missed Priority boarding but was able to walk straight onboard via the Priority lane nevertheless, just before general groups were called. My ride to Hawaii that afternoon was aboard N200UU, a rather elderly B752, delivered originally to US Air (as it then was) in 1995 as N631AU before becoming part of the AA fleet two decades later. Boarding through 2L and turning left (one of life’s best feelings), I found myself in an ex-US Airways Envoy international business class cabin kitted out with three rows of 2-2 recliner seats offering around 60” legroom, quite a substantial improvement on the traditional domestic first class seat arrangements. That being said, I don't think I’ve been on an aircraft in quite such a dated and poor condition as this for some time - every one of her 22 years in service showed.

As I approached my seat (3A, in the last row of the cabin), the rather over-friendly FA serving the F cabin approached complete with lei around his neck, welcomed me, took my jacket and offered me a drink, addressing me by my first name. Call me old fashioned, but I believe surnames are more appropriate at least initially. He must’ve noticed the expression that flitted across my face momentarily as he then asked whether I would prefer Mr Genius1… I didn’t take full advantage of the open bar PDB, and just went for a bottle of water. A pillow and better quality blanket than on the previous sector were on my seat on arrival, and as I sat down I noticed that images of Hawaii were playing on the cabin screens which seemed a nice attempt at differentiating this route from other domestic routes.

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As the captain announced a cruise of 36,000ft and an extended flight time of 7h05 due to headwinds, the cabin filled up to a full complement of 12 passengers (8 of whom were couples on this primarily leisure route) and we pushed back from stand just a few minutes behind STD.

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I had forgotten quite how powerful the 757 is on takeoff, and also just how noisy the aircraft is in flight. As we levelled off, the FA passed around small in-ear headphones for those wanting to watch the main screen IFE - this aircraft was not equipped with wifi. As on my previous flight, it was suggested for passengers to lower the window blinds which once again I only partially complied with (particularly as nobody seemed to be watching the main screens in the forward cabin).

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The ageing seat was pretty comfortable for lounging, although lacked any form of privacy whatsoever, and also had no storage space aside from the seat back pocket in front. Power was available, as was a personal reading light on a stalk attached to the seat and an in-seat massage function. The manually operated headrest wouldn’t stay up, reminding me rather nostalgically of BA’s old Club Europe seats (which a lucky few passengers can still enjoy on the rather diminished 767 fleet). I had also forgotten quite how annoying manual footrests were.

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Cold ‘Hawaiian’ nuts were passed around with the bar service which signified the start of dinner. It turns out AA’s definition of Hawaiian nuts is the same nut mix that they use on other domestic flights, with some added pineapple pieces. Hot towels were then handed out and dinner choices taken, with my pre-ordered main course confirmed.

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Once again, trays were hand delivered from the forward galley, with the FA using each passengers’ name during the service as he did throughout the flight. My dinner this evening was the unremarkable but filling vegetable lentil chili (rather than the steamed sea bass) with particularly stringy asparagus, served alongside no fewer than two side salads, one of which was smothered in a potent sauce that rendered it inedible. Breads were offered from the basket, with no doilies in sight. To accompany dinner this evening I had some unknown white wine.

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Desserts were hand delivered from the galley - either a cheese plate or the trAAditional ice cream sundae, which naturally was my choice. I opted for fudge (pineapple and strawberry flavours were also available) which was presented a little messily along with a rather poor coffee.

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After dinner I reclined my seat a little and watched the latest Mission Impossible on my laptop, with the FA dropping by every now and again offering drinks.

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With 1h15 to go of the flight and just as we were enjoying another stunning sunset, this time over the Pacific, the snack basket was passed around, comprising of crisps (chips), biscuits and cereal bars. I would really like to have seen some fresh whole fruit in the basket. I nibbled at a fig bar whilst filling in Hawaii’s agricultural declaration form.

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Mints were passed around just before we landed around half an hour behind schedule thanks to the strong headwinds. After a short taxi across what is a surprisingly large joint military/commercial airport at HNL I was quickly out through baggage reclaim - a different one to the signposted one for our flight - meaning there was no queue for my taxi to the Moana Surfrider hotel on Waikiki Beach.
 
Genius12
Topic Author
Posts: 228
Joined: Wed Aug 08, 2007 3:49 am

Re: Operation Oahu: British Airways Club and American Airlines First Class to Hawaii

Sun Apr 02, 2017 9:39 pm

Moana Surfrider, A Westin Resort and Spa and Two Days on Beautiful Oahu

The Moana Surfrider is probably Hawaii’s most famous hotel, and was the first on Waikiki Beach when it opened in 1901. The hotel today is comprised principally of three buildings - the original Banyan Wing, the 1950s Diamond Wing, and the 1960s Tower Wing, all decorated in a modern colonial vibe, which is pleasant without being elegant. The entrance to the hotel is impressive, and certainly feels much less corporate than hotels I’m used to which made a nice change.

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There was no welcome or help with bags at the entrance as the staff all seemed to be occupied, so I made my own way inside, turning right through the lobby lounge to the main reception located between the Banyan and Tower wings.

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There was no wait at check-in, which was friendly and efficient. The staff member took time to explain the hotel layout and amenities, gave me breakfast vouchers (which were also valid for credit against lunch main courses, which sadly I didn’t have an opportunity to use) and most welcome of all announced I’d been upgraded from a Diamond Ocean Front room to a Tower Premier Ocean Front Suite - skipping three other categories of room along the way. I can only think that as I was only staying for two nights (probably quite rare at such a leisure-heavy destination) it was more economical for the hotel to upgrade me rather than guests staying for a longer period of time.

