Tag Archives: american

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.

Expanded Alaska Airlines Board Room Access for American Admirals Club Members

Good news for Admirals Club members: accessing Alaska Airlines Board Rooms just got easier.

While there’s been a reciprocal agreement with Alaska Airlines in the past, the requirements were a bit onerous in that you had to be traveling on a flight marketed AND operated by American to use the Board Rooms at certain airports.

That requirement is now gone. In Anchorage, Portland, and Seattle, you just need to present an Admirals Club or US Airways Club membership as well as a boarding pass for same-day travel on an Alaska, American, or US Airways marketed and operated flight.

This news also extends to the Board Room at LAX Terminal 6. Admirals Club members, people traveling in premium cabin international long-haul or transcontinental flights, or people with oneworld Emerald or Sapphire status can now access this lounge, in addition to the Admirals Club in Terminal 4 and the Qantas oneworld lounge in the international terminal.

Pancakes for everyone!

I Hope AA Can Fill More Seats on DFW to HKG

I’m about to fly AA 137 from Dallas to Hong Kong on one of AA’s newish 77Ws in business class. I paid coach and applied a SWU, and my upgrade cleared way back when I purchased my ticket.

But here are the seat maps for the flight about 1 hour prior to departure:

First and business class

First and business class

Economy class

Economy class

While I’m super grateful that my upgrade cleared, those seat maps are not promising for the future of the route. Looks like most people are applying SWUs to get into business or first class, and coach is absolutely empty. Actually, this wouldn’t be a terrible flight in coach given that you could probably snag a whole row to yourself…

Lounge Review: American Airlines Admirals Club Tokyo Narita (NRT)

I’d been to the United Club, ANA Suite and Business Class Lounges, and the Korean Air lounge, but I’d never been to any of the oneworld lounges at Tokyo Narita until this trip, so I decided to do a little bit of lounge hopping. I started with the American Airlines Admirals Club, which must be one of the nicest Admirals Clubs in the network.

Entrance to the Admirals Club at Tokyo Narita

Entrance to the Admirals Club at Tokyo Narita

It wasn’t crowded at all when I was there, so there was plenty of seating with nice, large windows with views of the apron. There were lots of different seating options including loungers, work cubbies, and phone rooms (I kinda think that more lounges should have phone rooms, but I guess they’re a little moot if people on phones don’t actually use them).

Spacious, good lighting

Spacious, good lighting

Lots of seating

Lots of seating

Views of the apron

Views of the apron

Working cubicles

Working cubicles

More seating

More seating

The wifi in the lounge was decent, and there were a lot of power outlets all over the place, which is key for an airport lounge if you’re trying to get any work done.

Drink options

Drink options

More drinks

More drinks

Compared to other Admirals Clubs, there was a ton of free food; compared to other international lounges, the food was pretty meh. There was some sort of stuffed pastry, a quiche, sandwiches, sushi, and soup. The food looked to be of similar quality to the stuff that you find in the United lounge, which is to say not very high, but people seem to rave about the United Club at NRT, so whatevs.

Food

Food

Sushi

Sushi

Soup

Soup

Overall, this Admirals Club is great for an Admirals Club, and it was quite spacious with lots of seating, so if you’re just looking for some peace and quiet, this is the oneworld lounge for you at NRT. If you’re looking for food or amenities, this is not the lounge you’re looking for.

Flight Review: American Airlines Business Class Los Angeles to Tokyo Narita (LAX to NRT)

In this post, you’re going to get a 2-for-1 deal! This is a combined review of AA 169 and AA 170 in business class, which is Los Angeles (LAX) to Tokyo Narita (NRT) and back on Boeing 777-200s. I booked these tickets in coach and applied SWUs, which cleared about 3 days in advance in both directions.

It’s a little misleading because the official marketing title of the seats is “New Generation Business Class” (NGBC), which would imply that the seats are cutting edge, but they’re essentially recliner seats that recline a lot. I wouldn’t really call them angled-flat, but I find them pretty comfortable for sleeping because of the way they non-flat parts cradle your body. I also really like the bedding for business class, since the pillows are large, and the blankets are cool and non-staticky (similar to the blankets on Turkish Airlines in business class).

