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Thanksgiving MR: How AA's new LAX-HKG 77W service slays CX in J...or not? (+ Tokyo)

Thanksgiving MR: How AA's new LAX-HKG 77W service slays CX in J...or not? (+ Tokyo)

Old Jun 20, 17, 12:20 pm
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Thanksgiving MR: How AA's new LAX-HKG 77W service slays CX in J...or not? (+ Tokyo)

Because of the ambitious and spontaneous RTW adventure earlier ago, I had to delay posting about this a bit, but I'm still excited writing it now

Brief background about myself and this trip, I'm based in ORD as a college student. So I legitimately had to get myself out for thanksgiving or else I might starve And as a newly minted EXP then, what better way was there than to fly home using my coveted SWUs, given the low international fares, let alone help me on the quest to 200k EQM? It didn't hurt that the SWU was available for the outbound when I booked back in July.

HKG is an amazing city to MR to, but it's home for me. So I thought of hopping onwards to a nearby place for some R&R after a busy 10 weeks of school, and I had flights booked to BKK onwards using Avios before the ex-HKG taxes spiked up. Unfortunately, I soon learnt I had to be back immediately after break so, thanks to the leniency of the EXP desk as a result of a schedule change I ended up cutting my trip short by a bit rebooking my inbound departing on Sunday after thanksgiving. With the layover becoming short and this becoming more of a 'pure MR', I decided to go crazy and hop to TYO, my favorite city instead while at the same time 'maximize' more time in the air on CX, and just in case, relieve my disappointment if the AA flight to HKG fails splendidly.

Let's move onto the first sector. Wednesday before Thanksgiving. The crowds were...indeed bad, but I've seen worse:


There were some festive decorations around the terminal, but the mood of the check-in agent and the weather certainly were not. It's a pity that AA still can't sort out their IT issues for HKG-bound passengers so a counter visit was mandatory.




Thankfully, as there are more leisure travelers around Thanksgiving I assume, the PRE line was empty, and I was soon on my way to the ORD FL which will soon be closed down/replaced. My first thoughts, the golf carts outside and its low key entrance makes it look really exclusive, and the AAngels were a huge uplift from the weather and those at the check in counters.


I was told to not expect anything, but I was pleasantly surprised with the ambience (couldn't hurt that there were 10 pax at most) and the food/beverage offerings. The service was also attentive with attendants walking around from time to time. In my style I had just got off from class so I didn't hesitate to go ahead for a full lunch, and the food certainly didn't disappoint!




Am i the only one madly in love with the snack mix with peanut butter?







You can tell, I really ran away from school...not completely yet...

I intentionally booked myself on the afternoon 787 flight that goes on to AKL (or at least back then). Knowing how AA GAs love religiously boarding earlier, I walked out of the FL back door which landed me right at the gate for today's flight to LAX, K16. Obviously, I was too optimistic with AA's ops and we were told to not fill the line yet as there was an ongoing MX issue:



Another 788 headed to (I forgot)

They didn't bother with delaying the flight with 10-minute intervals and instead just kept us waiting until all of a second, voila, we will board now. Only to see FAs enjoying themselves and their phones in the J seats and shouting 'they're there!' upon seeing their self-loading cargo board.


American Airlines 1358
Chicago O'Hare (ORD) to Los Angeles (LAX)
November 23rd 2016
Estimated departure/arrival: 1505 - 1736
Actual departure/arrival: 1559 - 1820
Flying time: 3h 55m
Equipment: Boeing 787-8 N811AB
Seat 6A


First time in the 787-8 Zodiac seats. As my SWU cleared at booking, I was able to secure a 'non-shaking' seat in the mini-cabin, 6A. First thoughts, it looked stylish if just a bit weird. The reactions of the pax walking towards the back seeing these flat bed pods were priceless.



With the yin-yang configuration privacy was not the best, but storage was okay for a backward facing seat, with tables on both sides. The gadgets and monitors etc were fancy yet intuitive enough.




At least they didn't forget about the PDB despite the delay, as underwhelming as it looked like.


With 200+ pax boarding, naturally I toyed around with the most noticeable feature, the dimming window.




After what ended up in an hour long delay, we finally took to the skies, and the views were gorgeous out of this window seat as we cleared the cloud layers.


Turns out it was right to stock up at the FL, as it was close to dinner time now as the crew began their service, starting with nuts and pre meal drinks, while I turned on the live TV:




Dinner tonight would be stuffed ravioli with peppers in a thick creamy sauce accompanied by some cold cuts and a salad on the side. Thank heavens for pretzel rolls ex-ORD. The main was piping hot and not inedible, and so were the cold cuts, but the salad was rather vile.

At least we had the thing that never fails at AA to make up for it. Yum yum.


After the meal, I found the bathroom to be rather updated compared to most AA aircraft.


We still had a long way to go (well, relatively), so I set up my favorite IFE program 'Moving Map' on both the handset display and the main monitor and tried to take a nap. Unfortunately, unlike the 321Ts on JFK-BOS, we didn't get any pillows let alone kits, so that was rather difficult along with the lights staying on all the time.




