Flight number: AA141
London Heathrow – New York JFK
Aircraft: Boeing 777-223ER
Departure time: (local) 20:00 LHR T3
Arrival time: (local) 22:45 JFK T8
Flying time: 7:45
This trip came about as on one of my checks on my AAdvantage account I noticed that with only a couple more long haul flights I would reach Gold status. So I thought what the heck and booked myself two weekend flights to JFK and Boston. This report is from my first flight.
My day started off in central London after finishing work at 6pm I headed to Paddington station where I caught the Heathrow express, which took a further fifteen minutes to arrive at T3. The check ins were empty, and for a moment I wondered if I was in the right terminal. After a swift check in with the usual security questions I headed up stairs to departures and to the café overlooking the apron, as it was already almost 7pm it had been dark for a while and visibility was somewhat limited so after a short while I headed over to gate 22, which just happened to be at the very far end of Terminal 3. On my long walk over I passed the usual Far Eastern visitors to London. Two ANA 747-400’s, Korean 747-400, Emirates 777-300, The elegant new Qatar A330, and a newly established visitor, Asiana 747-400. Our American Airlines B777-200 looked a little out of place in amongst these eastern carriers. Boarding commenced at around 7:25pm with the usual pre-boarding of First, Business and top tier frequent flyer members. And then it was our turn. as I made my way to 21A, I noticed that this aircraft was in the Pacific configuration with crew rest facility’s just across the isle to my row. The load factors were pretty light back in coach with about 30% of the seats taken. This meant that I had my two of 2 seats free for our flight to New York this evening. The aircraft was configured in a 2x5x2 combination, felt pretty sorry for anyone stuck in the middle of the 5 seat row. My last flight on AA was a good few years ago and American really seem to have got there act together as far as increasing the leg room and improving the general service. Push back commenced on schedule and soon the familiar sound of the Boeing 777’s engines roared into life, as we taxied out to runway 9, we moved into a long que with British Airways 747-400’s heading to Asia and 777-200’s to the middle east. Takeoff was at about 8:40pm with a takeoff role of 50 seconds, quite long for a 777. Soon the huge wings started to flex upward and at 170mph we lifted off into the night sky, making a banking turn towards Ireland and the Atlantic. Leaving London’s 53F/12C ground temp and climbing out through a few slightly turbulent layers of cloud, with the aid of the PTV and Flightmap we had cleaned up as we passed through 3,000ft. Soon our captain came on the P/A and told us a little information about our flight tonight to Kennedy. Cruising altitude would be 38,000ft with a head wind of 18mph, our cruise speed would be around 530mph/852kmh with some light turbulence anticipated over western Ireland. Somewhere over western England we had levelled out and our crew started our in-flight serve with refreshments and snack mix. With six crew in the main cabin we had a pretty personal service, which is always nice. Our first meal choice was either Salmon or Chicken, as I never eat fish on flights (wouldn’t risk fish as it never seems to be either be cooked properly or edible) so I chose the chicken, which came with the usual crap. Also got a bit of some kind of cake (still trying to figure out what it was) and a small salad. Pretty standard, but not too bad. Soon the food had been cleared away by our surprisingly Findlay flight attendants. As I had had a pretty long day I soon fell asleep while watching a movie, which was so good I can’t remember for the life of me what it was called. I woke up to find the crew serving pizza, and I don’t mean a crappy slice of rock hard pizza, this was a full 6” pizza, piping hot and it tasted pretty good. A large cookie followed this. AS I’ve heard you can get pretty de-hydrated on flights I drank a ridiculous amount of Canada Dry which did actually work but meant I was up and down all flight. Soon enough the engines started to spoole down and we started our decent somewhere over the Boston area. The weather was pretty poor and we were soon into some moderately choppy turbulence and then rain started to shoot across the windows. As we made a turn to join the APR to JFK the cabin was prepared for arrival. We touched down at 10:40pm and slowly ambled towards terminal 8. Pulling up beside an AA A300-600R bound for Miami and Montego Bay Jamaica we came to a halt at gate 8 and de-planed. As I only had carryon luggage I was soon out of JFK and on my way to Manhattan. After spending a hectic day doing everything that is physically possible for the jet lagged tourist I went back to the hotel and got a few hours of sleep before heading back to JFK the next morning for the flight back.
Overall flight: 8/10
Flight number: AA142
New York JFK – London Heathrow LHR
Aircraft: Boeing 777-223ER
Departure time: (local) 07:30 JFK T8
Arrival time: (local) 20:00 LHR T3
Flying time: 6:30
Check in at JFK was pretty standard with a surly agent who didn’t seem to think it a necessity to ask any of the security questions and obviously thought that her conversation with her colleague about her brothers new BMW was of great importance. Anyway I made my way past the security point, with a strangely lax check, I was surprised that the security on the way out at LHR seemed a lot tighter. I made my way to gate 10 in terminal 8, and as it was still pretty early I decided to watch an A300 push back to Miami. The terminal was pretty empty so I thought I’d whack off a few pics of the aircraft on the push. Obviously this was biggest crime I could have ever committed, as an AA gate agent came running over at full pelt and shouted at me that no pictures were allowed, I couldn’t help but ask if this was JFK or Edwards airforce base, she didn’t seem to find this funny and threatened to call security. I returned her threat with a laugh and walked off shaking my head. I mean seriously I know that with the events off Sep 11th security is stepped up, but please tell me what the logic is behind stopping people taking pictures? Can’t see it myself.