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And what a suite it was. Whilst not the most luxurious room I’ve ever stayed in, it was certainly the largest and featured the most amazing view - 180 degrees of Diamond Head, Pacific Ocean and Waikiki Beach views from two balconies and floor to ceiling windows. The suite featured a large living area with kitchenette (with complimentary water, tea and coffee), together with a reasonably sized bedroom with super comfortable king size bed.

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The spacious bathroom featured a Toto (catering to Hawaii’s significant Japanese tourist market), double sinks but only a walk-in shower. There was no bath - odd for a suite, although it didn’t bother me. Amenities were the fairly uninspiring but inoffensive own brand Heavenly Spa by Westin.

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I was slightly concerned when booking that noise from the beach and bars would be audible in the room, but whilst the room wasn’t totally silent it wasn’t loud at all and the waves breaking on the beach made for a rather peaceful couple of nights. The only slight quibbles in the room were some staining around the shower screen, a previous occupant’s left behind iPhone charger, distinctly well worn (albeit very comfortable) silk robes, and no master switch for the lights in the bedroom. Providing some balance, there was a handy multi-socket/USB device by the bed, and wifi was a speedy 50mbps; I believe this premium wifi is complimentary for SPG members, although the point is rather moot when staying at a property such as the Moana that charges a resort fee. SPG members receive a discount on a number of services and catering options, although one had to remember to request the discount at the time rather than it being automatically applied to the bill - this is unnecessarily stingy and overly complicated.

The next morning I awoke to the most outstanding sunrise behind Diamond Head and tracking across the Pacific, the curvature of the Earth visible on the horizon.

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After a powerful rain shower, I headed down to breakfast in ‘Veranda at the Beachhouse’. The setup was a little confusing as some refurbishment work was taking place on part of the veranda which meant the check-in point for breakfast was positioned a little way from the seating area. Staff were friendly but informal, and escorted me to a seat inside with a partial view of the beach and ocean and a yoga class taking place in one of the hotel’s garden areas. The buffet was reasonably comprehensive, with hot drinks waiter served and options of pancakes, waffles, omelettes and fresh toast also available for order.

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I had spent some time before the trip debating what to do for my only full day on Oahu. I had briefly considered renting a car and exploring more of the island than just the touristy area of Waikiki, but when it came down to it I reverted to my tried and tested method of exploring new places - walking. For this first day, I turned left out of the hotel and walked around the streets of Waikiki, along Ala Wai Boulevard, past the Hawaii Convention Center, stopping along the way for lunch in Starbucks at the Ala Moana shopping centre.

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After lunch, I headed to Ala Moana Beach for a paddle in the ocean, much quieter than Waikiki Beach.

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Walking back to the hotel via Magic Island I reflected on my first impressions of Hawaii (admittedly just a smidgen of it); sure, Waikiki is touristy, but explore just a little further than the hotels and it’s clear there’s much more to Oahu than first meets the eye.

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I spent the latter half of the afternoon exploring the hotel and going for a stroll along the beach, before settling down on one of my balconies to witness the most stunning sunset I think I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing, where the sun visibly slipped into the water below the horizon.

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For dinner that evening I wasn’t feeling in an adventurous mood so opted for in-room dining to the sounds of the bars and waves below. From a fairly limited selection, my main course of lobster pasta was pretty run of the mill, served with an absolutely huge side of over-done farmers’ market vegetables. The mango panna cotta for dessert was disappointingly bland.

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Walking down the corridor to breakfast the next morning I noted some rooms had newspapers hanging on the door, which made me wonder why I hadn’t received one on either morning - perhaps these are only delivered on request, or for higher status SPG members. There were a few copies of the local newspaper in the lift lobby available for mere mortals like me to take. There was a five minute wait for breakfast as the staff seemed to be rushed off their feet - really not a great experience. This morning I had a seat on the veranda overlooking the hotel’s outdoor bar and famous banyan tree.

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Ordering an omelette, I asked for bacon on the side only to be told that the bacon was available on the buffet. This completely defeats the point of having waiter service options, as I wanted to enjoy the omelette and bacon together. Small niggles like this make all the difference between an average and a good experience; this morning’s breakfast experience was distinctly average.

I had the best part of a full day to explore to the right of the hotel (as I exited from the main entrance), although in reality this translated to only a morning as I had been unable to extend my checkout beyond 1pm (that nevertheless was an improvement over the standard 11am) as I wanted to change in my room from day clothes to clothes for the airport and flight to LAX. I headed along Kalakaua Avenue, past the zoo and the aquarium and up into the upscale residential Leahi Park area at the foot of Diamond Head.

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I wish I had had time to explore further along Diamond Head Road, but all too soon it was time to head back to the hotel, change and checkout. The lady checking me out kindly gave me a wifi code so that I could spend some time in the lobby before taking a taxi back to the airport.

At USD565 per night (for a flexible rate including breakfast, in the Diamond Ocean Front room that I had originally booked), this was one of the most expensive hotels I’ve stayed in. With the exception of the oceanfront location and view from my suite, the overall experience was not five star, but being fair the hotel doesn’t claim to be operating at that level. Going in with four star expectations you’ll be pleasantly surprised at what the Moana offers - certainly a cut above most other four star properties on Oahu, and a comfortable base from which to explore the more well-trodden parts of the island. I’m already looking forward to returning to Hawaii next year, when perhaps I’ll experience another island in the state, if not a more secluded part of Oahu.
 
