Category Archives: American

Lounge Review: American Airlines Admirals Club Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG)

Paris Charles de Gaulle airport has two oneworld lounges: an American Airlines Admirals Club and a Cathay Pacific lounge. Both are located between Terminals 2A and 2C.

Directions to the lounge

Directions to the lounge

Entrances to the oneworld lounges

Entrances to the oneworld lounges

The Admirals Club at CDG is the best and nicest Admirals Club I’ve been to. And that’s comparing to lounges like the one in Narita and the Flagship lounges. The club has a nice space that’s well decorated and designed. There’s plenty of seating, universal power outlets, and large windows where you can some natural light and nice views of airplanes.

Large room

Large room

Seating

Seating

More seating

More seating

Work stations

Work stations

Counter seating

Counter seating

Tables

Tables

International outlets

International outlets

Views of apron

Views of apron

The food selection is also great for an Admirals Club. This club is only open in the mornings (6am to 12pm), but they have a great breakfast spread. They have all of the typical American-ish hot items (e.g., omelets, frittatas, eggs, bacon, sausage, potatoes, tomatoes), as well as a good cold selection of breads, salads, meats, and cheeses. Food seemed to be replenished relatively frequently, so things seemed fresh.

Drink fridge

Drink fridge

Coffee machine

Coffee machine

Alcohol

Alcohol

More alcohol

More alcohol

Yogurts and parfaits

Yogurts and desserts

Savory dishes

Savory dishes

Sandwiches

Sandwiches

Croissants

Croissants

More breads

More breads

Cheese, meats, salad

Cheese, meats, salads

Cereal

Cereal

I didn’t stick around too long in this club because I also wanted to check out the Cathay Pacific lounge next door, but the Admirals Club wasn’t too crowded just before 11am (which was right after a bank of flights had just departed). The two lounges are literally right next to each other, so you can take your pick, but I’d probably choose the Admirals Club for breakfast and the Cathay Pacific lounge for lunch. The Cathay Pacific lounge is also probably a tad less crowded in the mornings.

Flight Review: American Airlines Business Class on A321T Transcontinental JFK to SFO

As I’m preparing to embark on a trip to Southeast Asia that I’m super excited about, I went through some past photos and realized that I have several trips that I never wrote up. This one is from the end of 2014. I took a quick trip to Boston and flew back to SFO through JFK. Luckily for me, I got an upgrade to business class on one of American’s 3-class A320s that they use for transcontinental service for JFK-LAX and JFK-SFO.

I found the business class seat to be extremely comfortable. There was good cushioning, and the seat goes lie flat. The cabin itself felt spacious, and it feels relatively intimate because there just aren’t that many seats total on these flights (I feel like even economy class on these planes is more bearable because the cabin is so small).

Business class seat in 2x2 seating arrangement

Business class seat in 2×2 seating arrangement

I’m a big fan of the blanket and pillow that American has on their business class flights. The pillow is large and fluffy, and the blanket doesn’t make me run too hot or get staticky. There were also noise-canceling headphones and a bottle of water at the seat, and I was offered a pre-departure beverage.

Foothole cubby and IFE screen

Foothole cubby and IFE screen

AA’s in-flight entertainment on updated planes is quite good for a domestic carrier. Or perhaps I’m just used to the old US Airways planes that have no IFE to speak of. The screen was a good size, there was a touch screen controller, and I found the selection of movies to be good. It’s essentially the same selection they have on international flights (although again, AA actually still flies some old US Airways flights across the Atlantic that have no built-in IFE…). One thing that I didn’t like was that there were ads before movies.

Seat controls

Seat controls

Power ports

Power ports

View of business class cabin

View of business class cabin

For the meal service, there were three options, and I went with the gnocchi. The salad was fine; I didn’t eat the starter since I don’t usually eat meat. There was a choice of white bread and cheese bread to accompany the meal.

Food menu

Food menu

Drink menu

Drink menu

Business class starter

Business class starter

The gnocchi was fine. Given that this flight happened in November, I felt that the entree was appropriately fall tasting, if that makes sense. I skipped the sundae and cheese, which I know is blasphemous in some circles.

