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Improvement in AA Flagship First? A Mini-TR style Review from LHR-MIA recently

Improvement in AA Flagship First? A Mini-TR style Review from LHR-MIA recently

Old Mar 1, 20, 10:43 am
  #1  
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Improvement in AA Flagship First? A Mini-TR style Review from LHR-MIA recently

Introduction:
After reading a few of the Flagship First horror stories, particularly on the DFW-HKG route from late last year, I had an opportunity to review the product myself recently, and my overall impression certainly wasn't a bad one. For anyone interested, I'm posting my experience here -- comments are welcome, and feel free to skip down to the LHR-MIA flight if you're only interested in the in-flight experience (or after that, MIA Flagship First Dining).

I had spent a few wonderful few days in the Bayern-Tirol region, but it was time to move on -- thankfully not back to work just yet, but rather to the Bahamas for the weekend, where my better half was attending a conference. I had fortunately gotten the green light to spend a few days to myself on the ski slopes of the Austrian alps earlier in the week, and when booking my flight to NAS from MUC, I stumbled across an excellent deal, where Flagship First was only about $100 more than Business for my particular destination. Business did seem to be a bit overpriced, although it also appeared to be quite full already, with likely many of the lower fare buckets already taken. For reference, had I been traveling directly back to work in the U.S., the one-way F fare would have been more than twice the price, and I likely would not have booked it, so it was nice to find this deal available to NAS.

I booked one way, because I had used miles for the outbound trip to MUC after finding a fairly reasonable J Web Special award ticket that routed me CLT-MUC, which, as some web specials do, actually booked into full J, without any of the true full J earning benefits.

Interestingly, for the return revenue ticket, what seemed to be a fairly reasonable F fare actually booked into full F. The entire itinerary was MUC-LHR-MIA-NAS, with the non-Flagship segments booking into J, making this J-F-J itinerary a fairly nice one for racking up some early year 3x EQMs.

MUC-LHR
Club Europe
BA 947 (AA 6540)
Breakfast
0745 departure

I had a fairly early morning departure out of MUC on BA metal and had planned to try to sleep a bit on the flight to reset my clock back to U.S. time, but my circadian rhythm decided not to cooperate. There wasn't even a priority line at MUC for the B gates, so I really didn't get any benefits out of the AA F ticket there, beyond using the Club Europe check-in (where I was erroneously told my bag would be short-checked to MIA, rather than all the way to NAS), and also had the ability to use the contracted Business class lounge (Airport World Lounge), which is also not really worth writing much about.

One nice benefit of AA EP status (OWE status) is the ability to select the first row on BA narrowbody aircraft, such as this A319. I picked 1C (which had to be done with my BA record locator on the BA website -- even AA phone agents stated they couldn't assign row 1).




I ended up sitting in 1A and enjoying the view out the window after the rest of my row remained empty. There were 7 rows of J on this flight, if I recall correctly, and several passengers had full 3 seat rows to themselves.

I was offered a choice of the "traditional breakfast" or vegetarian meal and selected the former.




After arriving at LHR T5, I took the bus over to T3 -- I should note that, when I showed my boarding pass to the agent near the bus departure point, she spotted the First class ticket and apologized that there was no car transfer immediately available to T3. I don't know what the standard is supposed to be -- she did note that priority is given to CKs (I'm EP), but she phoned one of her colleagues, who said he would pick me up if I were willing to wait 20-30 minutes. I declined and took the bus, which had plenty of open seats, was reasonably comfortable, and got me to T3 much faster (around 10 minutes or so).




The Flagship First ground experience at LHR could use a bit of improvement, with no FFD available, so I headed over to the CX lounge instead, which is fortunately available to both OWE members and those traveling on Flagship First tickets. I sampled a couple of the noodle selections from the menu, which were quite tasty.






It was then time to head over to the BA F lounge, where my old friend Johnnie Blue and I became reacquainted prior to the flight .





The LHR ground experience does seem to be one area where AA itself could really up its game, but perhaps they're satisfied enough allowing CX and BA to do the legwork, and to be fair, I never mind using the partner lounges and didn't bother stopping by the AC or FL, but would absolutely do so if they add FFD. (I've also used the QF lounge previously and simply didn't have time for a visit on this trip).

Soon enough, it was time to board, and I headed down to gate 25, where the 77W was waiting.