Genius12
Topic Author
Posts: 228
Joined: Wed Aug 08, 2007 3:49 am

Re: Operation Oahu: British Airways Club and American Airlines First Class to Hawaii

Sun Apr 02, 2017 9:40 pm

HNL-LAX

Due to my reasonably early checkout, I arrived spectacularly early with plenty of time to explore the fantastically quirky Honolulu International Airport. I had not been able to check in online for this flight or any of the subsequent flights, but the friendly AAgent at the Priority desk had no problem issuing BPs for my next flight, and my onward flight to Washington the next day. There was a Priority line at security, but this wasn’t needed as there was pretty much no queue. I had a short conversation with one of the unusually friendly TSA agents before proceeding to the belt to remove my things, and in no time at all I was airside.

Today’s terminal building opened in 1962, and was expanded through the 1970s in various stages up to 1980. In most places, the terminal very much looks and feels like it’s still this period, as very few areas have yet to be refurbished. The unique (as far as I’m aware) open air walkways connecting different parts of the terminal, together with the central gardens combine to, despite the dated interior, make for quite a special passenger experience. I particularly enjoyed all of the presumably original interior design touches around the terminal, such as old pin-board signs to the meeting rooms at garden level. It was quite an odd sight to see a sign pointing to airline lounges in the middle of an outside garden.

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There are two oneworld lounges at HNL; the Qantas lounge was closed when I was departing (in the evening), so I headed to the Japan Airlines Sakura lounge which despite being jointly branded as an Admirals Club is internally very much a JAL offering.

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The lounge is located upstairs and is arranged in an upside down U shape (with the reception being in the blank part of the U), with views on two sides of the central garden area.

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I was welcomed by a friendly AAgent and given a brief description of the lounge. This lounge opened in its current guise in 2004, and despite a smattering of new furniture and carpets since then, is these days pretty dated. The seating is fairly regimented, although there are a number of snugger more private areas to the left of reception, which is where I spent most of my time (struggling with the 5mbps wifi).

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The lounge was pleasantly quiet, particularly as all JAL departures had left for the day and there were only three AA departures in the evening (to Dallas, Phoenix and my flight to LA). Washrooms, although exclusive to the lounge and decorated with the lounge’s scheme, are outside the lounge down the corridor leading to reception.

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There are two principle food and drink areas; a bar and coffee station to the left of reception, and a more formal dining area to the right, the latter featuring a very limited selection of unappetising soup/chowder, noodles, pastries and cakes. I do wonder whether the lounge has better catering during JAL departure times; I would say that the offering I experienced was worse than an average Admirals Club. Snack mix and mini cookies were available near the bar, alongside an incredibly noisy cheap-looking soft drinks dispenser that would look more at home in McDonald’s than an airline lounge. I nipped out to Starbucks in the terminal for a more substantial but still light dinner, bringing it back to the lounge to eat alongside a piece of the surprisingly good Madeira cake. The lounge waiting staff, although friendly, could’ve been more proactive in removing empties and cleaning.

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There was a 10 minute wait for boarding to commence at Gate 15, during which time the gate agent made an announcement describing the boarding procedure, noting that passengers without a group printed on their BP (ie. the last group for Y passengers given the recent changes to boarding hadn’t come into effect at the time I was travelling) should board when Group 2 was announced. A lady next to me standing near the gate clearly hadn’t been listening fully and asked me whether I was in Group 2 (to which I of course responded no), and then proceeded to try and board, suffering what must have been a fairly humiliating rejection at the desk. This flight was overbooked, and volunteers were requested to take the next morning’s flight to LAX in exchange for a USD800 travel voucher and a night in a hotel; I would’ve been tempted had it not been for my subsequent travel plans.

With no Concierge Key members today, I was first down the airbridge as First Class boarding was announced. Boarding our less than 3 year old A321 N122NN this evening was a nice change from the relic of a 757 I’d had on the way out to HNL, albeit this aircraft was configured with 16 standard recliner seats in F offering 36-39” pitch. This aircraft was one of AA’s latest deliveries, featuring the latest cabin interior and AVOD at every seat, along with power, USB and wifi.

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Jackets were taken as I shifted the pre-placed pillow and blanket and settled down. An open bar was offered for PDBs by the efficient crew; given the late departure time I opted for a bottle of water. The flight crew announced a cruising altitude of a low 29,000ft and slightly extended flight time of 4h56 due to avoiding turbulence - significantly less time in the air than the flight out, which would not work in my favour as I wanted to sleep as much as possible on this sector. The safety video had to be re-started as we were pushing back (10 minutes behind schedule) as one of the FAs found a passenger in the washroom.

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After takeoff, water bottles were handed out along with the usual domestic in-ear headphones. I reclined the seat as far as it would go, slipped my shoes off, pulled the good quality blanket over me and with a very comfortable pillow lodged against the cabin wall managed around 3.5 hours of slightly fitful sleep interrupted a little by some turbulence and galley chatter. There’s no hiding that these seats are completely unsuitable for overnight flights (and indeed not that comfortable when fully upright, unlike the older 737 seats). I’d really like to see AA offering flat beds on the Hawaii routes to LAX and PHX, complementing their 767 services ex-DFW. I had the usual rigmarole of clambering over the passenger in 1C, although the crew on this flight did acknowledge the fact that most passengers wanted to sleep and kept the galley lights dimmed and the small thread of mesh (sorry, curtain) at least partially closed.

