American Airlines Flight 167 New York JFK to Tokyo Narita Business Class 29 October 2011

American Airlines’ check-in area at JFK

"I’m Glad I’m Here."

It’s not often I fly between two continents without one of them being Australia, but there is a growing number of global nomads who traverse the world on a regular basis for both business and leisure purposes, travelling often between all regions of the world. As would be expected of a route linking two of the world’s most important business centres, the New York-Tokyo flight was full in Business Class today. The Boeing 777 had a 2-3-2 configuration, which means the cabin crew was very busy looking after every passenger with avid attention and abundant courtesy.

Having never flown American Airlines before, I was curious to know the company’s Business Class product. Happily, some interesting aspects revealed themselves as soon as I sat down-the seat was wide, allowing for arms to rest at my sides without elbows being propped up by too-close armrests. Also immediately noticeable was the vertical control panel at the end of the centre console for operating the seat functions, which include bringing the entire seat forward in an upright position to be closer to the video screen. Under that screen is a large glovebox-type storage area where magazines and other items can be placed and kept orderly, closed away behind a swing-down panel. The seat seemed very well thought out to make it as user-friendly as possible; there is even a short video that can be called up to demonstrate the features of the seat. Below the glovebox is a half-size, fold-down table that can be used without impeding on personal space of the seat. This table, illuminated by a mood light with either of two settings, as desired, is able to be fitted together with the full-size table drawn from the armrest to make one very large surface for dining, laptopping, or reading a newspaper without having to fold it over..

Entertainment options were diverse and a pleasure to take in using high-tech Bose noise-cancelling headphones that had their own On-Off switch. For once, the connection point for the headphones was not in a place necessitating a contortive movement to plug in, but right where it should be at lap height in the centre console. The selection of first-release films was as good as any cinema.

Despite all the pleasing hardware, it was the employees of American Airlines who left the deepest impression. One gate agent in particular was observed to go out of his way to allay the fears of a woman who had lost her boarding pass at the duty-free shop; this same employee spoke to other passengers not with a jaded matter-of-fact style that can betray too many years working in the same job, but rather a buoyant personality genuinely eager to ensure each passenger’s experience was the best it could be. I wish I had gotten his name in order to send a letter of praise to his superior. I think he was of Brazilian origin, which may partly explain his easygoing manner. The actions of this employee were part of a continuum of goodwill that began with some contact with American Airlines staff on the ground several days before the flight and was followed in the air by the friendly efficiency of the cabin crew. As it does each month, the cover of the Business Class menu featured the artwork of an American Airlines employee, emphasising two fact: one, that there are talented people in the ranks of American’s employees, and two, that the company chooses to showcase its own people rather than use the work of an outsider.

With so much attention paid to Asian and Middle Eastern carriers, US-based airlines are often left as an afterthought among travellers in the Asia-Pacific region, especially in places where they are offline. But for travellers in Japan and other Asian destinations, American Airlines offers a competitive product, as witnessed by the high number of Japanese passengers who would be familiar with other airline options but chose to fly with American. And for those of us who change continents with great frequency, it is worth noting that American offers a huge number of flights from its Dallas-Fort Worth, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, and New York hubs to destinations across the world. Next February, American will add nonstop flights from New York to Tokyo Haneda while continuing its services from New York to Narita, making domestic connections that much easier for travellers bound for destinations beyond the Japanese capital.

To be honest, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this flight. American has a slogan "We’re Glad You’re Here" and I know I certainly was glad to be there.

Source = e-Travel Blackboard: R.L.B

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