Before arrival, I took a look at some other features on this fancy aircraft that I've never flown on before. I bravely asked the mean-looking and uninterested FA if I could shoot a few pictures, to which she actually chatted a bit with me after I told her it was my first time. After telling her I was connecting to HKG, she told me she just did the flight last week...'feels like hell. 250 people in the back.' Oh well



They didn't forget about mints. And you can see i) how much desktop space there was, or ii) how it wasn't really that far from my 'neighbor' across the aisle.


Soon, we landed at LAX and taxied to our gate without much further delay, and we made up some time en route as we pulled up less than 60 minutes late.



Oops..we haven't got to LAX-HKG yet. It turns out that I couldn't access the lounges so next up is almost straight away onto that flight
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Old Jun 20, 17, 3:21 pm
  #2  
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AA 193 LAX-HKG, Business Class

Long story short, I was denied entry into the QF lounge that I have been anticipating for so long as I was under 21. I even begged the lounge dragon to let me sit in the very first table next to the entrance so she could supervise me, but her reluctance finally set me walking away before security was called in, as I know have happened to certain FFs dealing with their incompetence at lounge access rules since its opening.

Disappointingly, I walked back to the AC/FL at T4 which was already under renovation at that time. There was almost nothing on offer, save for some food and good booze. And of course, tremendously more wonderful AAngels than those at QF F. Anyway, the new TBIT still looks stunning after a few years.





The FL was eerily quiet, but there were a few presumably uninformed flyers on the 193 tonight who chose to be here (they definitely did not look under 21...). The AC was on the other hand a lot more crowded, with the only saving grace being gorgeous views over the tarmac including the battleship tonight going the distance over the Pacific:



I guess the ritual of boarding extremely early would be good for me tonight then, and it did happen punctually. As a CX flyer, I can't believe I would be boarding an AA flight for HKG...



American Airlines 193 / Cathay Pacific 7685
Los Angeles (LAX) to Hong Kong (HKG)
November 24th 2016
Estimated departure/arrival: 0035 - 0810+1
Actual departure/arrival: 0034 - 0803+1
Flying time: 14h 50m
Equipment: Boeing 777-300ER N720AN
Seat 8A


Unfortunately, I was not able to snag a seat in the mini cabin, so I picked 8A, three rows from the galley and ahead of the engines. Oh, the familiarity!




Unlike on CX, everything was pre-set at the seat before boarding including bottled water, BOSE headsets, menu, amenity kit, slippers, pillow, duvet and mattress. And that's a very sumptuous array compared to what CX offers, so I was already in a great mood. There were also more plastic wrapping, which although not the most environmentally friendly felt more hygienic.


With all the controls and design being basically the same, I was very content with the seat and settled in much more quickly and comfortably than I did on the previous 787 ride:


As the other 300 passengers took their time to settle in, I perused the menu before PDBs were served in faux glasses by a young cheerful FA.




Wine list:




Another picture of the 'setup' with the PDB there


As the cabin settled down and we prepared to leave, another crew member rolled around a cart with pyjamas and newspapers for those that needed it. I picked a pair of S/M sized PJs which were comfortable and rather stylish.



As if I weren't impressed enough, the safety video actually was bilingual, even on the soundtrack I felt that AA was really trying hard to invade into the HKG market.

Once the safety video finished playing, the IFE was turned on and my obvious choice was my favorite program. I liked the early boarding as we were all settled and ready to go way before departure time, and we soon pushed ahead of schedule. Surprisingly, there were empty seats in the back, although I suspect a considerable amount of F/J pax were non-revs, a concept that I still find baffling as a CX flyer.




As is the norm at LAX, our taxi took over 40 minutes before we finally rolled into the night skies at full power. A 310-laden 77W may have felt heavier than my usual Cathay 275-seaters

While waiting for the service to begin, I took a look at the Cole Haan amenity kit, which both the looks and contents felt superior and sumptuous to what CX had to offer.

Unfortunately, the hot towel was not part of the enhancements on this service, and still looked miserable:

The young female ABC FA came by, set up my table while her counterpart, an older but equally cheerful gentleman offered me PDB and nuts. I chose my regular PDB of Diet Sierra, while continuing watching live BBC. Menu orders were also taken including salad dressing and confirmation of my meal order:



I set up my laptop later and again, another perk over CX that didn't disappoint at all. In fact, I had no problem streaming YouTube later on.



Around 50 minutes after take off, they brought the tray with the salad set up and the canape along with offerings of premium bread. If you have ever flown CX on a late night supper flight, their tray set up is a lot more underwhelming than what AA managed to offer:


The portions for the salad and bread were much more generous, and the taste was very fine for all the items. 15 minutes later, my pre-ordered entree of coffee braised short ribs was delivered after being plated in the galley:

OMG, it was tender and flaky, so much that I consumed everything before taking any more pictures. Drink refills were offered with FAs attending to passengers' needs throughout, I would say the service was proactive and hospitable.

Feeling very adventurous, I asked if it was possible to have a trio of all the desserts on offer. The female FA cheerfully agreed and was enthusiastic to offer what AA had to her passengers, even proactively suggested if I would like port to go with it. Why not!