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I missed all of the service (or what there was of it) on this flight; fruit and cheese or an antipasto plate would’ve been offered for dinner, followed by on request snacks mid-flight and a small continental breakfast before arrival. As I was returning from the washroom towards the end of the flight, I requested another bottle of water from the FA in the galley. She proactively asked me whether I would like anything for breakfast (despite having missed the formal service), although as I would be enjoying breakfast in the lounge, I politely declined. I was slightly disappointed that AA don’t offer any differentiating service on their HNL flights (other than some small pieces of pineapple in the nuts) compared to other domestic routes - the extended flight times, particularly of westbound sectors, could do with a more international style of service and soft product. There are no amenity kits, for example, on Hawaii flights; on this sector I made do with the eye mask and socks from my BA transatlantic flight a few days earlier.

We arrived at Gate 47A at LAX T4, and I was promptly off the aircraft and walking briskly along the fairly new connector to the Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT), where the oneworld Los Angeles Business lounge awaited.

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I reached the entrance of the lounge at 06:20, which turned out to be ten minutes too early, as the lounge opened at half past. A couple of other passengers from my ex-HNL flight arrived just behind me, so the ‘secret’ of using the TBIT lounges when departing on non-TBIT airlines is clearly getting out! This lounge, jointly branded by Qantas, British Airways and Cathay Pacific, is operated by Qantas and features their design throughout. Since my last visit to this lounge in the spring of 2015, an expanded dining seating area has opened, alongside another washroom and shower block, and a children’s play room.

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Despite having no view to speak of and limited natural light from the internal courtyard, this lounge is spacious and well designed, with multiple separate seating areas, a clear dining and bar area, and ample work spaces.

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I headed straight for the showers (in the newer of the two blocks, to the left of reception) to freshen up, after a short wait for towels to be delivered. These shower suites feature slightly different decor from the older block (slightly cheaper looking in my view), but have the same Aspar amenities. I asked for a dental kit, and shaving kits were also available (although why anybody would use one of those cheap razors is beyond me). The basin tap was infuriating, in that it constantly required motion to activate it, and was in the way for shaving. In fact, the whole shower suite felt poorly designed - the wall below the mirror was particularly cluttered.

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Next stop was breakfast, chosen from the pretty decent buffet selection, served on the pleasingly art deco Marc Newson designed crockery and enjoyed at one of the beautiful brown marble tables (that are sadly not complemented by the spindly chairs).

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I had not been able to check in online for my BA flight that evening from Washington (or the connecting Dublin sector), so asked in the lounge on the off-chance that they could do it, which they could not (despite the BA branding at the entrance).

I headed to one of the areas with armchairs to relax with a coffee before heading out for a stroll around the now rather bright and spacious TBIT and back along the connector to T4, which offers good views back to the terminal. I’ll be back in TBIT soon when I’ll be experiencing the Qantas First lounge for the first time.

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The American Airlines Admirals Club and Flagship lounge complex is undergoing complete refurbishment at present, but still (for the moment) proudly displays the old Qantas logo at its entrance, a relic from the days before TBIT’s refurbishment.

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The Admirals Club lounge is around a third of its usual size and consequently very crowded, whilst the Flagship lounge is temporarily housed in a corner of the old Admirals Club, tucked away beyond the washrooms and showers.

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I stayed just long enough to see the space before the bland and dated design is consigned to the history books (one hopes), and for one of the friendly customer service agents to check me in for my following two BA sectors. AA have a great opportunity to make this light and airy space special by introducing their latest design concept, although if the refurbished lounge I experienced in PHX is anything to go by, I don’t hold out huge hopes. I’ll be experiencing the new Flagship lounge at JFK next week, and am looking forward to seeing how the concept translates to AA’s top-tier product.

My flight to IAD was departing from T6, so I used the rather depressing and narrow underground walkways to skip between terminals, not a patch on the new airy connector between T4 and TBIT. I wasn’t clear on whether I could use the Alaska Airlines Boardroom or not, so I chanced my luck only to be politely informed that only passengers with Priority Pass or Admirals Club membership could use the lounge, or premium passengers connecting onto an AA metal international flight the same day. With not long to go until departure (around 1h40 behind schedule), I headed to Gate 63 where clear Priority boarding was enforced, as I have come to expect with AA.

N760US was my ride to Washington this morning, an A319 delivered to US Airways in 2000 before joining the AA fleet in 2015 during the two airlines’ merger. AA have recently refurbished the ex-US Airways A319 fleet (except the washrooms, it would appear), reducing the First Class cabin to just 8 seats at 38” pitch. The seat felt wider than both the 737 and A321 seat, although legroom in the bulkhead row was slightly more restricted than on my previous sector.

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Despite the cabin having the latest AA interior design, the airline have skimped on the IFE during the refurbishment, with just wireless streaming to own devices available, a real pain when trying to eat and watch IFE at the same time. This is an almost impossible feat when faced with a small tray table with no side storage space to balance one’s laptop or tablet on. A small saving grace was that wifi and power were both available. At my seat on boarding was the usual non-Hawaii domestic blanket, as well as one set of headphones between two seats.

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Our First Class FA today was outstanding; friendly, professional, experienced and clearly enjoying her job, she was a real credit to the AA team. The near flawless service commenced with a personal introduction by name, jackets being hung and an open bar PDB offered (albeit presented in the slightly less flawless plastic glasses of course).

