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Max752
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Posts: 372
Joined: Fri Aug 23, 2013 12:56 am

American Airlines Flagship First Class; JFK To SFO

Fri Feb 19, 2016 2:40 am



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AMERICAN AIRLINES FLAGSHIP FIRST CLASS

New York (JFK) to San Francisco (SFO)


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INTRO

I will always remember this flight. I typically remember flights where something goes wrong or the service was comedic however, I will remember this flight for the right reasons.

American has refined and retained the glamour of air travel. Albeit, not on every route in their network. They have refined and redefined what the "transcon" route should be and it's only going to improve in the coming years.

Once the Douglas DC-3 and eventually the DC-7 was put into service, transcontinental service became practical. American Airlines was at the forefront of this new "Transcontinental Network". Air travel had become something of luxury and glamour and the level of luxury only increased with the arrival of the jet age.

Now, decades later, these transcontinental routes have retained their glamour, awe, and luxury even when the domestic market has become saturated with ultra-low cost carrier vying to become the airline with the lowest fares and the least amount of service. Again, this ultra-low cost model has yet to infect the premium transcon routes and its clear, especially on my most recent journey across the country in American's "Flagship First Class", a name rightly assigned to the service.

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THE ITINERARY

American Airlines FL# AA17
Departure/Arrival: New York-Kennedy (JFK)/San Francisco (SFO)
Departure/Arrival Time: Scheduled 5:00pm (Actual 5:29pm)/Arrived On-Time: 8:37pm
Date February 12, 2016
Aircraft: Airbus a321-231, Registration: N117AN
Class of Service: First
Seat: 1A
Meals: Multi-Course Dinner/Snack


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CHECK-IN+LOUNGE

Flagship Check-in

For the majority of both domestic and international flights, the passenger experience begins at the gate when the gate agent welcomes Group 1 or Zone 1. This however, is not the case. With American's Flagship Service, the passenger experience begins the moment you step into the terminal.

I had arrived at New York-JFK roughly two and a half hours before my flight, traveled from terminal 3 to terminal 8 in under fifteen minutes, and located Flagship Check-in. Terminal 8 was filled to the brim as the cliche goes. Every single agent from every airline operating out of Terminal 8 was occupied assisting passengers. This was also the case at First Class and Priority Check-in areas. Though, I by-passed the lines snaking across the terminal as I made by way to the exclusive Flagship Check-in located on the far north side of Terminal 8. Flagship Check-in is offered to First Class passengers on three-class flights both international and transcon as well as Concierge Key AAdvantage members and the Oneworld equivalence tiers flying in international first or business.

I was greeted by someone at the podium who made sure that my information checked out and that I was eligible to use Flagship check-in. Once inside, I was greeted by two very eager ticketing agents who asked if I would need any assistance in checking in to which I responded that I was "just going to use the kiosk". The two double checked to make sure I didn't want face to face assistance. Once I got my boarding pass I proceeded to a small seating area where I organized my bags and charged my phone while I did so. Then I exited towards security. There I was greeted by a separate agent who escorted me to the very front of security and took my bags for me. Within a minute of exiting the lounge, I was through security.

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Flagship Lounge at JFK

Once I made it through security, I proceeded to the Flagship Lounge. I had only been to the Admiral's Club at JFK so I wasn't sure what to expect. That last time I was eligible for lounge access I was denied entry to the Flagship Lounge due to the fact that I didn't meet the age requirements. This time, I teamed up with a fellow San Francisco passenger who commutes weekly between the East and West Coasts. I noticed that she had just made he way through Flagship Check-in, we exchanged some words in the security line, and she headed in the direction of the lounge. So, I asked if we could act like we knew each other. She might be one of the nicest and most seasoned travelers I've met on one of my set of flights. She said "of course" and we proceeded to the lounge. There we both checked-in and we welcomed to the Flagship Lounge. We exchanged some words and went our separate words until we met up again in the boarding area.

