I just returned from my first trans-continental trip San Francisco and thought I would post a trip report as I had a mostly enjoyable journey, that forced me to re-evaluate several aspects of domestic flying
T o start of with: is JFK to SFO really a "domestic" flight? In terms of the actual flight experience, I found that it really more closely resembles an international flight: 1) in that flying time you could reach get to London 2) the aircraft are the same wide-bodies [on American Airlines, mostly 767s] used for international flights, and are similarly equipped with First/Business/Economy configuration, and 3) the meal service is far superior to that on other domestic flights.
I bought my ticket on Priceline for only $190, not knowing which airline, aircraft, or intermediary stops I would be allotted. Much to my surprise, I got a nonstop flight on American Airlines in both direction
JFK-SFO DECD 27th
I got to the airport on the 27th: the security lines were frightening. Although I arrived at the airport 2 hours before my flight I did not get to the gate until 30 minutes before the flight. Not good!
First surprise: the aircraft was a 767-200, as opposed to the scheduled ?300 series. No problem.
When I boarded, funnily, the First and Business Classes had the "old" style seats, but the economy class did have the new dark blue seats with added leg-room. You could definitely notice the added legroom.
Next surprise: The captain shortly announced that the previous crew had reported unusual vibrations with the nose gear so they were gong to wait to have it checked out. The ominous sentence being: "I?m not sure how long it will take!" Subtext: expect a massive delay? But before frustration could kick in, yet another surprise came, also in the form of an announcement: the flight was overbooked! Any passenger who gave up their seat would get $500 in free travel certificates, as well as a guaranteed seat in Business Class on the next morning?s first flight. I flinched for perhaps a second and then volunteered. They were really nice to me: in addition to the upgrade and the travel voucher, they also offered me a hotel or transportation to and from the city (I chose the latter), and the flexibility to change the return part of my ticket as well.
So the next morning, I returned to the airport at 6am, even more excited. This time, the check-in lines were even longer. And there was a gate-change from Terminal 9 to Terminal 8, which meant that after waiting forever in one security line, I had to repeat the process. Luckily, they pulled out all the San Francisco passengers from the line as there was not enough time. But that not withstanding, our flight was still delayed because they could not get all passengers through security on time.
I entered the aircraft (this time a REAL 767-300!) and was immediately taken by how different the interior looked from the ?200 the previous night. The First and Business Class cabins had a completely different, much fresher feel. The First Class had the seats similar to the ones on the 777s used on Pacific flights (not the swivel seats). I took my seat 7A (the first row of Business). There are only two rows of First, yet Business starts at Row 7. Why?
We took off on Runway 31 L, which, I believe (is this correct) the longest in North America. The roll was so short that by the time we lifted off, the white stripes on the sides of the center line at were still there.
My impression of Business Class was positive in most ways, with two major exceptions:
1) The Seat Recline. While in the sitting mode, it was perfect, but when you want to nap, the combination of the seat recline and the extended foot rest creates an unusual angle that doesn?t quite work. And, the control buttons are all manual rather than automatic.
2) Entertainment. How can Business Class on a major international airline have no Personal TVs? That was beyond me. Only a single movie (Princess Diary) was shown but I didn?t watch it.
Otherwise, the service and the food were really very good indeed. The cabin (4 rows of 6 seats each) was only 1/2 full.
We had two flight attendants, both were male, very sweet, and kept coming around what seemed every 10 minutes. Being a morning flight, breakfast was served. Everything was served in courses, not all on a single tray as in Y class. The main courses included a choice between a stuffed omelette, french toast with cinnamon apple, or cereal and yogurt. I had the toast and it was lovely. Another cheese and fruit platter followed prior to landing along with fresh cookies. All in all, a nice flight. Incidentally, while exiting the aircraft at the end, I did see a Menu from First Class and it did not look very different. It seems that the seating in F is definitely nicer than in Business, but the actual service is fairly comparable. Comments, anyone?
Landing in SFO was on a very very rainy Runway 19L. The airport was not as crowded as I had expected; among the domestic carriers, United seemed to dominate by far [mostly planes painted in one of many United Shuttle schemes], followed by American. Among the international airlines, a Singapore Airlines A 340, Japan Airlines 747-400 and Korean 777 were there. I guess the European airlines come in later in the afternoon.
Jan 1st SFO to JFK
Given my past experiences with security lines, I arrived at SFO with ample time to spare, but this time, there were no lines at all, and I ended up at my gate 2 1/2 hours before the flight. Our 767-300 was already parked at the gate. This time the flight was delayed by 45 minutes because, being New Year, several employees had taken off and they were understaffed and were waiting to rearrange crews.
Although I was expecting a let-down after Business Class, Economy on American was quite good. The seats [mine was 26 J, just over the wing] were the most comfortable of any economy class (the added legroom obviously helped, but the seats themselves were plusher too). There were two meals, a breakfast- with the choice of french toast of cereal- and a snack box served towards the end of the flight. Flight attendants were friendly, except that they would not let me take photographs because of "security" reasons. The pilot later told me it was a new rule. Is this true?
We landed on Runway 31 L the same one we had taken off, and quickly arrived at our gate. An Iberia A-340 was parked at the American Airlines terminal as well.
So all in all, it was an enjoyable trip, and I will end by saying that on trans-continental flights, the airlines (or atleast AA) really does seem to have its act together. I would not hesitate to fly them again.
Hope you enjoyed this.