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During a short delay whilst a passenger retrieved their laptop from security, a 4h30 flight time was announced and, after the missing laptop passenger had rejoined us, a manual safety demonstration completed (as these aircraft do not feature any main cabin screens). Menu orders for lunch were taken on the ground with pre-orders acknowledged and the FEBO pattern explained to those who had not pre-ordered and would not be guaranteed their choice.

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Once airborne, hot towels did the rounds and service commenced with a bar service and properly warm nuts.

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Lunch options today were a (cold) Vietnamese salad, or the rotolo pasta. I only wanted something light on this sector, so had pre-ordered the salad. Sadly this dish was pretty terrible, with low quality ingredients and uninteresting flavour combinations. The tomato and shallot tart appetiser wasn’t much better; in fact, it was worse. The warm bread offered from the basket was the best thing about this course.

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Lunch was rescued by a fabulously prepared custom ice cream sundae, followed by a reasonable coffee, which I enjoyed along with Bridge of Spies on my laptop.

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Despite many interlopers to the F washroom, this was a comfortable flight, enhanced by some great views out of the window. The snack basket was passed around with around 90 minutes left to run, after which our FA did some knitting in the galley. Mints were passed around as we commenced descent into Washington’s Dulles International Airport, where we arrived around an hour behind schedule at Gate B73 having made up a little time en route.
 
Genius12
Topic Author
Posts: 228
Joined: Wed Aug 08, 2007 3:49 am

Re: Operation Oahu: British Airways Club and American Airlines First Class to Hawaii

Sun Apr 02, 2017 9:41 pm

IAD-LHR

The British Airways Lounge at Washington is nicely appointed, located on the floor above the main gate area but bizarrely accessible only by a single lift, which led to a little queue when boarding was announced later that evening.

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This lounge was refurbished extensively in 2014 to the latest BA design concept (very much to my taste), and whilst the former separate First lounge has now disappeared in favour of a combined lounge, the fairly narrow space has been used incredibly well, separated into well designed sections fulfilling different purposes.

I was welcomed at reception by a friendly agent and invited to use the Club World Pre-Flight Supper area if I wished. This was where I headed first, down past the main seating area with a small VIP room off to one side (which had one political-looking chap in it during my visit) and through the main buffet area to the right roughly halfway along the lounge.

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This area featured a pretty decent selection of nicely arranged items for status passengers travelling in economy or premium economy, as well as all other guests of course if they wanted something lighter.

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A wave of my boarding pass to the guardian of the Club World Pre-Flight Supper (PFS) room was enough to grant me entrance into a nicely arranged space featuring a variety of seating options, and a long buffet with a more than adequate array of fairly good quality dishes, enhanced by very pleasant welcoming staff and a view of the apron. I’ll admit to being pleasantly surprised at just how good this was, as my previous experiences of PFS have not been great.

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After a light but satisfying dinner of salmon, mashed potato, roasted vegetables and runner beans, I took a quick tour of the staffed bar area, before heading to the main seating area to relax before the night flight across the pond. The lounge’s quality is plain to see; both style and substance are present here, with multiple power and USB sockets throughout.

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I often inform lounge staff of my photography out of courtesy, and the front desk staff today couldn’t have been more helpful, including showing me the Concorde Dining area for First passengers. This space, immediately to the right of reception, features a small waiting area with dedicated bar in advance of the typical Pre-Flight Dining booth setup. Whilst a nicely appointed space, I would’ve expected the view of the apron to have been maximised more, as it was in the PFS area.

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Boarding at Gate B44 this evening was clearly managed, with two separate gate numbers used - one for First (with a dedicated lane) and World Traveller/World Traveller Plus, and one for Club World and all status passengers. The rather long queue at the CW line was combed by an agent to ensure all those in line were eligible, and indeed a number of people were sent packing to the other side of the gate.

There was quite a wait on the airbridge as the cabin crew were not ready to receive passengers (despite boarding having commenced). How these things happen never ceases to amaze me. Whether related or not, there was a member of BA staff performing cabin crew duties on this flight dressed in smart business dress (not cabin crew uniform), with a blue tabard over the top - perhaps a member of head office staff keeping her contingency licence to operate on this aircraft type current in the event of a strike or similar?

Tonight’s aircraft was G-STBF, a 77W delivered to BA in 2012 and configured with the slightly older style Club World cabin when compared to the latest interior design found on the 787/A380 fleet; this was actually quite noticeable - I had forgotten quite how incongruous the lamps suspended from the central section of the cabin are. I settled into 11K as my jacket was taken by the crew and I stored the pre-placed pillow, blanket and headphones in the low level drawer.

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As boarding continued I nipped down to the rear of the cabin into one of the spartan washrooms to change into some First PJs (that I’d brought on board); I find changing into PJs makes all the difference for a reasonable night’s sleep onboard an aircraft, and of course means one’s clothes don’t look horribly creased after the flight. Incidentally, the four CW washrooms are not screened in any way from the cabin, so avoid the last row when choosing seats on this aircraft type.

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Because I had been changing I missed PDBs, but requested a bottle of water (which was initially forgotten about) when amenity kits and newspapers were offered.

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A precise route time of 6 hours was announced by the flight crew just before the cabin crew came around with menus taking meal orders. I took a menu (purely for completeness) but declined any dinner which seemed to cause a little confusion.

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I slept for almost 5 hours pretty solidly on the comfortable Club World flat bed, with the aid of nothing more than an eye mask from the amenity kit. Whilst these window seats are not particularly wide and the lack of storage and direct aisle access is abysmal, the privacy they offer is second to none with the dividing screen up.

