Hello and thank you for reading this trip report outlining my journey from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to Los Angeles, California, USA. I’ve broken it up into three parts – this is part 3 about my trip from New York to LAX
on American Airlines.
After a delightful 1.5 days in New York – which is by far the most urbanised place I have ever been to in my life – it was time to take my final leg home to LAX
As a oneworld emerald member, the choice of what airline to fly on between New York and Cali was a simple one. Besides, what other airline offered the simple pleasure of flying coast to coast on a classic widebody?
Wanting to reach California early in the day, I opted for the 9am departure out of JFK
on American Airlines flight 1. I thought I should get to the airport around 7am to give myself plenty of time. I spoke to the concierge at my hotel, who suggested leaving midtown Manhattan around 6am! This required a 5:30am wakeup, which proved quite difficult since I arrived home from a night out in Pearl River/Nyack, NY at 2am.
Checking out of the hotel at 10 minutes to 6 in the morning, I hopped into a cab and asked the driver to take to the airport. Here is a shot of the street at that hour of the day (I am hating myself for the rotation…):
The driver was Egyptian from Alexandria, so we started talking in Arabic. I noticed that he was taking some side streets. By 6:20am, we were already at Terminal 8 in JFK
. I told him in Arabic that I was impressed in how quickly we had arrived, and that the hotel thought it would take 1 hour! He said “khames di2ayeh ma3aye” in his Egyptian accent, which means 5 minutes with me.
Here is the kerb side at T8
Since I had my British Airways Gold Card, I used the First/Business class check in area. I handed over my passport and reservation details and got back a blue coloured boarding pass which said “EMERALD” and “PREMIUM AACCESS” on it and specified that I would be sitting in seat 32J. I wonder if AA
will ever get tired of AAdding an A to everything. I think it’s kind of lAAme.
I wanted to credit my miles to my AAdvantage (there we go again) AAccount, however this would mean that I wouldn’t get Premium AAccess and it means that I would to pay for all my checked bags as opposed to just paying for the third one. So I erred on the side of saving some money.
Security was a breeze with my Premium AAccess boarding pass and by 6:45am I had already settled in the Admiral’s lounge (why don’t they call it the AAdmirals lounge?)
I wasn’t super impressed by the lounge but thought that the décor was pretty reasonable even if the selection of food and drinks was considerably substandard compared to international lounges.
I grabbed a bagel and some cereal nonetheless:
After breakfast I walked around a bit to get acquainted with the lounge. There are two TV
areas where most of the passengers were sitting (Americans can’t do without TV
, I guess!). Here is a misrotated photo:
There was also a bar at the far end, a business centre in the corner, and a separate lounging area which looked quite comfortable. Here is the lounging area:
I took the liberty of taking a couple of shots out the window:
767-300 pulling up to the gate:
Venerable old American Airlines A300-600 arriving. Too bad this aircraft is going to be removed from the AA
fleet – the AB6 is the only AA
mainline aircraft I haven’t travelled on yet and likely won’t (sorry for the glare):
I heard that Admirals clubs offer showers, so I went up to the lounge supervisor and asked her what that was about. She said that she could accommodate a shower for me whenever I was ready. I said that I would just like to have a look but not have a shower. To my surprise, I found that they offer complete shower suites not too different than what you would find at the Elemis/Molton Brown spas at Heathrow. More importantly, this reinforced my view that Emirates’ shower stalls for First Class were substandard.
Eventually I got tired of the lounge and decided to go to the gate and wait there. We were using gate 12 this morning.
I struck up a bit of conversation with a Jewish gentleman who had an accent similar to that of the Rabbi who counsels Elaine from Seinfeld. Moments later, boarding began.
Flight Number: AA 1
Origin: New York John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), Terminal 8
Destination: Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), Terminal 4
Departure time: 9:00am (scheduled), 9:35am (actual)
Arrival time: 12:15pm (scheduled), 12:05pm (actual)
Flight time: 5h 30m
Aircraft: Boeing 767-223ER
Registration: N338AA (delivered to AA in December 1987)
staff began boarding with First Class passengers seated in rows 2 and 3, and then moved to business class. Then came Platinum, Executive Platinum and Sapphire (which I assumed included me).
On the jetway leading to the plane, I noticed that the aircraft operating this morning’s flight to Los Angeles would be N338AA, a Boeing 767-223ER delivered to AA
in December 1987 (I assume it was delivered as a -223 instead of an ER
, but not sure).
I walked through the plane and noticed that the First Class cabin had already been reupholstered with the blue seat covers instead of the old brown ones, and the business class cabin had the new light grey seat covers. As miserable as Economy was, Business Class didn’t exactly look that much better so I was glad that I hadn’t paid any more money for that.
