SFO777 The First Class Travel Blog

The First Class Travel Blog

From Flyertalk's Most Popular Trip Reporter

Mileage Running for 2018 Status

Mileage Running for 2018 Status
Pittsburgh, Montreal and home via Honolulu
September 2017

With the year rapidly coming to a close, I'm close enough to renewing my American Executive Platinum and Flying Blue Silver status that every mile counts.   So for my quarterly visits of the year to Pittsburgh and Montreal, I booked a mix of airlines, flights and routes to get me over the top.  First up is Pittsburgh.  This morning, I'm on American from close to home John Wayne Airport or SNA.  Less than 20 minutes from home to gate makes this one really convenient airport.   

SNA-ORD
AA 2517
737-800
7:00a-1:00p
September 20, 2017

AA's new boarding priority... 9 groups?  Seriously?

Another day, another fake emotional support dog.  Oy.

Lining up for the early morning wave of post-curfew departures.

West bound over the coast.

And then back east.  Pretty cool sunrise off the clouds.

The usual bizarre gogo pricing.  All Day for $49.95 or the entire month for $49.95.  Hmmm, let me think.  Fortunately, I have 20 free gogo passes from my Amex Business Platinum cards.

Excellent crew offered PDBs and multiple passes thru the cabin throughout the fight.  Alas, it's been 6 months since my last midcon meal and who'd have thought that #GoingForGreat could get even worse.  Choice of Continental Fruit Plate or something called the Breakfast Sandwich.  

The fruit was good, but the Sandwich?  Yikes.  Peeling back the layers.  My, doesn't that look inviting. 

The non bread part. 

Chobani Vanilla yogurt? Yuck. Why bother?

I'm thinking that someone in catering gets a bonus for reducing midcon meal costs to less than $1 per meal.  You know it's bad when you long for UA's old Jeff McMuffin.  

Mid flight snack.

Our approach to Chicago on a beautiful day.

With just over 2 hours before my connecting flight, I headed for the New Flagship Lounge, which I can access with my Air Berlin Sapphire status.  Friendly AAngel checked me in downstairs, asked if I have heard about the new Flagship Lounge and gave me an invitation to the Flagship Lounge.  Exiting the elevator on Level 2, another friendly AAngel stationed near the elevators welcomed me.  Meant to take a pic of the invitation but I realized that she took it... which makes sense in case someone is tempted to re-use the invite.
 

Much larger than I had anticipated based on reports of those that were invited to the press launch last week with great views of the tarmac and H/K gates.  Lots of good seating areas and plentiful work space counters with power outlets facing the tarmac.

Sure they're new, but the lav is very nice.

OK, how cool is this?  A Bloody Mary Bar.

At the far left end of the lounge is the food and dining area.

A respectable selection of low to mid price wines. 
 

And an impressive selection of serve yourself food...

Blueberry BBQ Chicken...

Stone Ground Grits...

Miso Glazed Salmon...

Forbidden Black Rice and Stir Fry Veggies...

Red Curry Coconut Tofu...

Potato Rosti...

Serve yourself bar...

 

Toasted Pepper Pork Tenderloin with mango chile lime glaze, micro arugula, and the Thai noodle salad.

Field Greens, Watercress, Eyeground Carpaccio, and Carmelized Squash Salad...

I poured myself a glass of Burgundy and had lunch.

I was pretty hungry after my pathetic "Breakfast Sandwich" on my inbound from SNA, so I tried a sampler plate of various offerings.

And then dessert.

Kudos to AA on another excellent Flagship Lounge.  Now if they would only stop serving cheap garbage for domestic meals, they might get most business from those of use that have dumped them.

I arrived at the Sheraton Station Square at around 6:30pm.  My 15th floor room with club access.

On the other side of Station Square, The Grand Concourse restaurant in what apparently was the old train station.

I've been coming to Pittsburgh regularly for 6 years now but last night was the first time I've taken the incline and seen the city from Mt. Washington. From the Sheraton at Station Square, it was a short 4 minute walk to the lower Monongahela Incline station, built in 1869. 