New generation business class seat

New generation business class seat

Seat back with screen and table extender/small storage space

Seat back with screen and table extender/small storage space

Seat controls

Seat controls

Armrest and plugs

Armrest and plugs

Amenity kit and slippers

Amenity kit and slippers

At each seat were an amenity kit and slippers. The amenity kit is nothing special, but slippers! I love slippers on airplanes (why do airlines give you socks? slippers >>> socks), and I really appreciate slippers in business class.

The business class cabin is a 2-3-2 seating combination. Obviously if you’re traveling with someone, you want a pair near the window, but if you’re a solo traveler and don’t want a window seat, I’d recommend an aisle in the middle as the middle seats in the middle are the last seats to fill up, so you might not have a neighbor. Additionally, if you’re in an aisle on a window side pair, the person next to you HAS to climb over you to get out, while if you’re in an aisle in the middle, the person in the middle has two choices over how to get out.

Business class cabin

Business class cabin

In both directions, I pre-ordered meals, but here are the menus for the outbound from LAX to NRT.

Food menu

Food menu

More menu

More menu

More menu

More menu

For the outbound, I preordered a strict vegetarian meal or VGML. The VGML started off with an iceberg lettuce salad with a side of mushrooms and tomatoes. This wasn’t a great start, given that I don’t really like any of these foods (which I acknowledge is my own fault, but does anyone like iceberg lettuce and flavorless tomatoes?). What was AA’s fault is that the bread was served cold (i.e. rock hard) with butter (which isn’t vegan), and the vinaigrette was frozen.

VGML starter

VGML starter

The VGML main course was vaguely Indian with basmati rice, peas and potatoes, and some vegetables. It was fine, but I think United so far has my favorite VGML meals (I can’t believe I’m saying anything nice about United).

VGML main course

VGML main course

Then, of course, was the infamous sundae (more on my feelings about sundaes on planes here). I mostly got one for the whipped cream.

Sundae

Sundae

For a mid-flight snack, I grabbed a fruit plate (there were fruit plates and cheese plates set out in the galley), and they had udon noodles on the menu, so I asked for some of those. To me, udon is generally served hot, but the flight attendant serving me had no idea what he was doing, so he just gave them to me cold. Not sure if that’s how they’re normally served.

Mid-flight snack

Mid-flight snack

The pre-arrival meal was served over 2 hours prior to arrival, which is a bit of a pet peeve given that you generally want to maximize sleep on these flights. The VGML pre-arrival meal was pretty sad looking (and served with crackers that weren’t actually vegan), so I also got a pizza off the normal menu, which wasn’t great.

VGML pre-arrival meal

VGML pre-arrival meal

Normal pre-arrival snack

Normal pre-arrival pizza

The headsets were also collected 90 minutes prior to arrival, and flight attendants were giving out in-ear headphones from coach as a replacement. It seemed like the flight attendants were just really, really eager to get to Tokyo, or else perhaps they had written down some times wrong.

On the way back, the flight was largely the same, although I pre-ordered a Japanese meal (which you should pre-order if you want since they don’t normally cater them). Here’s the normal menu:

Return menu

Return menu

More return menu

More return menu

And the Japanese menu:

More return menu

Japanese meal menu

The Japanese meal was decent. Some things were a little salty (e.g. the roe salad and the herring salad), some things were a little weird (e.g. fish and cheese?), but I thought the main course was solid, and I would probably pre-order a Japanese meal again if I flew this route in business class.

Japanese meal

Japanese meal

Japanese meal entree

Japanese meal entree

One thing I also don’t get about US airlines is why the flight attendants on these foreign routes don’t have better foreign language proficiency. Like why do less than half of your flight attendants speak Japanese on flights to Japan? But I guess that’s a lesser problem than the fact that most of the crews are more senior and seem to have stopped giving a fug a couple decades ago.

Anyway, I slept well on the non-lie-flat seats, I like the bedding, I like the slippers, and I like that I can apply SWUs to any coach fare and get upgraded to business class. Would fly again.

Lounge Review: American Airlines Flagship Lounge LAX

This next set of trip report posts is from February of this year when I went to Tokyo to cheer on some friends who were running the Tokyo Marathon. I booked flights on American Airlines of SFO-LAX-NRT and back and applied SWUs to the outbound and return that cleared about 3 days prior to departure both ways.