Gnocchi entree

Gnocchi entree

After the meal service, I tried to get some sleep. These seats go lie flat, which is great. They might feel a little narrow, but you can lower the arm rest to get more space. Length wise, there was plenty of space for me (I’m 5’9″). I also like that you can adjust it so it’s not completely lie-flat so you don’t feel like you’re sloping backward when you’re lying down.

My main complaint about the flight (which has been well documented elsewhere) is that the cabin got extremely warm. I’m not sure what it is about the design of these planes, but I woke up sweating.

Overall, these are a huge planes are a huge improvement over the old 767s that AA used to fly on these routes, and it’s a solid product for a transcontinental flight.

Trip Report: AA/US Business Class PHL to MAN A330-200

I normally wouldn’t review American Airlines business class, but I thought it’d be fun to review a flight in business class on one of the US Airways A330s. My first international business class flight was actually in US Airways Envoy class, so it was fun to see how the product has changed now that it’s technically American Airlines.

I got put on this flight relatively last minute, so I was seated in one of the middle seats, but the seats are pretty private, so I didn’t feel a huge difference by being in the center. I don’t have a ton of pictures because the captain made a specific announcement that taking pictures or video of the crew, passengers, or processes was not allowed, so I felt a little self-conscious. This was the first time I’ve heard such an announcement.

Cabin shot

Cabin shot

Former US Airways Envoy seat

Former US Airways Envoy seat

Foot space

Foot space

IFE and seat controls, outlet, reading light

IFE and seat controls, outlet, reading light

Here are some improvements over the old US Airways Envoy class product:
1) They now have the AA business class pillow and blanket. This is a huge upgrade over the crappy pillow and blanket US Airways used to use. The AA pillow is larger and fluffier, and the blanket is both more substantial and doesn’t make me run hot.
2) They have Bose noise-cancelling headphones. Another huge upgrade.
3) The IFE is the same as AA business class, which I also like better than the old US Envoy.
4) The food is standardized to AA’s menus. I don’t have tons of thoughts on this, although it’s probably better.

All in all, the fact that this is now American is a huge upgrade. The US Airways Envoy seat was/is a pretty good business class seat, but everything else that AA has brought is so much better.

Menu

Menu

Menu

Menu

Since I was a late-minute addition on this flight, they didn’t have my special meal requests, so I had the salmon. I don’t eat much fish/meat on planes any more, but I thought that this meal was pretty solid. The salmon was maybe a little dry, but it was pretty decent overall, and the meal service was finished pretty quickly, which is good for sleeping on these relatively short transatlantic flights.

Salmon

Salmon

Raspberry tart

Raspberry tart

Breakfast was served a little over an hour prior to arrival. You probably don’t need to partake in both meals since it’s a relatively short flight (~6 hours).

As a bonus, here are pics of some recent VGMLs on AA on legacy US Envoy planes. This first meal was just lacking in flavor, but it was pretty inoffensive. A rice pilaf with bok choy and carrots.

VGML

VGML out of PHL

This VGML starter was cold potatoes and cucumber. I kinda liked it?

VGML

VGML out of FCO

This entree was confusing, but there were some red beans in sauce, eggplant stuff, a vaguely curry-like thing, broccoli, and rice.

VGML

VGML out of FCO

This pre-arrival meal included a chickpea salad (with no dressing), some fruit, and a “sandwich” that was just some tomato and lettuce in bread.

VGML snack

VGML snack

Overall, the fact that these flights now have things like the AA pillow and blanket and Bose headphones are huge improvements over the old US Airways product.

Lounge Review: American Airlines Flagship Lounge LHR Terminal 3

Up next in the reviews of Heathrow Terminal 3 lounges is the American Airlines Flagship Lounge. To save you some time, I don’t know why you would come to this lounge unless for some reason you need really fast wifi.

Entrance to the lounge

Entrance to the lounge

Honestly, I found this lounge depressing after visiting the Cathay Pacific lounge. The lounge looks old and tired and the lighting doesn’t help. It’s a pretty sizable lounge, but there are also a lot more people, so it feels crowded. What I don’t understand is why so many people come to this lounge because having access to this lounge means you also have access to the British Airways and Cathay Pacific lounges.

