Trip report: AA179 JFK-SFO

 
Old Mar 10, 05, 6:29 pm
  #1  
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Trip report: AA179 JFK-SFO

It's been a few months since I've been on a transcon, and the first time I've done it on a 763. (I chose the 763 over the 762 because I know many travelers prefer J in the 763 over J in the 777, and I expected that the logic for that preference would hold true here, too.) Overall my experience on AA179 JFK-SFO today was very good. Here is my report:

I booked about four weeks ago using a deeply discounted fare. I figured I was booking far enough in advance that I could "go for it" and try to get a free EXP upgrade, rather than wasting a VIP (762 and 763 transcons, and 763 flights to HNL, are the only domestic flights on which I'd even consider using a VIP, although I've never actually done it). I started checking availability on Monday, at which time expertflyer was showing F2 A0. By Wednesday morning, it was showing F0, and although later in the day it showed F1 A1, by the time I went to bed, availability was back down to F0. I went ahead and checked in on line before going to bed, kicking myself for not checking in on line at the first opportunity in order to put me at the top of the airport upgrade list. Fortunately it didn't matter: when I woke up I discovered that my upgrade had cleared. The email I received from aa hit my blackberry at 540a, three-and-a-half hours before flight time; obviously an F seat had become available overnight, and AA released it for upgrades at approximately the four-hour mark.

I arrived at JFK about 45 minutes before departure time (I usually arrive earlier, but I overslept when I screwed up setting the alarm on my new alarm clock; you'd think I'd have used a backup until I was sure that I had it down!), and although the checkin area in Terminal 8 (the flight departed from gate 9) was a zoo, the line at security was not bad at all. I arrived at the gate just as boarding was starting, about 35 minutes before departure time.

Notwithstanding that it was an almost full flight, the entire plane was boarded at about 900a for a 915a departure. Knowing how much fluff is built into the schedule for transcons, I figured we'd arrive at SFO at least half-an-hour early. But of course, being JFK, even though the plane was boarded 15 minutes early, the ground crew was not done loading bags until 20 minutes after departure time. So much for arriving early. Add on top of that a lengthy approach to SFO that took us up and around San Francisco and back down to San Jose before landing, and a wait for a gate, and we were lucky to have arrived at the scheduled arrival time.

The in-flight service, on the other hand, was quite good. In fact, I don't think there was any appreciable difference from the pre-cost cutting days. Breakfast included a choice of a cheese omelette, french toast with scrambled eggs, or rice crispies. (Breakfast flights are the only ones on which FEBO is important to me. Fortunately, I was in 5A on this flight). I ordered the cheese omelette, which really was tasty. The cheese had something in it -- perhaps jalapenos -- that made it a little bit spicy (and if it was a little bit spicy for me, it must have been a lot spicy for others). It was served with some grilled ham (a little shoe leathery), and some delicious hash brown potato pancakes that were made with diced peppers and cheese. Also on the tray was a plate of strawberries and honeydew mellon and a biscuit, and breakfast breads were passed separately. The fruit was the best fruit I have ever had on an airplane. Most of the time, the fruit looks good but is under-ripe and tasteless. This fruit, in addition to looking great, was delicious. The strawberries were incredibly sweet, a nice surprise in mid-March.

Perhaps the overall quantity of food was not what it was in the past. Each passenger was offered one slice of breakfast bread (lemon or cranberry), whereas in the past you would often be served two, and then offered more as the meal progressed. Also, the biscuit was pre-plated on the tray; there was no choice of bagels or muffins as in the past. But the quality of the food was as good as I can remember; shocking that it came out of JFK catering.

The FAs in F were terrific. The purser (what is a purser and how do you get to be one?) was a very funny fellow with a thick Russian accent. He was making all of the in flight announcements, and every time he had the opportunity to say "San Francisco," he drew out and over-emphasized each of the four syllables, which, together with his accent, was very funny.

A lot of things have changed for the worse on AA. Fortunately, this flight in F was as good as I remember it being.
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Old Mar 10, 05, 6:49 pm
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I was scheduled to be on this flight today too in seat 4D (upgraded with 15k miles a few weeks ago), but I got to the airport early enough to make flight 59 departing at 7:15, upgraded to business (BTW, I was in 8B, and Bobby Flay was in 10B!). I've also taken AA 179 several times recently. The service and food were well above average. We had the same choices, but the omelet was gone by the time my order was taken. I'm glad I got the French Toast because it was really good, stuffed with apples and cream cheese.

