I purposely redeemed with American for my return flight from Maui (OGG) to New York so that I could fly in first on one of their new Airbus A321 transcontinental flights from LAX to JFK. While this flight only cost me $5.60 and 47.5K miles including the Hawaii segment, one-way first class on the A321s typically prices between $2,000-$3,000, while business falls in the $1,000-$1,500 range. For a $1,000-$1,500 premium, I’d expect some clear differences and stellar service. Unfortunately neither was present and this flight was quite the disappointment.
This is part five of a five part trip report from my recent travels to Maui.
- United Club – Newark Terminal C near Gate 120
- United BusinessFirst – Newark (EWR) – Honolulu (HNL), United’s longest non-stop domestic flight
- Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort – Diamond Suite Upgrade
- American Airlines Flagship Lounge – LAX Terminal 4
- American Airlines Airbus A321 Transcontinental First Class – LAX – JFK
Upon boarding, a bottle of champagne was already popped and one of the flight attendants was walking around offering glasses as well as dinner menus. A bottle of Dasani water and an amenity kit were waiting for me at my seat.
I received the PSA heritage amenity kit with the standard AA supplies. Business class passengers on the flight received the same kit.
Unlike the multi-page menus I received on JFK-LAX or LAX-JFK flights in Delta ONE, JetBlue Mint, or even United BusinessFirst (which all price closer to American’s business offering), this first class flight had a simple one-page listing with dinner choices. I’m not even sure if the selections were different than business class as the page itself stated “Business, Late Night Supper” in the bottom left-hand corner.
Service began with cold mixed nuts and drinks.
I ordered halibut for my main course, it was dry and tough. The side of “creamy tomato fennel sauce” was congealed in a tin cup. The pretzel bread as well as the pita rounds for the hummus were all cold and hard.
I’ve flown countless business and first class flights over the last few years on many different carriers, this was by far the worst meal I’ve been served. The fish was not edible at all. I’ve had some very good fish dishes (halibut even) in premium cabins, this was not one of them.
Ice cream came with no bowl or dish, the flight attendant simply handed it to me with a spoon.
The service itself was sub-par, especially if American is marketing this as a true First Class offering. Delta flight attendants are typically fantastic no matter their age, but when I fly American or United, I sort of hope for crew members as far away from retirement age as possible. Well, I actually had two young flight attendants in first…that coupled with the fact that this was first class on one of American’s marquee routes led me to believe that service might be better than the American standard. It certainly was not.
I saw the flight attendants upon boarding and during meal service, that was it. They did not come around to provide water, do drink refills, offer snacks, etc. I’m also pretty confident that the sauce for the fish should have been in a dish of sorts and the ice cream on a plate. Side note, the ice cream sat in the location you see it in the picture for the entire length of the flight (as did my two empty glasses). My drink and water were never refilled, I instead periodically took small Dasani bottles that were left in the galley.
The seat itself was quite comfortable as was the bed (no turn-down service was offered). I’ve flown business on the same flight and besides the additional privacy and not having to be next to another passenger, I’m not sure that there’s a huge benefit with the seat / bed. A pillow and large duvet were also provided.
One thing that I really loved was the in-flight entertainment system. It included a 15.4-inch touchscreen monitor that offered a library of 250 movies, 130 TV shows, and 380 albums. The screen was crystal clear and the browsing options were awesome. I liked that I could swipe within the categories and filter by letter, genre, duration, etc. The remote was also modern and allowed for the same scrolling and selections as the main screen. The interactive map was great too with 7 views distinct views (overhead, cockpit, left side, right side, etc.) as well as the option to select points of interest along the route. Like an Apple product, you can zoom and minimize using your fingers on the screen.
Of course, this same IFE system is available in business (it’s the same 15.4 inch screen as well)!
How about those Bose QuietComfort Acoustic Noise Cancelling headphones that first and business class passengers are supposed to receive? Nope, they too were missing from this flight. The purser informed me that they arrived late and didn’t have time to swap out fresh ones in LAX. What a mess this First Class experience was!
If I’m flying transcontinental with American again, I’d definitely select business over first (unless I’m on a First Class partner award), there’s just no point. The products are so similar and service is certainly not a distinguishing characteristic. Delta ONE and JetBlue Mint both offer superior service and food with their “business” products. The bed on JetBlue (equally as comfortable) offers the same privacy as American’s First, but for business class fares. American has everyone beat on IFE (JetBlue is still using looping movies), but that may be a reason to fly them in business, not first.
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