Lost in Translation: American Airlines First Class New York JFK to Los Angeles

Filed Under: American, Travel

After a substantial delay on our flight from Atlanta to New York, we made it to LaGuardia at around 1PM. We were originally due in at 11:20AM but there was some weather in the New York area, so we ended up sitting on the tarmac in Atlanta for about 90 minutes. The crew had a good sense of humor and whipped out the “emergency granola bar” box about an hour into the delay.

Granola bar

Since this flight was operated by American Eagle, the meal service was a bit different than it would be on a mainline flight. Still, I’m impressed by American Eagle compared to United Express, where they serve nothing but a snack box in first class.


We had to switch airports in New York, so upon arrival hopped into a cab for Kennedy, which took about 25 minutes and cost about $30.

Once at JFK we headed straight for security. I was surprised to find virtually no queue, which is rare at terminal eight, in my experience.

Past security we headed to the Flagship Lounge, where we were promptly admitted.

I’ve reviewed the American Flagship Lounge at JFK several times before, including here and here, so I’ll keep this part of the review short.

Due to our delay we only had a little over an our in the lounge, so I took the opportunity to catch up on email.

Flagship Lounge JFK

Flagship Lounge JFK

At around 2:45PM we headed down to the gate for our departure to LA. Our flight was leaving from gate 44, so it was about a 10 minute walk to the other side of the terminal.

Our plane to LAX

At around 2:55PM boarding was called for first class, and we were among the first aboard.


American 133
New York (JFK) ā€“ Los Angeles (LAX)
Monday, May 21
Depart: 3:35PM
Arrive: 7:05PM
Duration: 6hr30min
Aircraft: Boeing 767-200
Seat: 3B (First Class)

Once aboard we were welcomed by a rather chipper JFK based crew and directed to our seats in row three (which is actually the second row). American has 10 first class seats and 30 business class seats on their Flagship Service configured aircraft. While the first class seats aren’t fully flat, they do recline back most of the way, and I find them to be very comfortable. United flies 757s with angled flat seats on this route, though I find American’s first class seats to be more comfortable by a long shot (though the same isn’t true in business class).

At my seat I found a wrapped duvet and pillow.

Our seats

Cabin view

Plenty of legroom

Within moments of settling in the flight attendant brought around a tray with water, orange juice, and champagne. I took a cup of orange juice.

Pre-departure OJ

The one downside of the 767-200 is that there’s no mid-cabin door, so everyone boards through the front, meaning it’s very busy in first class during boarding. By the time boarding was complete, every seat was taken in first class.

As boarding finished up the captain came on the PA to advise us of our flight time of 5hr30min, which translated to an early arrival into LAX.

Right on time we commenced our pushback and the safety video started playing.

By the time we made it to the runway we were number five for takeoff, so we were airborne within 15 minutes of our scheduled departure time.

About 20 minutes after takeoff the seatbelt sign was turned off and service began, starting with Samsung Galaxy Tabs and Bose headphones being distributed.

This was followed quickly by the flight attendant taking meal orders. She was an interesting character because she was quite friendly though very informal. As she took drink and meal orders she said “I’m Debbie, what’s your name?” I suppose it was an attempt at personalizing the service, though when you’re dealing with an international crowd I really don’t think that’s a good idea. A lot of people prefer to be referred to by their last name, and you’d come across as a bit of a douche if you responded with “Mr. Smith” when she introduces herself by her first name.

I remember a United flight I took in first class to Frankfurt maybe five years ago. The purser referred to everyone by their first name, and eventually a German passenger lost his cool and said “I am not Hans, you will call me Mr. Dr. XYZ.” I think she learned her lesson about addressing passengers by their first name after that. šŸ˜‰

Anyway, the dinner menu read as follows:

And the wine list read as follows:

Just as the purser finished taking drink and meal orders, the other flight attendant started the beverage service, offering hot nuts and the cheese antipasto.

Diet Coke wth lime, hot nuts, and cheeseĀ  antipasto

The starter consisted of prosciutto, and was accompanied by some bread.


Salad was served from a cart, with the option of tomatoes and mozzarella and chicken. There was also the choice between a sour cream dressing and a balsamic vinaigrette; I went with the latter.


For the main course I ordered the beef while my friend ordered the cheese ravioli. While the beef itself was quite good, the “special sauce” wouldn’t even fly at McDonald’s. My friend enjoyed his cheese tortellini, though.

Beef entree

Tortellini entree

For dessert I had an ice cream sundae with chocolate sauce, butterscotch, whipped cream, and nuts. Mmmm…


The flight attendants were attentive throughout the meal service, constantly offering refills and clearing plates.

As the meal service finished up water bottles were distributed and I reclined my seat to take a nap. I conked out for about three hours, and woke up with about an hour to go to LA.

Around that time the flight attendants served warm cookies and milk.

Warm cookies and milk

30 minutes out we began our descent into a beautiful SoCal evening, and touched down on runway 25L about 30 minutes early.

On the way out one of the business class passengers ran to catch up to the guy that was seated in front of us, and said “I’m a huge fan of your work.” I have no clue who the guy was, though I found it funny when he then proceeded to give him his business card and pimp out his professional services.

Anyway, as usual my Flagship Service flight was great. It’s one of the best ways to fly domestically between the comfortable seats, great meal service, and Wi-Fi.

  1. Looks great! Hey Ben, I’m doing NYC-LHR-CDG on AA’s 777 in F. Does the plane have wifi? Do they hand out tablets on F? What are my options on using the internet during the flight?

  2. Ah that famous cheese tortellini! American must buy it in Costco-level quantities – its a $1.99 Stouffers – amazing thy can serve it in first

  3. I think people need to chill about the name thing. There’s no reason to be a jerk if someone serving you is being friendly but happens to use your first name.