The lounge itself is decent sized. Beginning sometime this Spring, the lounge will be renovated to better reflect American's new branding and better serve the needs of the modern traveler. The lounge's age was certainly showing but nonetheless,had an inviting atmosphere with plenty of amenities. I made my way to the dining area and helped myself to the fairly extensive buffet and enjoyed a few sodas. I then made my way over to the showers where I freshened up before the 6.5 hour journey to the west coast.

Every agent I encountered during my visit to the lounge was very professional and welcoming. When I noticed I had misplaced my I.D., the Flagship Lounge attendant held onto my bag and wished me luck in finding it. I did locate it. It had fallen out of the "doggie bowl" I had set the contents of my pocket in as I passed through security. When I returned to the lounge the Flagship attendant welcomed me back in and said that she was happy that I had located my I.D. Though the lounge is a bit dated and pretty humble, I truly enjoyed by experience at the lounge and couldn't imagine what it would have been like waiting in the chaotic gate area. From the lounge I made my way down to concourse level and proceeded to gate 42.

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Boarding

I arrived at the gate roughly ten minutes prior to boarding and both the priority and general boarding lanes were jammed full of passengers waiting to board. I made my way to the front of the pack when the gate agent made the announcement that all passengers not seated in First Class should clear the Priority AAcess boarding lane. That thinned out the crowed quite a bit. Finally, boarding for flight 17 to San Francisco commenced and I practically sprinted down the jetway. I made my way to seat 1A where I was immediately greeted by the purser and welcomed on-board. The terrific purser and lead first class flight attendant took my jacket and asked if I'd like anything to drink. I asked for a water. Less than a minute later, she brought back a tray lined with a black cloth, poured the water in front of me, and then set the glass down offering a second "Welcome Aboard". The flight, still on the ground, was off to a terrific start and I could tell I was blessed to have a truly First Class crew on my flight.

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FLIGHT AA17 BOUND FOR SAN FRANCISCO

Pre-Flight

I've already mentioned my pre-flight beverage and how quick the crew was to begin premium class service. In addition to pre-flight beverages, amenity kits were handed out, the purser brought passengers a menu and explained the dinner service, and flight attendants from both First and Business class made several rounds up and down the aisle refilling glasses and assisting passengers. American's boarding music contributed to the upbeat and welcoming pre-flight atmosphere, well at least for me, as Bon Iver's Hinnom, TX played throughout the cabin. Hinnom, TX just so happens to be at the top of quite a few of my playlists at the moment. Finally, my carry-on was stored in my own personal overhead bin, everything I would need for the flight was stored neatly throughout my "suite", and I inserted in buckle into metal fitting and then pulled on the loose end--tightening it low around my waist. I was eager to finally get airborne.

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The Seat

The American Airlines "Flagship Suite" found on the Airbus a321-231 "Transcon" is one of my favorite hard products in the sky. Up until this nearly 6.5hr hop across the country, I never felt like I had enough time to really experience the seat. I've come to realize just how amazing this seat is. American has a really fantastic product for a relatively short flight. The legroom is exceptional (though getting out can be tricky when the bed is fully flat). The cushion is the perfect balance of firm and soft and allows for a fairly enjoyable nap on these flights. There is a plethora of angles and positions the seat can transform into including a fully flat (180 degree) bed that is nearly six and a half feet long measuring maybe a little over two feet in width.

Each seat of course is fitted with individual AVOD (audio-video-on demand) that can be controlled from a generously sized touch screen or the remote located adjacent to the seat. The "suite" features a single AC outlet that continuously powers any device including laptops, a usb outlet, and a few other outlets including a jack that allows for select Apple devices to be paired up with the AVOD system. Storage isn't an issue as each First Class seat features a personal overhead bin, a storage compartment at chest height adjacent to the seat, a water bottle compartment, and two shelves built into the side of the seat. All of these features make this seat one of my favorite hard products in the sky and my go-to for transcon crossings.


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Dinner

Shortly after we reached 10,000 feet, the purser brought out warm nuts and took beverage and dinner orders. I ordered each course right then and there which the purser greatly appreciated as it meant not having to run back and forth each course. The nuts were tasty as always and there's nothing like a can of Coke at 30,000 feet. There's always something about being that high up that makes a can of Coke all the more refreshing.