Seating

Seating

More seating

More seating

TV room

TV room

Food area

Food area

One benefit of this lounge is that you can stare at American planes from the lounge. And I admit, I do enjoy the AA paint job. There’s also plenty of seating and plenty of outlets, and the outlets are American-style, so you don’t need an adapter for your electronics. The wifi is also blazingly fast for an airport lounge (8.5 Mbps down, 5 up), so this lounge could be good for getting work done.

You can see AA planes from the lounge

You can see AA planes from the lounge

Beverages

Beverages

Wines

Wines

Liquor

Liquor

I like food, and the food in this lounge just seems more meager and less appealing than the food in either the Cathay or BA lounges. They do have a made-to-order menu, but I happened to arrive when they were switching menus, so I can’t comment on the quality of that food. They also have mini muffins for breakfast, which I did not see in the Cathay lounge.

Cookies and snacks

Cookies and snacks

Yogurt and fruits

Yogurt and fruits

Pastries

Pastries

Breakfast sandwiches

Breakfast sandwiches

Brunch menu

Brunch menu

Overall, I found this lounge to be a bit depressing. There’s really not much of a reason to come to this lounge when you have better options so close by.

Lounge Review: American Airlines Flagship Lounge Chicago O’Hare Airport (ORD)

The AA ORD Flagship Lounge is a decent domestic lounge for US lounges: there’s some food and drinks, there’s usually a place to sit, the wifi is usable, and there are electrical outlets. But this lounge is clearly not up to par for international first class, or much less international business class lounges. I feel sorry for the JAL passengers who are used to the awesome JAL lounges in Japan and then get this lounge flying out of ORD.

The lounge is located near K19, which is near the end of the terminal.

Entrance to the Flagship Lounge

Entrance to the Flagship Lounge

My favorite place to sit in this lounge is in the former smoking room that’s now a quiet room. Even when the rest of the lounge is a little bit more crowded, this room usually doesn’t have many people in it, perhaps because you have to open a door to get inside.

Former smoking room/now quiet room

Former smoking room/now quiet room

View of seating out of the quiet room

View of seating out of the quiet room

There are a variety of food options, although nothing is terribly appealing. There’s usually fruit and vegetables, soup, cheese, crackers, desserts, and other appropriate items depending on the time of day (e.g. breakfast foods in the morning). When the JAL flights are departing, there will usually be some sushi, although I would not trust it. I really don’t understand when people get excited about lounge sushi in the US (people seem to love the lounge sushi in the United First Class Lounge at SFO, but it’s really not good…).

Crudites and sandwiches

Crudites and sandwiches

Hot soup

Hot soup

More food

More food

Desserts

Desserts

There’s an extensive self-serve alcohol selection, but I really don’t know anything about alcohol, so I can’t tell you how good or bad it is. I just know that there are a lot of bottles.

Alcoholic beverages

Alcoholic beverages

Drinks, fruit, snack mixes

Drinks, fruit, snack mixes

One small pet peeve about this lounge is that there are no showers. If you want to take a shower, you need to go to the regular Admirals Club. The closest one is at the intersection of the H and K gates.

Overall, there’s not too much remarkable about the lounge. The lounge agents are generally very friendly and helpful, but the lounge itself is a little tired-looking, and the amenities on offer are sparse compared to non-US international first class lounges.

New(ish) Yoga Room and Airside Terminal 1 and 2 Connector at SFO

This is maybe old news to other people, but it’s relatively new news to me: there’s a new yoga room at SFO, and there’s an airside (i.e. post-security) connector between Terminal 1 (gates 40-48) and Terminal 2. The yoga room is located along this corridor.

To get to the airside connector from Terminal 2, just look to the right immediately after you clear security. From Terminal 1, look left immediately after you clear the security checkpoint for gates 40-48.

View of the airside connector from Terminal 2

View of the airside connector from Terminal 2

The connector itself is a nice place to plane watch. Great views of SFO. The yoga room is about halfway down the connector.

Entrance to the new yoga room

Entrance to the new yoga room

Pretty basic room

Pretty basic room

Variety of equipment available

Variety of equipment available

It’s a basic room, but they have mats, pillows, bolsters, and foam rollers. I tried using the old yoga room once, but there were a couple of people trying to sleep in there, so I felt a little awkward. This time around, the room was empty, perhaps because I think it’s not very obvious that it exists.