Also, there were 4 FAs in uniform flying back to San Francisco (in P!).
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Old Mar 10, 05, 7:54 pm
  #3  
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Nice report, Blumie! Good on you getting the u/g! I recently had the 763 and 762 flights, and prefer the 763 - better COS bonus, better service (including the purser, who is up in F on the 762,) better seats and considerably better seat pitch... and definitely looking less worn.

I think that was the "pepper jack" omelet? Monterey jack cheese with pepper bits inside.
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Old Mar 10, 05, 9:02 pm
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I had a nice 6PM flight JFK-SFO last week on a 763.

There was one FA in uniform on the flight (in F) and she ordered dinner just before me and selected the last steak, so I ordered one of the other entrees (fish?).

I'm not one to get upset about things like this, but I would have thought that the (working) FA's would take the customers orders first.

Am I missing something here?
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Old Mar 11, 05, 8:36 am
  #5  
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Originally Posted by Blumie
The purser (what is a purser and how do you get to be one?) was a very funny fellow with a thick Russian accent.
Thanks for the report.

On AA, the Purser us the most "head" cabin crew member. Pursers are assigned on all international flights and all three-class transcon flights. I didn't think that Pursers were assigned on two-class transcons, even widebodies, but I maybe wrong. Of course, the purser on your flight might have been working the flight not formally as a purser, but used that title in his announcements.

There are both domestic Pursers and international pursers. In NY, the domestic pursers are LGA based, because JFK is only an international base. Nevertheless, the domestic pursers work the AFS flights out of JFK. There are also domestic Pursers based at LAX. Not sure about SFO.

In my first paragrpah, I put "head" in quotes because AA does not have a formal hierarchical structure for its cabin crew. As such, the Purser is more of a coordinator than a boss. The Purser is responsbile for PA announcements and works in the First Class cabin (on a 762 or 777) or Business Class on a 763. I have not seen a Purser work the F or J galley position, which makes sense as they have preflight duties that would make it impoosbiel for them to do the galley inventory preflight. The Purser would also be responsible for the money collected from alcohol, duty free and food sales on board. On international flights, the Purser is also responsible for all the international paperwork.

I have been told that Pursers also participate in yearly focus groups in Dallas.

Recently, an AA FA (one whom I have flown with twice previously and is excellent) wrote the Vault Guide for Flight Attendant careers. It is available on Amazon if you are interested.
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Old Mar 11, 05, 8:37 am
  #6  
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Originally Posted by card1953
Also, there were 4 FAs in uniform flying back to San Francisco (in P!).
I sat next to a uniformed FA on a LAX-JFK flight in P last year. She was LAX based, but was needed to work a JFK-LAX flight that afternoon and was being deadheaded to JFK for the purpose.
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Old Mar 11, 05, 8:59 am
  #7  
 
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Originally Posted by Blumie
It's been a few months since I've been on a transcon, and the first time I've done it on a 763. (I chose the 763 over the 762 because I know many travelers prefer J in the 763 over J in the 777, and I expected that the logic for that preference would hold true here, too.) Overall my experience on AA179 JFK-SFO today was very good. Here is my report:

I booked about four weeks ago using a deeply discounted fare. I figured I was booking far enough in advance that I could "go for it" and try to get a free EXP upgrade, rather than wasting a VIP (762 and 763 transcons, and 763 flights to HNL, are the only domestic flights on which I'd even consider using a VIP, although I've never actually done it). I started checking availability on Monday, at which time expertflyer was showing F2 A0. By Wednesday morning, it was showing F0, and although later in the day it showed F1 A1, by the time I went to bed, availability was back down to F0. I went ahead and checked in on line before going to bed, kicking myself for not checking in on line at the first opportunity in order to put me at the top of the airport upgrade list. Fortunately it didn't matter: when I woke up I discovered that my upgrade had cleared. The email I received from aa hit my blackberry at 540a, three-and-a-half hours before flight time; obviously an F seat had become available overnight, and AA released it for upgrades at approximately the four-hour mark.

I arrived at JFK about 45 minutes before departure time (I usually arrive earlier, but I overslept when I screwed up setting the alarm on my new alarm clock; you'd think I'd have used a backup until I was sure that I had it down!), and although the checkin area in Terminal 8 (the flight departed from gate 9) was a zoo, the line at security was not bad at all. I arrived at the gate just as boarding was starting, about 35 minutes before departure time.