Ten-ish minutes after receiving warm nuts, the purser and second first class flight attendant set-up a few carts in the galley where they began preparing for the fairly extensive dinner service. She brought out a white table cloth, napkin with metal silverware clamp, bread plate, butter, salt and pepper, and a glass for a second beverage during my meal. The second first class flight attendant then came by with a bread basket from which I chose a pretzel roll which turned out to be unbelievably tasty and soft. The purser then brought around bottles of wine and a bottle of water. I was asked if I'd like to have some red wine with my fillet however, being the honest young man I am, I had to turn down the offer with being too young and all though, I can't say I wasn't tempted when an adult offered my fancy alcohol. I asked for sparkling water and a second pretzel roll as I subconsciously, had devoured the entire roll even before the first course was brought out.

The beets were pretty good. The pecans were fantastic and full of flavor and the balsamic glaze accompanied the dish perfectly. I then enjoyed a fresh salad with more balsamic dressings. Then came the main attraction. Beef fillet. Hmm. Yeah, it was fantastic. It was cooked medium, a little more than I typically prefer but it was still exceptional. The shiitake mushroom sauce also tasted fantastic and made the fillet a little exceptionally tasty. The mushrooms, potatoes, and vegetables were also flavorful however, in limited quantities.

Eventually, an hour later, it was time for dessert. Just as there were five choices for dinner, there were five choices for dessert. I did have some trouble deciding on rather or not I wanted the mousse or a sundae. I eventually settled on the sundae which was absolutely fantastic and can best be summed up with the following gif....
Unfortunately, all good things do have to come to an end and before I knew it, I had finished off two salads, three pretzel rolls, a steak dinner, and a sundae. I also had an espresso that is exclusively offered on the 777-300 and a321T in First and Business Class. I then sat back, relaxed, and enjoy the rest of the flight.

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Service and Amenities

In addition to the meal service, American provides each first class passenger with an amenity kit with Red Flower amenities, Bose headsets. earbuds, bottled water service, snacks, linens and a pillow, full beverage service anytime, cookies, and fresh fruit. Needless to say, I wasn't searching for things to do or eat anytime during the flight.

The in-flight entertainment also did a pretty good job at keeping my young active mind at ease as I watched a few episodes of The Big Bang Theory, stated House of Cards, and watched a bit of Everest. I also listened to a few albums though, nothing that I didn't have saved to my phone. The wi-fi worked surprisingly well even though a notice about high usage was at the top of the Gogo landing page. Though, I only used the service for 30 minutes as the flight pass was $35. I usually get the wi-fi flight pass if it's $10, $15, maybe up to $20 but $35 is almost criminal in my opinion. So I settled on more in-flight entertainment and watching the moving map.

Finally, I reclined my seat further and settled in for the remainder of the flight.

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OVERALL

Well, those six hours flew by, pun intended. Before I could finish up my second episode of House of Cards, I heard the final approach announcement. Sparkling water and a second hot towel was brought out and I freshened up. I brought my seat back into the upright position and let out a sigh. I honestly could have done the trip to Europe or possibly even to Asia in that seat. However, it wasn't just the seat, it was also the crew. The crew was by the book. They did everything as they were supposed to. I watched both first class flight attendants consult the in-flight service handbook and preparation sheets in order to provide the best service they could.

American's three class transcon flights are some of my favorite trips out there. They are just the right duration, always leave me well feed, allow access to some of the most premium lounges on an American airline, and I love the a321T's first class seat. If you're still undecided about what airline to do the LAX/SFO-NYC hop with, don't hesitate. Book one of American's two Flagship flights across the country.

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SiouxFlyer
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RE: American Airlines Flagship First Class; JFK To SFO

Fri Feb 19, 2016 6:52 am

Great trip report! I do have to admit that I was not as honest as you when I was offered alcohol on DL.   
 
lychemsa
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RE: American Airlines Flagship First Class; JFK To SFO

Fri Feb 19, 2016 7:04 am

Very nice. Looks great.

