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The Ultimate Flake (AA F; SQ F and Suites; CX/MS/CA/MH/KL/JL J; TK Y)

The Ultimate Flake (AA F; SQ F and Suites; CX/MS/CA/MH/KL/JL J; TK Y)

Old Oct 24, 18, 8:34 pm
  #1  
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Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: IAH
Programs: UA Gold, Hyatt Globalist, Marriott PP, Hilton Gold
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The Ultimate Flake (AA F; SQ F and Suites; CX/MS/CA/MH/KL/JL J; TK Y)

Trip Report Index
American Eagle First Class Houston Intercontinental to Los Angeles; Hyatt Regency LAX
Qantas First Class Lounge LAX; American Airlines First Class Los Angeles to Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific The Pier Lounge HKG; Cathay Pacific Business Class Hong Kong to Jakarta
Singapore Airlines First Class Jakarta to Singapore; Hilton Garden Inn Singapore
Singapore Airlines The Private Room; Singapore Airlines Suites Singapore to London
Plaza Premium Lounge T2 (Arrivals) London Heathrow; Turkish Airlines Economy Class London to Istanbul; Istanbul to Cairo
Exploring Cairo Day 1
Conrad Cairo
Exploring Cairo Day 2
Egypt Air Business Class Cairo to Beijing
Air China First Class Lounge Beijing; Air China Business Class Beijing to Phuket
Phuket Marriott Nai Yang Beach
Malaysia Airlines Business Class Phuket to Kuala Lumpur
KLM Business Class Kuala Lumpur to Jakarta
Japan Airlines Business Class Jakarta to Tokyo Narita
Japan Airlines First Class Lounge NRT
American Airlines Business Class Tokyo Narita to Los Angeles
American Eagle Economy Class Los Angeles to Houston Intercontinental

I can’t imagine a better way to celebrate one my 1,000th post here on FlyerTalk than introducing one of my most favorite trips.

Back in January 2017, American Airlines was offering Business Class fares from Los Angeles to Jakarta for just $1,400. It was perfect. I was already planning on going to Jakarta later in the year to visit my family there. Getting there in comfort at a very reasonable price was all the more reason to go. So I booked a ticket for travel in early October 2017. On the outbound, I would be flying American from Los Angeles to Hong Kong and then connect to Jakarta on my favorite airline, Cathay Pacific. My return was via Tokyo Narita on Japan Airlines, before connecting to Los Angeles on American’s brand new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. I then used my very last System Wide Upgrade to upgrade the Los Angeles to Hong Kong segment to First Class. I’m sorry. “Flagship” First Class. I had a great run with American, maintaining either Platinum or Executive Platinum every year since 2010. But the reduction of benefits and just plain awful service combined with having to connect to go anywhere except for an American hub from Houston made maintaining status with American not worth it. It was fitting that I used my very last upgrade to experience the very best American Airlines has to offer.

The problem with booking a ticket ten months in advance is that life happens and things change. A lot. Let’s start with work. Somehow, when they pay you more, they expect (a lot) more from you. Who knew? Anyhow, 2017 was another busy year at work. And in August, Hurricane Harvey devastated much of the Texas Gulf Coast. While my family and I escaped unscathed, many of our friends weren’t so lucky. So we spent quite a bit of time helping them and the local community out. Although this wasn’t my first rodeo, having watched Hurricane Katrina devastate my hometown of New Orleans 12 years prior, it wasn’t any easier to deal with. I was exhausted by the time September rolled around. With the trip to Indonesia just mere weeks away, I should have been excited. But I wasn’t. I was actually dreading it. Don’t get me wrong, I did want to see my family. Just not at that time. I really needed a vacation, and a couple of weeks with family probably isn’t the best way to go about it. I’m not proud of this, but I began to look for ways to flake out of actually staying in Jakarta.

If I was going to flake, I’d better have a damn good reason. Fortunately, one was about to present itself. One thing that had been nagging me for a year so was my Singapore Airlines Krisflyer account. A few years ago, I transferred a ton of Citi Thank You points in anticipation of booking my first Suites flight. It just never worked out, and the points were going to expire at end of 2017. Singapore is somewhat stingy about premium cabin award space in advance on their North American routes. But they do release a fair bit of space on all their other routes. My heart practically leapt out of my chest when I saw there was Suites award space on one of Singapore’s A380 operated flights from Singapore to London. I’m sad to say, it didn’t take a minute for me to decide to flake. After a couple clicks and taps, I was going to spend 14 hours in Singapore’s Suites for a bargain 115,000 miles and $100-ish in taxes.

