DLBOIFIN From Finland, joined Jun 2006, 162 posts, RR: 0 Posted (1 year 6 months 2 days 20 hours ago) and read 6737 times:
I have wanted to write this report for long time but it seems I have been to busy for it! Anyway, here we go...! And, apologies for somewhat blurry pictures, my camera is not the best.
Since I have always been a huge fan for the US airlines (don't really know why!), I was absolutely thrilled when AA advised in October 2010 that they would open new service between Chicago and Helsinki, thanks to the Joint Business Agreement with BA and IB. They also announced New York-Budapest service under the same agreement. Few months after the announcement AA advised that HEL-ORD would be seasonal service, running between May and end of October. As it turned out later, the BUD service was also cut for the deepest winter. Anyway, on with the show...!
It has been quite a while since HEL has been served by any US carrier, the last flight being DL to JFK in the end of October 1995. Since the Finnish market is not huge, I guess the fact that AY and AA are both in Oneworld, helped AA to be the one US carrier to begin the flights as they can get feed from AY network in this end. Still, I think it was quite bold decision to start with daily B767 service, that's more 225 seats to fill on a daily basis, and it pretty much doubled the HEL-USA daily capacity as so far there has only been one daily AY A330 flight to JFK! Timewise both US flights, AA and AY, run almost on identical schedules in HEL, AA arriving at 8.30am, AY arriving at 8.50am and both departing at 2.10pm. But this enables them to make most out of AY's network to and from HEL for destinations such as LED, SVO, TLL, RIX, VNO, WAW, KBP, ARN, GOT, OSL, CPH, etc. plus all Finnish domestic destinations.
I managed to get pretty decent fare between Helsinki and New York on AA for the inaugural flight so I booked it immediately. The winter turned in to spring faster than I could imgine and soon I realized that 2nd of May had arrived and my big inaugural day arrived! I was so excited to have the AA experience from my home airport! I arrived at the airport around noon and went to AA Security in front of the check-in counters to see, if I would need to obtain a real boarding pass, or if my online boarding-pass from the web check-in was ok. It seems that the security agent was bit confused as he told me that I would need a real boarding pass. After he was done with the security questions and I reached the counter, the check-in agent told me that I could have gone directly to the gate with my web boarding pass. Oh well, I guess there is always some confusion when something new like this is starting. There seemed to be lots of AA staff assisting the handling agent with the duties. Everyone seemed to be on a good mood, there was definitely a positive wibe i the air.
I then headed to the gate 38, which was assigned to AA 131 for the inaugural (and it seems that this was/is the regular gate for AA in HEL, as since then I have never seen them to use any other gate than that). There were loads of airport officials, AA executives, local city officials, handling agent staff and of course passengers booked for the flight. There was nice buffet, with Chicago pizza, snacks, a hot dog stand and some cute airplane shaped cakes and of course some bubbly. Unfortunately I did not have any time to take any pictures as I was still trying to finalize some work stuff on the phone almost until the boarding started. I remotely heard that there were some speeches and ribbon cutting ceremony which I unfortunately missed as well, bummer!
Anyway, I managed to grab a glass of bubbly before the boarding started. The boarding was done according to class and status, just as it is supposed to be done, thumbs up for that (have you ever seen AY long haul flight boarding, not good!).
This was waiting for me at the gate:
Before entering the cabin, all passengers were given a goodie bag by the agents at the gate, nice.
Route: Helsinki, HEL to Chicago, ORD
Airline: American Airlines
Flight number: AA 131
Aircraft: Boeing 767-300ER
Seat: 5J, Business Class
Wheels up: 2:27pm
Wheels down: 4:02pm
My first impression when entering the cabin was a surprice, as I was greeted in Finnish! It seems that AA is having a bunch of native Finn flight attendants to give the service in local language. I think this is very good service. I settled in to my window seat and in the end got a seat mate to the aisle seat. She was middle-aged american lady, best kind of seat mate as she did not want to talk anything other than standard greetings and pleasantries, just my kind of gal!
When the boarding was finished, the Business Class cabin was 3/4 filled, coach seemed to be almost 100% full, so pretty good load! The purser came around in the cabin distributing menus and greeted passengers by their names. I have heard so much negative about AA f/a's, but I have to say that this lady was top notch, she was very kind and did great job througout the flight. The other f/a's working in business class were ok, not too many smiles though. It seems that AA is having more f/a's on 767 than DL, as I counted 10 f/a's working for this flight, whereas DL uses 7 or 8 attendants. Is this maybe because of the union?
There has also been loads of negative comments about AA's NGBC seat, how uncomfortable that is, etc. I have to say that I like the seat, I like it a lot. I have problems sleeping in those coffin-like flat beds which DL has installed on their 767's. Call me strange, but I prefer the old DL recliners over those coffins any day. The negative aspect on AA's seat is that when your seat mate is on the sleep position, you are pretty much stuck on your window seat. The entertainment unit is also bit weird, why don't they have the usual AVOD screens they have on 777 or 757?
Before take off, "champagne", oj or water was offered:
Amenity kits were distributed on the seats. I find the kit and its contents adequate:
We pushed back around no-time and got a nice, warm welcome announcement from our purser. The pilot also gave us a small welcome speech and advised about the routing over Sweden, Norway, North Atantic and Greenland on our way to Chicago. Due to strong headwinds,flying time of 9h35min. All in all, I was feeling great and didn't mind spending the next nine and half hours in here!
