Flight Date: 02APR2013–After my fantastic flight with JAL the day before, I was eager to see if American Airlines could also deliver the goods with their newly introduced B777-300. Check-in formalities are handled at AA’s ‘Premium’ check-in counter located at JFK’s terminal eight. There was no one in line, so I was in and out quickly and headed for security. Lines were short there as well and I was finished in five minutes.
Signs pointed to the Admirals Club Lounge and I followed the arrow all the way to the end of the terminal; however I could not find the much sought after lounge. After doubling back I noticed I needed to go up to the fourth floor. This was a bit confusing as the signs don’t point up, but only directs you to turn left after clearing the TSA check point. Oh well, the extra exercise probably did me good! The main lounge staff directed me to a separate facility called “Flagship Lounge” which is reserved for first class and elite AA Advantage members.
The lounge is nice enough. Nothing special, but it did have a good selection of snacks, beverages, newspapers and magazines. The lounge also had a business center and was equipped with showers as well.
Upon boarding, a cart was blocking the walkway through the galley leading to the right side of the plane. A few other passengers and I had to make an immediate left after boarding and proceed up to the front of the cabin to make a U-turn towards our seats. This section is the first class galley area and there were three flight attendants mulling around and chatting. In what was probably meant as a joke, a male flight attendant, in a rather cocky way, chirped ‘You didn’t follow directions….” I told him that a cart was blocking the middle galley area and this was the only way to our seats. He didn’t seem to listen or care as he used the same line on the gentleman behind me as well. You would never be greeted like this (joke or not) anywhere else in the world, but I realize the days of professional service on US-based carriers has long since been replaced by the wise-cracking, sitcom wannabe types. Unfortunately, this first incident turned out to be a ‘preview of coming attractions’.
The brand new Boeing 777-300 was sparkling and still had that ‘new car’ smell. American Airlines first class on the new B777-300s has eight seats in a 1-2-1 configuration. The cabin is sleek and tastefully designed. Prior to departure, a flight attendant passed through the aisles with plastic glasses of: sparkling wine, water and juice. I was busy chatting with a fellow passenger in front of me so I can’t be certain, but I don’t recall any other flight attendants passing through the aisles to greet passengers. After about five minutes, I realized no one was coming so I walked up to the galley area and asked if they had a closet for my coat. As they all fumbled along, I got the impression that this crew had never flown the new B777-300 either.
Seat belt signs were illuminated and the captain announced an on-time departure. Soon after take-off the cocky flight attendant announced he was the head purser (ugh…really!?). After take-off, he came through the cabin taking dinner orders; however I hadn’t actually had a chance yet to look at the menu. When I asked for a few more minutes to decide, he grunted and moved on to the passenger next to me: a mere 30 seconds later he turned around and announced “Times up”. I looked at him trying to convey that his style was missing the mark with me, but he didn’t seem to take the hint. The menu was a bit underwhelming anyway and as I felt pressured to decide immediately or else, I told him I would pass on dinner (sorry guys no in-flight meal photos! you normally have to beat me away with a stick when I hear the word dinner, but not this flight!). The head purser seemed mainly interested in finishing the service as quickly as possible so he could get back to more important duties: such as chatting and giggling with the crew.
Things did not improve as the flight progressed. About two hours into the journey, a mid-flight snack tray was prepared atop the counter at the front of the plane. Instead of mentioning this to the passengers or passing through the aisles with drink refills, evidently the crew decided the snacks were there for the taking and started munching away in full view. Wi-Fi didn’t work properly either and at this point I was kicking myself for not taking British Airways instead.
What a shame! American Airlines really needs to turn things around. With their rebranding efforts, new B777-300’s and new cabins I was hoping they had turned the corner. The new aircraft was stunning. What’s that old line though…something about lipstick on a pig? This flight illustrated to me that they still have big problems—namely the in-flight crew. Talking and eating in full view of passengers for hours on end and doing near to nothing with regards to serving passengers is not acceptable. I have no way of knowing if all AA’s crews are like this or if today’s flight was an anomaly. It’s not worth it, for me anyway, to risk it again to find out. If you are looking for a premium class international flight, I highly recommend you look elsewhere. “A new level of comfort, connectivity and convenience” What a joke! I would describe American as indifferent, sloppy and unprofessional. Don’t waste your money or points on them as there are plenty of other airlines who actually still treat you as customer and not as a nuisance.
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