As most of my flying originates in London, I rarely go through flight connections. I arrived at Terminal 5 on the bus from Terminal 3 and was quickly through fast-track security, only to be dumped at the top of the escalator into standard security. In the middle of the holidays, there were lots of families and inexperienced travellers, so it took 15 minutes to get through. Luckily I was not pulled up for any secondary searches and could turn right and head against the flow of people to Millionaire’s Door, the special entrance to the Concorde Room that removed the need to go through the terminal concourse below.
I have been lucky enough to have been in the Concorde Room several times, either as a guest of friends or as a result of flying in First which I have done six times from Heathrow, so I know the space and what I want to get out of the lounge visit. I got to the lounge about 0930 and wanted to leave by 1045 for the 1140 departure to New York. I, therefore, headed straight to the dining area for breakfast. The menu is extensive, and there is plenty to satisfy a range of appetites.
I went for the California Egg with a side of veggie sausage, washed down with Bucks Fizz.
The champagne in the Concorde Room and on board in the first class is Laurent Perrier Grand Siecle which retails for around £125 per bottle. Some might consider adding orange juice sacrilege, but it was delicious! After having a pot of tea and finishing my food, I moved to the bar area for a cocktail. Given the time of day, I opted for an espresso martini instead of a cup of coffee.
With around an hour to go before my flight, I decided to make a move and leave the Tranquility of the lounge. Whenever I have a flight departing from the satellite terminals, I always take the underground walkways, which are a very peaceful way to cross the tarmac. With the travelator and a reasonably brisk walk, you can ignore the timings on the signs of these are twice as long as it takes me.
When I got to the gate, I walked straight up to the desk and onto the plane, where I was met by the in-flight manager and shown to my seat. I was pleased to see that this Boeing 777 was equipped with the latest iteration of the seat, which includes a door.
The seat was large, comfy and beautifully appointed. The cabin crew introduced themselves and brought pyjamas and champagne whilst boarding continued. I would like to change into the pyjama top for the light to keep my clothes as fresh as possible.
Departure was on time, and we were soon up in the air. The crew were great and very accommodating. I explained to them that I was very excited to be flying First again and wanted a slow, boozy lunch and then a nap, so I wouldn’t want any service before landing – and boy, did they deliver!
I started with a Gin and Tonic to go with the canapés. There is a meat, a fish and a vegetarian but no enquiry as to any dietary preferences, so I left the meat one.
To start, I had the Loch Fyne smoked salmon accompanied by a glass of the Pouilly-Fuisse. I love a white Burgundy, and whilst this was not a particularly expensive wine, certainly not in comparison to the Champagne or the red wine in the lounge the day before, it was everything I had hoped for.
I continued with the fish theme for the main course by opting for the pan-seared turbot and, perhaps unorthodoxly, the Saint-Emilion Grand Cru.
I was not overly enamoured with the dessert selection, so I asked if I could have the cakes from the afternoon tea as my dessert with some of the Sauternes – of course, this was not too much trouble, and it arrived shortly afterwards with a pot of tea.
I had the cheese board and a glass of port to finish this decadent lunch.
The only issue on the flight, which I addressed with the In-Flight Manager at the time, was the cabin crew’s use of the window shades. After waking from a nap, I tried to open my window shade only to find it closed again from the galley. I opened it again, and a moment later, the cabin crew came out to shut it because ‘people were trying to sleep’. I suggested that, given it was about 4 pm in the UK at this point and that everyone in the cabin had been given an eye mask if they wanted darkness, it was not unreasonable to open the window shade. The crew couldn’t argue, and we compromised on half-open. The IFM took my side, and the crew member later apologised. Not a big deal, but I am glad I spoke up then.
We landed at JFK around 2 pm local time, leaving me 4 hours to change terminals once I had cleared immigration. This took about 30 minutes from getting off the plane to being on the air train, which was quite reasonable. I have spent longer on the ramp down into immigration at Terminal 7 before!
I used the temporary Flagship First Check-in area in Terminal 8 and was escorted to the front of the security queue only to be moaned at by the TSA person for not being TSA Pre-checked. Another passenger and I pointed out that it wasn’t us who chose to put us there, but that was falling on deaf ears. The security check took a while and was frustrating as the machine broke down, and we had to shift onto another belt. Of course, that machine was one of the newer ones that you don’t need to take anything out of your bags for, so out came all of the liquids, computer and iPad from the neatly packed suitcase for the standard machine.
I made my way to the American Airlines Flagship lounge and was granted access to the Flagship First Dining area – this would have been allowed as a result of my incoming First class ticket from London or my First class ticket on the transcontinental flight to LA. This is a great lounge which has beautiful views over the tarmac.
Like the Concorde Room, Laurent Perrier Grand Siecle is the Champagne of choice, although it is a step down from the Krug that was served pre-pandemic. The food menu is, in my opinion, a step up.
Given that it was several short hours since I had eaten, I opted for the crab croquettes and the plant-based Flagship burger. The former was small but big in flavour, and the latter was good. The star of the show, however, was the fries. I cannot remember eating such delicious fries anywhere; they were hot, crispy and fluffy at the same time and perfectly seasoned.
I had hoped that my fight would depart from the other side of the terminal as this increases the chances of a tarmac transfer, but I was out of luck on this occasion as my gate was practically next door. I was among the first to board and soon settled into 1A. The seat is like the international business class seats but on a narrow-bodied jet. There is not much room for all the bedding provided.
I love that American are proactive in offering pre-departure beverages of all kinds, so I opted for a craft beer served in a proper glass.
Once underway, I picked at the meal service but wasn’t impressed; the prawns didn’t smell quite right, and the salad was limp. The fish main course was good if a little overcooked. The highlight was the ice cream sundae – the first I had had, despite doing the transcontinental route to LA a few times before.
I dozed some more, grateful for the space the seat provided and was first off when we got into LAX. It was a short walk to World Way, the road that runs around all the terminals. I only had to wait a few minutes before a shuttle bus for the H Hotel appeared, and I was in my room around 30 minutes after landing. Given the early start the day before and the lack of a bed the previous night, I was glad to get into bed and go to sleep!