A day or so later, I was talking to a friend of mine who was originally from Egypt. He’s been offering to let me use his flat in Cairo and arrange for a tour should I decide to visit for several years now. I have wanted to visit Egypt for years, but I never got the chance. There’s no better time than the present. Fares from London to Cairo were a bit steep, with the lowest starting from ~$300 in economy class. I ended up buying a ticket on Turkish Airlines as they offered the best timed itinerary, even with the connection in Istanbul. Plus, Turkish would be a new airline for me! That ticket set me back $400.

Traveling for the sake of traveling is great, and I had my fair share of doing so over years to satisfy my almost primal need to keep moving. Normally I wouldn’t even entertain the idea of sitting on the beach for more than a day; however, at that moment nothing sounded better. After spending a good bit of time going back and forth, I ended up choosing to go to Phuket because… loyalty programs. You see, I was dangerously close to not re-qualifying for Marriott Platinum. What made Marriott Platinum particularly valuable for me is the inclusion of United Premier Silver status, especially since my home airport is a United hub and I’m losing my American Executive Platinum status after 2017. The Phuket Marriott Nai Yang Beach was offering very reasonable rates of $120 per night. With the fourth night free benefit on my Citi Prestige credit card, this brought my rate down to an even more palatable $90 per night.

Cairo is famous in the frequent flyer community for very reasonable premium cabin fares. To Phuket, Etihad was offering Business Class fares for $960, which is a bargain. I was fortunate enough to fly Etihad a couple of years ago. While I enjoyed it overall, I wasn’t exactly jumping at the prospect of another Etihad flight. So I looked to other options. Enter my United MileagePlus account. From Cairo, United charges just 60,000 miles for Business Class to Southeast Asia. There were a number of interesting routings with award space for the date I wanted. One in particular that caught my attention was flying EgyptAir’s redeye from Cairo to Beijing on their A330-200, and then connecting to Air China’s evening departure to Phuket. Two new airlines and two new routes? Count me in! It didn’t take more than five steps onto the EgyptAir A330-200 to realize I made a terrible mistake. But more on that later.

That’s all fine and dandy, but that would only get me as far as Phuket. I still needed to get back to Jakarta to pick up my tickets back to home. I found a $65 fare on Malaysia Airlines from Phuket to Kuala Lumpur, which allowed me to fly Malaysia Airlines for the first time. About a week before departure, I received an invitation to bid for an upgrade for my flight. I bid the minimum $50, which was accepted immediately. From Kuala Lumpur, I bought a Business Class ticket on KLM’s fifth freedom flight to Jakarta for a very reasonable $120.

I’m not proud of flaking on my family, but this trip is exactly what I needed after a long year. As for you dear readers, it’s gonna be another long one. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride!

Previous Trip Reports:
2017: The Earth IS Round (UA/LH/HU/CZ/TR Y; CX/BR J)
2017: Something Old and Something New (SQ A350 J / AA J)
2015: Christmas in Asia (AA/CX/UA J; BA/AA/CX Y)
2015: A Manic Fall(AA/WN/UA/CX/FD Y; CX F; AA F)
2015: An Apartment in the Sky (Etihad Apartment First Class, AA Y, BA J/Y, QR Y)
2014: The End of An Era (JL/CX/TG/QF A380 F, OZ J, KA Y, and a Chinese Bullet Train!)
2014: A Tale of Two Cities (AA 77W J BA Y IB Y AF J)
2013: It’s The Most Wonderful Time of The Year (AA/MQ F AS Y)
2013: Geeking Out Across America (AA F)
2012: Around The World and From Sea to Shining Sea (AA F/Y, CX F, SQ F, UA F, DL F, WN Y)
2011: Everybody look at me because I'm sailing on a boat (KL J and DL Y)
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Last edited by dat4life; Jul 17, 19 at 11:14 pm
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Old Oct 24, 18, 8:39 pm
  #2  
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For whatever reason, every single time I plan to go an extended vacation work always piles up exponentially right before I leave. To give myself a bit of leeway, I booked a late evening flight. It was a good thing I did because I worked feverishly throughout day. The last thing on the agenda that day was a conference call in the early afternoon that was promised to me as short and sweet. It was neither short nor sweet. As the call dragged on, I stared the clock. 4:00 passed. 4:30 passed, with no end in sight. I had not packed a stitch of clothing at this point as I was just planning to do so right after the supposedly short call. With my flight departing at 6:55, I was getting a little antsy. By the time 5:00 rolled around with no end in sight, I ran to my bedroom with phone in hand and started flinging anything I remotely thought I needed for the trip into my bag while occasionally interjecting on the call. I was finally out the door at 5:30, which is typically the height of rush hour. But the travel gods were with me that day, as traffic was surprisingly light. My Uber came to a screeching halt right in front of Terminal A at George Bush Intercontinental Airport a little over 30 minutes after leaving my house.