The problem is long haul economy class which sucks on all US airlines.

The most bearable is JetBlue. I hear Virgin is not bad.
 
Max752
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RE: American Airlines Flagship First Class; JFK To SFO

Fri Feb 19, 2016 3:19 pm

Quoting SiouxFlyer (Reply 1):
Great trip report! I do have to admit that I was not as honest as you when I was offered alcohol on DL.

Thanks!

Haha! I'm a bit of a prude so I always refuse alcohol when offered but it's always tempting.

Quoting lychemsa (Reply 2):
The problem is long haul economy class which sucks on all US airlines.

The most bearable is JetBlue. I hear Virgin is not bad.

Yep, wouldn't have wanted to sit coach on that flight but it's not terrible. Snacks and a nice buy-on-board menu with entertainment isn't too bad.

jetBlue and Virgin are by far the two best airlines for longer haul coach but, on Transcon routes, Delta and American are close third and fourths. I wouldn't want to be caught dead on a United, Sun Country, or Spirit flight of this length however!

-Max
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fbgdavidson
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RE: American Airlines Flagship First Class; JFK To SFO

Sat Feb 20, 2016 12:37 am

Very nice report! I didn't see any comparisons to B6 Mint....How would you compare the two?
"My first job was selling doors, door to door, that's a tough job innit" - Bill Bailey
 
Max752
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RE: American Airlines Flagship First Class; JFK To SFO

Sat Feb 20, 2016 1:30 am

Quoting fbgdavidson (Reply 4):
I didn't see any comparisons to B6 Mint....How would you compare the two?

Well, I like Mint but Flagship First takes home the gold. When I flew in B6 Mint, I had to wait two hours in the outdated (and quite honestly, filthy) LAX Terminal 3 with absolutely no ground service. American on the other hand, pampers you on and off the aircraft but at a much higher price tag.

American, in my opinion, offers a more substantial all around transcon product but jetBlue isn't too far behind.

Glad you enjoyed the report!

-Max
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fbgdavidson
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RE: American Airlines Flagship First Class; JFK To SFO

Sat Feb 20, 2016 1:39 pm

Quoting Max752 (Reply 5):
Well, I like Mint but Flagship First takes home the gold. When I flew in B6 Mint, I had to wait two hours in the outdated (and quite honestly, filthy) LAX Terminal 3 with absolutely no ground service. American on the other hand, pampers you on and off the aircraft but at a much higher price tag.

American, in my opinion, offers a more substantial all around transcon product but jetBlue isn't too far behind.

IMO, that's somewhat mitigated by purchasing lounge access at each end. I used the Airspace Lounge at JFK which is available for $25 (incl. $10 drink credit) or free if you have American Express Platinum/Centurion. Coming back from LAX the Virgin America Loft is available for $40. Terminal 3 is utter garbage at LAX! I do agree the AA FL at JFK certainly is better than the Airspace Lounge but the VX Loft is reasonably comparable to the Flagship Lounge at LAX.

From a value perspective I think B6 wins hugely, particularly if you can get the $599 each way fares and the Mint Solo Suites which are more spacious and private than the F seats on the A321T. Given my experiences with B6 Mint it's really tough to shell out $3k+ for AA F or plump for AA J when B6 offers such competitive fares and product....and I'm a oneworld whore!   
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Speedalive
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RE: American Airlines Flagship First Class; JFK To SFO

Sat Feb 20, 2016 4:33 pm

Wow. That was a fantastic and well written report! I look forward to reading more. If I ever manage to stumble on a large amount of money or have enough miles and have to need to fly transcon, I'll be sure to try out AA's Flagship First Class.

Cheers
 
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ClassicLover
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RE: American Airlines Flagship First Class; JFK To SFO

Sat Feb 20, 2016 4:35 pm

Great report! Appreciated how well written and concise you are!

Looks like something to add to my list of things I have to do.