I hadn't planned on eating at all on this flight, but as it was the sounds of the breakfast service that had woken me off the coast of Ireland, I decided to sample the fruit plate which was a nice start to the day, accompanied as it was by yet another beautiful sunrise on this trip.

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A quick change of clothes later, and we were landing onto Runway 27R at Heathrow with just a short taxi to our stand at the far end of T5C and a healthy walk to the transit train back to T5A.

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LHR-DUB

I had a fairly long layover before my penultimate flight of this trip across to Dublin, so opted to go landside to use the Galleries Arrivals lounge, a lounge I hadn’t visited for a few years. Nothing much had changed, and the showers were the same spartan plastic boxes that they always have been; the one I was allocated hadn’t even had its floor replaced unlike some others.

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I’ve always liked the arrivals lounge for the full breakfast selection it offers (compared to the more limited choice in the Club departure lounges), and the fact it’s usually a much quieter space given its stricter access requirements.

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After a quick bite to eat I headed back through an empty North Fast Track security and across to Galleries Club South, where a coffee was waiting for me.

Boarding was from Gate A9 this afternoon, and our 16 year old A319 G-EUPX (my second time on this aircraft) was configured with quite a large CE cabin of 8 rows. Settling into 3F I noticed the problem that now plagues many of BA’s shorthaul Airbus aircraft; some of the overhead panels (eg. reading lights) don’t line up properly with rows, since BA decreased the seat pitch in the forward part of the aircraft from 34” to 30” but failed to relocate the panels to match. You really couldn’t make it up.

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Jackets were taken, and after boarding had completed hot towels passed around. Behind me in Rows 4 and 5 were a band that were playing in Dublin later that week; some passengers boarding had recognised them and said they were going to see them. I’m still none the wiser as to who they were - I certainly didn’t recognise them. We were 10 minutes late to push back due to the late arrival of the inbound aircraft. The flight crew announced a 38,000ft cruising altitude and a flight time across the water of the usual single hour.

As we were still climbing, the efficient crew jumped into action and passed around lunch trays featuring a breaded chicken salad which was very good indeed. Warm bread from the basket was offered. I finished lunch with a rather bland chocolate mousse served in a cheap looking plastic pot.

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In no time at all we had arrived in Dublin, and with Flight Connections closed I exited through to landside.

DUB-LHR

I used my mobile boarding pass through the app to access Fast Track security as check-in was busy. The security staff at Dublin are pretty friendly, and dealt with the necessary explosives swab for my bag in no time. I passed some time in the same lounge I’d used at the start of this trip, before heading down to Gate 204 where Priority Boarding had me onboard 6 year old A320 G-EUYL and back in 3F (with an empty 3D beside me) in no time at all. This flight also had 8 rows of CE; DUB is a popular route for business and longhaul premium connecting passengers, although on this flight only half the seats were filled.

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The usual jackets and hot towel routine commenced alongside an announcement of our flight time (a short 49 minutes) and cruising altitude (37,000ft). A manual safety demonstration was performed before taxiing out to the active runway and departing into the night sky.

Dinner this evening was another chicken salad (albeit this time smothered in a rather horrid sauce instead of coated in the tasty breadcrumbs as on the previous flight), and another plastic pot of indefinable mousse (I think it was strawberry or raspberry flavoured at a guess). As I had a taxi collecting me from the airport, I indulged in a Baileys and coffee as the flight was drawing to a close and we started our descent to an approach (after a 10 minute hold) to Runway 27L.

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We arrived into Gate A23, where there was a short wait for the airport security staff to arrive (necessary at Common Travel Area arrival gates to guard the entrance to international arrivals for connecting passengers).

Conclusions

The trip was very enjoyable and fulfilled its purpose of gaining a healthy tier point balance with 6 months still to go of my membership year. I was pleasantly surprised by Hawaii and look forward to returning to Oahu or one of its neighbouring islands in the near future, when hopefully I’ll have more time to explore some of the less busy areas of this remote corner of the world.

Thanks for reading and for any comments - they are much appreciated and make the time invested to pull this report together worth while.

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moby147
Posts: 86
Joined: Fri Mar 08, 2013 12:30 am

Re: Operation Oahu: British Airways Club and American Airlines First Class to Hawaii

Mon Apr 03, 2017 12:37 pm

A wonderful & well written TR which would have taken a fairly long time to compose.

Thank you for taking the time to keep us entertained

Regards

Moby147
 
PI4EVER
Posts: 686
Joined: Wed May 06, 2009 10:29 pm

Re: Operation Oahu: British Airways Club and American Airlines First Class to Hawaii

Mon Apr 03, 2017 5:38 pm

I curled up with a glass of wine, and rode along with you.
Excellent report. Well written with detail, and pictures were beautiful. A great deal of effort to create such an enjoyable read
on a great trip.
Next trip we'll rent a car so I can show you around Oahu, snorkel at Hanauma Bay and eat fresh Dole pineapple until your mouth breaks out in blisters! Sitting on the beach at North Shore with a cold beer in hand and sand between your toes is heaven on earth!. A beautiful spot on earth no doubt, and after 5 trips I can't get enough of these beautiful islands. I suspect you'd enjoy Molokai over more tourists locales, but I hope you can find more time to explore Oahu and all the Hawaiian islands on your next trip.
You are obviously an experienced traveler so thank you for sharing your insights and experiences on a great trip.
Best Wishes for continue safe travels with great service.
Regards,
Thomas
P.S. I know AA is trying to "settle down" after all the merger issues including aircraft fleets, airport facilities and service standards. I now count myself as a retiree w/AA and eager to see it find its niche as a well respected airline in the USA from its rich history dating back to the 30's.
watch what you want. you may get it.
 