The service had actually took close to 2 hours versus 1 on CX, but considering the variety and portions of food (while CX offers a one-tray 'quick' supper service), I thought it wasn't too bad. The lights were half dimmed all the time so some passengers just slept through it, or had a bit of food and not everything. It actually would help adjust to jet lag by delaying sleep as much as possible anyway, so I continued binging YouTube before touring the lav and the bar area while getting changed and ready for bedtime.







Unfortunately, the bar area was not set up with the fancy snacks and light bites as were available on some other flights. The FAs actually initiated conversation in a really friendly way and even encouraged me to write to AA when I mentioned this!

Anyway, it was approaching 4am in LA and with the whole cabin asleep, I set up my bed in the sky with the additional mattress pad provided. This along with a plush, thick pillow meant I felt I slept better than I did on CX. The air vents did the trick too.


I may have awoken slightly when some of the pax started waking up and ordering midflight snacks, but I was able to score a solid 7 hours of sleep. Unfortunately, when I woke up, the wagyu beef sliders were gone to which the FA apologetically offered me the antipasti plate followed with another slice of chocolate cake and Hong Kong style milk tea. The taste and presentation were all truly beyond expectations!


There was no sign of geoblock either as we ventured into Chinese airspace:



I think the IFE selections were very good with plentiful options, but with (blazing fast) wifi, that was generally rather moot for me on this flight. I continued to just lazily lounge around fidgeting with my laptop, when some time later the sun was beginning to rise, and the cabin crew were back into action. What's better than having breakfast in bed at 35,000 ft, watching live TV?



Contrary to how it works on CX, breakfast was a relatively low key affair compared to the first meal with everything served on one tray. Still, everything was there except for cereals but again portions and quality were very impressive. The pain au chocolat was crisp and hot...I honestly wish I could get something like that again soon but it seems like not even on QR

The sun was rising through the horizon. What a wonderful view.

I continued to lounge around watching TV as we neared HKG.

One last shot of the goodies that have accompanied me through the long night:


The captain soon came on the PA to announce our on time arrival and iminent descent. It wasn't until then that the cabin crew started to wrap up and collect headsets, so I'd say they paced it well. We were allowed to keep using our IFE and I resorted back to my favorite program with a fantastic 'view' as we began our approach:


We touched down at HKG and taxied swiftly to our gate, arriving a few minutes ahead of schedule at gate 15 which is just next to immigration. What a great flight it was but it also felt good seeing the CX beauties lined up next door




As a CX flyer my first time AA J experience was mind blowing as you could tell. The amenities and F&B were significantly better in many extents, let alone other extras like wi-fi. The timing of this flight was great too as it arrives into HKG a bit later than most TPAC red-eyes. Of course, the icing on the cake was the crew which although not very personalized did offer efficient and effortful service, which I appreciated a lot. This would turn out to be a differentiating factor as the return sector would show. But for now, I was so impressed and in a good mood to connect to Narita on a rather dull morning at HKG
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Old Jun 20, 17, 8:58 pm
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Interesting trip report comparing your usual CX vs AA.
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Old Jun 21, 17, 1:02 am
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CX 520 HKG-NRT, Business Class

I went landside to collect my BP and process my departure tax refund. The gate this morning was 34, which was a convenient excuse to make the trek to one of the favorite places across FT:



The morning rush was largely over, so the lounge was deserted this morning.


Unfortunately my own layover was not long either, so the visit today could only cover a light breakfast of waffles and fruit followed by a quick shower before it was time to head out. The dragon fruit juice and fruit bowl were meh but the rest were excellent, as is the service as usual.







I was a little late but Japanese flights meant very orderly and quiet passengers without any commotion:



It would be my second time on today's battleship B-HLW, a 2 class A330 fitted with long haul business class and economy without PEY.

Cathay Pacific 520 / Japan Airlines 7046 / American Airlines 8882
Hong Kong (HKG) to Tokyo Narita (NRT)
November 25th 2016
Estimated departure/arrival: 1015 - 1515
Actual departure/arrival: 1014 - 1515
Flying time: 3h 40m
Equipment: Airbus A330-300 B-HLW
Seat 11A

Ah, the ever comfortable realms of 11A, and almost exactly the same seat as on the plane that I just got off. Maybe just a larger footwell now



PDB of Oriental Breeze was swiftly consumed while an oshibori was handed out.


The A330s were older and less fancy, and in CX style, there were no air vents


Still, boarding was so calm despite we were completely full in the back and 80% in J, but we pushed on the dot and were on our way soon after a long taxi to the other end of the airport. As is HKG always, interesting sights on the way out.


The new concourse, predominantly featuring HX and friends

I think I remain more contempt on this side of the airport

Once we established altitude, the FAs sprang into action. The junior crew member soon came by offering me landing cards, and was kind enough to lend me a pen as well as a pair of socks I requested. Then senior purser Joyce, a charming old Japanese lady came by to say hello, distribute the menu before coming back with a beverage cart of which I chose the Billecart Salmon on offer today as my aperitif accompanied with a Japanese style nut mix. Yum yum.