Despite the massive line at security, I was able to walk right through thanks to CLEAR and I was got to the gate just as my E175 was arriving from Los Angeles.



Since my ticket to Asia actually originated from Los Angeles the following day, I booked a cheap American ticket to position to Los Angeles. Thanks to my Executive Platinum status my upgrade cleared at 100 hours before departure as advertised. American flies non-stop between Houston and Los Angeles several times daily using American Eagle Embraer E175s. Been on one E175, might as well have been on all of them. While mundane, Embraer’s E Jet series (-170/-175/-190/-195) are among the most comfortable narrow body aircraft in the skies. First Class is in a comfortable 1-2 configuration, with the one seat side very desirable for the solo traveller. Coach is in fantastic 2-2 layout, which of course means no middle seats, and the seats are typically a good inch wider than those found on your run of the mill Boeing 737. And its the overhead bins can fit most carry on bags. I daresay I would rather fly an E jet over a 737 any day.

Since I was traveling alone, I picked seat 2A on the single seat side of the cabin. But when I boarded, I found a lady already camped out in 2A. My usual play when I find a potential poacher in my seat is to ask “Did you get assigned X seat too?”, which I did politely. The lady said she was actually in 2F, just across the aisle, but asked if I minded taking her seat because it was much more comfortable on this side. Look, mistakes happen. I’ve accidentally sat on the wrong side of a row before too out of habit. But I have never ever taken someone’s seat to preemptively “persuade” someone to switch seats. I was definitely annoyed as I chose that very seat for that very reason. But at the end of the day, this is just a short mid-con flight, and I’m by nature not a very confrontational person. So I said whatever, and took 2F. I’m glad I did, because I got payback just minutes later.



It was a rather light load this evening, and boarding wrapped up in no time. As the door closed, the aisle seat next to mine stayed empty to the chagrin of Ms. Seat Poacher. I smiled and gave her a wink as she glanced over. She of course quickly looked away.

We push backed on time and was airborne 15 minutes later. As it has been for the last three years on American Eagle flights, dinner was a choice between a chicken salad and wrap. I chose the salad, which was served with a minuscule portion of grilled chicken. With record profits, you would think American might be able to afford to serve a decent sized chicken breast. But what do I know.





I spent the rest of the flight watching episodes of The Office on my laptop. I have no idea why I didn’t watch it while it was still airing, but thanks to Netflix I’m just a little late to the party.

Landing occurred 30 minutes ahead of schedule and we parked at the farthest gate of the infamous Eagle Nest, which was actually just across the street from my home for the evening, the Hyatt Regency LAX.



If only getting there was as easy as crossing the street. Instead, getting to the hotel involved two busses and a short ride in my rental car. At least, there was some entertainment on the way. While waiting for the terminal bus at the Eagle Nest, one of my fellow passengers, wearing a t-shirt bearing the Lone Star State flag no less, had trouble grasping the very clear instructions by the employee guarding the door to the bus loading areas. Perhaps it was strange language spoken in the foreign land of California. However, he seemed to have no trouble cussing out the said employee in the very same language on the way out the door. Y’all stay classy.

Since I was leaving the airport, it didn’t matter which terminal bus I took. So I just hopped on the one that got there first, which happened to be the Terminal 4 bus. From there, it took just another 10 minutes to reach the National facility via short walk and another bus. And I was soon speeding away in my car to the hotel.

One of my biggest pet peeves are those hotels that undergo half baked renovations. The worst offenders are those hotels that splurge on new furniture and carpeting, but completely neglect the bathroom. New carpeting is nice and all, but that 1970s toilet in there isn’t. That pretty much sums up every other Sheraton I’ve stayed at. Fortunately, in the process converting the former Concourse Hotel to, or more accurately back to, a Hyatt Regency the building was renovated from top to bottom.

When I finally arrived at the hotel, there was a massive line of people waiting to check in. Although the elite line was shorter, it still took almost 30 minutes before I was helped. I booked my room using an expiring free night certificate. With rack rates hovering just below $300, I thought I get pretty good bang for buck there. With looked to be a full house at the hotel, I didn’t expect any sort of upgrade. Besides, I was pretty happy with my standard room which I found to be bright, clean, and modern











My room faced the Eagle Nest, and the E175 that brought me from Houston.



