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AA JFK-LHR Roundtrip

Sat Mar 30, 2002 6:59 am

To make up for last year’s awful spring break (I did community service for five straight days), I decided to treat myself to something a little more special this year- namely, a weeklong trip to Europe. My credit card comes with discount vouchers on American, so I was able to knock off $100 on my JFK-LHR roundtrip and ended up paying $260 for airfare. Not bad considering my friend bought his ticket off of and paid $100 more than I did for one less day in Europe. Reading be warned...the following trip report is long and often tangential.

March 7, 2002

I had just finished the last of my midterms and was overcome by the euphoria of jetting off to London completely unchained from anything school-related. I hopped the NYU shuttle bus to the Water Street dorm to meet up with my friend and traveling companion, and then jumped on the A train to Howard Beach/JFK. I have to say that the disparity between the Manhattan-JFK transportation options is astounding: either $1.50 for the subway/shuttle bus or $40 by taxi. Being dirt-poor college students, the A-train was nothing less than an airport limousine service.

About an hour later, he arrived at American’s terminal 8. JFK has become a huge construction site with a twisting network of flyovers (for the new monorail and highways) overhead. The airport was hardly the one I remembered from my childhood, when every terminal was visible and the central area was just a flat parking lot. Terminals 8 and 9, slated to become American’s new “superterminal”, were also in the throes of construction as a skeleton of iron girders began to connect the two buildings.

We checked in more than three hours before departure but were still relegated to middle seats on the 777. Of course, I had the misfortune of having that dreaded middle seat, landlocked in the middle of nowhere with no place to turn but the PTV. But even that couldn’t dampen my excitement. After all, this would be my first time to England and my first time aboard a PTV-equiped aircraft (I’d flown a Thai 777 a few years back – no PTVs however).

The line at security looked long, but we were able to go through in about fifteen minutes. We strolled up the long concourse which was surrounded on all sides by AA aircraft heading to various destinations. By some strange coincidence, we ran into our mutual friend who was taking advantage of AA’s new JFK-Oakland nonstop to see her boyfriend in California. Our flight, AA104, was departing from the very last gate on the concourse. To pass the time, we sat and chatted at the TGI Friday’s at the end of the concourse, watching planes take off and land in the glow of the New York sunset. I was now more excited than ever.

We boarded our 777 half-an-hour before departure. The interior was new and inviting and the extra room in coach was very noticeable. Each seat also had its own adjustable leather headrest. We found our seats and quickly took them, I started to settle in by combing through the seat pocket for reading material.
Take off was peculiar, not so much in the way it was done but because I couldn’t see it. This was the first time I didn’t witness a takeoff firsthand, and the sensation of the engines revving up and the aircraft hurtling down the runway felt sudden and unannounced without the window seat. We were quickly aloft and ascended along the south shore of Long Island. Our flight path, according to Airshow, would take us out to Montauk, then north across to Cape Cod, along the coasts of Maine and the Atlantic Provinces, over Newfoundland to begin our ocean crossing, making landfall over southern Ireland, crossing the Irish Sea and finally following the southern coast of Wales into England and Heathrow.

Cabin service began with hot towels (paper, not cloth) followed by drinks and peanuts. Then, our “International Flagship Dinner Service” began with a choice of steak or salmon. I chose the steak, which was reasonably good. AA’s food portions look very small compared to those on transpacific flights. Nevertheless, the meal was pretty good compared to previous transatlantic experiences (see my JFK-MAD trip report on Iberia).

My friend began to watch Training Day while I simply followed our flight path over the ocean. The PTV turned off inexplicably several times, forcing me to reactivate it each time. Then I realized my neighbor (who was an armrest hog) was resting her arm on the PTV control with her elbow jabbing the power button. I kindly explained to her what was happening and she agreed to be more careful.

I dozed off for a few hours and awoke two hours prior to landing. The breakfast service came around and offered a hot croissant, yogurt, juice, and coffee. The switched on my PTV again and found that we were cruising over Ireland. This time, instead of suddenly turning off, the PTV would flip up and down through all the channels. It seems that my neighbor decided to rest her elbow on the channel control instead of the power button. I gave up on it since we were so close to landing by this time.

