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Review: American Flagship First Class – NRT to LAX

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American First Class

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This is part of the Around the World 2015 Mega Trip

This was the tail end of the Round-the-World trip that took Dave, Miles, and my folks to areas reaching from Abu Dhabi and Dubai, to South Africa and a Safari, to on round the world to Tokyo and back home. All in 5 star hotels and business/first class.

The Deets

  • American Air Flagship First
  • Avios: 75k
  • Fees+Taxes: ~$135
  • Plane: 777-200
  • Seat: 1J
  • Duration: 9 hours
  • Flight #170
  • Value: $4400+

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The Strategy:

  • We needed to get back from Tokyo on the 8th of July
  • Avios were the currency of choice
  • We wanted forward cabin
  • We were straddling the Avios devaluation on April 28, 2015
  • We preferred JAL First but wasn’t avail.

In mid March AA opened up WIDE availability in First Class on the Narita to LAX route. It was perfect, it guaranteed a lie-flat product on a route showing no avail, to that point, on the day we needed. We jumped on it and booked using Avios pre-devaluation (75k), however; the ticket was booked primarily as a hedge: a seat that we could use, but hopefully did not have to use. Our hope  was that we would be able to get into the brand new Japan Airlines First class when they opened up award seats, but alas, the stars were not on our side and it did not become available before the Avios chart ultimately devalued, and we ended up keeping our tickets for the old American Flagship First. If Japan Air had opened up their award chart before April 28th  we could have changed the AA flight to JAL flight for about $35…or just cancelled online and rebooked. After that day, the tickets skyrocket by a third to 100k one way. We were trying to have our cake and eat it too.

The back up plans we considered.

  • Book a JAL ticket further out and change when the one you want opens up.
  • Keep AA flight and book a Japan Air flight further out – hold two flights and then a flip flop, rebook and cancel
    • BA will not allow you to fly on two separate flights on the same day
  • Book AA with Avios and then if JAL opens, use AAdvantage to book the JAL…cancel Avios booking

The annoying part of it all ( if getting an international 1st class flight for $135 can be annoying) was that I had thought about using the first strategy which ultimately yielded successful results…we just didn’t feel comfortable with the risk. It would have involved booking a Japan Airlines ticket further out ( locking in 75k rate)  and then changing that flight when the one we wanted opened up…

Why would I suggest you consider this?

Japan Air has a pretty decent close-in award avail, especially in premium cabins, compared to other airlines – so we could have gambled on their track record of favorable award avail by locking in the 75k Avios price with a future ticket, then employ a wait and see strategy with the first class cabin avail on the date we wanted.  Then, using the flexible policy of British Airways to change the date of the flight to the one we wanted. As long as that original flight was booked prior to the devaluation we would have kept the locked-in, pre devaluation price of 75k Avios. It would have been a gamble, but Japan Air opens up a lot of avail in the 10 days prior to departure.  I was pretty flexible with my ticket but my buddy Dave really needed to get back on a locked date, so we ultimately decided to just keep our Flagship First as the JAL suite wasn’t avail on the date we needed before the BA Avios programmed devalued the flight from 75k to 100k.

Here’s some anecdotal evidence to help you when you encounter a similar situation. While we were in South Africa ( roughly 2 weeks prior to departure) the flight opened up…so had we booked a dummy flight in October we could have changed our flight dates to the 8th and flown this route in JAL First which is one of the premiere cabins in the sky, rather than AA Flagship ( old) which is plain, old, and tired. But hey…we can’t split hairs at $135 for international 1st.

Another strategy that could have been employed is to book two tickets…seeing as though they are on different airlines we could have kept the ticket on American on July 8th, booked a JAL suite in October, then when the JAL suite for July opened up, called and did a flight change/cancellation all in one swoop, losing only a small change fee. The issue came down to lacking enough Avios to make this happen without a speculative point transfer, without a bonus, from Chase Ultimate rewards or Amex MR into a newly devalued British Airways program. It just wasn’t worth it.

We could have also just booked the JAL suite when it opened up with AA miles, however; both of us couldn’t have made that happen with our point balances. We kind of had to book it with Avios. It just wound up being a situation where there were a lot of variables, some constants, a devaluation, foreign time zones, limited internet and specific point constraints. THIS IS WHY AN AWARD SERVICE is so useful. It’s balancing these

ANYWAYS THIS IS A FLAGSHIP FIRST REVIEW!

The plane is old. Let’s just get that out of the way. There was a small hope, deep down in my heart, that somehow, some way a 777-300ER was going to be sitting at the gate and we would walk into the cabin and it would all be furnished with the brand new Flagship First class.