The bed was very comfortable, and I was asleep in no time. I slept well until I was rudely jarred awake far too soon by the shrill ringing of my phone. Reflexively, I grabbed my phone and answered it. One of my coworkers apparently didn’t check the office schedule and called me for a 15 minute answer to a 1 minute problem. By the time I got rid of said coworker, I was wide-awake and any attempt to sleep would be futile. So I decided to get my day started at a much earlier than desired hour.

First stop was El Segundo Beach, which is one of my favorite spots on a long layover at LAX. It’s close to the airport and never too crowded. And for an avgeek, it’s a perfect for spotting LAX departures.



There’s a nice paved bike/jogging path along the beach. With the beautiful blue sky and cool temperatures, the path was practically begging me to go out and put in a couple of miles. The quiet of the morning was broken every two or so minutes by an aircraft climbing out of LAX into the wild blue yonder. Traffic this morning was rather mundane, with a typical mix of various regional jets and narrow body Airbuses and Boeings that can be found at pretty much airport in the wrold. Still though, it was very enjoyable for me and made the run go by much quicker.

My original intent with the long layover was to give me a little time to myself before heading to Jakarta. One of my favorite things to do is plane spotting, and LAX is one of the best places in the world to do just that. In addition to plenty of interesting traffic, there are also several great vantage points that are easily accessible. One of the best known is the aptly named Airplane Landing View Point park right to the In-n-Out right at threshold of Runway 24R. In 2011, In-n-Out opened their first Texas location in the Dallas suburb of Frisco. The line to get in stretched down several blocks, and people were waiting hours for what really is just a burger. While I think In-N-Out makes a fine burger, it’s still just a burger, and a fast food burger at that, not worth waiting more than 10 to 15 minutes for. But, if you give me a double double with side of heavies, and an occasional super heavy, I’ll take that action any day of the week.

r





I ended up cutting my visit short, but for very good reason. Another thing I had hoped to do during my time in Los Angeles was visit a friend. As she lives a good way from the airport, I naturally looked to rent a car. National happened to be offering a guaranteed luxury car reservation for a very reasonable price of $87. Intrigued, I went ahead and booked it. When I arrived at the National facility the night before, I asked the attendant if they had any BMWs available since I was looking to purchase one. He returned a few minutes later with a beautiful Alpine White 428i convertible with just a couple of thousands turns on the odometer. Not the exact model I was considering, but it gave me a perfect opportunity to figure out what to expect from a BMW without a pushy salesperson next to me.





My friend was sadly called away to work at last moment, so I just missed her. But no worries, I had plenty to keep me entertained. After fighting through traffic through Malibu, I found stretches of open road where I could open up the twin turbo ultimate driving machine a bit in the Santa Monica Mountains. It was rather delightful to put it mildly.
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Last edited by dat4life; Oct 25, 18 at 4:10 am
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Old Oct 25, 18, 12:55 am
  #3  
 
Join Date: Jun 2009
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Originally Posted by dat4life View Post
But, if you give me a double double with side of heavies, and an occasional super heavy, I’ll take that action any day of the week.
My kind of TR, loving it already...
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Old Oct 25, 18, 7:31 am
  #4  
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And Subscribed! Looks the the beginning of a great trip and report.

Keep the pictures coming!

BTW - InNOut is best served with a milkshake and side of fries with an extra packet of their spread on top. Your local California tour guide thanks you for your cooperation in this important matter.
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Old Oct 25, 18, 5:10 pm
  #5  
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Looking forward to following along - this looks like a great trip ^^
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Old Oct 25, 18, 6:35 pm
  #6  
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I almost didn’t want turn the keys to the Bimmer to the National attendant, but I had people to see and places to go. For starters, it was off to American Airlines’ Flagship Check and then onward to Hong Kong later that evening or more accurately early the next morning.

The National bus stopped just a few doors down from Flagship Check In. I just had my backpack and carry on with me, so in theory it should have been a quick grab and go. But there was a large group of Chinese tourists getting off as well, and I had to wait until they cleared before I could grab my carry on from the luggage rack. As I stepped off the bus, I noticed the bus driver trying to shake down that group for tips by going up to each person and saying, “It’s customary in America to tip”, with his hand out. I rolled my eyes and started walking away. Anyways, the driver notices me walk off and starts yells, “Hey buddy, it’s customary to tip.” I turned around, looked him in the eye and said, “Yes, it’s customary to tip for GOOD service.” I worked in the service industry in college, and I certainly realize how important tips are. I absolutely try to tip as much as possible, and of course I tip more for exceptional service. But there’s a right way to approach things, and to me the driver’s “method” crossed the line. Anyways, back to your regularly scheduled trip report.