Not long after, the appetizer tray was offered along with a drink refill. This was decent considering ex-HKG meals are notably worse most of the time considering the flexibility and amount of costs they can cut. But Japanese routes perhaps deserve a bit of dignity still.

Without wifi, it was time to resort back to the IFE. At least they still had I am a Singer, one of my favorite reality TV shows with many of my favorite singers this season.


Rather surprisingly, all the main choices today looked good. I couldn't resist the temptation of sea urchin so I went for the Japanese main of baked salmon...even though it was just sea urchin cream sauce



The taste was phenomenal and unbelievable knowing that it was catered out of HKG.

The meal service was going on at a leisurely pace and most pax seemed to be in holiday mood. Some time later, Joyce came by again with cheese and fruit. She noticed me taking a picture of the cart just now, and each time later she asked if I would like to do that again and even adjusted her trolley and asked if the angle worked for my phone. Just your wonderful seasoned and personalized CX service!




After the ice cream and coffee/tea run I looked out of the window to see ourselves steaming across the East China Sea, soon making landfall over Kyushu.




It was time to stretch and relax a bit after a full meal. Only regional blankets were available and not the duvets for long haul flights, but at least there was a pillow.

The A330 lavatory is a bit more old-school but still well stocked and fitted out.


Unfortunately on a flight of such duration, the end approached quickly as a hot towel was distributed again before the captain came on the PA shortly after we flew past Mount Fuji (at a distance):



We soon landed at the shorter runway at NRT rather bumpily and had a brief taxi to our gate near border control. The competition is strong and visible nowadays...



One last shot of my enclave before deplaning:


Immigration was a breeze and I was out in less than 10 minutes.


As usual, it was a great flight with CX. The only letdown may have been being completely ignored nor acknowledged by the ISM throughout the flight, but the rest of the crew did a fantastic job. Interestingly, the flight time was similar to my ORD-LAX leg and it seems that AA still has a long way to catch up on 'regional' flights of such duration.
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Old Jun 21, 17, 1:39 am
  #5  
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1.5 days in Tokyo

Tokyo is my favorite city so one day is better than nothing, the question would be how to maximize it. It doesn't help either that at such time of the year, it was completely dark by 5 pm

I jumped on the Skyliner and connected to the metro to get to my hotel in Tsukiji market (as I could get sushi next morning and to HND conveniently the morning after. Plus it was cheap!)


Once everything was settled, I headed to Shinjuku for an evening stroll and some ramen. You can say everything just never gets old to me






Another iconic building in Ginza as I walked back to my hotel from there:


I'm gonna honestly confess that I've stayed here before to attempt to make it to Sushi Dai only to have failed in the past. So this time I was determined and got going at 4am, an hour before it opened. That's actually considered late but here's when the solo traveler beats everyone else, I was let in after less than 2 hours of waiting.

Sushi Dai


OOOOMMMMGGG, I'm a repeat visitor and I know yeah many people say it's not worth the wait. But it really cannot be beaten in value and quality for just 4000 yen.

Once I was done Tokyo was already in bright daylight. I'm glad my hotel was just here so I could crash again as it was actually just rather early in the morning.


I set out again for an early lunch, and the crowds simply did not subside. As a fan of sea urchin, I went to a place that was famous for their uni don (sea urchin rice bowls). A bit pricey but didn't disappoint either




After lunch, I set off for Aoyama, a district that I've been to relatively less. Little that I know that coincidentally it was the season for Autumn leaves and I walked into a garden famous for containing such scenery, known as Meijijingugaien (the outer garden of Meiji Shrine...)





Pictures can't do much justice of how stunning it was, nor can my phone. But it might for evidence of some imperialism around


Next stop was Meiji Shrine and Omotesando, places that never get old again.





Not sure if the Japanese celebrate Thanksgiving, but it was very very crowded. I popped into Omotesando Hills, an upscale shopping complex that featured very nice Christmas lights already set up:




Next stop was more food at an Israeli chocolate bar in the same complex where I had some of the fanciest and tastiest iced chocolate drinks I've ever had in my life.


I then moved on to Harajuku to visit some of my favorite fashion boutiques before getting a spot at Red rock, yet another famous eatery for dinner. It specializes in a volcanic-looking rice bowl topped with raw roasted beef, eggs and yogurt, and it was truly phenomenal




Last stop of the evening was Shibuya as I continued to look for things I might buy, but I guess a short trip is good as time is up by the time you make up your mind





Shibuya is yet another place that never gets old for me. I was still stuffed so decided to make my way back to the hotel early, passing through Ginza and of course I couldn't resist my temptation at the nearby Lawson



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Old Jun 21, 17, 2:49 am
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Such a great report so far. Thanks for sharing with us.
It's a shame not to have seen the QF lounge.
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Old Jun 21, 17, 6:18 am
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CX 543 HND-HKG, Business Class

I had seriously considered taking a taxi or Uber to the airport, but frugality caught me again last minute. I ended up taking an Uber (1200 yen for 5 minutes...) to the monorail station and made my way to HND arriving with around 2 hours to spare.

As always, HND is one of my favorite airports, but today the crowds suggested that either the Japanese also celebrated Thanksgiving, or the terminal was approaching capacity




It was great that there was an F counter at the CX check in just for emeralds as today's jet would be a 2-class regional config. Not so great that emeralds do not get priority lane, so I had to join the lines which were nonetheless not annoying.