  4. I was in this flight on 2A, who asked the FA, would you warm up my nut please, and she replied definite not in public?

  5. The name formality is such a cultural thing. Americans are really informal, you can address your seniors by first name basis. I am from latinamerica, and titles and names are a BIG deal. People do get really upset if they are called on a first name basis, this is also a generational things, so older folks area more sensitive.

  6. I think an “international” crowd should know enough about American informalism to not sound like self-important douches.

    Saying what the German guy said is the nadir of class. A simple request, while in my view unnecessary for the above reason, would certainly be more acceptable than saying “you will call me…”. People need to get over themselves sometimes…

  7. Andrew & Steve: I agree he didn’t have to approach it that way. However, at the same time, Americans need to understand our cultures and as an employee that serves domestic and international clients, they must be trained to respect it and approach it as such. I’m sure the FA didn’t mean to offend.
    If you still disagree with me than that only means, you are closed minded to ONLY american or where ever you came from’s culture. For example, in some Asian counties, you don’t write people’s name in Red color.

    The World is more exposed to each other than decades ago. We need to respect everyone’s culture and ways.

  8. by the way, “international crowd should know enough about American informatlism to not sound like self-important douches”, doesn’t that make you sound like a self-important douche by suggesting other countries SHOULD know about American culture? What if the persoon flying barely goes to America or flies? in any case, isn’t it the FA’s job to know? not the flyer??

  9. It’s not about being self-important douches, this is first class. If you’re checking into a hotel, they wouldn’t say “Hiya Steve!” First class passengers should be addressed as Mr. XYZ or at least Sir.

  10. I’m sorry but some of the cultural ignorance contained within the comments so far is astounding. The name-calling was the icing on the cake. I hope you never travel internationally as you represent the more unfortunate American stereotype the rest of the world looks down its nose at.

  11. Good lord, does it really matter whether cabin crew use one’s given name or surname when they are being friendly and sincere? You’ve got 200 strangers stuffed into a pressurized tube and the crew is trying to lighten the mood by being genuine. Jeez.

  12. Why does it have to be either/or? Why can’t they be friendly and address people correctly? This is first class. They should never address somebody by their given name unless the passenger asks them to.

  13. Yes it does. Once again, we may not have an issue with itas N Amricans, but it reflects poorly on the FA training and other people may not be used to it. And as Andy B. says: Would you accept that at a hotel check-in? Of course she did not mean any offence and the fellow was travelling on an American carrier so he should be aware of our more relaxed attitudes, but the FA wasn’t dealing with a grandma from Oklahoma here.

  14. @ Carl: yes it does matter. It’s all about professionalism and etiquette.
    I have worked in few American Companies where they make sure their employees address all of their clients on or off the phone as Mr. or Mrs, etc. And if they want to call someone by thier first name, you always ask for permission first. Were you not raised with etiquette and values Carl? lol

  15. @ mike — Enjoy your trip! Unfortunately there’s no wifi on international flights. Instead of a portable entertainment system you’ll have a build in personal entertainment system with a similar selection.

  16. Germans LOVE their titles. It’s very important to them if they’re Prof, Dr, etc. and you should remember this when speaking to them!!

  17. @ JL

    What an idiotic thing to say. Let’s assume everybody is a negative stereotype related to his/her country!

  18. It’s not only German, and it’s not so much about the title as the equivalent of how American’s feel when our personal space is invaded.

    My friends who did a stint in Switzerland said after three years, they weren’t on a first name basis with many in the office. It’s reserved for close friends and family.

    I concur that folks just don’t understand other cultures when they dismiss them. (I’m sure the person offended could have had more class in response, but it is not a small issue to them).

    Lucky, surprised you didn’t go MIA-LAX in the 777, much, much better hard product and very similar soft product (which is basically enhanced business class, as much of the food is identical).

    It’s a fully flat seat.

  19. It seems to me the experience on AA is comparable to United’s PS flights, actually the picture of AA’s first class seat looks very simliar to the Business Class seat on United I just flew to SFO.

    Of course everything is going to change in September when United launches it’s new PS 757 with fully flat Business First seats and 15 1/2″ Entertainment screens. These are the seats Continental introduced about a year ago on their long haul flights and I think, are some of the best lie flat seats in the air. Domestically no one else comes close to this level of comfort…yet. I think it wil be a game changer and others will follow with fully flat beds on their coast to coast flights.

    Thanks for your report, I love your site!

  20. Germans are heavy on titles, even with their boss.

    Lucky, I think you should delete number 18’s post and do more filtering. That is a very offensive remark.

    I will never understand NA’s infatuation with Nazi Germany.

  21. “I will never understand NAā€™s infatuation with Nazi Germany.”

    The results of mass-media indoctrination. Spend more time in NA and you’ll be swamped with it.

    The ruling tribe has an axe to grind, you might say.

  22. most imbecilic americans are way too informal; one should NEVER use a first name to anyone. It is always, Mr./Ms., Dr., Prof, Madam, your honor, Sir. Perhaps, this lack of respect of common courtesy is why america is in such bad shape.

  23. I am way too late to this post but I wanted to comment about the use of first names. I’ve lived in the US for half of my life but grew up in USSR/Russia and I’m still not used to the fact that senior (in age or position) people can be addressed by first name.

    I don’t even call my parents by their first names. In Russia, as a sign of respect you address a person by first & middle names (where middle name is a partonymic). If you are really familiar with that person, you may get away with “Uncle/Aunt [first name]” (even if not related; Vietnamese have a similar big-brother/big-sister thing, I believe).

    Although to be fair to the US, in the Southern states we do try to make it more formal by using “sir” and “ma’am”… which can be quite hilarious some times when a person calling you “sir”/”ma’am” is much senior than you šŸ™‚

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