Fortunately, the entrance to the Flagship Check In was just a few steps away. An attendant waiting at a podium outside confirmed my details and then escorted me ten steps inside.



While the entrance to Flagship Check In looked grand, inside things were decidedly a little more mundane. It was just a couple of check in counters with small seating area. Of course, it was far more peaceful than the main check in area.Another big plus of Flagship Check In are the agents, all of whom were far more friendly and helpful than your run of the mill AAgent. I handed over my passport to one agent, who processed the check in, while the other agent engaged me in small talk. Before handing me my boarding passes and passport, the agent checking me in went over my itinerary and seat assignments with me, and even confirmed I was sure that I wanted credit the flights to my Alaska Mileage Plan account. Of course! After handing me my boarding passes, she turned me back over to the attendant, who escorted me to an elevator just past the check in desks which brought us up to the security line. The attendant then led me to the front of the Pre Check line and then bade me farewell. While not as extensive or refined as the escort service offered by Thai or Lufthansa, it was a nice touch and very much appreciated as even the Pre Check line was snaking down the hall.

Once through security, it was time to lounge! I would have loved to have tried American’s new Flagship Lounge and Flagship Dining. But as with my last visit to LAX a few months prior, both facilities weren’t open yet. So the Qantas First Class Lounge would have to do again, which was just a ten-minute walk away in the TBIT.

The Qantas First Class Lounge at LAX is a fine facility and very much reminiscent of Qantas’ excellent lounge in Sydney right down to décor and the dining menu. The biggest difference is that the LAX lounge lacks views and natural light because of the lack of exterior windows. In my past visits, I found the lounge to be rather dim, but all of my visits have been during the late evening hour. There are plenty of comfortable seats, though as I understand it can get quite crowded during peak times. After spending most of the day out and about, the first order of business was a shower. I was quoted a 30-minute wait when the attendant put me on the waiting list, but I was paged within a couple of minutes.

After showering, I headed over to the dining area where it took some hunting to find a table near an outlet. A crisp white-jacketed waiter came armed with a menu as soon as was seated. The menu was fairly extensive, in terms of both food and drink, and it wouldn’t look out of place at a nice restaurant let alone an airline lounge. Having not eaten since In-n-Out much earlier in the day, I was feeling rather hungry so I decided to go all the way.

I started with the tuna tartare with smoked eggplant, pickled fennel and lemon small plate. It was a little tart, but I did like it.



For my main, I went with the Black Angus minute steak with chipotle butter, which was served with a healthy helping of French fries. It too was good.



I decided to go with a lighter option for dessert and chose the seasonal fresh fruit. The fruit was fresh and ripe and passion fruit drizzle was a delicious twist.



The downside of the Qantas lounge was that it closed at 11:30PM. My flight didn’t depart until 1:30AM. With American’s lounge facilities in Terminal 4 closed for renovations and me not really wanting trek to Terminal 5 for the meh Admirals Club, I did laps around the TBIT and Terminal 4 until it was time to board. With 21 hours of flying, eating, and drinking ahead of me, I could really use the exercise.

I got to the gate just a few minutes before boarding began. Waiting for me at Gate 41 was the lovely N717AN, which is the very first Boeing 777-300ER delivered to American way back in November of 2012. Also at the gate was what seemed to be the last bits of humanity at LAX that evening, and boy was it a packed house. Tired as I was, I was still excited. I flew American’s old Flagship First Class a number of times before, but this would be my first time flying American’s still relatively new Flagship First. After flying American nearly exclusively for a number of years and earning either Executive Platinum or Platinum status during that time, I am more than aware American typically doesn’t live up to expectations. Nevertheless, I was still looking forward to it.

American Airlines 193
Los Angeles (LAX) - Hong Kong (HKG)
Depart: 1:35 AM
Arrive: 7:25 AM+1
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER
Seat: 2A (First Class)

In an un-American (Airlines) like fashion, boarding actually began on time. In an American (Airlines) like fashion, I was“greeted” by a flight attendant at the door screaming “Hey, they’re boarding already” to the rest of the cabin crew and then grunted “boarding pass” to me as I got close. After a quick glance, she wordlessly pointed me in the general direction of my seat. Ah, this is the American I know and love.