First stop was the JAL F lounge for some light bites and a glass of Sky Time, their very fruity kiwi mocktail. I always love the tarmac views and the rather minimalistic design there.





More light bites and I also grabbed a bottle of water as I moved to the CX HND lounge, one of my favorite CX outport lounges, and where CX actually beats the base carrier in some sense, just like at BKK.



Not a lot of pictures as I've reviewed the two HND lounges I frequent (JL F and CX) previously here at post #8 .

Today's gate would be 145, the very same one where I stepped on the CX 747 in F one last time some two months ago. Today's battleship has also seen its age, but unfortunately is a tad less charming than the jumbo jet...so there was no need to head there early. I just left when boarding was announced in the lounge.


B-HNE. She's turning 20 soon!

There was actually a long-haul 3-class 777 out of NRT this morning but I waited and waited and failed to see any award inventory, so I settled for this notably inferior 2-3-2 regional configuration, although I definitely earned some extra sleep time departing from HND instead

Cathay Pacific 543 / Japan Airlines 7031 / Qatar Airways 5841
Tokyo Haneda (HND) to Hong Kong (HKG)
November 27th 2016
Estimated departure/arrival: 1045 - 1500
Actual departure/arrival: 1041 - 1509
Flying time: 4h 58m
Equipment: Boeing 777-300 B-HNG
Seat 11G


Many of the 42 in J today were Japanese pax and were in their seats already as I settled down. A junior FA was walking around offering PDBs so I took a glass of grapefruit juice...OJ, water and champagne were all available too.




It is indeed rather tight and uneasy, but the loads probably tell you why this configuration replaced the 747 and not a 4-class low density 777...


The safety video was screened and we pushed to the dot and were off in 25 minutes or so, not bad at all for a large airport like HND. Ah, and the saving grace of an outside camera


As this is a pure regional aircraft, the headsets and blankets were of the disappointing style...but it's still better than AA at least, lol.


The ISM Gabriel, a very nice and well groomed lady came by to say hello with her emerald greeting in Cantonese. Fantastic and I knew it would be a great flight at least on the service side. Soon, the Japanese senior purser came around with the menus. I then chose the same aperitif of Billecart salmon with a Japanese style nut mix - both tasty :





Another purser took over for the meal service as I was on the right aisle. Linens were laid and the appetizer tray was served along with garlic bread afterwards.



The seat may suck but the service and food did not, especially with catering out of Japan. Both the prawn and duck breast were not too chewy and tasted fresh.

The main course of braised wagyu beef soon followed, doused in Koshu red wine sauce served with Japanese rice. OMG, that was wonderfully presented and tasted good too, almost literally melting in my mouth.


This older configuration meant more sufficient manpower and I was offered a drink refill during the main course, of which I chose Oriental Breeze and carried it over to the next courses of cheese and fruit:


There was a bit of bump, which was understandable as we trailed the coast of Japan throughout the meal service. It took a bit longer than usual but we still wrapped up in less than 2 hours with HD ice cream and green tea again:


There must have been enough blankets catered as the temperature was rather low today, and I dozed until we were just a bit from HKG:


A final round of juices and water were offered before we began our descent into HKG, arriving at almost 5 hours after wheels-up.


We pulled into the gate just a little bit behind schedule where I again headed landside to process my departure tax refund as I was connecting on separate tickets. I would also have to check in with the AA counter to see if my upgrade could clear apart from getting my e-ticket receipt.

All in all a decent flight with great CX service as usual, although the seat and equipment remains much to be desired. But if they can fill the plane, who cares?
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Old Jun 21, 17, 8:03 am
  #8  
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AA 192 HKG-LAX, Business Class

Oops, 4 hours is apparently too early and the HKG AA ground agents were taking their break between the DFW and LAX flights.


Fortunately everything was printed out successfully from the kiosk and I was able to process the tax refund which the desk was conveniently located at the same aisle. After everything was done, with my Y+ boarding pass in hand I went through security and went to check out the new Pier J class lounge, and it would be my first 'prolonged' stay there. I was looking forward after all the hype I've heard.


The lounge looks every bit as stylish as its sibling, Pier F, and with my switch from AA EXP to CX sapphire nowadays, I don't feel I will lose much at all.

The first ever HKG lounge lockers!

A 'coffee cart' by the entrance


The bar area

More seating with newly designed 'Solo' chairs

The Bureau, a working area

The noodle bar

The Tea House

I grabbed my glass of Cathay Delight at the bar, and settled on a very comfortable leather armchair by the windows. Then I just charged my devices and contemplated at the 388s and various traffic passing by.


Actually, I was starting to freak out reloading the AA app as the upgrade list tonight was a whopping 56 deep. Fortunately I was #2 even when my ticket was reissued as I made the date change, but the seat map showed a very full J cabin. I did think of ditching the ticket last minute and redeeming an award back on CX J instead, but availability forbade that. With the risk of having to suck it up in the back for the next 12 hours, I walked over to the Pier F to have dinner just in case.