Simply spectacular views of the city at twilight.

At the other end of Grandview is Monterey Bay Fish Grotto. Great seafood and amazing views.

 

My Chilean Sea Bass prepared Caribbean style. Delicious!

After dinner, a short Uber ride back to the Sheraton.

Where they let you know what team they support. 

And a pretty nice view from my room the next morning.

After a day of meetings, off to the airport for the trip home.

Believe it or not, this is the PreCheck line.  Yikes.

Remembering a classic moment in Pittsburgh sports history.

And a very attractive main concourse area, with 4 sets of 25 or so gates extending out. 

For years, the dumpy Admirals Club was the only game in town.  Fortunately, the Club is a new Priority Lounge set to open in a few weeks.

Currently located in a temporary location which from the look of the interior, may have been another lounge years ago.

Pleasant staff and the lounge was quite adequate especially for a temporary faciity. 

 

At around T-40, I headed to Gate 78 and my flight to Atlanta.  Naturally, the inbound hadn't even arrived.  So much for an on time departures.
 

PIT-ATL
DL 1560
717
4:38p-6:25p
August 21, 2017

Gate lice, DL style.

At ATL, I passed on the train and walked the underground from the B to A concourse.

ATL-SNA
DL 1289
75D
8:10p-9:50p
August 21, 2017

Another day, another phony emotional support dog, athough this think looked more like a large rat.  Oy.

But for my connection, I had the misfortunate of getting the new configuration 75D for ATL-SNA. What a piece of crap this front cabin is. Did a double take turning left from 2L to see 3 rows of coach (EC) seats and then 5 rows of what I'll charitably call "First Class". Really uncomfortable seats with not much recline. After a couple of hours, the absence of much cushion and padding makes them really uncomfortable. Then there is the lack of a closet up front that puts the unfortunate dude in 1B right in the galley and the first few rows in the spotlight from upfront.

Great crew with open bar PDB and drink refills throughout the flight. But what's with meal service? Advertised as "Dinner", this was more like a lunch unless this is the new government-subsidized DL dinner standard. Choice of Cuban Sandwich or Shrimp/Orzo salad. For dinner?? Yeah Ed, it's all Qatar and Emirates' fault. Apparently earning $10 billion this year is not enough. 

Not that AA or UA are much better although at least one gets more legroom and recline. Sadly, it's a race to the bottom in the US airline industry if you aren't flying transcon.

Four days later, I'm off again but this time from LAX.  What a gorgeous SoCal sunset.

I parked in the T4 garage and headed across the street to Flagship Checkin.

And then headed directly to the Qantas Lounge for dinner.

The view of TBIT security from the T4 connector.

Whoa, how many lounges have a champagne cart right at check-in?

The dining room was relatively crowded so I parked myself at the bar.

The new Autumn Menu.

For my starter, I went with the Hamachi which was quite good.

Unfortunately, it was downhill from there.   The pork belly was awful and I sent it back.

The burger was marginally better although the fries were great.

Perfectly prepared but not great.

On my way out, looks like JFK-LAX just arrived.

At around T-60, I headed back across the T4 connector to T4.

Where AA finally decieded to close the Admirals Club and Flagship to finish renovations. 

The nearby AA customer service area has been converted to a mini-Admirals Club...

... with grab and go food and beverages.

My LAX-JFK gate tonight is in Terminal 5, which is another walk via tunnel.

A quick stop to check out the T5 Admirals Club, which AA took over from Delta. 

LAX-JFK
AA 28
321T
10:00p-5:15a +1
September 25, 2017

Tonight's flight departed from nearby Gate 53B.  I arrived at T-25 and pretty much everyone had already boarded.

Tonight's menu for the pic.

Just after take-off, I reclined my seat into bed more and slept all the way to New York.  Nice sunrise on descent.

On arrival, I headed for the JFK Flagship Lounge.