After circling in a holding pattern over South London, we touched down at Heathrow about half-an-hour before schedule. On the ground were a handful or Virgin Atlantic and BA widebodies as well as a myriad of exotic aircraft from all over the world. We taxied to Terminal 3 and quickly deplaned.

We made our way to Immigration which seemed frenzied and chaotic. The environmental controls in the terminal were malfunctioning, so the heat combined with the long line and jetlag made for a disgruntled crowd. I found it strange that there were no booths or stations at immigration, just what seemed like wooden podiums or lecturns. Also, HM Immigration officials didn’t wear uniforms like their counterparts in other countries. We cleared customs and immigration and were greeted by a crowded and chaotic Terminal 3. We made our way to the Underground station and caught the Picadilly line for the long journey into London. Of course, signal problems delayed our train for forty minutes, so we decided to get off at South Kensington and catch a taxi to our youth hostel in Russell Square instead.

March 15, 2002

After three days in London and five in Paris, I made my way back to Heathrow’s Terminal three after consecutive travel on the Paris Metro, Eurostar, and the London Underground. I quickly checked in and received my assigned aisle seat 26B. Being five hours early, I decided to stroll Terminal 3 and sat down for a quick bite at the food court. I had some chicken korma and watched a parade of aircraft taking off, ranging from BMI 737s to BA 747-400s…God, I love Heathrow.

After wandering through the duty free areas, I decided to proceed to Terminal 3’s airside, which was a huge mistake. Terminal 3 was a desert beyond the security checkpoint, as there were no restaurants, shops, or even newspaper stands (I think I recall a sign warning me about this as I left the security area). So I milled around for four hours, taking the people-moving back and forth, watching aircraft arrive from around the world.

When AA107 was finally displayed on the departures screen, I made a quick dash to gate 19 where the flight was leaving from. While waiting in the departure lounge, another strange coincidence occurred as one of my college friends strolled toward the gate. He was in England during the break too and we were both taking the same flight home…it’s a small world.

Boarding soon began and that beautiful home-bound 777 awaited me at the end of the jetway. While walking back toward my seat, I overhead a couple who were hoping to sit together by trading seats. It turned out that I had the seat they wanted, and I was more than willing to give it up for the window seat they were offering. I quickly took my new seat, 24A, which offered not one but two windows.

Pushback was a few minutes late as some bags had to be unloaded from the plane since their owners never boarded. Quickly though, we taxied to the runway past a long line of BA narrowbodies. Takeoff was quick and smooth and we were soon ascended westward on a course toward Wales. Looking down on suburban London at sunset, I was amused at seeing the congestion on the M5 with the red-lights on the left side and the white-lights on the right. Our course to JFK was almost identical to that of the inbound flight.

Once again, a hot towel service began and was quickly followed by drinks and nuts. Dinner quickly followed, with a choice of chicken or salmon. I chose the salmon this time which was delicious. It was accompanied by a salad, a piece of chocolate cake, and some crackers. I flipped on the PTV and followed our progress over the British Isles.

As we began our ocean crossing, I started to watch The Last Castle with Robert Redford. The crew came around with some chocolates at this point. After that, I watched the CBS programming with The King of Queens, 60 Minutes, etc. By the time that was over, we were already cruising over Canada and the snack service began. A personal pan pizza was served with some fruit and crackers.

Finally, we began our descent into JFK over the eastern edge of Long Island. I knew we were getting close to our destination when the monitors began to display maps of JFK terminal 8. Landing was a bit rough as the plane seemed to sway from side to side on the runway. We arrived about twenty minutes before schedule but had to wait for a tug to tow us to the gate because of construction around the terminals.

I arrived home half-asleep after twenty-four hours of nonstop travel. I woke up on 3/15 at 7:00 AM Paris time (1:00 AM Eastern time), caught the Metro to the Gare du Nord, took the Eurostar to London Waterloo, connected to the Northern line, transferred to the Picadilly line at Leicester Square and took it to Heathrow, hopped on a seven hour transatlantic flight, took the JFK Port Authority shuttle bus from the terminal to the subway station, took the A-train to Penn Station, and finally took New Jersey Transit from Penn Station to my home near New Brunswick. I stepped into my house at exactly 1:00 AM on Saturday, 3/16. In one day: three countries, three cities, three time zones, three different currencies, two different languages on two different continents. In a word...exhausting.

