Awesome flight on American to Shanghai!

It’s easy to get spoiled and think of business class as being very “bleh,” given that many of us are able to redeem miles primarily for international first class travel on foreign airlines. But it’s also important to keep things in perspective. In my case, I booked an $1,100 coach ticket from Tampa to Shanghai via Miami, New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles in both directions, and confirmed upgrades for all flights. I’ll earn well over 40,000 elite qualifying and redeemable miles, so I’d be a happy camper even if my flights weren’t great.

But frankly, my flight from Los Angeles to Shanghai (that I just off of) was actually fantastic.

A few things to note in particular (I’ll save many of the details for the trip report):

  • Headwinds are strong going west right now! The flight was blocked at 13hr50min (usually block time is about 30-45 minutes longer than the anticipated flight time), but our flight time was 14hr10min. As a result we arrived about 45 minutes late, though there were no lines at immigration, so I guess it balanced out in the end.

  • Angled flat seats suck. They’re awesome when you upgrade from coach, but it really is pretty tough to get any “real” sleep in them. They didn’t used to bother me all that much, but I’m finding it harder and harder to sleep in them. Can’t wait for American’s new business class product.
  • Empty flights are awesome. I’m so used to business and first class on US airlines being full due to how easy it is to upgrade, get award tickets, and the ease with which non-revs can fill the cabin, but as I posted about yesterday, this flight was pretty empty. Even after lots of non-revs cleared,  business class was only half full, and I had two seats to myself (window and aisle). This isn’t just useful for the extra space, but it also makes it easy to grab a couple of pillows to at least make the seat a bit more comfortable when trying to sleep.

  • Who said service on US airlines can’t be awesome? Since the flight was so empty the service was attentive and quick. But beyond that, the flight attendants were awesome. The flight attendant working my aisle was Chinese, and I mean “authentic Chinese.” I mention this because I honestly felt like I was flying an Asian airline. She spoke very slowly because her English wasn’t great, but she was constantly smiling and so friendly. She provided a “Singapore Girl” level of service.And the “senior mamas” (I use that term endearingly)  — who all had 35+ years at American — working the flight were awesome as well. I accidentally pushed my call button once in the middle of the flight (was trying to turn on my light), and one of the flight attendants I hadn’t previously interacted with appeared in less than ten seconds, smiling and asking what she could get me. Kudos to the crew. If only I could have them on all my flights.

Anyway, now it’s time for me to fall asleep in the clouds… literally (the joys of a hotel on the 90th floor in smoggy Shanghai).

Filed Under: American, Mileage Runs
  1. Since I read that you liked the pool at the PH Tokyo you HAVE to check out the one at the PH Shanghai (newer and even more impressive – irrespective of the smog/clouds/weather in general). Enjoy!

    Also: check out the dumpling store “Ding Tai Fung” in the same building (2nd or 3rd floor I think) – it is very nice and safe for foreign stomach (alternatively check out the outlet in the Superbrand Mall next to the TV Tower and the new Ritz Carton Pudong – this one has nice views on the river).

    Will be back to my beloved Shanghai in March. Can’t wait…


  2. Looks like a great trip.

    How does one go about confirming upgrades as far in advance as possible for so many legs of a trip?

  3. I hear you about the angled flat seats. Sleeping on LH C was tough. And dang, 90th floor. Truly, your head is in the clouds… 😉

  4. Next time post a pic of such authentic Chinese flight attendants. No need to post pics of the “seniormamas” 🙂

  5. @ dmodemd — At the Park Hyatt? I used a Diamond Suite upgrade, so Park Suite.

    @ Hamurabi2008 — Thanks, can’t wait to check them out.

    @ boberonicus — LOL, fair point…

    @ FlyerM — I just checked upgrade inventory before making my booking on Expert Flyer. Since I was flying during a slow travel period upgrades were easy to come by.

  6. While no one here posted about it, apparently some are offended by my use of “authentic Chinese.” Please don’t be.

    I was using it to differentiate from non-authentic nationals like me. I’m German, have a German passport, and could live in Germany for the rest of my life if I wanted to… but I’ve spent my whole life living in the US, so as far as 99% of people are concerned, I’m American. Nonetheless I speak the language, so if I were a flight attendant and was language qualified, someone would refer to me as “the German flight attendant.”

    By calling her “authentic Chinese” I simply mean that she’s actually Chinese, to a much greater degree than I’m German. I suspect she lived there for most of her life, and I didn’t know how else to phrase that.

  7. Glad to hear you had such an awesome flight, Ben. Though the empty international biz class cabin doesn’t bode well for the longetivity of that flight…does it?

  8. I can sleep pretty well in the seats.
    Remind me – you’re Exec Plat? so the upgrades were free???

  9. I flew AA from LAX to PVG on Jan. 24 in Biz. I occupied an aisle bulkhead seat, and the other 2 bulkhead seats were vacant. Yes, it was nice to be able to have all the empty space and extra blankets and pillows.

  10. I like AA biz class to Shanghai, FA are attentive n go out of their way to help you, too bad they dont get the accolade bec they get put with the rest of the bad service in US

  11. I am glad you liked the AA LAX-PVG flight. Even when it is on time, there no immigration lines at PVG. On return, there are no reasons to show up earlier because Cathay lounge there is mediocre. Also, when I made this trip 6 months earlier, the food on return was not as good as from LA. You may compensate for this having a good time at F lounge at LAX.

  12. @ Happy — We don’t have a timeline yet. American will reconfigure their first 777-200 with the new business class in the first half of this year, though it’ll likely be two years before the entire fleet is reconfigured. We don’t know at what point the Shanghai route will get the new product.

  13. Lucky. Thanks! I am flying my parents from HKG to LAX in July this year. I now have two options: HKG – PVG – LAX (Dragonair and AA both in J) or HKG – LAX (CX in Y+, since no award availability in J). Which should I put them on, assuming AA will have old J seats from PVG to LAX?

  14. @ Happy — I’d probably do American business class. At the end of the day it’s better than premium economy.

  15. Another possibility is to route via NRT to LAX. But on the dates my parents want to fly, only 1 seat available for the NRT-LAX leg. Will AA open up more spaces for redemption close to departure date? And would JAL do the same when it is closer to departure date?

  16. @ Happy — Yes, both do sometimes open up more space as the departure date approaches, though it’s not something I’d count on.

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