9w748capt
Posts: 1015
Joined: Sat Feb 02, 2008 10:27 am

Re: Operation Oahu: British Airways Club and American Airlines First Class to Hawaii

Mon Apr 03, 2017 10:17 pm

Damn what an excellent, thorough report - thanks for sharing! AA and BA look as mediocre as ever. The Hawaii service has really taken a nosedive after the merger (along with the rest of the airline).

Just curious - is AA re-coding domestic flights from the "F" codes to "J" codes going to cut down on TP runners? Upgrades were (and still are) damn near impossible to Hawaii these days. Then again AA has also gotten very aggressive in how it prices premium cabins.
 
pdxav8r
Posts: 82
Joined: Mon Jun 10, 2013 3:15 am

Re: Operation Oahu: British Airways Club and American Airlines First Class to Hawaii

Tue Apr 04, 2017 4:33 am

Great Trip Report! As for the neighbor Hawaiian Islands, you must do Maui. Especially upcountry Maui.
 
jrfspa320
Posts: 400
Joined: Fri Sep 16, 2005 12:18 am

Re: Operation Oahu: British Airways Club and American Airlines First Class to Hawaii

Tue Apr 04, 2017 5:21 am

Great trip report. Hawaii looks great..Interesting you picked BA metal across the pond, I actually think AA are better at least in hard product these days.
 
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Schweigend
Posts: 494
Joined: Sun Jun 06, 2010 8:47 am

Re: Operation Oahu: British Airways Club and American Airlines First Class to Hawaii

Tue Apr 04, 2017 7:51 am

Genius12,

I wish to thank you for your methodical, detailed, and comprehensive report -- a model for what a Trip Report should be!

The sheer variety of airports, lounges, hotels, and airlines was simply stunning. The work-in-progress of AA/US was made apparent.

I'm particularly taken by the relation of your stay at the Moana Surfrider. I love this hotel -- my first time there was in the fall of 1986, when I think it was still known only as the "Moana Hotel" (my room was in the old east wing). December 2015 marked my most recent visit -- in the Surfrider tower in a suite similar to yours with spectacular views from dual balconies. This property is a very special one, steeped in nostalgia for me and my family, as my parents had their Honeymoon there in 1964. I've gone there many times over the years and dearly love it! Its position at the eastern end of Waikiki, basically the last bastion of the beachfront hotels, is one of its pluses. The food quality for breakfast and/or dinner can be mediocre -- for breakfast, I recommend that you go to Duke's at 2335 Kalakaua, a very short walk west from the Moana. They have a wonderful breakfast buffet for $18, served until 10:30am, in a beautiful location -- and there is a nice Airline shop next door with lots of aircraft models, shirts, and related stuff!

http://www.dukeswaikiki.com/menus/dining-room

Like you, I also adore the weird, time-warped beauty of HNL Airport and its open-air feeling. Very retro.

Thanks again for your time in composing this -- it was a joy to read!

Cheers and warm regards,

Scottie
 
Genius12
Topic Author
Posts: 228
Joined: Wed Aug 08, 2007 3:49 am

Re: Operation Oahu: British Airways Club and American Airlines First Class to Hawaii

Tue Apr 04, 2017 5:20 pm

Thanks so much for all of the comments and tips/insight on Hawaii, they are much appreciated.

9w748capt, yes AA have recoded domestic two class aircraft as J instead of F, which means now (from a BA perspective) one only earns business class Avios and Tier Points. Luckily I flew this trip just before the changes came into effect. The difference isn't overly huge; 140TPs instead of 210TPs on the 2000+ mile sectors.

jrfspa320, I like BA's product but haven't yet tried AA transatlantic. This is about to change because as I type this I'm a day away from flying them in J LHR-JFK.
 
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CollegeAviator
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Re: Operation Oahu: British Airways Club and American Airlines First Class to Hawaii

Tue Apr 04, 2017 6:14 pm

A stunner of a report, thank you very much for sharing!

I have a friend from Hawaii here in college, and your images from there certainly replicate her descriptions.

Great images to go along :)
 
pokfur
Posts: 709
Joined: Sat Aug 03, 2013 2:35 pm

Re: Operation Oahu: British Airways Club and American Airlines First Class to Hawaii

Wed Apr 05, 2017 2:55 pm

I thoroughly enjoyed reading your report and it brought back memories to a few years ago when I was a BA Gold and flying BA much more frequently between Singapore and London and to the rest of Europe, as my then-fiancee-now-wife was based there. It's nice to see that on some (all?) of your sectors you were address by name by the cabin crew. Even the few times I flew Club i didn't quite experience that. Needless to say in Y i was treated no different from any other passenger, sadly. I hope that despite all the cuts, there're still some good things with BA...

I've always thought a Hawaii tier point run sounded cool and fun! But it made absolutely no sense for me, being based in Singapore, and even less sense now that I hardly fly oneworld. So for the past 20 minutes or so I was living vicariously through you! :D Thank you for that.

I find myself being booked on CE FRA-LHR next month on the 767 (excited about that! They're rather rare in south east asia) and I heard that there's a completely different catering that was just rolled out. Looking forward to that flight as well.

Thanks once again for taking the time to write this up! Really enjoyed it.
 