I had originally booked the 2nd to last F seat available, with just one center seat remaining at the time of booking (I was actually pleased to see this, as I assumed it would likely mean fewer non-revs in the cabin -- and perhaps better service), but there seemed to be a fair amount of movement in the cabin prior to departure, and I was the only one in row 1 just prior to boarding.


The entire 8 seat cabin was filled, however, with seemingly at least one non-rev, and perhaps up to 3 (as I'm not sure whether the below upgrades were Y/P to J or J to F).




LHR-MIA
Flagship First
AA 57
Meal + Light Snack
1235 departure


After boarding, I was welcomed by the purser (not my name, but a friendly greeting nevertheless) and was asked whether I would like a glass of sparkling wine, which arrived in a proper glass tumbler.







Menus:









Wine and Drinks List:







Now, here's where my circadian dysrhythmia (and perhaps the Johnnie Blue from the BA lounge) caught up to me...

I fell fast asleep, and the gentlemen serving the F cabin, who were very kind and polite chose not to wake me.

I hadn't been particularly excited about this menu, in any case, as "creamed beetroot spelt" just doesn't tickle my fancy, but I was very pleasantly surprised when the purser noticed I had awoken and came over to my seat to ask whether I still wished to have the meal (note I had slept soundly for literally several hours at that point).

He acknowledged my pre-order of the beef stew and proceeded to serve me in courses, just as though I had been awake for the original service. I was very impressed (and appreciative).

A few photos of the meal service (apologies for the darkness, as I was watching a movie and also didn't want to disturb other passengers, many of whom had fallen asleep themselves by that time)...












I was also offered the second meal but declined, as I had just eaten the main course perhaps an hour prior.

For the descent into Miami, I swiveled my seat to the left and enjoyed a cup of coffee and the coastal views, taking advantage of a less common seat feature of the 77W F seats.






It was a beautiful descent into MIA, with a fairly on-time arrival.







Overall Impression:

A very nice flight, with better than average catering (unexpectedly, given my initial impression of the preorder options), and excellent crew who provided personalized, friendly service.

I must say, to be fair to AA, my in-flight 77W F experience was nothing like some of the truly negative ones posted within the past six months or so.

For now, the Bahamian sun is calling my name, but I'll post MIA Flagship First Dining photos and a review in this thread shortly.
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Old Mar 1, 20, 1:07 pm
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If this is a "Mini-TR", what the heck should be expect from a full one?
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Old Mar 1, 20, 2:49 pm
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Originally Posted by teemuflyer View Post
If this is a "Mini-TR", what the heck should be expect from a full one?
More of the same! I enjoyed reading it.
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Old Mar 1, 20, 11:48 pm
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Originally Posted by teemuflyer View Post
If this is a "Mini-TR", what the heck should be expect from a full one?
Ha, I was tempted to post a full review of the entire trip, including my outbound flight and my time in Germany/Austria, but I felt reviewing the Flagship First experience would be most relevant for this forum, as I was very disappointed to see some of the reviews late last year.

Let's just say that my own experience with Flagship First, both in-flight and with FFD at MIA, restored my faith in AA premium service to some extent, and I felt it was worth sharing perhaps a bit more detail about the flights, without describing my entire personal trip.
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Old Mar 1, 20, 11:49 pm
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Originally Posted by tjcxx View Post
More of the same! I enjoyed reading it.
Thanks! Will try to post about MIA FFD as soon as I have a chance.
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Old Mar 2, 20, 12:34 am
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Thank you for the post!
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Old Mar 2, 20, 10:42 am
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Nice job on the review. Thanks for the post. I am glad you had a positive experience!
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Old Mar 2, 20, 3:39 pm
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looks great, thanks for the review! hoping one day to get back to do AA f after years of sticking to BA since i've moved to london. i still find the swivel seat so cool, and one of the more comfortable beds, making up for the lack of privacy.
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Old Mar 2, 20, 4:00 pm
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I don't love the fact that your meal was served on a tray.
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Old Mar 3, 20, 3:23 am
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Originally Posted by PresRDC View Post
I don't love the fact that your meal was served on a tray.
I don't necessarily disagree, although my experience was slightly skewed in that I woke up after the original service, so I may have gotten somewhat of an express format.

I was still pleased enough with everything overall that I would definitely consider using more SWUs on more on purchased J to get into 77W F, as opposed to using them on Y tickets to upgrade to J, even though I find the value of the Y to J SWU upgrade to really be the better deal than J to F sometimes. Or just truly accidentally stumbling across a low J to F fare difference like I did in this case.

