Back in January I managed to snag myself a great deal in a British Airways sale; for £1,077 I was able to fly Sofia-London-New York JFK-San Francisco-Los Angeles-London-Sofia, and rack up 620 tier points in the process.
Flying from London via JFK to Los Angeles or San Francisco has its benefits; it breaks up a very long journey (especially if you overnight like I did), it allows you to cram in a bonus 140 tier-point sector and the onward journey to SFO or LAX is onboard American’s disctinctive A321T aircraft.
I filmed the experience for my YouTube channel:
Terminal 8 at JFK houses American Airlines as well as most OneWorld partners. It’s clean and unfussy.
Past security, you’ll find a well containing American’s logos from the 1930s to the present day.
Renovated a few years ago, American’s Flagship lounge is available if, like me, you’re a OneWorld Emerald or Sapphire frequent flyer – my status is with OneWorld partner British Airways.
American’s Flagship lounges have been tastefully redone and, as long as you’re not travelling when it’s very busy, provide a peaceful respite from the outside world for an hour or two.
As well as a hot breakfast buffet, some cold options were on hand too.
The huge windows from this lounge are a bonus and afford outstanding views of the apron. You might even be lucky enough to travel on a nice day with blue skies like I did!
My aircraft arrived in full view front of the lounge window. These A321s carry the “T” designation for “Transcontinental” and convey three classes of cabin – first, business and economy (which is sold under the Main Cabin brand by AA). There’s also Main Cabin Extra, which isn’t a separate premium economy but more a differentiated economy product.
These aircraft exclusively serve JFK to LAX and SFO routes. formerly, these aircraft operated Boston to LAX, but the operation from BOS was cancelled in the middle of last year.
American proudly sports a slightly dubious “five star” rating from APEX, which was re-awarded again in 2019 despite record cancellations.
Onboard, the business class cabin is laid out in a 2-2 configuration. All seats have a neighbour and window seat passengers don’t have the benefit of direct access to the aisle.
There’s also a first class cabin in the nose which I’ve been lucky to fly twice when these aircraft have been used on very short sectors, and it’s configured in a 1-1 layout.
Back to this flight – and boarding was done very rapidly (there are just over 100 seats on board), I had a cool OJ as a pre-departure drink and we were soon pushing back for San Francisco.
Takeoff was shortly after 11am and we initially turned north before going west, heading over Chicago to the west coast.
My main criticism of these seats – which can be found on United’s and Delta’s 757s – is that the power sockets are far behind your shoulder and you may need to stand up and turn around to access them.
Good news for fans of fresh air though – there are individual air vents (or “gaspers”) at each seat on the aircraft.
This was a lunch flight, and the food service kicked off with a hot towel.
As is standard in the US, a ramekin of nuts accompanied the pre-meal drinks. I find gin and tonic to be a superb all-purpose drink and it’s my go-to alcoholic drink in the air.
American offers four choices of main course, and, while unspectacular, caters for a broad spectrum of taste preferences.
The starter salad was good, and I chose a pretzel bread to accompany it.
I chose braised short rib for main. It was tasty and filling, important, because this is a westbound flight which lands shortly after 2pm, leaving a lot of hours left in the day and plenty of time until dinner. A substantial meal is therefore important when flying westbound.
American offers bespoke sundaes for dessert, which is excellent. You can choose from a range of toppings and sauces and it gets made right in front of you from the sundae trolley. There is no better morale booster in the air!
There’s just one lavatory for the 20 business class customers and it’s at the front of the cabin (to the right of this photo):
It was left clean throughout the flight.
American has good connectivity onboard. 18 dollars for a 6 hour flight isn’t a bad price and the speed was fine. I didn’t notice the signal drop once, which is excellent.
American has a mind-boggling array of video on demand, but also features some live TV, including the BBC World Service for those of us feeling a bit far from home.
The amenity kit – pictured in my hotel (!) – is by APL and more than sufficient for a 6 hour day sector. it also contained some sort of energy supplement to stave off tiredness, which I haven’t seen onboard in an amenity kit before.
I didn’t;t bother sleeping on this flight but I did lounge under the comfortable Casper bedding, which includes a blanket and well-padded pillow.
Prior to landing, American serves another snack – a heated cookie along with another drink. Overall the food service on American’s longer flights tends towards the good rather than the outstanding, but my expectations were met and I could have no complaints about the standard of the experience for the money paid.
We landed into SFO shortly after 2pm local time, with the Bay Area still struggling to bat away the last of the morning’s mist.
In summary, a good experience with American. If travelling between New York and San Francisco, I’d err towards United if I can snag a flight on one of their 787-10 aircraft which features superb Polaris seating. However, American Airlines remain a decent prospect cross-country, and as a British Airways Gold member, the bumper tier point and Avios earning is a serious draw, as well as the access to the top-tier Flagship lounge.