Quoting fbgdavidson (Reply 6):
From a value perspective I think B6 wins hugely, particularly if you can get the $599 each way fares and the Mint Solo Suites which are more spacious and private than the F seats on the A321T. Given my experiences with B6 Mint it's really tough to shell out $3k+ for AA F or plump for AA J when B6 offers such competitive fares and product....and I'm a oneworld whore!

I almost... almost tried B6 on my last trip across the US as the $599 fares were looking at me. Instead I paid the marginal extra cost and went AA first because like you, I'm also a oneworld whore  
I do enjoy a spot of flying, especially when it's not in economy!
 
jeffrey1970
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RE: American Airlines Flagship First Class; JFK To SFO

Sat Feb 20, 2016 7:14 pm

Quoting Max752 (Reply 3):
Haha! I'm a bit of a prude so I always refuse alcohol when offered but it's always tempting.

I have learned the hard way that it is best to stay away from alcohol. You did a great job with your trip report. I wish that I was on that flight.
God bless through Jesus, Jeff
 
Max752
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RE: American Airlines Flagship First Class; JFK To SFO

Sat Feb 20, 2016 10:12 pm

Quoting classiclover (Reply 8):
Great report! Appreciated how well written and concise you are!

Thanks, much appreciated! Glad you enjoyed it!

Quoting classiclover (Reply 8):
I almost... almost tried B6 on my last trip across the US as the $599 fares were looking at me. Instead I paid the marginal extra cost and went AA first because like you, I'm also a oneworld whore  

I too prefer American due to its versatile AAdvantage program which could possibly allow me to redeem my miles on another Oneworld carrier however, you must try jetBlue Mint in either rows 2 or 4. It's a very unique experience.

Quoting jeffrey1970 (Reply 9):
I have learned the hard way that it is best to stay away from alcohol. You did a great job with your trip report. I wish that I was on that flight.

Thanks for the feedback! Glad you enjoyed the report! It was one hell of a flight for sure  
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jeffrey1970
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RE: American Airlines Flagship First Class; JFK To SFO

Sun Feb 21, 2016 1:52 am

Quoting Max752 (Reply 10):
Thanks for the feedback! Glad you enjoyed the report! It was one hell of a flight for sure

You are welcome.
God bless through Jesus, Jeff
 
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KLM11
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RE: American Airlines Flagship First Class; JFK To SFO

Sun Feb 21, 2016 4:11 am

Hey Max752,

Great report on AA's 321T F product. I tend to agree with you, AA is now the undisputed leader in the LAX/SFO-JFK market in F. UA had a decent transcon F product pre-merger, but I always favored the 762's to the 752's. I hear you on the whole age thing, it was always an issue for me back in the day, even before I was flying regularly between SAN and YVR for school. I'll never forget doing UA SEA-LAX on the 752, it was a dinner flight, my seatmate in 2B spilled his wine on my leg...wasn't exactly easy to explain to my parents why I wreaked of red (I was only 16 at the time, and not near as honest as you). Anyways, a nice read. Thanks for sharing.

KLM11
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jetwet1
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RE: American Airlines Flagship First Class; JFK To SFO

Sun Feb 21, 2016 3:40 pm

Quoting fbgdavidson (Reply 6):

From a value perspective I think B6 wins hugely, particularly if you can get the $599 each way fares and the Mint Solo Suites which are more spacious and private than the F seats on the A321T. Given my experiences with B6 Mint it's really tough to shell out $3k+ for AA F or plump for AA J when B6 offers such competitive fares and product....and I'm a oneworld whore!

I have to agree, however, I will say, the one thing that really let B6 down was the food, it just didn't compete, some people do prefer the tapas style, I don't, so it's a personal thing, however, if i'm paying, yeah the $599 is far more palatable than $1500.
 
Max752
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RE: American Airlines Flagship First Class; JFK To SFO

Sun Feb 21, 2016 5:26 pm

Quoting KLM11 (Reply 12):
Great report on AA's 321T F product. I tend to agree with you, AA is now the undisputed leader in the LAX/SFO-JFK market in F.