This was indeeeeeeed…a dream.

But, let’s be honest, it was WAAAAAAAY better than being crammed into a coach ticket and to be quite honest wasn’t a terrible redemption with 75k Avios. In actuality these Avios were earned primarily through the Chase BA credit card sign up and a 40% transfer bonus from American Express. That’s like 52,000 Membership Rewards. Not flipping bad if you ask me. It would have cost some 62,000 Aadvantage.

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Flagship First Cabin
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old, but LARGE seat
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ottoman with pad, blanket, and pillow
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Bose headphones are clutch. Fairly standard amenity kit

 

What I do love…The flipping PJs! They’re better than Etihad biz for sure. Sorry Etihad.

Dave posed for a pic at 38k, well above the clouds and also in order to demonstrate a nice function that a layout like this provides…The dine together option.

IMG_8587

Not that the food was all the great, but being able to drink champagne with your bestie, look at the top of clouds, and eat off white linens all the while hurtling across the planet at over 500mph… is pretty stinking dope.

IMG_8593
this shrimp looks pretty great…looks can be deceiving
IMG_8594
tasty soup
IMG_8595
asian mushroom salad was the best in the meal
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black cod with miso glaze left a lot to be desired
IMG_8597
i mean an ice cream sundae…fun day!

The service from the Purser and crew was incred. Hands down blew the ceiling off of what Cathay Pacific gave us on our JNB-HKG business class flight.

I was actually shocked. You hear so much, allllllll over the flipping blogosphere, about how great Cathay is, and their soft product is wonderful. Eh…it did not come close to what we got on this legacy carrier. Our purser, whose name slips me, was outstanding! Truly a customer experience orientated flight. There was a passenger flying behind me and he’d flown this same route a few weeks ago and she remembered him, not only his face, but also that he had spend quite the time in Australia and some details about his family. That’s just not expected from American. But then again, I do prioritize American for my domestic travel, however; the reason I prioritize is because of their partners, not necessarily their service and flights. This flight turned that idea on it’s ear.

After dinner the bed was made

IMG_8600

 

Was it the best bed? Nah. Was it the most private? Nah. Did it completely suffice for a relatively short flight from Asia? Absolutely.

Look, the flight left at 5 in the afternoon. The best I’m gonna be able to squeeze in is a glorified nap. The problem is that the flight lands in LAX at 1030 AM, so you need some sort of rest in order to muscle through the day and get your internal clocks straight. I probably slept for a collective 4 hours.

Another issue, which is totally a personal one, is that kids can be flipping disruptive on an airplane, but INCREDIBLY so in an over night flight in a premium cabin. They’re kicking, screaming, banging, playing, and for someone like me whose not going straight to a meeting upon landing, it’s a inconvenience, but not one where my business would suffer. I didn’t pay a fortune for the flight, but I did anticipate there being an essence of tranquility once the cabin lights were dimmed. It’s not really anything American Air can do, but it’s something that should be addressed as a parent. I have no idea how the guy behind me got much sleep at all, but I somehow managed to wedge in some ear plugs, affix my Bose headphones, and drink an extra glass of wine. Without this combo, I would have dug my eyeballs out of frustration at the noise, or ended up on the news for forcing the plane down somewhere over the Pacific because my crankiness turned Cantankerous. Thank goodness I did sleep and woke up just before breakfast.

Breakfast…worked

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It as exactly what I needed. Granola, fruit, yogurt, and coffee. That’s pretty much what I eat on a normal basis. Throw in a smoothie and a little roll….coolio, but it was much better than getting wet yet dry eggs that are granular and entice regurgitation upon first bite. Keep it simple. I liked it.

We landed on time and I thanked the purser for a great flight. She and her crew kept it right and kept it tight. If only she were allowed to summon the spirit of a strict Catholic school nun and bring some ‘religion’ to those kiddies it would have been a HUGELY successful flight. Hey, low expectations are the mother of fulfillment? Ya…something like that 😉

Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.

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4 Comments

  • […] partner lounges even if you aren’t flying on that airline.  I was flying back from Japan on American Airlines First Class in 2015, but because they are partners I was able to visit Japan Airlines First Class Lounge. […]

  • […] were staying for nothing at the Ritz. We were flying back to the states for a little over $100 in First Class, and how many times are you in Tokyo with the ability to watch a real master firsthand? Neither of […]

  • James Ferguskn August 27, 2016

    You do love the word “flipping”. Still didn’t learn very much from this post. Sorry!

    • Miles August 27, 2016

      you’re flippin right right James 😉 Our goal is that everyone learns a little something. Thanks for reading!

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