Which was virtually empty at 5:30am, perfect for picture taking.

After a shower, I headed for Flagship First Dining and breakfast.

What a lovely oasis of calm as it is strictly reserved to international First and transcon First passengers.  

I had the delicious Eggs Benedict on my last breakfast visit so I tried the Steak Eggs and Frites today.  Yummy.

 

I love, love, love Flagship First Dining.   Hard to believe that this is really American Airlines.

 

JFK-YUL
AA 3413
ER4
9:00a-10:30a
September 26, 2017

Call me crazy but I love this little Embraer for short hops, especially with exit row seat 12A. 

From cloudy New York to sunny Montreal, just 300 miles north.

For some reason, my iphone kept taking pics.  Yikes.

After meetings that night and the next morning, I headed dowtown to visit my mom and sister.

I headed home to SoCal this afternoon, sort of.  Still needing more miles to requalify, I took advantage of a cheap Montreal-DFW-Honolulu ticket.  The only problem is that YUL-DFW is now an Eagle flight with an Embraer E175.   Nearly 5 hours on this sucker.  

Old and wiser with AA catering, I decided to have dinner before the flights, a Lester's original Montreal Smoked Meat sandwich.

YUL-DFW
AA 3916
E75 
5:51p-9:30p
September 27, 2017

We boarded as a wave of Thunderstorms passed thru the area.

 

For those wanting to eat, a choice of chicken salad or "protein plate".  Yep, that looks like another superb AA catering offering. 

We arrived on time at DFW and I headed over to the Hyatt for the evening.

From the Hyatt Regency, it was a short 5 minute walk thru the parking garage to Terminal 3.

Although my departure gate was C4, I headed to the D Terminal for breakfast at the Amex Centurion Lounge.

Yum, yum.

Then up to the Skylink train back to C. 

DFW-HNL
AA 123
767-300
9:10a-12:35p
September 28, 2017

 

I arrived at T-55 and boarding had already started.

Fortunately no equipment swap today and we had a newly reconfigured 763 and with Wifi!   My seat 2L, the bulkhead with extra footwell space.

A peek into the Main Cabin Extra cabin.  If one had to fly Economy on this bird, these would be the seats to snag.

No exactly a thorough cleaning job overnight.

Today's menu, or the crapshoot known as AA catering.

And more rain this morning.

No built in IFE because AA is too cheap and making $10 Billion a year is not enought, but tablets were distributed. 

Showtime, AA style.

Apparently, AA's catering cost cutting has now reached the dishwasher.  

The Sriracha Crab Dip was disgusting and inedible, and I like sriracha.  The baguette slices were hard and I'm guessing at least 2 days old. Pretty sure that I could have used the entire baguette as a hammer.

Likewise the Baby Lollo Rossa and Blue Cheese salad. Gross and inedible.

On the other hand, the Grilled Sea Bass was quite good. Perfectly moist although a little more salsa would have been nice.  

For dessert, the traditional ice cream sundae with chocolate sauce and mac nuts was very nice.

One of the drawback of being on the right side near the front is light from the galley.  God forbid any of the flight crew would think to use the curtains.

The seat is full lie flat and I slept for a couple of hours. 

About 2 hours out, the snack options were Fruit and Cheese plate or Tomato Basil Cream Cheese dip. Flatbread, carrot and olive was nice but the dip didn't have much taste and was too heavy.

On descent to HNL, the usual lovely Hawaiian scenery.

 

OK, the cabin may be renovate but apparently remove some of the old equipment cost too much.

In the overseas terminal, not much has changed in the last 30 years.

Always fun to use the open air walkway to the main part of the terminal.  Great plane spotting.

And the nice garden between the main part of the terminal and the two walkways to the gates.

The Delta Sky Club is located across from Gate 13.

Friendly staff in a comfortable although dated lounge with the usualy island decor.

Pretty good food and beverage spread for a domestic lounge.

Since the bar tender was making mai tais, I didn't want to be rude.  LOL.