Empty gate after push back:
Salute to the Silver Beauty! AY5 bound for JFK behind:
Quiet afternoon in HEL:
Take off was pretty powerful, as it usually is on 767. When the captain turned off the fasten seat belt sign, the crew started their service. They distributed Bose noice canceling headsets (nice) and the individual entertainment units (blaah). Hot towels were also distributed. Hot nuts and crudites with dip were served along with cocktails. At this point I checked what was on the goodie bag received at the gate.
Goodie bag content:
Cool Inaugural Certificate! On reverse side, it was also in Finnish.
The menu for this flight was following:
Helsinki to Chicago HEL-ORD
Warm mixed nuts
Crudites and dip
Smoked salmon and herb marinated shrimp accompanied by capers, red onion and sour cream
Fresh seasonal greens and an assortment of fresh vegetables offered with roasted red pepper dressing or premium extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar
Assorted gourmet breads
Beff Fillet with Mushroom Bordelaise
Grilled Fillet of beef served with porcini mushroom butter and bordelaise sauce, diced yellow peppers, haricots verts, baby carrots and olive oil potatoes
Maple Dijon Chicken
Seared breast of chicken enhanced by a maple and Dijon mustard marinade, accompanied by sauteed vegetables and garlic mashed potatoes
Coconut Cilantro Shrimp
Sauteed shrimp flavored with a coconut cilantro curry, offered with baby bok choy and hainan rice
Sunflower-shaped pasta filled with mushrooms, enhanced by a portobello mushroom and pesto cream sauce and grated Parmesan cheese
Ice Cream Sundae
Ben & Jerry's Vanilla ice cream with choice of hot fudge, butterscotch or seasonal berry toppings, whipped cream and pecans
Fruit and Cheese
A selection of gourmet cheeses offered with flavorful dried fruit and assorted crackers
Fruit and Cheese
A selection of gourmet cheeses offered with flavorful dried fruit and assorted crackers
Assorted snack items are also available
Uno's Farmer's Market Pizza
A Chicago-style deep dish pizza topped with mixed vegetables and three cheese blend, served with basil pesto and a fresh green salad
Grilled Chicken Breast
Offered with a tabbouleh kebab salad, tzatziki with pita bread, kalamata olives and feta cheese
Fresh fruit or cookies, freshly baked on board
Chilled sparkling or still water with a fresh citrus garnish
Cabin view before meal service:
Nuts and crudites with my champagne:
Nuts and champagne:
The appetizer cart rolled to the aisles and the meal service began.
Simple yet lovely appetizer:
Appetizer was very good, high quality with no fuss!
Salad with roasted red pepper dressing:
My main course choice was chicken. It was delicious, very tender and nice. One of the best chicken entrees I've had on the plane:
Nothing beats ice cream for dessert. Nice and simple with pecans and butterscotch:
To round off the meal, they served some digestives and Finnish blueberry chocolates (nice local touch!):
After the main meal, I dozed off for few hours, and as I said before, had no problems sleeping on the seat. When I woke up, I started to explore the entertainment system. This was definitely the weakest link, as the system was not very impressive; very limted selection of movies and tv shows, no music for my taste, and worst of all, no moving map!! What was amazing about the system is that you could choose it to run in Finnish! I have never seen this on any other airline except on AY! Also, I have to give credit to AA for having all, and I mean literally all, announcements in Finnish, pre-recorded as well as the live ones. This really gave nice feeling!
Mandatory lavartory shot. It began to be quite bumpy so I only managed to take this one before returnin my seat:
Lavatories were in good shape, but starting to show their age. Cabin on the other hand was in impeccable condition.
About 90 minutes before arrival, the crew started another meal service. I was tempted to take the pizza, but the little fitness person voice inside told me to take the healthier choice, chicken platter. And after seeing the pizza, I was even happier with my choice:
Some fruits and tea for dessert. They also offered some nice cookies, which I passed for some reason. Maybe it was still the fitness voice inside me:
Last visit to the bathroom to freshen up, and soon we were on descent on to Chicago.
Somewhere over Lake Michigan:
We landed some 20 minutes behind the schedule. As I had a tight connection, I was bit worried about it. But when I exited the aircraft, the agents meeting the flight handed me new boarding pass for the next flight, which would depart only 45 minutes later than my original flight. Not bad! The immigration hall was a mess, but somehow I managed to get on the express lane and was thru in no time. Short train ride later I was in AA territory:
I had some time to walk around the terminal. As it was my first time in ORD, I found the terminal design pretty interesting:
And this is a good one to end this report:
All in all, I was very satisfied with AA and their business class service. With all the bad reports in here and FT, I guess my expectations were low, so they were easy to exceed. But I think that the purser on my flight was really fantastic, she did a good job. Meals were very nice, good amount and good quality. I was also happy with the seat. The only negative thing which I can find, is the entertainment system. Hopefully AA gets things going with the streaming IFE system. It would solve my only complaint. If this flight proves to be succesful and returns back next April, as it is supposed to, I would have no hesitations to book AA again. It left very good taste in my mouth!
Thanks for reading. Your questions and comments are more than welcome!
aflyingkiwi From New Zealand, joined Nov 2010, 488 posts, RR: 3 Reply 2, posted (1 year 6 months 2 days 18 hours ago) and read 6455 times:
Great report, It's always fun to read one's about inaugural flights! AA's service looks pretty good, even though US carriers will never win any rewards on food presentation, the meals themselves look pretty good. Shame that they don't have proper AVOD, Hopefully we'll see them add those in the future as well as some proper lie-flat beds.