Just took my first transcon on American… wow!

As a (somewhat) newly minted American Executive Platinum member I’ve been doing a lot of American flying lately in order to requalify. Up until now, though, I haven’t actually taken a transcon with them.

I thought all domestic first class products were more or less created equal, but boy was I wrong. My opinion all changed on my flight this evening from Miami to San Francisco.

I should start by mentioning that my upgrade cleared at the 100 hour Executive Platinum upgrade window and I was able to select a seat that was FEBO “friendly” (American takes meal orders starting in the front of the cabin on even numbered flights and back of the cabin on odd numbered flights).

While American only has blankets in domestic first class for most flights, on transcons they have the same pillows they have in international business class, along with a thicker blanket than what’s found on other domestic routes.


Pillow and blanket

Pre-departure offerings consisted of water, orange juice, or champagne.

As soon as we were airborne the flight attendant distributed menus and hot towels. I kind of forgot what those looked like, since I don’t remember the last time I got a menu on a domestic flight.

The menu read as follows:

Minutes later the service started. The purser first distributed tablecloths and took meal orders, starting at the back of the cabin since it was an odd numbered flight.

In the meantime the other flight attendant came through the aisle with the beverage cart, serving beverages of choice and hot nuts. Refills for nuts were offered twice before the rest of the meal service began. Drinks were constantly being topped off as well.


Diet Coke with lime and hot nuts

The appetizer consisted of chicken on corn and beans, which was spicy and quite good. The salad probably looks plain, but it was actually quite good since all the good stuff was buried under the lettuce. Bread was also offered, and I went with a pretzel roll, which was amazingly delicious.


Appetizer and salad

Once the appetizer and salad were cleared, the flight attendants brought out the main course. I went with the beef. While it wasn’t masterfully presented it was tasty and medium rare, which is rare on an airplane.


Main course

Once all the main plates were cleared the dessert cart was rolled out, with the option between a cheese plate and ice cream sundae. Coffee and tea were also offered.


Dessert

Shortly thereafter individual bottles of water were distributed.


Water bottle

About 90 minutes before landing warm cookies (chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin) and milk were served.

Then 30 minutes before arrival sparkling water was served. I never understood the point of that offering, since you can order it at any time if you wanted to…


Sparkling water

Ultimately the meal service is only a small part of the overall experience, but it really blew me away compared to what I’m used to. I felt like I was in international business class (the catering was very similar to what I had from Miami to Buenos Aires back in March).

The service was also spectacular. Both of the flight attendants working first class were constantly smiling and used terms like “may I” and “my pleasure,” which to me is the difference between fine service and great service.

The huge negative to the experience is that the flight was operated by a 757. American’s 757s have among the most uncomfortable first class seats imaginable with no sort of a headrest and very limited recline. Furthermore, they’re the only plane in the domestic fleet that doesn’t have wifi.

But overall, hot damn, American is good.

The only interesting thing of note was my seatmate, a wannabe supermodel. She wore sunglasses, read about ten fashion magazines, and did her nails. When the flight attendant offered her dinner she said “I don’t eat carbs or meat.”

Comments

  1. I’ve only had a few flights in domestic first on AA, but they’ve always impressed me. Case in point – a late evening DFW-DCA run earlier this year that left DFW around 9:00 PM. I paid for an upgrade to first, found the seat on one of the 738s with the refreshed interior to be very comfortable, and the service was outstanding. Shortly after takeoff we were served large bowls of warm nuts with drinks, the flight attendant working the front cabin was super attentive, refilling drinks and nuts efficiently and only stopping when told “no more.” About an hour before landing she came through the cabin with freshly baked cookies, and there were hot towels before landing. Domestic first on AA tends to be very good in my experience – and hasn’t suffered some of the cutbacks that have been seen on the other majors.

  2. Thanks for the nudge in my never-ending analysis of which airline to stick with. AA has been the front-runner lately.

    Now, hopefully UA will make my decision very easy by introducing revenue requirements. 😉

  3. You should try the American Flagship Service that they offer primarily on the 762 LAX-JFK, and that’s generally a pretty good service (and its part of EXP unlimited domestic upgrades). You’ll get a digital player of some sort and Bose headsets.

    I’ve found the sparkling water to be inconsistent, offered at times but not at others. But still love AA’s ice-cream and cookies. Sure wish UA had that more consistently.

  4. I just flew TUS-ORD In first today and had the opposite experience. The FA woke me (speaking loudly and rudely) to take a meal order, couldn’t be bothered to help me find a towel to clean my dirty tray table (I improvised with the hot towel), did not offer any kind of drink refill, and left the empty glass and can for the duration of the flight. Oh yeah, she also finished the meal service and did not get up again until right before landing.

  5. Please tell me you didn’t mean nail polish on the plane. (I’ve unbelievably experienced this before) 🙁

  6. United’s transcons serve shit compared to this. Can’t wait to have a UA cASSerole dish full of hot poop on my next Dulles transcon.