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AirAfreak
Posts: 763
Joined: Thu Apr 12, 2012 4:20 am

Re: Operation Oahu: British Airways Club and American Airlines First Class to Hawaii

Thu Apr 06, 2017 11:33 pm

Major props to you for taking the time to post these useful photos/descriptions of your journey. We all know how tedious and time-consuming it is to accomplish such task within this antiquated airliners.net website. I've stopped posting trip reports and save my photos for my own enjoyment. Anyway, thanks for your efforts!

Additionally, this was a real eye-opener of a trip report. I've never been to Hawaii (I live in Los Angeles) as I fear being overwhelmed by massive tourism.

When you mentioned going to Starbucks for lunch, at first, I thought why would anyone travel all that way to visit a Starbucks instead of enjoying the local food? But then I recalled a visit to Tahiti, and noticed tourists entering a McDonalds (which I was appalled at this sight of non-locals) and I'm guessing maybe they were tired of eating fresh seafood and breadfruit. I don't know. I guess this is one of the big reasons why I've lived in Los Angeles for 17 years; I have many dining-options. Anyway, I digress. Lol!

For a while, I contemplated switching to OneWorld because I've really heard lovely things about Japan Airlines and most of my travels take me to Asia but seeing your meal photos on AA changes that really quickly. Some of those meals looked like someone in catering took crystal meth and assembled your plate. The presentation is embarrassing. I love to eat and I've always enjoyed airline meals for the most part, but geez, you're flying in First Class and you're served lentil vomit, uh, I mean, chili. At least British Airways did a nice job overall. If you could have the BA food with the AA seat in Club Europe, then we'd have a winner! So, I'm staying with Skyteam. But at least your report helped me in deciding to remain so.

Also, your report gave me some great recommendations for Hawaii travel should I do so in future.

Anyway, it's nice to see a well-written and detailed report. You definitely took time in sharing your flights with us, so 5-stars go to you!

Thanks a bunch,

AirAfreak
Economy Class. You vision of loveliness; Prince Charles called and he wants you to fill in for him next week.
 
ha763
Posts: 3182
Joined: Mon Jan 06, 2003 5:36 pm

Re: Operation Oahu: British Airways Club and American Airlines First Class to Hawaii

Sun Apr 16, 2017 9:59 am

I'm glad you enjoyed your time on Oahu and are planning to visit again. If you have the time, I would suggest using our bus system, The Bus, to explore Oahu.

In your picture of the JAL Sakura Lounge reception desk, the picture at the end of the corridor is a picture I took of cherry blossoms on Oahu. The town I live in is the only place on Oahu that has cherry blossom trees that bloom. I used to work for JAL at HNL and presented that picture 7 or 8 years ago during a customer service survey campaign.
 
christao17
Posts: 911
Joined: Sun Apr 17, 2005 12:14 pm

Re: Operation Oahu: British Airways Club and American Airlines First Class to Hawaii

Sun Apr 16, 2017 11:07 am

Thanks for sharing this detailed report of your flights. Looks like quite an experience!

Would you accept some feedback? This is just my perspective, but something I think would make your reports even nicer is to include a few wider shots. For example, you post very few shots of the planes you flew on, views out of windows or of the cabins in which you sat. Instead, you have lots of close-ups of tray tables, fabric textures, power switches, ice on the window, etc. The overall effect is a bit claustrophobic. If you included some of these wider shots, it helps "set the scene" for the more detailed shots. Just a thought.

Again, appreciate you sharing your insightful and detailed report. Safe flying!
More than a decade flying in and around Asia...
 
Genius12
Topic Author
Posts: 228
Joined: Wed Aug 08, 2007 3:49 am

Re: Operation Oahu: British Airways Club and American Airlines First Class to Hawaii

Sun Apr 16, 2017 8:38 pm

Thanks again for the recent comments!

pokfur, I hope you enjoy your FRA trip. You're right that BA's Club Europe catering has recently changed - presentation is more aligned to Club World, and there's new chinaware and other subtle soft product changes. Unfortunately on many routes portion sizes have reduced, and some things have been eliminated altogether (eg. fruit plates from breakfast, scones from afternoon tea, and a full hot meal from some routes).

christao17, thanks for your feedback! Wider shots tend to work well in lounges, hotels etc. (as I have included above). However, I find they are difficult to take on aircraft without disturbing other flyers, hence the fewer complete cabin shots. Instead, I tend to focus on the seat and service. Taking photos of the aircraft at the gate is indeed something I could do more of, although I am not particularly into aircraft from the outside if that makes sense! I will try and include more in future though. I usually only take photographs out of the aircraft window if there's something particularly exciting - I find I get bored with bland shots, although this is personal preference. Thanks again for the feedback - very useful.
 
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ClassicLover
Posts: 4109
Joined: Tue Mar 09, 2004 12:27 pm

Re: Operation Oahu: British Airways Club and American Airlines First Class to Hawaii

Sun Apr 16, 2017 11:06 pm

What an excellent report, which must have taken you a good number of hours to put together!

Excellent pictures showing a good representation of everything that you experienced. I thought it was a job well done! Good to see American Airlines hasn't changed very much. They'd be lost without the sundae, which I personally love. That old 752 looked like some experience - I wouldn't mind taking it just to try seats from yesteryear.

Great that you got the hotels and all the rest of it. A HNL run is always very good, though the value is not what it once was now that there has been the devaluation thanks to the change in fare classes for AA premium cabins. Hopefully you'll enjoy being back at Gold!

Thanks again for the report, well done!
I do enjoy a spot of flying, especially when it's not in economy!

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