If there’s ever been a time when a little extra space on the plane feels vital, it’s right now. For a transcontinental New York JFK to Los Angeles LAX flight, I was thrilled to cash in some upgrade certificates to create just a little extra social distancing for the circa 6 hour journey across the country. After seeing various reports, I expected very little, and was very pleasantly surprised.

Pre flight, American’s Flagship check in remains open, but the security fast track wasn’t quite needed. It was a ghost town in the terminal, and a very sad reminder of just how decimated the airline industry is at the moment.

The Flagship Lounge at JFK remains closed, and all guests are directed to the makeshift Admirals Club inside what would be a part of the Flagship. Just about everything except a yogurt will cost you, even if you’re Oneworld Sapphire or Emerald. I asked, and was surprised to hear that even boxed water would be extra. Sigh.

American claims this is due to local government restrictions, but is happy to sell you hot food, which instantly pokes holes in the claim. Delta and American Express, to the contrary, still manage a more complete food and beverage service in lounges at JFK. It was an underwhelming start, to say the least. 

But on board, everything changed. The crew was happy to be there after months of furlough, American had full Casper bedding, flat beds and great amenity kits from APL. The crew couldn’t have been more welcoming to my family. They were wonderful.

The plane felt well cleaned too, though that didn’t stop me from using my own wipes to ensure all surfaces got the extra touch. Hot tip: self cater, bring your own wipes and bring extra masks. Health authorities suggest to swap masks every 4 hours.

With fewer daily flights, this JFK-LAX flight was almost completely full. Probably 7/10 in first class 18/20 in business class and a 75% full economy cabin. American is moving to even fewer flights, operated by a Boeing 777 in the coming days on the JFK-LAX route, replacing the typical A321T. For business class and economy, that’ll be an upgrade.

Sadly, American doesn’t hand out any wipes or masks, but neither do other US airlines. They instead rely on passengers to bring their own wipes and face coverings. Most European airlines currently hand out kits with wipes and gel to all passengers, which seems like a small ask for a lot of peace of mind.

Orders were taken promptly after take off, and both the food and wine menus were exceptionally good, from a decadent short rib to a grain bowl salad, with optional lemongrass salmon. The beet and goat cheese starter was fresh and flavorsome. Meals were lated on proper dishes and real cutlery was used, hooray!

The wine menu featured a FEL Pinot Noir, which is well above most airline business class wine standards, particularly domestic. Delicious in flight, even from the plastic cups ; ) And yes, American is serving all beverages in plastic cups, at least in business.

Traveling on flights over a couple hours with an infant is never easy, but the American Crew on Flight AA331 were kind and engaging, even through face coverings. They were courteous to let us invade their galley space to entertain our little one, and engaged her with smiles and welcome distractions.

In flight entertainment was the same standard American has maintained, with great box sets like Curb Your Enthusiasm and plenty of movies. You’ll get a nice commercial before every episode, but hey – times are tight.

American’s Casper bedding partnership means incredibly comfortable pillows and blankets, which made this journey a relative breeze, even with a mask on. I was happily surprised to see full bedding, since many airlines have pulled back to cut costs, though they’d say it’s in the name of safety.

After a few hours, the final cookie service came along and the crew began preparing the cabin for landing. As far as the stresses of flying go, during this trying time in the age of covid-19, this was about as stress free and assuring as you could ask for. Like I said, I’d love complimentary wipes on board, but it is what it is.

Upon deplaning, there were sanitizing stations and ground staff were happy to replace a station which had run out. All positive, all friendly and generally a great experience. Bags came out promptly and appear to even have been sanitized or at least sprayed.

Despite the ground experience, I’d chalk this up as one of my best ever American Airlines flights, with service levels on board pretty much on par with pre-covid-19 times. I’d take this flight again in a heartbeat. Well done, American. At least in the air that is… 

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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2 Comments

  1. Good to know where things stand. Cute offspring, s/he looks bright and aware. With travel numbers up to 40% from last year and increasing, I’m a bit surprised that AA is cutting flights further.

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