Friday, January 10, 2014

2013 Grand Finale: American Airlines biz NRT-LAX

2013 Grand Finale lineup

Eva Airlines economy class CTS-TPE-HKG
Cathay Pacific biz HKG-TPE
Japan Airlines economy class TPE-NRT
American Airlines biz NRT-LAX

With systemwide upgrades (SWU) expiring in February, it's time to use it or lose it.  And there's nothing like burning SWUs on heavily discounted $800 transpacific tickets.  This where the true value of Executive Platinum status is, as buying an upgrade will cost you 25k miles + $350 copay each way.

NRT Japan Airlines first class lounge

After landing into terminal 2's satellite terminal, I headed towards the JAL first class lounge for lunch.  This lounge never gets old with premium food and beverage spreads and free massages.  But the best thing about the satellite terminal's lounge is the quietness as there were but 2 other passengers in the 150+ seat lounge.  This has always been the case as the vast majority of oneworld international flights depart from the main terminal, so the passengers saturate the first class lounges in the main terminal.

Food selections are identical to those offered in the main terminal.  The dining area is more exclusive in this lounge, though they disallow the removal of food from the area.  While JAL's biz lounges excel in quality, their first class lounges could use a lift as they fade in comparison to heavyweights Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific's first class ground products.


Since this was Christmas, my SWU cleared weeks before departure.  However, the cabin was surprisingly filled to capacity.  What's interesting is that the day before departure, the seat maps were still mostly empty, so it's almost as an influx of travelers decided last-minute.

Same ol' angled lieflat seats

As usual, I preordered the Japanese meal set online as it far exceeds the inflight menu options, which are prone to running dry in full flights.


Main course

I was hoping for a sushi appetizer, which is what they offered in the past.  But the bento offerings were more complete.  For a U.S. carrier, the meal was acceptable: better than United but incomparable to the Asian heavyweight carriers.  After eating, I went to sleep for most of the flight.

LAX AA Flagship Lounge

First class lounges in the U.S. are never anything to bark over, but when you're this tired after a transpacific flight, it's a warm welcoming.  For my full review of AA's LAX Flagship Lounge, see my previous post.

Bottom line

AA has been definitely behind the game on their transpacific product.  Although their new business class product is amongst the best in the world, AA keeps focusing their best resources on transatlantic and South American flights, thus ignoring their Asian footprint entirely.  Still, no upgrade is easier to score for international travel than on AA flights, and the worst seat in biz will always be eons better than the best seat in economy.  Thus concludes 2013.  Happy New Year!

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