Back here just after 2 days...

I started with Yakitori beef as my starter, along with another glass of Cathay Delight. Even if my upgrade clears, I can't get that onboard

Next up was the Wok-fried duo of clams and that's why the chopsticks were there. Unfortunately the taste was rather bland and there were too many herbs and spices to make up for that, the portion was a bit too large too.


Still, it was less than two hours before departure with no signs of upgrades clearing. So it was better to continue to be safe than sorry later.


The panna cotta made up a bit for the disappointment of the main. In full preparation for having to endure the next 12 hours in pain, I was like whatever by that time and went for a long, hot and relieving shower, again repeating what I did 2 days ago



Once I was done it was back to scrolling on the AA app again. Could have been a lot worse although it did affect my 'enjoyment' of the lounges a bit, at least I was one of the lucky 6 (among 56)


Boarding was through gate 43 tonight, and AA did a decent job at turning around the plane in time with it having came in from DFW not long ago. Unfortunately it was a lot more messier at the gate with lines here and there with passengers having reseating requests, and GAs giving vague instructions for lining up. I was denied a window seat rather rudely (having spoken Cantonese still) as they had processed all upgrades into specific seats. AA uses SATS agents at HKG which are not as professional as CX agents, or at least I'm not that used to them.



There was one single priority line for everyone. But once boarding began religiously at T-50, all hell broke loose, only to be stopped by a second security check on the jetbridge. Now why can't they do it like CX, sealing off some part of the gate area instead? It was stuffy and cramped.

Interestingly, next to us was a DL A330 having just come in from SEA.


American Airlines 192 / Cathay Pacific 7686
Hong Kong (HKG) to Los Angeles (LAX)
November 27th 2016
Estimated departure/arrival: 1935 - 1625
Actual departure/arrival: 1928 - 1629
Flying time: 11h 54m
Equipment: Boeing 777-300ER N720AN
Seat 15G


Weird enough, it was the same plane that flew me over! But the feeling of boarding was less exciting with the messy gate arrangements, sub-optimal seat in the last row, and uh oh, a very tall and stern looking FA standing right at the galley not saying a single word and giving everyone a blank stare as we boarded.


Just like the way out on 193, everything was pre-set at the seat which I appreciated very much. The amenity kit and headsets were different, although they were the same brands:


The only saving grace of the last row may have been a huge storage compartment right behind the seat at shoulder level. I could put most of my stuff there instead and didn't have to reach for the overhead compartment.


As my other upgraded seatmates settled down, it seems that most were couples that split with the gentlemen giving their seats to the ladies I'm sorry if I split one of you guys up!

Soon, the very tall FA came by and continued his blank stares, this time with an additional mutter of the singular word, yeah you guessed it, 'Drink?'


Both the cup and the bubbly were rather nasty, let alone the FA. Another grumpy looking FA rolled his cart with newspapers and PJs so I grabbed another pair again - at least they didn't run out or forget to offer them:


We still had ample time before departure so again that's one good thing about boarding early. We pushed ahead of schedule, and rolled into the night sky of HKG some 20 minutes later, after the safety demonstration was shown.



Some sort of effort was made at cabin lighting as service began after we leveled off. Let's take a look at the menu:







Mr. Grumpy came by again, surprisingly addressing me by last name but still looked very grumpy. He confirmed my main course order of scallops with risotto, while offering me the same sad looking hot towel(lette), a pre meal beverage and nuts as I set up my laptop and connected to the wifi.



I changed my mind as I didn't want to 'waste' the BOSE headsets and IFE, which to be frank was excellent in terms of variety and breadth. There may have been more than 250 movie titles, and again there was some effort to please HKG based passengers.




Mr. Grumpy came back again with the starter plate of grilled halloumi. Yuck, it was way too salty. I'm glad I stocked up at the Pier F. The portions weren't great either. However, the bread and salad were of similar excellent quality like it was on the outbound.


Next, it was time for Mr. Grumpy to strike. He carried over a plate of rather disgusting looking green curry, to which I said we just confirmed my order of the risotto. Oops...I saw his expressions worsen and he started barking that no, I was wrong, but I will kindly check if we have spares. Alrighty. I'm sorry if I took your meal bro...

Thankfully there was one left but the plating left much to be desired.


The scallops were a bit too overcooked and the taste was bland overall. I wanted to say I can't blame AA as they use CX catering out of HKG which is...just bad, but JL and SQ also do and there does not seem to be problems over there.

I didn't want to challenge Mr Grumpy further, so I was more conservative this time when he asked if I wanted dessert. Luckily the sundae didn't disappoint and was hand made rather than pre-made on the outbound. Yaaaaasss. My request for Chinese Tea (as i was feeling a bit stuffed already) didn't disappoint either, the cup was cute looking and the taste rather herbal.


We were 2.5 hours out and about to make landfall over Japan as the meal service wrapped up, so the pace was not bad and similar to CX flights, albeit with a bit less substance (cheese was a part of dessert here rather than separate on CX).


With my bed set up in its full glory, I tried to catch a bit of shut eye. I guess the only good thing seated towards the back is it felt less bumpy some how, so I did manage to sleep quite well for a while.