Notwithstanding that it was an almost full flight, the entire plane was boarded at about 900a for a 915a departure. Knowing how much fluff is built into the schedule for transcons, I figured we'd arrive at SFO at least half-an-hour early. But of course, being JFK, even though the plane was boarded 15 minutes early, the ground crew was not done loading bags until 20 minutes after departure time. So much for arriving early. Add on top of that a lengthy approach to SFO that took us up and around San Francisco and back down to San Jose before landing, and a wait for a gate, and we were lucky to have arrived at the scheduled arrival time.

The in-flight service, on the other hand, was quite good. In fact, I don't think there was any appreciable difference from the pre-cost cutting days. Breakfast included a choice of a cheese omelette, french toast with scrambled eggs, or rice crispies. (Breakfast flights are the only ones on which FEBO is important to me. Fortunately, I was in 5A on this flight). I ordered the cheese omelette, which really was tasty. The cheese had something in it -- perhaps jalapenos -- that made it a little bit spicy (and if it was a little bit spicy for me, it must have been a lot spicy for others). It was served with some grilled ham (a little shoe leathery), and some delicious hash brown potato pancakes that were made with diced peppers and cheese. Also on the tray was a plate of strawberries and honeydew mellon and a biscuit, and breakfast breads were passed separately. The fruit was the best fruit I have ever had on an airplane. Most of the time, the fruit looks good but is under-ripe and tasteless. This fruit, in addition to looking great, was delicious. The strawberries were incredibly sweet, a nice surprise in mid-March.

Perhaps the overall quantity of food was not what it was in the past. Each passenger was offered one slice of breakfast bread (lemon or cranberry), whereas in the past you would often be served two, and then offered more as the meal progressed. Also, the biscuit was pre-plated on the tray; there was no choice of bagels or muffins as in the past. But the quality of the food was as good as I can remember; shocking that it came out of JFK catering.

The FAs in F were terrific. The purser (what is a purser and how do you get to be one?) was a very funny fellow with a thick Russian accent. He was making all of the in flight announcements, and every time he had the opportunity to say "San Francisco," he drew out and over-emphasized each of the four syllables, which, together with his accent, was very funny.

A lot of things have changed for the worse on AA. Fortunately, this flight in F was as good as I remember it being.

On both domestic and international flights, the Purser is usually the head flight attendant who works as an inflight supervisor. On domestic flights, the Pursers tend to act more as regular flight attendants than on international flights (where often Pursers have their own work station). Pursers usually go through additional training, tend to have more experience, and generally are carefully chosen by the airline.

If you ever have a problem on a flight, the Purser is the best person to talk to.

On some airlines, such as British Airways, a Purser is higher-ranked flight attendant, but not the highest-ranked flight attendant onboard. For instance, on a recent flight from London to Vancouver on British Airways, the flight had 4 Pursers (1 for First, 2 for Club World, and 1 for WT and WT+) who were supervised by the Cabin Service Director.

As you recently learned, AA calls its leading flight attendant Purser, and so does United. Delta's equivalent is the "Onboard Leader." On US Airways, it would be a Cabin Service Director.
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Old Mar 11, 05, 11:25 am
  #8  
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Originally Posted by Blumie
The FAs in F were terrific. The purser (what is a purser and how do you get to be one?) was a very funny fellow with a thick Russian accent. He was making all of the in flight announcements, and every time he had the opportunity to say "San Francisco," he drew out and over-emphasized each of the four syllables, which, together with his accent, was very funny.
My partner and I had this same FA on an SFO-DFW flight last year. He was very funny. He was making the PA announcements as we were climbing out of SFO and pointed out where he lived etc. and how much he loved living in Saaaaaan Fraaaaanciiiiiiiscoooo!
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Old Mar 11, 05, 11:36 am
  #9  
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Originally Posted by DEK
My partner and I had this same FA on an SFO-DFW flight last year. He was very funny. He was making the PA announcements as we were climbing out of SFO and pointed out where he lived etc. and how much he loved living in Saaaaaan Fraaaaanciiiiiiiscoooo!
Definitely the same guy!!! Very funny.
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Old Mar 11, 05, 11:02 pm
  #10  
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Originally Posted by DEK
My partner and I had this same FA on an SFO-DFW flight last year. He was very funny. He was making the PA announcements as we were climbing out of SFO and pointed out where he lived etc. and how much he loved living in Saaaaaan Fraaaaanciiiiiiiscoooo!
I had him, too, but from DFW-SFO... didn't get to see where he "lived", and I must say, probably after an intl mr, arriving into Saaaaaannn FraaaaaaanciiiIIIIiiiiiiscoooooo was almost starting to be annoying the 17th time waiting at the gate for the ground crew to get us in...
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