Since I was flying an international itinerary, I had access to the AA Flagship Lounge at LAX instead of the normal Admirals Club. The Flagship Lounge requires top tier oneworld status or a first class ticket to enter. This means that the lounge is generally a bit less crowded than the Admirals Club and that there are more food options.

To get into the Flagship Lounge, you check in at the same place as the Admirals Club, but they give you a key card to use to open the sliding door to the Flagship Lounge part.

Entrance to the Flagship Lounge area

Entrance to the Flagship Lounge area

The lounge is a large, long room with a number of seating options, good light, and decent views of the apron.

Airy and open

Airy and open

Lots of seating

Lots of seating

Drinks

Drinks

More drinks

More drinks

I arrived in the morning, so they were serving breakfast. There were a couple of hot food options like eggs, potatoes, sausage, and oatmeal, as well as cereals, fruits, bagels, and danishes. I was pleasantly surprised to see berries in the fruit selection (a big step up in my mind to the whole apples and oranges in normal Admirals Clubs). The eggs were inedible, though.

Breakfast options

Breakfast options

More breakfast

More breakfast

As I was leaving, they had set up the lunch spread, which featured sandwiches, salads, cheeses, chips, vegetables, fruits, cookies, and a kinda nasty looking pasta dish. Granted, I didn’t try the pasta dish, but it didn’t look that appetizing to me.

Lunch spread

Lunch spread

Hot food at lunch

Hot food at lunch

More lunch

More lunch

I took a shower during my layover, and the shower rooms were perfectly fine. I felt like the rooms were a little small to handle a suitcase, but they were clean and functional.

Overall, the service was good, with people regularly going around to clean things up and ask if you needed anything. The lounge felt busy when I was there, but there were plenty of seats available, and it didn’t feel crowded. Definitely a step up from normal domestic lounges, but still a far cry from most non-US airlines’ first class lounges.

American Airlines Admirals Club Membership Reciprocal Access to Alaska Airlines Board Rooms (SEA, PDX, ANC)

I have an AA Admirals Club membership through the Citi Executive AAdvantage card. I also no longer have an Amex Platinum card, as I cancelled that soon after redeeming my airline credit with them after they got rid of AA/US club access. By canceling my Amex Platinum card, I no longer have unlimited access to Alaska Airlines Board Rooms through Priority Pass Select.

For a long list of reasons, I recently found myself unexpectedly flying from DFW to SEA on AA and then SEA to SFO on Alaska Airlines instead of flying nonstop from DFW to SFO on AA. In Seattle, there’s no Admirals Club, so I thought I’d be out of luck for lounge access, but I figured that there might be a small chance that I could get into the Alaska Airlines Board Room through my Admirals Club membership since AA and AS are pretty buddy buddy. Turns out, this is true: there are certain circumstances where you can access an Alaska Airlines Board Room by virtue of having an Admirals Club membership.

The key thing that you need is a flight marketed by and operated by American Airlines/US Airways. If you have a same day ticket/boarding pass on a flight operated and marketed by AA/US, then you can access the Alaska Airlines Board Rooms at Seattle (SEA), Portland (PDX), or Anchorage (ANC). The AA/US flight can be either the inbound or the outbound flight at any of these airports, and it’s even possible that the boarding pass doesn’t even need to involve one of these airports provided that it’s same-day (it’s not specified in the rules, but YMMV with the lounge agents).

Domestic lounges generally aren’t anything special, but the Alaska Airlines Board Rooms generally have a marginally better food selection than most domestic lounges. They have pancake machines in the morning for breakfast, and there’s usually a hot soup later in the day. I also find AS employees to be friendlier than most airline employees, but maybe that’s my Pacific Northwest bias coming through.

For more information, check out the AA page about this policy and the thread on Flyertalk.

 

 

Best Economy International Flights Ever?

I’m sitting at DFW after a week-long trip to China, and I flew AA on their newish DFW-PVG route. On the outbound, the flight was empty enough that I could get a row of five seats to myself in coach and create my own “flat” bed of sorts.

