Route: Chicago - O’Hare International (Orchard Field) – New York - La Guardia (Glenn H Curtiss / North Beach/ Municipal-La Guardia Field)
Airline: American Airlines
Flight Number: AA2397
Aircraft: Boeing 737-823
Seat: 5A (First Class)
Distance: 786 miles
Duration: 1hr 44mins
Route: MOBLE ADIME GERBS J146 ETG MIP4
Terminal 3 was the last bus stop and thankfully it pulled up close to Flagship Check-In. The agent asked for our names to confirm eligibility and I said as a oneworld Emerald I wouldn’t be on the list, grabbing my BA Executive Club card from my wallet as she asked if I was (American Airlines) Concierge Key. I said I was not and was directed to the Priority check-in, I was about to grab my phone to show her AA’s own webpage on Flagship Check-In eligibility when she reluctantly relented with a “Fine!” and let me pass. I have used Flagship Check-In dozens of times at JFK and LAX and have never had anyone question so this was rather awkward…Either way the check-in agents on the opposite side were the polar opposite on the friendliness scale even proactively looking for earlier flights before I had mentioned it to them (I had accounted for around a 4hr connection to be on the safe side) but alas availability on AA’s app, that
I had checked enroute to T3, matched what they could see. With new AA stock boarding passes in hand replacing those that we had been issued in Doha we cut to the front of the TSA PreCheck line (standard Flagship Check-In benefit) where unfortunately we fell victim to the PreCheck random…the lady who was absolutely dripping in gold jewelry. Even the TSO referred to the fact she was wearing “a gold mine” and let me pass as she removed what appeared to be several hundred pieces of jewelry from her person!
It was a bit of a walk to the relatively new Flagship Lounge which occupies a floor previously used by the Admirals Club in the area where the H and K Concourses meet.
The lounge was pretty large and fairly quiet, especially considering it was within the window of plenty of European departures. Fairly soon after settling in I requested a shower and was escorted down the corridor and shown my room. It was a decent size with plenty of bench space for my bags and was replete with the now standard C.O. Bigelow toiletries which I quite like. After I was finished I struggled to find my boarding pass and went to the front desk where it turned out they had accidentally held it whilst I showered and had shredded it some 30 seconds before, assuming I had left the lounge! A quick whirr of the printer and new boarding pass was in hand.
The new breed of Flagship Lounges have a decent spread of buffet style food and this was no exception, with sushi making a return having been a well known feature at old the Flagship Lounge for many, many years.
As boarding time neared and the lounge filled a chef made an appearance with made to order shortribs which had a popular uptake. From where we sat the windows offered great views of not only our aircraft parked on the gate just below but the departing aircraft from 10L with Flightradar24 on my phone satisfying my curiousity on all aircraft movements.
Knowing this was an overbooked flight and anticipating a boarding scrum we left a little early for gate 11A. Due to the gate’s location it was all a bit congested and there were no segregated Priority and Main Cabin lanes, with passengers spilling out into the concourse itself. We positioned ourselves on the edge of what we assumed were the other Group 1 passengers but that didn’t stop others from muscling further in and nearer the podium. Alas when boarding actually started they realized that we were also in Group 1 and having got there before they kindly yielded to allow us to pass, something I’ll be honest that I wasn’t expecting!
We threw our bags in the overhead bins and stretched out as best as we could in absence of 79” flatbeds from a few hours previous! My wife noticed, as surprisingly often is the case with her, and only her, that her seat would not stay in the upright position, instead she would have to hold herself in place for those portions of the flight. She didn’t want to bring it to the attention of the FAs in case, given the overbooked flight, that she would get the boot.
Pushback was at 6.40pm, a few minutes late, but given how padded the schedules are on these flights I anticipated we would probably still arrive on time, if not a little early. Even though the FA taking pre-departure beverages was only part way through the cabin when we pushed back she worked her way back through the four rows of First Class ensuring everyone was sufficiently imbibed before we got in the air.
Although we were off stand we were held in our little cul-de-sac for some time, the smell of jetfuel getting stronger as the engines eventually spooled up en-route flow a slow taxi to runway 9R. During this time the FA came around to confirm post takeoff drinks and our pre-ordered meals. Anticipating a rather meal heavy journey from Doha and the Flagship Lounge we had pre-ordered the lighter cheese plate option and the fairly new addition of the charcuterie plate.
Unfortunately runway 9R and the port side seat pair are the wrong combination for views of Chicago and I reclined the seat to its fullest extent as we climbed out over the suburbs and Lake Michigan and I messed about on my phone with some games as the drinks were quickly prepared.
With that distraction it seemed the food was out similarly quickly and I was happy with my choice. AA domestic food, bar, potentially, the transcontinental flights is rarely anything to write home about yet this seemed be a reliable way to avoid the cheap cuts of meat or tasteless vegetables. The wife and I switched plates part way through to sample eachothers, and the bread offerings made a pass through the cabin. As is normal for me I opted for the sourdough, polished off the meat and cheese and then enjoyed a warm chocolate chip cookie.
Surprisingly quickly after departure it seemed we were already descending and before long we emerged through the clouds over what would I would quickly determine to be the northern New Jersey suburbs, the familiar lights of Newark Airport and Port Newark below.
We then flew up parallel to the Hudson River, turning over the southern part of Westchester County landing on LGA’s runway 22 at 9.45pm.
The 737 was brought to a rapid halt, as is often the case on 22 landings and with the short taxi over to gate D10 the realization came that our amazing trip to Thailand was well and truly over. Nothing like an arrival into LGA’s dingy concourses to bring you back to reality…