Thanks for reading.


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RE: AA JFK-LHR Roundtrip

Sat Mar 30, 2002 7:22 am

Very nice report! I really appreciate the quality of the writing (lacking in so many otherwise good reports) and the solid reporting -- sounds like AA is a good option for Y class pond crossings!
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Joined: Wed Dec 08, 1999 12:48 pm

RE: AA JFK-LHR Roundtrip

Sat Mar 30, 2002 8:29 am

Good reading. Sounds like AA hasn't dropped her standards.
Topic Author
Posts: 77
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RE: AA JFK-LHR Roundtrip

Sat Mar 30, 2002 8:32 am

Hey UALbrat,

Thanks a lot for your kind comments. Actually, after reading through the report for the first time, I found a whole lot of stupid spelling errors (I was typing it up really fast during the last few minutes of work). Anyway, I'd definately recommend AA for cross-pond flights, but only on routes flown by 777s. Their 767s just don't measure up in terms of inflight entertainment.

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RE: AA JFK-LHR Roundtrip

Sat Mar 30, 2002 9:04 am

Great great me very excited for my AA 777 flight coming up on Tuesday to LHR from JFK as well (I'm on 100 outbound and the 107 inbound)...lucky me I've managed to reserve the bulkhead seat must have incredible patience to sit in the middle seat for 6 hours!!!!

Thanks for a good read!!

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RE: AA JFK-LHR Roundtrip

Sat Mar 30, 2002 9:44 am

A fantastic trip report! I liked it very much.

Yes, the traffic in england in horrendus, rivaling the US. Just make sure you dint get yourself into any traffic on the M25 is chaotic to say the least.

Best regards
In Arsene we trust!!
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RE: AA JFK-LHR Roundtrip

Sat Mar 30, 2002 10:56 am

Excellent Trip Report.
Back in August i flew JFK-LHR and back on the way out i had a 777 on the way back an A-300, i must say the A-300 had better PTV's. You lucky man, i never get the chicken when i fly  Wink/being sarcastic
DC-10's Forever
"Traveling light is the only way to fly" - Eric Clapton
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RE: AA JFK-LHR Roundtrip

Sat Mar 30, 2002 12:33 pm

great report! I also flew AA 777 JFK-LHR in Dec/Jan. Also was in Paris and service was identical to yours... excellent!
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RE: AA JFK-LHR Roundtrip

Sun Mar 31, 2002 8:48 pm

Congrats on an excellent report. I last flew AA in 88 when they still had their DC10 HNL-LAX and they provided excellent service. Glad to know that they haven't waned with time!

Looking forward to more reports! Laugh out loud

Welcome to my starry one world alliance, a team in the sky!
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RE: AA JFK-LHR Roundtrip

Mon Apr 01, 2002 3:45 am

Great trip report. One of my best friends goes to NYU but in his case he goes to a scool called TISCH. I wish I had Friday's off like you guys especially so that my Spring Break would have been longer.

Fly the Flag!!!!
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RE: AA JFK-LHR Roundtrip

Mon Apr 01, 2002 5:55 am

Great report.

However, I do disagree about the 767s. AA 767s just can't be beat  Smile

Give me a break, I created this username when I was a kid...
Topic Author
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RE: AA JFK-LHR Roundtrip

Mon Apr 01, 2002 6:23 am

Hey thanks for the great replies guys! Blink182- I'd take your word over mine about the 767s, being as how I've never flown on one! I'd like to one day, hopefully aboard a 767 that's been refitted w/ the 777 cabin or aboard a 767-400.

BTW- Besides recommending AA, I'd also recommend Eurostar for channel crossings. They're really fast and efficient (the train gets up to 160 mph in France!) and it's convenient leaving from Waterloo and the Gare du Nord instead of Heathrow and Charles de Gaulle. My only qualm- you have to argue and beg to get passport stamps from the French police nationale.

