I traveled with my family the day after Thanksgiving to Los Angeles as we had plans to visit SoCal and attend the Notre Dame – USC game massacre. I booked a multi-segment itinerary originating in Minneapolis on Tuesday, November the 25th and returning on a red-eye from LAX to MSP (via Phoenix) departing on the night of December 1st, thereby allowing me to spend Thanksgiving at home in Dallas for a few days. Overall, the price was $514 round-trip, not too shabby.
Upon booking, I decided to submit a request to use upgrade stickers on the DFW-LAX segment, which was operated by a 767. I had flown on American in domestic First once previously, and the experience was excellent, so I decided it would be worthwhile to use my stickers on a widebody flight. Typically, air travel on Black Friday tends to be light, and as I monitored inventory in F during the weeks leading up to the flight, the cabin appeared to be wide open.
Sure enough, 72 hours prior to departure time, my upgrade cleared. and I selected seat 6A. When I arrived in Dallas from Minnesota on Tuesday, I told my Dad that he should similarly put in a bid for himself and my Mom, as they were on the same PNR. I chuckled after he said to me, “but I don’t want to exhaust miles to upgrade to First on a domestic flight!” by correcting him and saying, “no, Dad, you use 500 mile stickers on the AAdvantage program. I showed him on his AA account where he could view his balance (he had a whopping THIRTY EIGHT that were just sitting around idly) so he excitedly put in the bids. I also suggested he do so on his return trip to Dallas as they were on the new AA A321Bs that operate between DFW and LAX (which cleared as well).
Also, because I am a generous older brother, I decided to gift three of my stickers to my younger brother, who was also flying with us, but on his own PNR. I added him on the waitlist the day prior to our departure, and he pretty much cleared automatically as well.
Day of Departure
Our flight departed from Terminal A, so I was delighted to see some of the new parking renovations at DFW airport that have created traffic havoc over the past few years. The lighting, signage and innovation looks fantastic so far! I was very proud of my hometown airport at the moment.
I also noticed that American has an exclusive check-in area for its elite tier members in what appears to be similar to United’s Global Services check-in area at Terminal 1 at Chicago O’Hare airport. I thought this was a fantastic improvement and the area led right through TSA PreCheck. Since it was a holiday, the airport was pretty sleepy, even at the 7:00 AM hour, and we meandered our way to the gate to wait for boarding to begin.
Our ship N360AA was delivered to American in 1988, and still featured its older-generation cabin with 30 angle-flat seats in Premium and the 1990’s interior in the Main Cabin. At first, I was relieved to discover that American does not screw its premium cabin members on domestic widebody flights like United does with 6 degree “recliner” seats.
We were served by our lovely flight attendants Angie and Polly that morning, and I have to say, it was some of the best First Class service I’ve ever experienced on a flight. They were exceptionally warm, friendly and smiled the entire time, frequently passing through the cabin to check on passengers and their needs. We were offered pre-departure beverages of orange juice, champagne (or both, in mimosa form) and I peered across the cabin to see my Mom holding up both cups and smiling at me. This was going to be a fun treat for her!
The American old-generation Business Class interior features a 2x2x2 configuration, with 18.5 inch seat width and 60 inch pitch. I’ve flown in this seat before on one of American’s 777s back when AA used to rotate widebodies between Dallas/Ft. Worth and Chicago O’Hare once per day, and permitted full-fare Y class customers to book seats in J class on this route. We pushed back on-time, and had a short take-off with a relatively light load on board, before leveling off and proceeding westward to Southern Cal.
Prior to day of departure, American now allows passengers to pre-select their meal choices up to 24 hours before flight time. As soon as my upgrade cleared, I selected the cheddar cheese and pesto omelet with turkey sausage and rosemary potatoes. The other option was steel-cut oats, which my brother said were very good.
Once we were airborne, our captain announced that we would likely arrive 20 minutes ahead of schedule due to favorable winds, even though we’d experience some light chop. The flight attendants instantly took first round of drink orders, and never hesitated to re-fill my mimosa throughout the flight (until the cabin drank the entire flight dry of champers). The attendant also came around to confirm meal orders, addressing each passenger by their surname, which was a nice touch (something I hadn’t experienced on United in years).
The meal service was brought out to us using the new AA dishware, and came with great presentation. Unlike my last experience on American, where the flight attendants served the entire meal from a cart, following the “FEBO – First – Even, Back – Odd” procedure, this time they instead just walked the trays down to each customer one by one. Afterwards, they came by with the cart to deliver warm baked items, and our selections were between buttermilk biscuits (an AA signature item) and a cinnamon roll.
Of course, I went for the biscuit, which never fails to satisfy, and along with the main course, the dish was amazing! The only complaints I had were 1). that AA did not offer ketchup (nor salsa of any kind) to pair with the egg dish, and 2). that the fruit selection had invariably been down-graded in quality. In prior years, I felt like American did a better job offering fresh fruit on board, but otherwise speaking, it wasn’t too bad. As a bonus pic, my brother ordered the steel-cut oatmeal, pictured above, which he remarked was excellent.
During the meal service, I watched Parenthood on American’s in-flight programming, using the overhead monitors, before eventually reclining my seat once the tray tables were clear. The seat itself, while older generation, is still very comfy thanks to its soft cushions, and we were given skimpy blankets and pillows to permit sleeping. I did notice that once 1-2 programs ended, American shut off the entertainment programming altogether, which I found somewhat bizarre since the Dallas to LA flight is blocked at nearly 3 hours of flight time.
By far, one of the most outstanding group of flight attendants I have ever had on a domestic flight. At one point, I rose to use the restroom, and afterwards, I passed through the galley asking for a re-fill of mimosa, which they both kindly did with a smile (turns out, the F cabin drank the plane dry of champers). I struck up a conversation with both the female FAs serving F, and we chatted about the merger integration. One of them was actually a native Minnesotan, so we had a common thread there since I currently reside in the Twin Cities. These moments are held fondly for passengers, and I made sure I sent them AA Applause stickers for their kindness.
The flight passed by uneventfully before we prepared for our descent into LAX. We had a beautiful view of downtown LAX and a certain Airbus A380 carrier (can you guess which carrier?) circling over LA and doing a final into the airport shortly after we landed.
The highlight of the trip was landing at LAX, disembarking, and seeing the smiles on my parents’ face for having enjoyed their first ride in domestic first. My parents are accustomed to regular coach, so it was nice for them to experience something different. In fact, they went ahead and submitted for F seats on their return journey when they got to ride the A321 Sharklets back to DFW from LAX!
Spoiler alert: the A380 plane is from Asiana OZ202