I made the coveted left turn and walked through the very familiar mini Business Class cabin. American definitely hit a home run with Business Class on the 777-300ER. Thanks to my Executive Platinum status and the accompanying System Wide Upgrades, I had the good fortune to call it my regular ride to Asia. The seats are very comfortable; however, in typical American fashion service varies wildly from “downright awful” to “pretty damn good”. Especially on those flights on the lower end of the service spectrum, I couldn’t help but wonder if it is any better for those eight souls just a few feet in front of me protected by the mesh curtain. What’s it like up there? Maybe they don’t have to wait two hours after the service for their tray tables to be cleared, or maybe the flight attendants don’t see those passengers as a complete nuisance!

Well… this is it. I took a deep breath to steady myself. Then I took my first steps into the rarified sanctum that is Flagship First Class, if don’t count walking through there to deplane from door 1L because American is unwilling (i.e. too cheap) to use dual jetbridges.

At first glance, everything looked great. I’ve been a fan of American’s modern steel gray color scheme. The seat looked nice wide and comfortable.



The IFE screen was large and well positioned.



There was a pillow and blanket set on my seat and another larger bedding set on the footrest when I arrived. Looks nice, right? Indeed it does, but there was just one slight problem: there absolutely nowhere in the seat to put it. This seemed to a bit of an oversight by American. While annoying, it was easily solved by tossing it in the overhead bin. To the left was a touchscreen controller for seat functions. Its interface was intuitive and responsive.



Once I sat down, I couldn’t help but notice how “open” the seat was to the aisle side as there wasn’t any sort of partition. It didn’t bother me, but international First Class is supposed to be the pinnacle of comfort and privacy any airline has to offer. I found it rather ironic that the seats in Business Class offered far greater privacy than in First Class. I’m sorry. I mean Flagship First Class.



Now with all of my stuff stashed away, it was time to settle in with a drink. Who am I kidding? Twenty minutes elapsed before my presence or the presence of my fellow passengers was acknowledged by any member of the cabin crew. To be perfectly fair, the flight attendants were busy getting ready for our 7,260 mile journey across the globe. Understandable. What wasn’t understandable was the attitude of one flight attendant once service got underway. Service began with said flight attendant offering newspapers from a cart. “Offering” is a bit of a stretch, as she wordlessly wheeled the cart through the cabin and glanced at each passenger for millisecond before rolling on. Perhaps American has started training flight attendants in telepathy?

Pre-departure beverages were then offered telepathically. This time around, it was far easier to figure out what the flight attendant was doing as she stuck the tray of drinks in front of each passenger. Not wanting to be impolite, I smiled and said “Champagne would be great.” Instead of picking up a glass and placing it on my side table, she stared at me nary a word until grabbed the glass from the tray myself.

One would think even American would offer a beverage of choice on the ground in international First Class. Nope. On offer were the same pre-poured glasses of water, orange juice, and champagne, water offered in Business Glass. At least real glasses were used instead of ever-classy stemmed plastic cups. I chose the champagne. American pours Taittinger’s in upfront. It was good. A ramekin of delicious smoked almonds accompanied drinks.

Midway through the almonds, I took a sip of Taittinger’s and immediately had a moment of clarity. I forgot to set my Outlook away message. It bothered for about a second then I was over it. I was finally vacation and work can take a hike. Forgot to set Outlook away message, don’t care.



The flight attendant was a little more engaging while offering pajamas and slippers asking each passenger “Pajamas and slippers?” Baby steps, I suppose. Anyhow, the pajamas are exactly the same ones that are offered in Business Class. Thankfully, that was the last I saw of her as presumably she worked another cabin.

A few minutes before scheduled departure, a guy in a high visibility vest marked “MAINTENANCE” materialized and walked toward the cockpit. Then the Captain began his welcome aboard announcement with “there is a small problem that maintenance is looking at it” (never a good sign) but we should be underway shortly. He ended by announcing a flight time of 13 hours and 47 minutes.

I wasn’t too concerned as Cathay had several daily flights to Jakarta, and Singapore also has plenty of flights between Jakarta and Singapore. But I would of course like to avoid the hassle, so I hopped on Expert Flyer to do a little homework. That turned out to be moot since we pushed back just a few minutes late. As with just about all of my American flights from LAX, it was just a hop, skip, and a jump to Runway 25R. We seemed to be the only departure at that late hour and taxied onto the runway without needing to hold short. The massive GE 90-115Bs engines were throttled up to a thunderous roar, and at 1:43 AM, the aircraft clawed skyward into an ink black night sky over the vast Pacific Ocean.