The best part about the airside connector, though, is that you can now potentially use the SFO Admirals Club if you’re flying US Airways. The Admirals Club is in Terminal 2 while US Airways flies out of Terminal 1. Before the connector, you would have to clear security twice if you wanted to use the Admirals Club before your US Airways flight, but now it’s possible to clear security in T1, walk to T2 for the Admirals Club, and walk back to T1 for your flight. But I don’t think it’s guaranteed that your US Airways flight will leave out of one of the accessible Terminal 1 gates, so it’s possible that you’ll still be stuck in Terminal 1.

American Airlines Executive Platinum Members Can Check Up To 210 Pounds of Luggage for Free

See title.

Moving makes me feel stupid. I don’t do it very often, so when the occasion does come around, I don’t really know what to do. But it seems like one of those things where someone who optimizes can potentially save a lot of time or hassle, but it’s unclear how much time to invest researching things since it’s a rare event.

So I’m moving soon and was looking into transporting my stuff. I don’t have that many belongings, but I am not yet at the point where I can throw all of my material belongings into a carry-on bag (although I do feel perfectly comfortable living out of a carry-on essentially indefinitely). I briefly looked into shipping boxes, but then I wondered what exactly my checked baggage allowance was as an Executive Platinum flyer on American Airlines.

It turns out that Executive Platinums, oneworld Emerald members, and First and Business class passengers all get three checked bags for free, each weighing up to 70 pounds. That’s up to 210 pounds of free shipping! It turns out that this isn’t that unusual as Delta and United provide the same checked baggage allowances to their top-tier elites and premium cabin passengers, but it was news to me since I try to avoid checking bags whenever possible.

Granted, there’s still the business of hauling 210 pounds of checked baggage (not including your carry-on baggage) to/from the airport, but it’s a potentially useful benefit every once in a while.

Giveaway: One American Airlines SWU (Expires February 28, 2015)

UPDATE: This contest is now over. Thanks for entering!

To kick off my week being a featured blogger, I’m giving away one American Airlines systemwide upgrade! This can be used to upgrade any one-way flight (up to 3 segments) in any fare class, but be warned that international flights can be hard to upgrade (e.g. DFW-HKG), and some upgrades can trigger additional taxes/fees (e.g. LHR). The flights must be marketed and operated by AA to be upgraded. The SWU expires February 28, 2015, so your flight needs to happen on or before that date to be eligible. The giveaway will end at some point before I stop being a featured blogger, so ideally, your flight occurs after February 8, 2015 as well.

To enter to win, all you need to do is comment on this post with something you’re grateful for (e.g. “I’m grateful for the wonderful information provided in this blog!” but something that’s actually true and not inane). You can comment as many times as you wish, provided that you list out a separate thing that you’re grateful for in each comment. I will randomly select one comment as the winner. Note that I reserve the right to delete/make ineligible comments that I believe are nonsensical (e.g. “Blejiooisa”) or otherwise not something that anyone should be grateful for (e.g. “I am grateful for ISIS”).

All of us who participate in this hobby have so much to be grateful for, and I hope that this giveaway helps us cultivate gratitude just a little bit more.

China 2014: American Airlines Business Class Shanghai to Dallas (PVG to DFW)

I flew business class on this segment not because I applied a systemwide upgrade, but because I got an elusive operational upgrade. Economy was heavily oversold (and extremely light on the flight from DFW to PVG such that I had an entire row of seats to myself in coach), and a ton of people got op-ups.

Actually, I almost didn’t get the op-up. They called my name and gave me a new boarding pass, but then they called my name again to tell me that they couldn’t give me an op-up because I had pre-ordered a special meal (VGML), and they couldn’t feed that meal to a different passenger, so they had to give my seat to someone else. I was not particularly happy about that, so I pulled a little bit of a DYKWIA and asked if they could just call catering to ask if they could cater an additional economy meal and let me have my upgrade (I also offered to not eat on the flight). After a little bit of waiting and me looking sad, they did end up giving me a business class seat.