5 hours later, I woke to see ourselves having made considerable progress across the Pacific. It was actually still early in HK but was good for adjusting back to LA/US time.


Knowing that a call bell would probably set Mr Grumpy into volcanic mode, I made my way to the galley where another less grumpy lady FA told me that unfortunately they had run out of the heated mid-flight dim sum snack. Well I wasn't completely hungry so I took her suggestion for cheesecake from the (again sparsely stocked only) buffet bar.



Another surprise, they stocked Valrhona chocolates, a luxury item that QR had cost-cut earlier ago. It was rather cool that glasses and opened bottles of wine etc were readily available, perhaps a cultural difference from Asian airlines.


More wi-fi time


Soon in the pitch darkness, glasses of mango-avocado smoothies were handed out by hand discreetly. The taste was wonderful. I wish I asked for the brand!


As the commotion started stirring from the galley I diligently moved my stuff aside. We were around 750 miles out of LA as you can see, I guess that's a good time to start serving 'brunch'.


My one-tray breakfast was handed over as we made landfall over Northern California. The set-up was largely similar to the outbound which I don't mind as breakfasts served this way minimized disruption to pax that were still asleep, and was more efficient. Portions were again generous although it was bland.


Mr Grumpy was less grumpy but his taller colleague had influenced him into monosyllabicism by his question of 'black' as I asked for coffee as my beverage. I noticed a young Taiwanese FA serving the aisle that smiled a lot more and were more polite to the pax across the aisle, although they were much slower it seemt. I think he may have also done the Mandarin PAs but they were extremely amateur and poorly translated (presumably on the spot). Perhaps AA can learn a thing or two from CX as they have very rigorously updated and thorough PA books

A CBP video was screened after the captain's pre descent announcement. It was patronizing if not condescending...you get it.


As I went to the lav to freshen up, I assume that Mr Grumpy took the liberty to unplug my headsets and collect them...anyway, at least we were arriving 40 minutes ahead of schedule, although descent and approach was extremely rollicking. As I had no window nor outside camera, I had to resort to this to see where we were:


We landed in bright daylight at LAX only to be LAX'd, i.e. arriving extremely early but still managing to pull into the gate somewhat behind schedule. It also took very long for them to open the door and usher us into T4 CBP. Well, only to have us be greeted with malfunctioning GE/APC/everything, and two incompetent agents dealing with 300 incoming passengers. I just shrugged my shoulders and walked on towards TBIT CBP, where I cleared GE and recleared security through the hidden connector spot in a breeze (PRE was also offered).

All in all, I was not that 'wowed' compared to the outbound perhaps as a mixture of the last minute upgrade tensions, and a back-to-normal set of AA crew. But at least they did everything they were supposed to do action-wise, and the flight was still a very comfortable ride across the Pacific with both hardware and many aspects of the software comparable if not competitive with what CX had to offer.
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Old Jun 21, 17, 8:59 am
  #9  
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AA 219 LAX-ORD, First Class

Because of the schedule cutbackchange, my layover in LAX was now 7.5 rather than 1.5 hours. With the harrowing experience of getting denied at QF F lounge a few days ago, I had contemplated an In-n-out run instead but I wanted to try my luck once again.

To build up my bravery, I prepared a bit at the KAL lounge which I got in by PP. The picture below of gate lice for the BA 380 to LHR is the best picture I got from the visit, which probably tells you how boring and uninspiring it was:


After a while, I took my leap of faith...across the alleyway barging my way in once again.

And......success! This time I was not carded. As funny as it sounds, I put on a facial mask to look less (or more?) suspicious, and also overwhelmed the agent first before she could, politely 'asking' if I could get access by virtue of status showing my BPs (as there'd been anecdotes about entry denials for EXPs). This did the trick and I was let in without further questions asked after my BPs got scanned. Of course, they were different agents as those on Wednesday night.


Yayyyyyyy!


As many bloggers have written about, the lounge did live up to its expectations. It was stylish, spacious and very different from your average US airport lounge. Even the style of seats were diverse with great comfort. I just casually lounged around, watched TV and fidgeted with my phone and forgot about In-N-Out.

Soon, it was time for dinner. Interestingly there were a few pax I recognized from the AA192 flight, so not only FTers know their stuff it seems...



The salt and pepper squid was indeed 'aspirational' if just a bit too spicy and too much for a single person to have


The service was extremely professional and attentive, and from time to time items were offered fresh out of the kitchen, in this case some sort of stuffed egg roll:


Both the tuna tartare and beef burger/fries were excellent and indeed bordered 'restaurant quality':



Since I didn't want to be asked to leave again, I stayed away from drinks...except for the hot chocolate that I had with the waffles with ice cream and chocolate mousse for dessert. It was off the menu so I was so impressed with how it was presented and of course how fine it tasted!


As there was so much time I ordered course after course. By the time I was done I was very stuffed and the evening had flown by. After lounging and people-watching with an atrium view, I took a shower before I left for my 11:45pm departure back to Chicago over at T4.




