Just completed my first American first class transpacific flight

I just flew from Los Angeles to Tokyo Narita on American in first class (I had booked a discounted business class ticket and used some of my systemwide upgrades to secure first class seats), and I was actually pleasantly surprised. While a full trip report is on the way, here are my initial impressions:

Service

The purser, Steve, was really nice and professional. Perhaps he was a bit too nice, since he engaged every passenger with a smile at every interaction. Ultimately that’s what I love to see from pursers, though the issue is that it meant the main meal service took nearly 3.5 hours.

Kudos to the guy for being so friendly and talkative, because he gave just about every passenger ideas for what to do in Japan, jetlag and transportation tips, etc. The couple seated across from me were celebrating their 40th anniversary, so he even made a card for them and had the whole crew sign it.

Food

Ultimately American’s food is simple and tasty. I’ll trade caviar for an ice cream sundae any day. There are definitely airlines with better food out there, though there was nothing inedible, as I sometimes experience on other airlines when they try a bit too hard.

Amenities

This is where American has really stepped up their game, and what impressed me the most. Late last year American added pajamas and turndown service in first class. The pajamas were comfy and high quality, comparable to what’s offered by other foreign carriers.

The turndown service was also quite nice though simple, and consisted of a thin mattress pad being placed on the seat. Interestingly the lack of any sort of a turndown service was my biggest gripe with American first class when I flew them last year from Miami to London, so with the new offerings they do have a more competitive product.

It really is so refreshing to see American actually investing in their product instead of only cutting back, like other US airlines.

And while I’m looking forward to my flight back to the US in a few days, I’m looking forward to Kyoto even more.

Comments

  1. @ Mark — Staying at three different hotels — Hyatt, Westin, and then a local place.

  2. Kyoto only, or will you be spending any time in Tokyo? I’ll be in Tokyo from Friday-Tuesday.

  3. @ Rich — Just connecting at Narita this time around. No Tokyo for me. Have a great trip!

  4. I enjoyed my trans-pacific on AA last week, agree that the food is great, but the crew was ok. They certainly didn’t offer turndown service or anything above and beyond normal service.

    I’m flying back in CX First- I think I’ll like the product, but will miss the sundaes! And the shrmip and smoked salmon appetizer is awesome!

  5. That looks like the same Richard Sandoval halibut dish I had last week flying MIA-GRU in business, only plated differently. And the same amenity kit, too…

  6. “I’ll trade caviar for an ice cream sundae any day.”

    That doesn’t make sense…why compare an appetizer to dessert? For me, the whole point of first class is getting a product that’s well, first class, something creative, like white chocolate mousse with raspberry coulis, versus a dessert you can basically make at home. I mean, it’s funny that you love the sundaes in first class, but you found Singapore offering something similar in Singapore to be boring…

  7. I would take the caviar and a real dessert over an ice cream sundae anyday. To me an ice cream sundae is a carp out to making a real dessert and being creative with it. Plus I don’t like vanilla ice cream from my experience that’s the only ice cream they offer

  8. Lucky, have you flown United’s new 1st? If so how does it compare to AA? I flew UA 1st from Taipei to SFO connecting in NRT, and for a U.S. airline I thought the hard product was very good, and the service by the crew on my flight was also quite good.

  9. @Andy Bluebear
    I agree with you 100%. I think lucky as many other bloggers (eg TPG) have to walk a fine line trying to balance their “objective” reviews and, at the same time, try not to piss off airlines and credit cards since they get money for referral links and/or perks from them (free tickets, rooms, etc). I don’t fly as much as any of these guys do but I’ve been on CX, AA, UA, SQ, LH, US and NH first class going to different places and I have to say that AA is moving in the right direction but they are still far behind SQ, CX, NH and LH and even US (flew PHL-MAD 2 weeks ago and their service was pretty good!).
    Just my $0.02

  10. Forgive my naivete, having only flown coach, where do you change into the PJs? If the bathroom, how many are their up front?

    Always ready to learn!

  11. @ Ozaer N.: I think Ben bought a revenue ticket – “I had booked a discounted business class ticket and used some of my systemwide upgrades to secure first class seats”. I don’t believe you can upgrade an award ticket…

  12. If you have a chance stay at a Ryokan, I stayed at Sumiya in Kyoto and was one of the most amazing experiences.

  13. And if you have time for a side trip to Singapore – may be you can meet your sweetheart again… 🙂

  14. The one and only time I have flown transpac first was on AA on the same route and of course enjoyed it very much– but I gotta say, as a vegetarian, the food was a huge disappointment. Looking at your pics and looking at what my neighbors were dining on all around me, my bland chick peas and rice just didn’t cut it. I mean in coach I am thankful to ever get any edible veg food at all, but in first I expected a fine dining experience just like the rest of ya. Would have written to AA to complain if I hadn’t gotten it as an SAAver award. But I’m just sayin…

  15. @ Lika — I paid around $1,800 for a discounted business class ticket from Atlanta to Nagoya. It was a fare sale.

    @ Ozaer — I purchased discounted business class tickets.

    @ Chas — Appreciate it. Think I got it all covered this time around, fortunately. 🙂

    @ Andre — You change in the lavs. There are two upfront.

  16. @ Coutureguy — In terms of the actual hard product I’d say United’s new first class is better. That being said, I think American’s food is better.

  17. @lucky

    without divulging more than you’d be comfortable to do, would you ever consider giving a breakdown of approximately how much you stay/fly/spend in a year? I assume you still do a fare amount of mattress running/mileage running that you don’t discuss (as it’s uninteresting to the reader).

    Still, aside from indicating that you earn a lot of points based on reimbursable spending (without saying from what) in a year, we’re in the dark about how you manage to do all that we continue to read about. And I’m sure it’d be interesting to see.

    Thanks!

  18. @ steve — How about this: at the end of the year I’ll make my best effort to break down mileage, hotel nights, and a breakdown of the cost for each? It’ll be quite a task, though I promise to try.

    I earn points through reimbursable business expenses in a few ways:
    a) I have meetings occasionally where I’m asked to book my own air and am reimbursed.
    b) Some clients prefer not giving out their credit card information, so I simply put the charges on my card and they reimburse me.
    c) I put as much travel spend for friends/family on my card, and they they reimburse me.

  19. Ah, that’s what I figured with regard to your reimbursable expenses. I just wondered why clients who are using miles wouldn’t want to earn miles.

    That’d be neat to see and I’m sure would be appreciated by not only me but your other readers. 🙂

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