  7. @ Colleen — I do indeed.

    @ Beltway — Trust me, I said wannabe for a reason! The only thing she had going for her if she wanted to be a supermodel is that she was very skinny.

  8. “The service was also spectacular. Both of the flight attendants working first class were constantly smiling and used terms like “may I” and “my pleasure,” which to me is the difference between fine service and great service.”

    Sounds like they need to be transferred to a International First cabin…they don’t seem like the type for whom turndown service would be an unreasonable request…

  9. @TonySCV

    Yup, while U.S. airlines don’t have super competitive international service, AA wins on domestic F hands down.

  10. Hey Lucky, what was the transcon routing? Delta’s B/E offering from LAX/SFO-JFK is very similar to this (with great service) but it’s limited to that route and upgrades are very difficult even for top tiers.

  11. Looks a lot like the CO transcon service… The transcon meal on CO is a slight notch above AA, but AA has baked cookies… On CO you get 3 entree choices, usually beef, chicken, or pasta…

    I experienced the CO premium meal service flights [SAN-EWR, EWR-SAN, LAX-HNL, and EWR-LAX] and it is a good step above the regular serivce and blows any UA service out of the water including PS…

    The CO blankets are nice and it is not the light fleece type, but the pillows are regular pillows…

  12. wow. I have NEVER had such a good AA domestic experience in AA First. Is this newish development, is this a product that appears on some flights or is it merely hit or miss?

    I have always preferred the CO experience and curious to see what happens with the ongoing UA integration.

  13. I had a great business class flight on AA’s 3-class 767 JFK-SFO route a few months ago. I was really impressed with the service and how friendly the FAs were. The breakfast was quite good as well!

  14. @ Andy — Indeed! Ironically the flight attendant working the return flight had a pin that said “Workers Rights Is Human Rights,” and based on her service something tells me she wouldn’t be happy about the intl. F enhancements.

    @ AK — This was Miami to San Francisco. It’s not even one of their “Flagship Service” routes.

    @ Martin — This is the standard transcon dinner service. I’ll do a post sometime on their other offerings, though I still find them a notch above the competition.

  15. Why oh why has UA gone down the CO route of adding a) replacing chocolate chip cookies with crap cookies and b) adding fruit and cheese to every salad. What was wrong with the substantially better options offered before? Looking at these AA pictures with edible salad and chocolate chip cookies is making me whimsical.

  16. American is very nice in F but not so nice in a middle seat in the back. I’ll keep E+ on UA for now as a suitable hedge on not getting the upgrade.

  17. I flew on AA, ORD to HEL in business and the 767 is so uncomfortable. They rush the service to the point it’s silly. You depart at 345pm and they want to have service complete in 2 hours from takeoff. Sorry, but I don’t finish dinner before 6. The icing on the cake is the antiquated entertainment system “laptops” which they collect well before landing. Who in their right mind would want to swipe one of those anyway? Mine didn’t even work. Thanks AA!

  18. @Golfingboy – nice try, but we all know CO doesn’t have pillows on domestic flights 😉

    Agreed on the rest of their transcon service being good.

  19. @UA-NYC, my bad, I looked at the blanket SOP and mistook it for pillows… FWIW, pillows are going away in domestic F as the merger moves forward… So probably around early 2012 the pillows will be long gone on domestic PMUA flights…

  20. I think you will find the J service on the 777 from MIA-LAX far better due to the seat. I can’t muster any enthusiasm for the 757 seats, menu or not.

    Having had the same menu as Lucky, I’ll say it wasn’t all that great to me. Carp wine too. But the FA and the seats are great, and the entertainment is decent.

    I hope you are on the 777 on your way to India via MIA/LAX/ORD!

  21. As a frequent flyer from JFK on shorter flights, do you know which destinations provide this same level of service…maybe I need to try AA on a longer route.

  22. American is gradually replacing the 757 seats with the new seats that dip forward. The leg room never decreases on those. Not sure how many aircraft are finished, but I did have one on a MIA-DFW segment late 2011.

  23. Awesome. I’m only 13 and I’ve taken lots of premium cabin transcontinental trips on American between JFK and LAX. I last flew on October 10 in business class seat 8D. Although the flight time was behind schedule at 5hr 23min, it made the flight more enjoyable. It was a dinner service. I had warm mixed nuts, a shrimp appetizer, the best salad ever, a beef and pasta entree, and an amazing ice cream sundae for dessert. With the cookies and sparkling water before landing as well, dining was pitch perfect. The entertainment was awesome and the flight attendants were so nice and constantly getting me refils of sparking water. The fact that we had menus, duvets, full sized pillows and a seat recline of around 156 degrees was amazing. Although we landed at 2 in the morning and I had school that day, it made it the best. I have 63,330 miles now and I will use them for round trip saver business class to Los Angeles for Memorial Day. Overall, I have taken about three quarters of my flights in premium cabins because my dad is lifetime platinum and my mom is lifetime gold. Hope you post another transcontinental review soon.

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