Arriving at JFK three hours early, I got to my assigned gate, 31, just in time to see a Boeing 767-200, N339AA, arrive at the gate. Assuming this was my aircraft, I spent the time exploring the south side of Terminal 8. I was able to spot the newest members of oneworld, US Airways and TAM, parked alongside American at T8.
At around 5:30, a gate change announcement for AA21 was made, relocating the boarding process to gate 16 on the north side of T8. I made my way over to the new gate. It was my first time visiting this side of the terminal and I was treated to American Airlines' pop art by Charles Fazzino.
Arriving at gate 16, I came to watch AA100, a 777-300ER, push back on it's way to London Heathrow. Another 767 was already parked at gate 16, and being loaded for LAX.
I was able to valet check my bag again prior to departure and boarding began soon thereafter around 6:40. The boarding process was surprisingly swift for a transcontinental flight, perhaps du to the new boarding procedures introduced over the weekend. We boarded the aircraft, proceeding to the rear of it for our seats. We were welcomed with blankets provided in all seats, a feature unique to American Airlines transcontinental service.
The interior was reminiscent of an era long gone, with single screens in the middle aisles and older seats. The premium product had no lie-flat seats of the modern American Airline product; rather, they retained the recline of the 1980's premium product. Main cabin, too, harkened back older days, with blue inlayed seats and an unfolding tray table. Although legroom was tight, the older seats were still comfortable to sit in, retaining the width of older products.
Pushback was at 7:06, and we began moving towards the runway 8 minutes later. The announcements and safety video were brief, while the plane took the "scenic route" around JFK. We joined the continuous queue of JFK in line for 31L. The pilots eventually called for takeoff preparation at 7:24. After holding for departing traffic, we took our spot on 31L at 7:27.
With a loud, boisterous takeoff lasting just short of a minute, we waved goodbye to JFK as we passed Terminal 4. We made a turn to the south, to our left, four our climb up to 32,000 feet. Beverage service began shortly after takeoff, and the feature film, "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom," began a short time thereafter. With no PTVs, the movie was shown on the main cabin screens located throughout the cabin.
On American Airlines flights, first class is offered Samsung Galaxy Tablets with the new American inflight entertainment system preloaded. First and business classes are also offered Bose noise cancelling headphones, while generic headphones are available for $5 in the main cabin.
While offering beverage service, flight attendants come down the aisles equipped with the new Samsung Galaxy Notes, allowing them to access personalized details for each passenger.
After the conclusion of the movie, NBC Universal on American was streamed, shown with limited commercials.
We began our descent into the LA area at around 12:45 EDT (9:45PDT.) Just after 12:00 EDT (9:00 PDT), cabin crew began a final beverage service, with a choice of orange juice or water. We touched down at 1:10 EDT (10:10 PDT). and arrived at gate 49 at 1:15 EDT, 15 minutes early.
Arriving at LAX early, around 5:30 in the morning, I first check-in at American Airlines' completely redone counters of Terminal 4. The old check-in counters have been replaced with self-service check-in terminals, manned by two attendants to weigh and tag luggage. As I had not previously done so online, I checked in and paid for baggage at these kiosks.
After check-in, it was a refreshingly smooth transition to security and into the main terminal area. The aircraft met us at Gate 40, the closest gate both to the security area and the American Airlines Admirals Club.
Boarding began early, at around 6:25 A.M. Boarding was swift and easy, and we filed into the brand new airplane. With only one aisle, I was surprised how quickly boarding progressed. Premium passengers were already seated, and I found the premium areas to be relatively wide and easy to get through. Flight attendants had little trouble traversing the aisles as passengers boarded.
The in-flight entertainment was already powered on and active when I reached my seat. I was very pleased with the new system, having heard about it prior to the flight, as I explored the different features available. The greatest feature, in my opinion at least, was the lack of any movement or disturbance from the screens behind me; it was nearly impossible to detect any movement in my seat as the passengers to my rear utilized their screens. The screens were also very responsive to touch, and were very clean.
The new seats, although noticeably thinner than the seats available on the 767-200, provided much more back support and leg room than the older seats. The opportunity to stretch my legs in the Main Cabin was very much welcomed.
The flight was underway almost immediately and departed just 11 minutes behind schedule, at 7:11 A.M. As we passed out of California, the flight attendants began their first beverage service, with meals available for purchase. The food selection was unfortunately under-stocked, with only a few of the many listed options available. Nonetheless, as it was a morning flight, many Main Cabin passengers opted to purchase some of the food available.
the new entertainment system proved to be an endless source of excitement, featuring many free movies, videos, and games. The system also provided airport maps and arrival information, and listed baggage claim and connecting flight information as we got closer to New York.
About three hours into the flight, I decided to sample the GoGo inflight wireless network. AA.com and usairways.com were already free to access, and for $11, I was afforded one hour's internet access. The connectivity was surprisingly fast and responsive, allowing me to do all of my desired web searches and even upload photos at a near-equal rate as on the ground. I thoroughly enjoyed the access available, and the internet speed was very reasonable for in-flight.
We began our descent to JFK at around 2:44 P.M. EDT, as we turned south over Pennsylvania. Very few announcements were made as we descended, and I was surprised to notice the arrival announcement came as we were turning final to land. With little time to prepare, the flight attendants could not complete a pre-landing check, instead resigning to the back as we passed through some turbulence on approach.
The turbulence and landing was slight bumpier than what we had experienced on the 767-200, something which I attributed to the narrowbody versus widebody. We arrived in JFK nearly on time at 3:05 in the afternoon, just 15 minutes after the scheduled arrival time.
American Airlines' new transcontinental product is a significant improvement over the 767 service and a clear signal of the changes at American that have been taking place over the past two years. The new IFE is effective and very easy to use. The seats have much more legroom on the newer aircraft allowing for a smoother ride. Change is evident not only in the products themselves, but the crew and the service; both seem to have significantly improved on the new product. I look forward to all of the changes American planes to bring in the upcoming year with the integration of US Airways.