Especially if you get the right airport combination and connection time, with Flagship First Dining, some of the ground service can be very nice.

DL and UA really don't compare to this. The Polaris Lounges are nice on UA, but even the "restaurant experience" in Polaris is not in the same league as the privacy of FFD. DL just has overcrowded SkyClubs and a frustrating mileage program.

If I were AA, given how more and more people are paying for premium cabin travel with a decent U.S. economy, I'd keep putting a huge investment in the premium services. Even if F is eventually totally eliminated internationally in the near future, which has been recently suggested on this forum (on current 4 class service flights), things like the ground experience will matter even more as customer segmentation continues to develop.
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Old Mar 3, 20, 7:52 am
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Originally Posted by metallo View Post
If I were AA, given how more and more people are paying for premium cabin travel with a decent U.S. economy, I'd keep putting a huge investment in the premium services. Even if F is eventually totally eliminated internationally in the near future, which has been recently suggested on this forum (on current 4 class service flights), things like the ground experience will matter even more as customer segmentation continues to develop.
My suspicion is that F is going to stay to match their joint business partners BA, JL, and QF and compete with CX to HKG. One of the issues AA has is that there is limited differentiation between J and F (a larger seat, a soup course, and FFD / F lounges). I actually think they should come completely out of left field and announce some kind of over-the-top Etihad-style F "apartment" seat -- it would provide meaningful product differentiation, provide the FAs with something to be proud of, and cause a kind of "halo" effect where folks hear about it and think other things AA does might be premium.
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Old Mar 3, 20, 1:25 pm
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Originally Posted by metallo View Post
I don't necessarily disagree, although my experience was slightly skewed in that I woke up after the original service, so I may have gotten somewhat of an express format.

I was still pleased enough with everything overall that I would definitely consider using more SWUs on more on purchased J to get into 77W F, as opposed to using them on Y tickets to upgrade to J, even though I find the value of the Y to J SWU upgrade to really be the better deal than J to F sometimes. Or just truly accidentally stumbling across a low J to F fare difference like I did in this case.
Glad to hear that. The service standard is definitely that the first meal is served sans tray if you eat at the normal time. If you opt to eat later, I think they do serve it on a tray. If that is the case, then clearly no fault on the FA's part, but I strongly believe that that should not be the service standard for any meal in Int. F, regardless of when you order it. You won't see a tray on CX, JL, QF or BA, unless of course it is a course/meal intended to be served on a tray, like a Japanese meal.

As for the value of the VIP from J to F, I agree that the gap between Y and J is bigger than from J to F, which means it represents a greater value. However, if most of your flying is paid international or transcon J, then J to F is your only real chance to use the VIPs. A good problem to have, to be sure.
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Old Mar 3, 20, 2:12 pm
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Am I the only one who actually enjoys the BA English Breakfast they serve on their flights? LoL It beats any US-based airline, IMO.
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Old Mar 3, 20, 2:49 pm
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Originally Posted by metallo View Post
Ha, I was tempted to post a full review of the entire trip, including my outbound flight and my time in Germany/Austria, but I felt reviewing the Flagship First experience would be most relevant for this forum, as I was very disappointed to see some of the reviews late last year.

Let's just say that my own experience with Flagship First, both in-flight and with FFD at MIA, restored my faith in AA premium service to some extent, and I felt it was worth sharing perhaps a bit more detail about the flights, without describing my entire personal trip.
Great report! While that (bolded) might have been the most important aspect for this subform, I'd love to see the whole trip in the Trip Reports form should you decide to write one.
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Old Mar 4, 20, 12:56 am
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I was so glad to hear that you could delay the start of your main meal service while seated in F. On my last flight out of London in American Business Class, I had stuffed myself full on the delicious dan dan noodles, dim sum basket, and chicken curry in the Cathay lounge. It was absolutely the highlight of my visits to lounges and the thought of another meal in business would’ve rendered me quite uncomfortable, so I skipped it. They didn’t give me the impression that I could delay business class meal service. It was use-it-or-lose it and the FA seemed a little put off that I would not be eating the meal I had ordered. He merely suggested that if I were hungry later, there would be cold sandwiches in the galley. (The sandwiches were terrible, by the way.)
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