Circle Pacific on oneworld – First Ride on American Airlines AA19 JFK to LAX

AA19  New York JFK – Los Angeles LAX
14 Mar 2011
Scheduled ETD/ETA: 1030-1345
Actual Time of Departure/Arrival: 1040-1323
B767-200 N321AA
Seat No: 11G

Taking the Airtrain after dropping off my rental car

Initially I was due to be on AA1 which I was excited to try out since it was considered the ‘flagship’ service between New York and Los Angeles. Why I took AA19 in the end is a tale in itself. I checked out of my hotel in the W Times Square early and even had the time to top up my fuel before I headed out with the GPS navigation system to JFK. What I had not calculated into my drive into JFK was the terrible traffic which obviously extended my driving time to nearly 2 hours. After returning my rental Prius, I still have to board the airtrain to terminal 8 which happens to be the last stop amongst all the terminal. The 8 minute ride and a 2 min wait for the train meant I was already late to check in for my AA1 flight since I had check in luggage with me. Instead, my flexible Circle Pacific ticket got on the next flight of AA19 which is departing at 1030. It was fortunate that there was hourly departures between JFK and LAX. The biggest disappointment of the day has got to be me discovering that there was no lounge access on Business which I thought was really terrible for an international airline. I was, however, able to obtain Priority Access for security screening which was faster and there were no problem with the process. Upon crossing security, I decided to try my luck at the Admirals Club but was rejected as well since rules stipulates that unless it’s oneworld sapphire and above, one does not get lounge access on ‘discounted’ business fares. I didn’t realize that the Circle Pacific fares are discounted business. This left me a lot of time to explore terminal 8 which is AA’s home at JFK.

Terminal 8 – AA’s home terminal in JFK

Some highlights of walking around the terminal was the display of AA’s logo through the years as well as spotting the ‘Flagship Independence’ which was headed for San Francisco. Incidentally, SFO was my final destination that day and I had my luggage tagged all the way to SFO, but because my return flight via South Pacific departs from LAX, I purchased a separate ticket on AA between LAX and SFO on Economy.

Evolution of AA’s logo at JFK
AA Flagship Independence headed for SFO

Boarding commenced at 0945 and with priority access, I was able to board early and noticed that it was a full flight in business class. With only one entrance, even when one settles down early in the business class seats, all the rest of the passengers will still walk past, creating a lot of distractions. I was assigned an aisle seat since it was not the flight that I was due to take, thus I had not much of choice in seating arrangements. There were pillows and blankets already on the seats upon boarding which I placed on the overhead compartment. No crew came over to offer to take my jackets, though I was able to pass it to them after I got settled down on the seat. Only after most passengers have boarded was the welcome drink offered and the orange juice and water seemed most popular. It looks like alcohol went out of favor in a Monday morning flight. While waiting for the rest of the passengers to board, I explored the seats functions and thought they were more similar to a regional Business Class seat in intra-Asia routings. I was expecting something more like a shell-back seat. I was also disappointed in the worn state of the seats, and the dark blue colour of the cabin does not help in brightening the cabin ambience a bit.

767 Safety Manual
Business Class seats on the 767
Legroom on Business Class on AA’s 767
Tarmac view at JFK

By 1030, the plane started its pullback and I noticed how HSBC seems to have advertisements on the jetbridge of airports around the world (London Heathrow, Jakarta, Hong Kong International and now JFK) we were soon taking off at 1040. Waking up early in the morning and navigating past New York’s jammed streets meant I needed some shut eye before beverage service and warm mixed nuts were served at 1120. I ordered coffee with milk and sugar but as with most airplane coffees they taste bad. I miss Cathay’s milk tea at that point in time. The flight attendant came around with hot towels after the first beverage service. Somehow the flight crew seemed to tease me in good fun, perhaps due to my age and being seated in the premium cabin. I found the crew serving this flight very friendly and cheerful though! So I would say the service really brought a more comfortable flying experience.

Flying past Manhattan
Coffee and warm mixed nuts

Headsets and PTV were handed out shortly but I was already using my MacBook air for my entertainment needs. I did, however, use the Bose QC15 headsets since the batteries on my own Audio-technica noise-canceling headphones have died out. The wonderful Bose QC15 headsets made me regret my audiotechnica purchase, so I guess I have to wait until I need a new set of headphones. While the state of the cabin leaves much to be desired, the seats have double seat back pockets which came in handy especially for my seat mate who was travelling with a computer he was using to work and an iPad which he was able to stow on the upper seat pocket.