Unfortunately, the shower rooms were underwhelming - the water pressure was weak, amenities were lacking compared to the Pier F (dental kit only on request, no cups and facial amenities etc)...there wasn't even a floor mat. I guess that's how QF designs their showers as the otherwise excellent QF HKG lounge also suffers from the same problems. Anyway, I was still able to take a shower and get ready for the red-eye flight home.

It was a short trek back to T4, but there were great tarmac views along the walkway, including once again seeing both CX and AA 77Ws bound for HKG, the very same AA jet again in the same spot that I left off a few days ago.






With a little time left I quickly made a dash to the AC to pick up a bottle of water. The very friendly young drAAgonAAngel recognized me (as I bugged them for confirmation of separate ticket protections in case of IRROPs on my way out a few days ago). He wittily asked if I was doing a 'miles run' and even told me that the ORD flight would be a bit late so I could take my time.

He was very true as gate 48B was all about licelies of an on time boarding process/departure.

Sunday after thanksgiving was probably the reason that prompted a 788 on this flight tonight which normally is just on a pathetic 738. To me it was the only reasonable reason I could change my itinerary to two days ahead as the EXP agent accepted my request- she was willing to move me to a one-time red-eye with a proper flat bed from an original day flight back to ORD.


Finally at T-20, just before the agents lost their grip with the impending miss of D0, we were let on. This time the 787 was lighted up inside in a much more stylish lighting scheme compared to the outbound.

American Airlines 219
Los Angeles (LAX) to Chicago O'Hare (ORD)
November 27th 2016
Estimated departure/arrival: 2345 - 0546+1
Actual departure/arrival: 2354 - 0528+1
Flying time: 3h 1m
Equipment: Boeing 787-8 N806AA
Seat 5A


I applied my SWU ahead of the international leg, so I had no problem securing yet another non-shaking seat 5A.



I really like the 'Hercules'-style o/h lockers on the 787 just like the 777 compared to the 'basketball' style on the A330s for example. But I guess the crew don't like it that much

More shots of cool features in cool lighting schemes:




I was ready to crash so changed into my PJs as the masses boarded. I may have gotten eye rolled at but I don't care jokes aside tho, the crew were great and proactive, and even offered a full on demand PDB service, which I requested warm water...um....

Despite the large plane and initial boarding delay, we pushed just 10 minutes behind schedule and were soon on our way, u-turning over the coast.



Like everyone else we all reclined and tried to get to sleep immediately after. Yeah a long haul config on a red eye but oops, sorry, no pillows just a blanket. I think I used my sweater as a makeshift one...whatever. I woke just 'in time' for a sweet treat before arrival accompanied with coffee. We were blazing fast as the hop from LA back was just over 3 hours:

Mints were distributed before arrival too:


The ceiling must have been 1000' or less as once I saw the lights, we slammed into the wet ground immediately after. It was still dark outside:



A last look at my last seat of this crazy journey. There's also a shoulder-level extra storage compartment at row 5 of the 787:


Some of you may already have known, AAngels do not distinguish too much between arriving and departing passengers and as it was before 6 am, I was able to visit the AC for an extra cup of coffee, with my looooonggg day ahead. It was fun watching the action get going before I went for my Uber ride home.


Thanks for watching if you've made it to here and it certainly was two SWUs well spent! Perhaps I had low expectations to start with, the offerings of AA on this new service greatly exceeded my expectations in general although the somewhat lackluster service on the way back was a dent of some sort. If the price (and most importantly, availability...grrrr........) is right, I could see myself flying this route again over my preferred carrier of CX.

(Unfortunately, I chose not to this April for a quick weekend back home as AA continues to periodically struggle with IRROPs on their HKG rotations and I was on a tight schedule. Hopefully this will be fixed, or the pay raises for maintenance staff will be sufficient to alleviate their 'extreme meticulousness' in exercising their duties... )
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Old Jun 21, 17, 9:01 am
  #10  
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Originally Posted by miuk View Post
Interesting trip report comparing your usual CX vs AA.
Thanks miuk for your positive encouragement

Originally Posted by milesaddict View Post
Such a great report so far. Thanks for sharing with us.
It's a shame not to have seen the QF lounge.
Thanks milesaddict for your comment. The review of the QF lounge is now here above, woohoo!
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Old Jun 21, 17, 11:33 am
  #11  
 
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Thanks for another great report. Looking forward to visiting the Pier F Lounge soon on an Alaska CX F award.

Where would you argue that CX has the best outbound catering for F & J?
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Old Jun 22, 17, 9:18 am
  #12  
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Originally Posted by tennislover9 View Post
Thanks for another great report. Looking forward to visiting the Pier F Lounge soon on an Alaska CX F award.

Where would you argue that CX has the best outbound catering for F & J?
Thanks tennislover9. The best outports for CX catering in F/J I think are ORD and JFK as they are catered by DO&CO!
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Old Jun 25, 17, 11:12 am
  #13  
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Lovely report!
Are you a member of richkidsofhongkong on instagram?
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Old Jun 27, 17, 3:24 pm
  #14  
 
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Great report, G-CIVC

Thanks.
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Old Jun 28, 17, 12:04 am
  #15  
 
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Originally Posted by G-CIVC View Post
Which website is this one ?
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