On the return, I ended up getting an op up to business class. I saw signs at check-in that they might be looking for volunteers (offer of 800 USD travel voucher and a confirmed seat the next day) to take a next-day flight. It turns out they didn’t need any volunteers, but they did end up operationally upgrading a ton of passengers. Based on seat maps from the days prior to the flight, business class went from having a load of maybe 7 or 8 passengers to being a full cabin. I myself got one of those op ups, which I was very grateful to get. They almost took it away because I had ordered a special meal and they said they wouldn’t have enough non-special meals in coach, but with some puppy dog eyes the gate agent called catering and was able to order one additional coach meal so I could sit in business.

Anyway, for those of you who are traveling in coach on DFW-PVG or DFW-HKG, very light loads on the outbound to Asia and oversold flights returning from Asia seem to be relatively par for the course for the summer according to both the gate agents that I’ve talked to and reports on Flyertalk. This could make it an interesting gamble if you don’t want to spend any SWUs as you very well might be lucky enough to get a row to yourself on the outbound and an op up on the inbound.

Inefficiencies in My Life: American Airlines Systemwide Upgrades

I call myself Efficient Asian Man, but there are really a number of inefficiencies in my life that I’m aware of but haven’t really understood. Here’s one such inefficiency.

I qualified for AA Executive Platinum status last year thanks to an overly generous promotion that should have been targeted but wasn’t for a short period of time. Along with this status came 8 systemwide upgrades, which are great as they can be used to upgrade a ticket purchased in any fare class. So not only do you get 8 of them, you can buy cheapo tickets and upgrade those cheapo tickets. It’s great! (so great that I doubt they’ll last given the merger, or we probably won’t get 8 of them).

Here’s the inefficiency: if presented the offer at check-in, I would almost never pay $250 to upgrade my seat to business class, but I have happily used 5 of my 8 SWUs for the year. I am willing to endure 10 hours of international coach instead of pay $250 to get those 10 hours in business class, but I could also sell my SWUs (ignoring the fact that you’re not supposed to sell them) for roughly $250 each, which means that I shouldn’t be using them on myself.

Perhaps I’ll feel differently after flying AA’s 77W in business class (which I’m slated to do in September), but I’m honestly fine with coach most of the time. Sure, you might not sleep as well, but I find that my ability to sleep on planes is mostly a function of whether or not I’m actually tired and not so much a function of seat comfort. Plane food isn’t great either way, and I could instead pay $20 at the airport to buy better food (good thing AA flies out of Terminal 2 at SFO); I could also pay $20 for IFE that I truly want; service isn’t necessarily better in business class (as seems to be common for domestic carriers, many of the flight attendants in business class seem to be more “experienced”–to put it euphemistically–with widely varying levels of how much they give a s***); and I already get first class lounge access via my Executive Platinum status. I guess availability of power ports is one thing that doesn’t really exist in AA coach, but I could always be ghetto and camp out in the bathroom and use the power port there.

Granted, as I said before, you’re not allowed to sell SWUs, which is perhaps the best reason to justify my usage of SWUs on myself, but it looks like I’ll requalify for AA Executive Platinum this year, which means I’ll have 8 SWUs to use next year, and it’s apparent to me that I’d strictly prefer trading them for cash rather than use them on myself. Hmmm…

The Worst Part About Being an AA Flyer Out of SFO

I’m generally quite content flying AA out of SFO, and I’m much happier flying AA than I ever was flying UA (although I’m sure that the devaluations will come soon for AA and we’ll all be fleeing to nowhere).

But the worst part about flying AA out of SFO for me is the fake red-eyes from SFO to ORD or DFW. I’m sitting in an Admirals Club at DFW as I write this, having just come off AA 1052 which departs SFO at 12:15am and arrives at DFW at 5:35am. Total flight time in the air is just under 3 hours, and taking into account departure and arrival proceedings, it means that you can’t get more than 2.5 hours of sleep on the flight. This does not make me a very happy camper.

Granted, it’s my choice to take these flights. It enables me to connect to morning international departures out of ORD and DFW, and you get so many more miles than connecting through LAX, but I always kind of hate myself when I fly these things. And getting an upgrade to first doesn’t really make it any better.

Oh well, maybe I’ll learn better for next year and stop booking itineraries like this