When this trip was booked in July, I was unable to locate any confirmable upgrade space around the dates we were interested in traveling, so I went ahead and booked the trip with waitlisted systemwide upgrades. While I would normally be unwilling to do this with United (as I’m unwilling to play systemwide roulette to discover I lost and overpaid for my coach seat), American’s systemwides work on any fare so waitlisting (and ultimately clearing) came at no additional cost above and beyond an ordinary roundtrip in coach.
As the date approached, I steeled myself for a transaltantic flight in coach with the solace of having reserved exit row seats at booking. After a bit of observation in late August and early September, upgrade space in business class consistently opened up on JFK-LHR between 48-72 hours if there was at least two full-fare business class seats for sale. The upgrades for this flight cleared at 54 hours out.
After enjoying the Flagship Lounge for a few minutes after boarding was initially called, it was time to head to the gate. While boarding for group 2 (or perhaps 3) was already underway, the PriorityAAccess line still about 10 passengers in line.
New York Kennedy (JFK) – London (LHR)
Wednesday, September 12th 2012
Duration: 6 hours, 35 minutes
Aircraft: Boeing 777-222ER (N765AN)
Seat: 10H (Business Class)
While AA’s business class is far superior to the coach seat I could have flown, its hard product leaves quite a bit to be desired compared to some Star Alliance carriers (or even British Airways). Once I settled in to sleep, I was left battling the appreciable 10 degree angle-from-horizontal of the fully-reclined seat. To make matters even worse, a woman with a lap infant was seated across the aisle.
The flight attendant working our side of the cabin passed out menus prior to push back and began taking orders as we taxied. He was trapped in conversation with 8H, so our orders were taken shortly after takeoff.
Early into the flight, 10E, the middle seat in business class in the row (Yes, American has middle seats in its business class as well) had a broken reading light. After the two business class flight attendants (rightfully) concluded it was the button on his seat that was broken and distracted themselves from starting the meal service, he sought a full refund for his seat from them. Ordinarily on a redeye, I spend my time sleeping with a bit of time spent eating sprinkled in if I’m on a transoceanic flight. Evidently, my priorities have all been off: Rather than care for a comfortable seat for the $3.5k I’m hypothetically spending to fly across the ocean, I should care only about whether I have a working reading light…
The amenity kit:
The menu read as follows:
I had requested a vegetarian meal shortly after booking. American’s vegetarian meal also stands in for its vegan meal. The main annoyance of this comes in the form of receiving margarine, rather than butter, with the meal.
After dinner, I wandered through the business class galley and ended up speaking with one of the flight attendants. While landing cards were placed on the plane, American’s ground staff at JFK had failed to place any FastTrack immigration cards for London Heathrow on the plane. With a 2 hour, 15 minute scheduled layover, I less concerned about the connection from Terminal 3 to Terminal 1 and was instead much more concerned about my prospects of having time to stop by the Arrivals Lounge for a quick shower.
I settled in to my seat and attempted to sleep as best as I could, limited by the “early” 7:40PM departure out of JFK and the angle of the seat. During the dinner service, I had requested the express breakfast option and found myself woken up by the flight attendant about 30 minutes prior to arrival. In retrospect, I’m reasonably pleased with this decision as I didn’t have a good estimate for how much our early arrival might slip or how bad immigration queues could be for managing to stop by the arrivals lounge for breakfast.
While eating my breakfast, I had firmly convinced myself that I actually hadn’t slept at all on the flight. The non-EU passport line ended up being marginally longer than the FastTrack line, but it still afforded enough time to stop by the American Airlines Arrivals Lounge prior to heading to Terminal 1, allowing me to convince myself that I was refreshed and had actually gotten enough sleep to make it through the day.