Using the hipmunk app on the Google Chrome, I was searching for flights back to Vancouver, but after playing around with it, decided that I could take an extended journey to visit Chicago and Fort Lauderdale, the former because it is a city I had hoped to visit and the latter to try out one of the W hotels in North America. (I was a fan of the the W in Hong Kong, and enjoyed the stay in Times Square and Westwood Village in LA.) I got down to book my flights to FLL on First as I thought it would be more comfortable since it was a red eye flight and that would also mean I have more time to spend in the beaches of Fort Lauderdale.
AA1092 Los Angeles LAX – Chicago ORD
21 March 2011
Scheduled ETD/ETA: 2315-0500 (+1)
Actual Time of Departure/Arrival: 2324-0447 (+1)
Seat No: 3A
After several days of hanging out with my cousins in LA, I dropped off the rental car and boarded the shuttle. But during the short trip to the departure terminal, the bus driver went past my stop at terminal 4 and that was all because I didnt mention my stop to him. My fault then, but at least I was early and the driver was nice enough to make a turn for me.
Upon entering the terminal, I was greeted with lots of self check-in counters and proceeded to the premium section which also holds the check-in for Qantas Business/Premium Econ/Economy but First is nowhere to be seen. Maybe it’s in some discreet room. No matter as I proceeded to check in for my first ever ‘first’ class experience. Checked in 2 bags all the way to Ft Lauderdale but after tagging them I had to bring them to the TSA counter and there was still no lounge access for Domestic First. I thought that was pretty mediocre. Anyway I then proceeded for security and it was quick with no one in line. It was painless and there was none of those pat-downs or irritating machines that was operated. I was through into the terminal in no time and once through, I tried my luck with the Admirals Club access but was denied.
I end up having dinner at the ‘On the Border Mexican Grill & Cantina’ and had their crispy tacos with seasoned ground beef and slow pulled chicken. The complimentary serving of chips and salsa was great and good for snacking as I had a good view of the plane in gate 42A bound for Boston. As I waited for the plane I had fun again with my iPad which I had just gotten from Los Angeles. It was a nice wait with at the restaurant which had good views of the tarmac.
Boarding started at 22:40 but as I was at gate 40 using my laptop, I boarded later when the First Class section was already quite full. It was a full flight on both classes and with a flight time of 3 hours and 17 minutes while the weather at Chicago was expected to be cold and rainy. I got to my seat at the front of the cabin at 3A and settled down to see an arriving AA 767 docking beside us. The so-called first class seat on AA’s domestic 737-800 fleet was alright, and while it was more comfortable than economy seats, they were probably not worth it for short haul flights. I found the seat slightly on the narrow side compared to the more comfortable seats on Garuda’s 737 Executive Class seats. Seat recline was also average, so nothing to shout about here.
The plane started pullback at 23:17 and I found it interesting that purser gave a nice speech on apples, blackberries and other ‘fruits’ to be turned off and not just to be put on flight mode. This was really interesting as it caught the attention of passengers before the flight and would get them to watch the subsequent safety videos as well. The plane did a short taxi to the runway and took off at 23:24. It was a smooth take off under the clear night sky and before long we were on cruising altitude, leaving the city lights of LA behind us. The full moon that night made for a very nice addition to the scenery upon take off. As it was a red-eye flight, cabin lights were dimmed throughout while crew started beverage service with warm nuts thereafter.
Shortly afterwards, I went to sleep and the seat proved comfortable enough though it has a fixed seatback as it slides forward much like CX economy class seats on the 777-300ERs but with more cushioning and with adequate legroom even for bulkhead seats. Not the best seats for sleep but I make do with it.
At around 04:24am we started descent into Chicago and there was some turbulence at this time which woke me up. However landing proceeded smoothly at 04:47 as crew informed passengers of the various gates leading to various destinations across Eastern USA and one leading to Toronto. There was a slight delay in taxi to the gate due to some equipment blocking gate K20 but it was cleared in a matter of minutes and we were connected to the gate at 04:55, leaving me with a lot of time for my connecting flight to Fort Lauderdale.