Despite the late hour, I was wide awake. With a nearly 14 hour flying time to Hong Kong, I had plenty of time to enjoy myself and catch up on sleep. But now, it was time to partake in my favorite in-flight activity: eating. The dinner menu was already at my seat when I boarded.



There was a separate wine list, which detailed the ever-important matter of liquid nutrition.





Flight attendants finally stirred once we leveled off at our cruising altitude and got to work preparing for dinner service. In the meantime, I got hard to work exploring American’s entertainment system. This one area where American actually really shines. The IFE interface is intuitive and easily controlled with the handheld controller or by touchscreen. In terms of content, American offers a wide variety of movies, television shows, and music including classics and recent hits. There are typically some real classic gems loaded onto the IFE. A couple of years ago, I watched the classic horror movie The Shining for the very first time of the way to Hong Kong. My little sister, who is a huge Audrey Hepburn fan, loves it when I bring her along as American always seems to load at least one Audrey Hepburn movie. After picking over the selection this evening, or perhaps morning would be more accurate, I chose Selma which I’ve heard great things about.

It was nearly an hour after takeoff before a flight attendant appeared in the cabin to take drink orders. Unlike his colleague who did the service on the ground, he was more engaging though that’s a pretty low bar. “Mr. dat4life, drink?” I don’t care for flowery or over the top language (yeah, I’m talking about you, Etihad). But I can think of a couple of different ways to ask this in a more polite yet unpretentious manner. Is really that much harder to say, “Would you like a drink?” Though, I will have to say despite his gruffness, this flight attendant was pretty attentive throughout the flight.

Hot towels were then offered. “Towel” is being very generous, as the same gauze pads used in Business Class and domestic First Class were used. Heck, even United uses real towels in their domestic First Class.




Tablecloths were then laid, or more accurately haphazardly tossed on my tray table. Though, the tablecloth did actually cover the entire tray table, which is a huge improvement over Business Class as you’ll see later. This was followed by my requested scotch and ice water. American finally stepped up their hard liquor game and is now offering Glenlevit 15 years in First Class. Again, the bar is pretty low as Dewar’s White Label was offered just a year or two prior. I went with a Glenlevit neat, which was good. This was served along with a dish of olives and chips. The olives were tasty, but the chips tasted kind of weird. While I do love warm mixed nuts, this was a nice departure from the norm.



Orders were taken next. It’s been a few hours since my meal at the lounge, and all that walking around made me hungry. Besides, everyone knows that calories don’t count once you leave home. Based on this proven fact, I decided to go the full monty: from soup to dessert. The flight attendant soon returned with the rest of the table settings, including real salt and pepper shakers. I don’t think I’ve ever seen real salt or pepper shakers on American before. The presentation of the table settings left a bit to be desired.

First up, were the canapés. The caviar canapé tasted just fine, though the portion of caviar was tiny. The roast duck canapé could be more accurately described as chunks of processed meat bearing a resemblance to roast duck with a canned mandarin orange atop a stale piece of bread.



The crab and roasted corn chowder was tasty, though the lack of crabmeat was noticeable.



A choice of bread was then offered, with the options being multigrain or multigrain.



The salad was simple with romaine and a couple chunks of heart of palm. The spicy sesame dressing was fantastic.



I chose the pumpkin ravioli with roasted lobster tail for my main course, and I added a twice-baked potato for the heck of it from the sides menu. The pumpkin ravioli and twice baked potato tasted ok, though both were on the dry side. As for the lobster tail, it was a bit too briny for my tastes. But overall, it was edible.



I have to hand it to American for revamping desserts in their premium cabins. While I love ice cream, the ice cream sundae got old over the years, and the cheese plates are usually nothing to write home about. Over the last year or so I’ve had a number of great non-ice cream desserts on American. My favorite was the passion fruit mouse that was offered on my flight from Hong Kong to Dallas a few months prior. Tonight, on offer was a pumpkin sticky date pudding. It was served with vanilla ice cream. Ok, ok. So there was some ice cream, but it wasn’t a sundae. I really don’t care for anything pumpkin, but this was delicious.



I finished watching Selma a little while after dinner. Still not feeling too tired, I grabbed my laptop and started editing pictures until I was tired. At that point I rang my call button and asked the flight attendant to make my bed while I went to change into my pajamas.



As with my table setting for dinner, the turndown service was functional though not aesthetically pleasing. Provided was a thin mattress pad along with two pillows and duvet. As someone who likes multiple pillows, I was thrilled to see that American provided two good-sized pillows. Even the likes of Cathay Pacific and Singapore only provide one full sized pillow in First Class. I slept quite soundly for a couple of hours.