Anyhow after a while the time came when people started to group up near the checkin desks, and then boarding was opened for the usual First/Business Top tier FF members. Terminal 8 is not exactly fantastic and is in need of some updating and sprucing up. The que was pretty ridiculous so I sat back until it died down and then made my way on-board and found my seat at the rear of the front-main cabin. A differently configured aircraft this time in the Atlantic configuration greeted me. The captain soon came over the P/A announcing our imminent departure. Loads for this flight were high, with around a 95% capacity in economy and about the same in Business. First had the usual 70% load, not quite sure why this was so different to the coming out flight. Most of the passengers seemed to be Americans to. Although AA have made some effort in upgrading there cabin they could take a leaf out of other airlines books and put some more padding in the backs of the seats. Pretty rock hard at the moment, not something you want on a long haul flight. Soon we were on our merry way to runway 4L, and after a few arrivals including a Gemini Cargo MD11F N705GC and a Aeromexico 767-200ER XA-TNS and a United 747-400 N105UA. Nice to see them shoot past my window and touch down meters away. Soon it was our turn and we turned onto the active, paused shortly, spooled up and shot off down the runway with a fair bit of acceleration. Airborne in a little less than 40 seconds, with a sharp bank to the left, caught a good view of the apron before we disappeared into the clouds on our way across “The Pond” to the UK. We would be cruising at an initial height of FL290 then climbing to FL330 and onwards and upwards to 37,000ft. Our route would take us over Halifax, Nova Scotia and then making landfall a little south of Dublin in over Cardiff and down into London. One thing I have noticed about our route over here and on the return is that it is quite a southerly airway that we were taking. Somewhere over Nova Scotia/Atlantic we were told to return to our seats and fasten our seat belts and for the crew to stow all carts, and return to there seats immediately as we were expected to encounter some moderate turbulence. I’ve flown a fair bit in my life and when you hear the Captain say “Moderate turbulence”, it usually means hold on to your seats, this is going to be a bumpy ride. And I wasn’t disappointed. Soon enough we were shacking like an old washing machine with a few of the overhead bins opening and carryons falling into the aisles, this unsettled a few of the female passengers who let out a audible shriek. As a true aviation nut I was loving this, and watching the wing flex up and down at an alarming rate was pretty cool. But the best was yet to come. After about 5 minutes of this we started to settle down and come out of the turbulent air, or so we thought. Ever been on a roller coaster when you reach the peak of a hill then go shooting down the other side and leave your stomach at the top of the hill? Well we dropped a few hundred feet pretty quickly and for some reason in a few of the over head panels the oxygen masks came down. One more of these air pockets and we started to climb to our new assigned altitude of 40,000ft. We were on smooth air again and the cabin crew came around and put everything back in its place. Soon our meal service begain with some cold cuts of rock hard dry turkey and snap peas with carrots and some other interesting substance, maybe mash potato, maybe not. Looking out of the window I was lucky enough to see a Swiss A330 shoot by a few thousand feet below on-route to Boston Logan, a beautiful aircraft in-flight. After flicking through what the PTV had to offer I settled on “Mr Deeds”. An Adam Sandler special with his usual wise cracks and awful jokes, but it passed the time. Luckily enough I was sat next to a girl who was obviously pretty far foreword in the que when God was handing out looks. So most of the flight was spent talking to her. As we raced across the ocean sunset was soon apon us and a spectacular sunset with yellow, red, blue and a multitude of colours spread across the sky. Looking down I could see an outline of a cruise ship making its way to a destination in America. A pretty uneventful flight followed although a little under 6 hours 30 minutes it seemed to (excuse the pun) fly by. As we made landfall on the southern tip of Ireland, the sky had cleared by now and we were left with a beautiful view from about 5 miles above of small towns and cities of the UK passing below. We started our decent over Cardiff and were soon passing 15,000ft and from here you could just about see the lights of cars going along the M1 motorway heading towards London. As we were approaching London the Captain came on the P/A and told us of a short delay as we were put into a holding pattern for about 5 minutes. This was not a problem as were already around 30 minutes ahead schedule. We came over London from the south making a banked turn to the north, then to the west to join the APR for Heathrow runway 27L. Soon we were over the threshold and passing the BA maintenance base where a couple of BA’s Concord were parked up alongside a few 747-400’s and 777-200’s. And with the familiar double bump we were down on terra-firmer and the thrust reverses were engaged, pulling off 27L spoilers were lowered and with a humming the flaps were retracted. Soon we were pulling back in T3 gate 20 next to a JAL B747-400 and Asiana 747-400. Going through customs was swift and I said my goodbyes to my seat mate. And off I went back into central London. Next weekend I’ll be doing the same trip with the addition of a trip to Boston to see some relatives. Should be interested to see the comparisons within AA.
Overall flight: 6/10
Dan Valentine - Bad Ass MOFO Photographer