For flights to the US, there’s a secondary security check, mostly to make you throw out your water so you go thirsty on the plane and use the bathroom less. If you really want to get water on the plane, which I find necessary for flights in coach, my strategy is to have a decoy water bottle. I place one (or more) bottles at the bottom of my bag, and I have one on the top which I throw out at the security check. Once they see me get rid of the top bottle, they usually wave me through.

Anyway, at the secondary security check this time, I heard one of the security women yelling, “I will not let you bring this dangerous good on the airplane!” She was quite insistent and raising her voice. The offending item was a cigarette lighter, and the owner of said lighter said that it was an extremely expensive lighter worth over $500 USD, and he wasn’t going to get rid of it. He said that he was flying first class and couldn’t believe that he was being treated so poorly. They went back and forth a while, but the security woman had her way and they confiscated the item.

This obviously upset the man, and then he started complaining about everything on the flight. Like he said that he spent $15,000 on his “first class” tickets and expected a lie-flat seat and flew lie-flat seats on the way over, but he was seated in business class, and American doesn’t fly lie-flat business class seats to anywhere in Asia except for Hong Kong. I felt bad for the flight attendants who were on the receiving end of his abuse, and I commiserated with them for having to deal with him.

I won’t review the hard product since I’ve reviewed AA business class on the 777-200 before, but I will post the menus and pictures of the food.

IMG_1045

Business class menu PVG-DFW

IMG_1046

Food menu continued

IMG_1047

Drink menu business class PVG-DFW

IMG_1048

Roasted chicken appetizer and side salad

IMG_1049

Strozzapreti (aka priest choker) pasta

IMG_1050

Sundae :/

IMG_1051

Mixed pepper quiche, salad, and banoffee tart

By far, the best part of all of the food was the banoffee tart. I’m not really sure why you don’t see banoffee more in the US, since it’s delicious. Who doesn’t like bananas, cream, and toffee The banoffee tart was clearly superior to the subpar sundae, which is totally overrated. Cheesy pasta is also overrated, as I find that airlines often just try to smother pasta dishes in cheese to obscure the poorly cooked and flavored pasta and vegetables.

That being said, the food was as expected for business class on an American airline (i.e. mediocre), but I was super grateful for getting the upgrade in the first place, so I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining too much. I find AA’s business class seats on the 777-200 to be decently comfortable for a non-lie-flat seat (I like the seats better than slanty-flat seats), I like the blanket and pillows, and I appreciate that they provide slippers (one of the only business class amenities that I actually use). I’ll be glad to see business class transition to lie-flat on AA, but I think these seats are fine in the interim.

Why I’m Afraid of American Airline’s Increased Mileage Earning

Lots of bloggers have already posted about the details of AA’s increased mileage earning for premium fares. Essentially, everything stays the same, except that people booking first or business class fares earn even more. Sounds like a win-win situation, right? You can’t earn fewer miles than before, so how can you lose?

I always get nervous when it becomes easy to accumulate miles/points in a given program. When it gets easy to earn so many miles, the programs do what comes naturally, which is devalue the programs. Recent examples include Hilton and United, and we all remember those as bloodbaths.

Imagine this, if AA announced double miles for everyone, does that mean you’re actually getting twice as miles? Well, sure, instead of earning 1,000 miles, you’d nominally earn 2,000 miles, but since they’re printing twice as many miles, they’re sooner or later going to cut the value of those miles in half (or worse). It’s not sustainable for AA to just give everyone more miles.

Really, what matters is that you earn more miles than other people. But AA’s announcement isn’t good for me since I don’t buy premium cabin tickets, which means that I can only lose from this announcement. Other people will earn more miles while I earn the same number, so I effectively am earning less than I was before.

More generally, I’ve been more nervous about AA than most bloggers because it’s been so easy to accumulate AA miles recently. The Citi Exec cards were/are a prime example, but increasing mileage earning for some customers without decreasing mileage earning at all for others can fundamentally change the economics of a program, so I’d expect a future corresponding decrease in the value of miles. In addition, at some point, miles will combine between US Airways and AA, which means that there will be even more miles floating around and competition for award seats.

We’ve been shielded from a major devaluation thanks to the merger, but I would not be surprised if winter were coming…