I made my way to my seat (32J) and put my jacket in the overhead bin. I snapped a couple of pictures of my seat and the row:
Boarding was complete around 8:50am and the plane was basically 100% full. The flight attendants made an announcement to the effect that the overhead bins are shared space, and that passengers with two items should be courteous enough to put one item under the seat in front of them. A far, far, far cry from passenger behaviour on flights in the Gulf, that is for sure!
Unfortunately the weather conditions at JFK
this morning were quite foggy, so we joined a massive queue of aircraft waiting to depart. One of the 4 runways was also out of service, so it wasn’t actually until 9:35am that we were airborne. The classic 767 climbed to altitude very quickly.
Here’s a shot out the window:
Unfortunately, travelling domestically in the USA is not a particularly luxurious experience. I had fairly low expectations for this flight, all of which were met:
screens: not applicable
Meal service: not applicable (BOB only)
Beverage service: once in 6 hours
Snack service: not appicable (BOB only)
Contrast that to the middle seat, where you get a full meal with two choices on the Riyadh to Dubai flight which is only 1 hour and a half. To make this a real apples to apples comparison, compare it to a domestic flight within Saudi Arabia – Jeddah to Dammam (west to east coast of Saudi) which is about 1 hour and 50 minutes. Again, you get a hot meal…and the ticket price wouldn’t be more than $150 roundtrip. I had paid $324 roundtrip for my 6 hour each way transcon.
I was however, impressed with one thing – I had travelled on Delta from Tampa to Los Angeles in July 2008 and found that they don’t provide blankets and pillows for that flight (737-800). On American, however, pillows and blankets were on each seat upon boarding.
I noticed an internet guide in my seat pocket and found that AA
offer an internet service on the flight. Since the brochure didn’t mention price, I decided to open up my laptop and follow the directions just to see how much it cost even though I was more than happy to be away from the net for 6 hours.
Total cost only $12.95 for the whole flight. Not bad at all!
Eventually the cabin crew came around with the drinks service and I had a free glass of water:
I got chatting with my seatmate, who was a computer consultant from Nyack, NY visiting her friend in Southern California. I had been in Nyack the previous evening for the Orangetown Democratic Town Hall meeting. She was shocked and impressed that someone who had never been to New York before ended up in her little village.
The rest of the flight was fairly uneventful. It was long and boring. There were a few girls in their early 20s sitting behind me who talked in a loud voice and giggled non-stop throughout the whole flight. There was an Israeli woman across the aisle from me who looked like she was about to strangle the girls behind me (I was almost at that point as well. Even with my iPod I was unable to drown them out completely).
I attempted the “easy” sudoku at the back of American Airlines’ magazine but I wasn’t able to complete it before we landed. Some movie with Jennifer Aniston was playing on the main screen, but I didn’t feel like watching it.
Here’s a cabin shot – this could be a photo from the 1980s. The only thing that gives it away are the Bose headphones of the passenger in the foreground:
I got bored so I took a shot of myself:
I noticed that the safety card was generic for the 767 type and did not distinguish between the -200 and -300. Notice how the overwing exits are indicated in a dotted line and it says “-300 only”
Eventually, we began our approach to LAX
. Somehow we were coming towards LAX
from the South and when I looked out the window I saw that we were overflying Ontario airport. We continued flying north and then made a sweeping left turn over downtown to aim for the southern runways at LAX
I noticed that there was an Air Canada A320 (or something like that) very close to us. I thought it was extremely peculiar that a flight from Canada would also be approaching from the south, but then I realised that it must have been coming from YYZ
instead of YVR
We flew close to the AC
A320 the whole time during the approach, and I guess when we turned left to line up with LAX
the Canadian aircraft must have flown a bit north to line up with the 24’s.
Can you make it out in this photo?
A shot of the 767 wing on approach (never noticed how far the flaps extend! The flap track fairings are almost pointing straight down!):
Landing on 25L:
Unfortunately, even though we had arrived early, another aircraft was occupying our gate so we didn’t actually make it onto stand until about 12:25pm.
In conclusion, I can’t really say that I enjoyed the flight because there was not much to enjoy. I think this is just what air travel in the USA is like these days. Sad but true. Too bad QF
doesn’t have 5th freedom rights between LAX
Having anticipated that there would be nothing to eat on my flight, I had asked my parents to bring me a ham and cheese sandwich from home, and sure enough as soon as we collected my bags and went to the car, I saw that my parents had already prepared it for me.
Light traffic on the 405 freeway that afternoon, and I made it home by 10 minutes to 2pm, there ending a journey which had started on Tuesday of that week in Riyadh.
Thanks for reading!
PARIS, FRANCE...THE BEIRUT OF EUROPE.