When I woke up, we were cruising at 34,000 feet a few hours from going feet dry over Japan. A flight attendant who was roaming the aisle noticed me awake and offered me something to drink. I asked for a glass of water as well as the smoked salmon small plate, because sleeping on planes is hard work. It was tasty as expected, but then again smoked salmon is impossible to screw up even on a plane. I fired up the IFE again and watched Dunkirk.



After Dunkirk, I dozed off for a bit. The slowly brightening mood lighting woke me up and signaled breakfast was imminent. With two hours to go until arrival in Hong Kong, the flight attendant came around with another round of hot “towels” followed by distribution of breakfast menus. Oh man, all these years of flying Business Class have conditioned me to think suffering by using a single menu for all of the meal services on a flight is ok. This alone makes Flagship First Class worth the premium! Too bad the menu offerings are exactly the same as Business Class.



You would think even American use a tablecloth for the second meal service in First Class. I’m sorry. FLAGSHIP First Class. Nope. All of the courses were crammed on a small tray which was plopped right down on my bare tray table. How much more can it cost for eight more tablecloths? Too many pennies apparently. Against my better judgment, I went with the Dongko pork. It was far too salty, and I gave up after my first bite. I wasn’t that hungry, so I wasn’t terribly upset about it. The fruit and smoothie were good though.



In spite of the still darkened cabin, I lifted my window shade to sneak a peak at the outside world. The sun was just rising, and it looked to be a beautiful day outside.



We began our descent well ahead of schedule. This was the first time I can recall an arrival in Hong Kong with good visibility, and it was absolutely beautiful. The first indication we were nearing Hong Kong were the cargo ships that dotted the bluish green waters of the South China Sea. As we neared the coast, the ships gave way to an offshore wind farm which I had no idea existed before.



Landing gear dropped once we passed the island of Lantau and lined up with the runway. Touchdown in Hong Kong was smooth and over an hour early.

Well… I have to say it was typical American Airlines experience: consistently inconsistent with plenty of room for improvement. Overall, Flagship First Class just seems marginally better than Business Class. Marginal probably best describes the entire experience flying with American Airlines these days, to everyone except for SkyTrax. But that’s a story for another day. I wouldn’t pay cash or even use miles for Flagship First Class. A cheap Business Class fare coupled with a System Wide Upgrade is just the right price for it.
stevie, offerendum, lb8001 and 3 others like this.

Last edited by dat4life; Jul 20, 19 at 8:28 am
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Old Oct 25, 18, 7:08 pm
  #7  
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Originally Posted by JohnRain View Post
My kind of TR, loving it already...
Thanks!

Originally Posted by jtav559 View Post
And Subscribed! Looks the the beginning of a great trip and report.

Keep the pictures coming!
Thanks, jtav559!


BTW - InNOut is best served with a milkshake and side of fries with an extra packet of their spread on top. Your local California tour guide thanks you for your cooperation in this important matter.[/QUOTE]

Ha! I was watching my figure. Something had to give!

Originally Posted by Madone59 View Post
Looking forward to following along - this looks like a great trip ^^
Thanks, Madone59!
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Old Oct 25, 18, 8:15 pm
  #8  
 
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I like your writing style, dat4life! Sounds like a great trip!

... And thanks for the reminder to not bother flying AA
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Old Oct 25, 18, 8:42 pm
  #9  
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Thanks for sharing. Good report so far!
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Old Oct 25, 18, 10:24 pm
  #10  
 
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Loving this report! 428i is single turbo by the way, albeit a twinscroll turbo. But enough with the technicalities, on with the next installment!
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Old Oct 25, 18, 11:24 pm
  #11  
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thanks for a great report! I know you used SWU so I'm not pointing this at you but who would pay for AA F to Hong Kong when the Asian alternatives are light years above.
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Old Oct 27, 18, 2:25 am
  #12  
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Would have expected a much worse flight. But guess better products are on the way😉
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Old Oct 27, 18, 2:55 am
  #13  
 
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Loving your TR and your style of writing. Waiting for more.
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Old Oct 27, 18, 4:44 am
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Originally Posted by avneeshj View Post
Loving your TR and your style of writing. Waiting for more.
Totally agreed!!

Looking forward to more of the same, and your photos are great by the way.
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Old Oct 27, 18, 8:44 am
  #15  
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Thanks for sharing dat4life. I have to agree with the comments about your writing style, it makes for a great read.
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