Inflight Entertainment Kit for Business Class passengers on AA

Lunch menu were also handed out shortly and after flight attendants have completed passing out the menus and giving some time for passengers to peruse the menu, they took orders for lunch. The menu for that flight was:

To Start – Warm mixed nuts

Salad – Fresh seasonal greens offered with pepper cream dressing or premium extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar

Bread Basket – Assorted gourmet breads

Main Course

Mango Cilantro Chicken – Grilled mango cilantro chicken served with a mango ginger vinaigrette, roasted asparagus and sweet potato hash (An American classics item)

Salmon Niçoise Cold Plate – Mesclun mix with Yukon potatoes, kalamata olives, haricots verts, Roma tomatoes, egg, grilled salmon and balsamic vinaigrette accompanied by chilled ratatouille

Dessert

Ice Cream – Fair Trade chocolate ice cream topped with marshmallows and chopped walnuts

Fruit and Cheese – A selection of seasonal fruit and fine cheeses

Light Refreshment – Freshly baked on board cookies

Pre-Arrival Beverage

For Your Enjoyment – Chilled sparkling or still water with a fresh citrus garnish

Wines and Beverages

Sparkling Wine – Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Carneros Brut

White Wines – Boulder Bank Sauvignon Blanc / Montevina Chardonnay

Red Wines – Painter Bridge Zinfandel / Wente Vineyards Shorthorn Canyon Syrah

Spirits – ABSOLUT® Vodka / Beefeater Dry Gin / Bacardi Rum

Whiskeys – Canadian Club Reserve Blended Whisky / Dewar’s White Label Scotch Whisky / Glenlivet Single Malt Scotch / Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey / Jim Beam Black Bourbon

Beers – Heineken, Corona Extra and select U.S. Beers

Brandy and Liqueurs – Baileys Irish Cream / Courvoisier V.S.O.P. Fine Champagne Cognac / DiSaronno Amaretto / Kahlúa

Other Beverages – Carbonated beverages / Still or sparkling water

Java City 100% Rainforest Alliance Certified coffee, Nescafé decaffeinated coffee, Tea, Fruit juices, Milk

Salad with pepper cream or ‘ranch’ dressing

Lunch service started with salads and passengers had a choice of ranch or vinaigrette dressing. Took ranch dressing and finished the salad as all I had for breakfast was an apple. The salad was crunchy and fresh while the dressing made it all the more tasty! The gourmet breads offered were French sourdough or olive bread. By this time I miss the garlic bread offered in Cathay Pacific, though the bread served on AA was alright, though nothing to shout about. The main course was surprisingly good though it didn’t look appetizing. For beverage service, I decided for a non-alcoholic flight and ordered Sprite and noticed that maybe it was a morning flight, not much pax were having champagne or wines.

Entree of Mango Cilantro Chicken

Dessert was a choice of ice cream or fruit and cheese and I went for the former. The chocolate ice cream with marshmallows and chopped walnuts was delicious and it was great accompaniment to my entertainment on the MacBook Air.

Chocolate sundae for dessert

While the service up till the end of meal service was very good, there doesn’t seem to be any follow up service after dessert. I tried to call for the attendant after the dessert cup has been cleared as the table cloth and napkins haven’t been cleared but there was no response and I didn’t see any further signs of crew during the flight. As a result I just slipped the table cloth and napkin back to the upper seat pocket which was useful even for my laptop during meal service.

Business Class on the 767

Seat recline in the business class cabin of the 767 was also generous and very comfortable with ample of legroom in take off mode and it makes it slightly tough for one of short build like me to stretch out to take magazines or stuff. Speaking of magazines there were 4 different magazines, one for inflight shopping, a Spanish language magazine, the American Way – AA’s magazine and a premium passenger magazine. These magazines seems to have less readership nowadays though as my seat neighbors were more engrossed on newspapers or their iPads. My seat neighbor was busy working on his MacBook Pro and soon enquired about my MBA as I began to stow it back to my bag to try out the Personal TV provided by AA. Well it seems that he was considering a change to the lighter MacBook Air for a change, and it definitely made sense for the frequent traveller. With regards to the personal IFE, the small screen and limited selections of movies didn’t interest me at all.

Trying out the personal TV from AA

To pass the time I went back to reading some articles and discovered that Andy Roddick the US tennis player is an AA exec plat member and was featured in their celebrity traveller segment. I also took a shot of the cabin while cruising and noticed some of the passengers dong stuff on their iPad, relaxing for a nap or just watching some movies. I decided to take a nap shortly after and was able to have a good rest until 4pm NY time which meant I was able to rest for a total of one and a half hour. This was even though flight was slightly turbulent. as we crossed the nation. Announcement for landing was made at 1305 Pacific time and it was clear weather in LA. The plane finally landed at 1323 which meant I was still on time to catch my connecting flight which departs at 1445 for San Francisco.

Overall the flight with AA on Business Class was lacklustre at best and I wouldn’t even consider paying for a seat in the cabin considering the limited service in-flight as well as the old hardware on board the cabin. While the crew was friendly, they didn’t really make an impact on the flight and seemed to disappear right after the conclusion of meal service. I guess starting my flight with Cathay Pacific’s Business Class has set the bar too high for AA.

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