Glad you enjoyed the report! Yep, I'd have to AA is the undisputed winner of the Transcon war.

Quoting KLM11 (Reply 12):
.wasn't exactly easy to explain to my parents why I wreaked of red (I was only 16 at the time, and not near as honest as you)

It's not so much the fear of getting in trouble (my parents could care less if I had a drink or two on a plane :p ) but rather, it would just feel wrong to drink freely when I've been told it's wrong my entire life.

Quoting jetwet1 (Reply 13):
I have to agree, however, I will say, the one thing that really let B6 down was the food, it just didn't compete, some people do prefer the tapas style, I don't, so it's a personal thing, however, if i'm paying, yeah the $599 is far more palatable than $1500.

I actually find the tapas style dining to be a refreshing twist on first class catering. It's a great value for $599 especially when you factor in the seat as well.

-Max
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F9Animal
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RE: American Airlines Flagship First Class; JFK To SFO

Mon Feb 22, 2016 6:38 am

Very nice trip report! I have to ask..... Is the alcohol at the lounge in JFK self serve? If so, the selection is incredible! I am sure the employees watch it closely, as self serve alcohol could easily turn into a drunk idiot. Do the seats have a heating option?
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Max752
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RE: American Airlines Flagship First Class; JFK To SFO

Mon Feb 22, 2016 1:58 pm

Quoting F9Animal (Reply 15):

Oh yep, it's self serve alcohol! Self serve everything. I've visited every domestic flagship lounge multiple times but yet to see anyone act idiotic because of booze but I'm sure it happens. There is one flagship attendant with multiple buffet attendants so honestly, nothing's monitored very closely in the lounge.

The seats do not have a heating option though I don't ever think heat's an issue on the a321T because the cabin tends to be a bit on the warm side.

Glad you liked the report!

-Max
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jeffh747
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RE: American Airlines Flagship First Class; JFK To SFO

Mon Feb 22, 2016 3:14 pm

Hi Max,
What a great TR! I've long wanted to try out American's A321T. It is fascinating that, as you remarked, they brought back the fancy age of travel with this F product. The food look delicious! It was also really interesting that the FA's referenced their handbook- many would find that unprofessional but I would think that it is refreshing that they're doing everything they can to make your flight enjoyable and making sure they do not mess up.
Great trip report, and thanks for sharing,
Jeff
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jetwet1
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RE: American Airlines Flagship First Class; JFK To SFO

Mon Feb 22, 2016 4:20 pm

Quoting Max752 (Reply 14):
It's a great value for $599 especially when you factor in the seat as well.

No argument there, it is a steal at that price.

Quoting Max752 (Reply 14):

I actually find the tapas style dining to be a refreshing twist on first class catering.

VX went that route when it started the trans cons, they switched to a more traditional meal after a while, I wonder if B6 will do the same? I guess the issue I have is, with the Tapas style, if there is an outstanding dish, a couple of bits and it is gone.

AA had a tortellini dish that I loved, the same (amazingly) goes to US with their chicken Caesar salad, I loved that dish, it would have been annoying to get a couple of bits and that's it.
 
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RE: American Airlines Flagship First Class; JFK To SFO

Mon Feb 22, 2016 10:03 pm

Quoting F9Animal (Reply 15):
Is the alcohol at the lounge in JFK self serve? If so, the selection is incredible! I am sure the employees watch it closely, as self serve alcohol could easily turn into a drunk idiot.

The vast majority of lounges outside the US are self serve alcohol. The few that aren't are typically because it's seen as a better level of service to have a waited bar.

BA's Galleries First lounge at LHR (for all oneworld Emeralds) has self serve pour vintage champagne and Johnnie Walker Blue Label.

Outside of fraternity houses most adults can drink responsibly when presented with self service booze  
Quoting jetwet1 (Reply 13):
the one thing that really let B6 down was the food, it just didn't compete, some people do prefer the tapas style

I actually found the quality of the "tapas" excellent on the one flight where I dined (the redeye I just slept from wheels up). I thought it was far better than most AA F fayre, or that of other carriers I've flown domestically.
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