Flight: John F Kennedy (JFK) to Heathrow (LHR)
Airline: American Airlines
Flight Number: AA104
Plane: Boeing 777-300ER
Cabin: Flagship Business
This is my review of American Airlines‘ AA104 from JFK to Heathrow.
As a general rule of thumb I hate flying as a passenger from the east coast of America back to the UK, as there just isn’t enough time to sleep on a flight that is around 6hrs and 30 minutes. It’s for that reason I tend to ensure I get the last flight out of JFK.
When I took AA104, it left JFK at 22:23 and landed in Heathrow at 10:20. Seemingly the departure time has now changed to 23:02, blocked to land in Heathrow at 10:00.
I believe between British Airways and American Airlines there are a total of 12 daily flights from JFK to Heathrow – two of which depart in the morning and land in the evening on the same day. I have previously reviewed my experience on the JFK to LHR same-day flight here.
Usually, I would have taken the same-day flight by preference to get rid of the jet lag – but this was a business trip booked at the last minute (literally!) and there didn’t seem to be availability for the same-day flights.
Those traveling with American Airlines in Flagship First, British Airways in First, OneWorld Sapphire Members and BA Gold Members are entitled to use the very swanky Premium Check In area at Terminal 8 – which is through the glass doors.
It’s very nice and of course looks and feels more like a 5-star hotel than a check in area in an airport. It is similar to the First Class check in at Hong Kong, which I reviewed here.
Because I never trust the traffic in Manhattan, I was extremely early for the flight – so having checked in my luggage I headed to the TWA Hotel at Terminal 5 for a visit.
Once back at Terminal 8, I headed to the Greenwich Lounge to do some work and latterly the Soho Lounge for some food. Both of these lounges are absolutely excellent, although (in my view) have slightly different offerings.
This plane was American’s Boeing 777-300ER, with 8 First, 52 Flagship Business Class, 28 Premium, 28 Main Cabin Extra and 188 Main Cabin.
My seat, 5J was a front-facing seat in American’s Flagship Business.
To try and reduce the length of these posts, I’ve reviewed the front-facing Flagship Business suite here.
As I set out in that review – I consider that there is rather a lack of privacy to this particular seat!
Food and Drink
As I usually do with American Airlines, I was able to pre-order my food ahead of the flight. This is a great system (or service) and really does save disappointment. I’ve flown with American Airlines easily over 100 times, and have only had the order not come through once!
Before take off the usual water, orange juice or champagne was offered. Sadly no smiles were offered on this flight.
Unusually, dinner seemed to be mixed with the ‘snack’ on this flight. AA usually tend do a round of drinks and nuts before dinner is served.
On this flight, the drinks service took AGES after takeoff, and where as I would usually have Dos Equis – I went straight for the red wine, as I knew I wasn’t likely to get anything else before dinner was served.
American do offer a decent range of drinks from their menu – but it would help if they were proactively served!!
As I mentioned above, I had pre-ordered dinner, the beef. Other options included;
- Herb grilled beef fillet
- Herb roasted chicken breast
- Macadamia sea bass
- Artichoke ravioli
The started was a small plate of beef, and there was a salad.
In this case, everything was served as a single-tray service. Usually I’d complain about that, but given the limited time there was to sleep; getting the dinner service done quickly made sense.
Aside from the presentation, the food was actually pretty nice and hearty.
Options for desert included;
- Ice cream sundae
- Gourmet cheese plate
- Salted carmel tartlet
I went for the sundae, but quickly wished I hadn’t! The crew forgot to take it out of the dry ice, meaning it was rock hard! I was literally shaving tiny pieces off it.
This introduced various dry comments from Cabin Crew Member Mrs Miserable (see below), but nothing was offered to rectify the issue – other than watch me eat it very slowly.
Breakfast was something that was offered to me, but I didn’t really fancy. Options included;
- Cheese and tomato omelet
- Fresh fruit bowl
The Cabin Crew did ask if I wanted waking for breakfast – but I wasn’t that inspired by it, and decided to conserve my sleep!
Generally, American are very good with their Amenities Kits – and this was no exception.
I was provided a high-quality Shinola Amenities Kit. Inside the kit included;
- Lip Balm
- Hand Cream
- Ear Plugs
- Tooth Brush
- Eye Mask
- and……the world’s smallest and useless pen
Although for the size of the bag, the kit could have more things in it, its always the bags I like keeping!
I generally don’t purchase Wifi for overnight flights as I tend to sleep.
However for those that did want to use the Wifi, it was priced at $29 for 2 hours, or $35 for the whole flight.
These prices in my view are fairly excessive!
One thing I would really like American to improve on is their Entertainment.
Sure, there were plenty of offerings in terms of music, movies, TV, etc – but seems to be rarely updated. This means if you fly with them a lot, it gets boring quickly!
In fact, from what I could see, there wasn’t much difference in the entertainment from a year ago.
American Airlines provide Bang and Olufsen headphones for Flagship First passengers.
These headphones will cost you no more than $200 in a store – but American treat them as if they are worth $200,000……so an hour before landing the headphones were demanded back….. unusually no Avis headsets were offered – so if you didn’t have headphones, you were stuffed.
Sadly, the Cabin Crew seem to make or break the flight….. In this case the latter.
One of the Cabin Crew was quite nice. Another member of the Cabin Crew, Ralph, I knew from other flights. Both of these Cabin Crew were great……….then there was Mrs Miserable.
Mrs Miserable was about 95 years old, and the most miserable looking person you’ve ever seen. I don’t mean that in an ageist way – as Nora from AA’s Philly base has flown with American for 52 years and is absolutely brilliant. But it does seem to me to be a tendency that AA’s older Cabin Crew are pretty dire…. Mrs Miserable was certainly that. No hello, no goodbye (despite being stood by the door on disembarkation), no smiles, no going the extra mile – Mrs Miserable was intent on doing the bare minimum on the flight, and being as surly as she possible could. She only cheered up when saw me struggling with the sundae – and rather than offer any assistance, began making comments along the lines of “you need a jackhammer for that”.
Sadly Mrs Miserable’s attitude seemed to rub off – which explained the slow drinks service, slow dinner, lack of re-fills, demands for the headphones back and no replacement headphones once collected.
Landing in Heathrow
Once landed in Heathrow, Mrs Miserable said nothing as passengers walked past her – and then I got my baggage fairly quickly.
As I was going to be going to work, I visited the (rather excellent) American Airlines Arrivals Lounge for a shower and breakfast, before heading off.
American Airlines have a good hard product. The seat is good and spacious, the food is always good, the drinks are always good, the entertainment is always good wide-ranging – and JFK’s lounges are excellent.
The thing that let this flight down was the Cabin Crew, especially Mrs Miserable. On such a short flight, a slow drinks and dinner service eat into sleeping time. Likewise, lack of re-fills, lack of proactiveness, lack of problem solving, etc – all point to Cabin Crew to can’t be bothered or are disinterested in passenger experience.
Part of the reason I tend to avoid flying BA long-haul is because of the hard product and not-so-great food……..but BA do have (mostly) decent Cabin Crew. With a toss up of American or BA for flights to/from the US – its hard to know whether to take take the good hard product and poor cabin crew – or vice versa!
Please American Airlines, invest in some re-training of your Cabin Crew (or get rid of the disinterested ones) – and you’d have a pretty good Flagship Business Class product!