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RE: AA JFK-LHR Roundtrip

Mon Apr 01, 2002 10:13 am

I really like your writing skills. Looking forward to more trip reports!
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RE: AA JFK-LHR Roundtrip

Tue Apr 02, 2002 12:44 am

Really well done Flyboy81. Your writing skills are superb. It sounds as though you had a fabulous time in the UK and France. AA's transatlantic service also seems to be excellent - quite unlike that on the Caribbean sectors. Perhaps it has to do with the greater competition faced across the North Atlantic.

For one more coincidence - as you flew in each direction over South Wales you would have flown right over Merthyr Tydfil, where I am based right now. Many trans-Atlantic flights pass over Merthyr and on a clear day one can identify the 777s, 747-400s, 767s and A340s of BA, AA, UA and Virgin - the others are not so easily discerned.

One thing - in referring to the traffic at London as you left you are commenting on the M25 orbital motorway which circles the city and not the M5 Motorway which runs along the south-west coast of England from Exeter to Bristol and Birmingham - the M5 does not reach London. (It would have been night at the time but you would also have flown over it.) The traffic on M25 is truly horrible, as I wrote about when I flew to POS back in February - the journey from Eltham to LHR took over one and a half hours and was stop-and-go all of the way.

You also commented on the disparity of transport costs to JFK - well now you may know the disparity to LHR as well. The Tube is £3.60, bus I am not so sure but possibly similar, Heathrow Express £12 (they actually charge £2 more if you buy on the train and £2 less if you buy online and, most astonishingly, they offer first class for £24 - imagine that, £24 for a 15 minute train journey! Yes they have better seats and free drinks but, after all, one could buy the drinks in the airport or, better yet, wait until reaching Central London and the seats in standard class are quite fine and the journey no longer regardless of where you sit. Unless you are connecting to trains in Paddington or have lots of luggage it is a total rip-off) and black taxis £40 or more. Minicabs are somewhat cheaper than black cabs but cannot be hailed in the street - they must be called in advance. You are quite right to use the Tube - it may be long but it is the most economical and serves the route well (delays notwithstanding).

5 Stars from me, Flyboy81. Very well done.

Hop to it, fly for life!
Topic Author
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RE: AA JFK-LHR Roundtrip

Tue Apr 02, 2002 1:38 am


Thanks for your generous comments. After writing the report, I glanced at a map of England and saw that the highway was the M25 and not the M5. I don't know where I got M5 from...probably watching too much Absolutely Fabulous on BBC America. I love that phrase you used..."Orbital Motorway" Brits can really transform something so mundane into something that actually sounds exciting. In America, we'd call it a beltway or just a waste of time.

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RE: AA JFK-LHR Roundtrip

Tue Apr 02, 2002 10:35 am

Awesome trip report, but I have a different question for you. How do you like NYU? What school do you go to there? Where do you live (building)? Do you like NYU as a school? Is it fun to be right in the city? Anything else that you would like to tell me would be greatly appreciated also. Looking foward to your response.

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RE: AA JFK-LHR Roundtrip

Tue Apr 02, 2002 10:37 am

I just noticed that you attend stern. What is your major there? Is it a nice school? Is it very competitive? How are the professors? I am considering going there for International Business. Either there or to The University of Pennsylvania. It's nice to see someone here attending NYU Stern.

Topic Author
Posts: 77
Joined: Sun Aug 06, 2000 1:37 pm

RE: AA JFK-LHR Roundtrip

Tue Apr 02, 2002 1:36 pm

Hey Alitalia777,

It seems I can never escape questions about Stern and NYU (I'm an orientation leader, open house ambassador, and RA applicant). Here's the official line..."Stern's competitive advantage lies in the synergy produced by its strong academic foundation and its dynamic location." Here's my two cents (off the record, of course): Stern's a really great school for those who can take it. Both the students and the curriculum are very business-oriented, though there's plenty of emphasis on the liberal arts. The opportunities available to business students in New York are unparalleled (sp?) and city life is a character-building crash course in surviving the real world. If you don't mind missing out on the traditional college campus experience, then I'd definately recommend NYU and Stern.

If you have any questions, feel free to e-mail me at or track me down on AIM/ screenname is sulphurfox.

Hope this helps,

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