If only I don't cherish my relationship with Cathay Pacific's Marco Polo Club, I wouldn't really want to fly American Airlines again. Their deteriorating in-flight service has become a big turn off, suggesting that their "We Know Why You Fly" ad campaign is nothing but just a glossy campaign. But since the airline is part of the OneWorld alliance - a conglomeration of 11 airlines of which both American & Cathay belong to - I have no choice but to fly on this airline again in order to earn miles. I know I could fly on British Airways but discounted airfares sadly don't generate miles with them. To their credit, American is quite generous where it comes to this - even tickets sold at a discount still earn 100% of total miles flown.
I took AA 132 out of JFK bound for London Heathrow on a Boeing 777-200. We were supposed to leave at 9:15 PM but just as the plane's door was about to be closed, the captain's voice crackled on the PA announcing a delay to 10:45 PM as ordered by ATC (air traffic control). There was a collective gasp in the cabin as passengers made faces. While I wasn't happy about this, I remembered the news that one of JFK's runways is undergoing a major repair and departing flights therefore have turned into a major backlog. Rather than having airlines pushed out of the gates and waiting lengthily on taxi ways, the ATC's solution was to keep planes at the gates and give each plane a slot based on their original time of departure.
To ease the boredom while still on the ground, I watched "Alice In Wonderland" on a very tiny seatback personal TV. No flight amenities were distributed but I came prepared with my own eye shade and an inflatable pillow. We were finally airborne just before 11 PM and as soon as we were on a cruising altitude, flight attendants hurriedly started the meal service. There were no menu cards but the unsmiling matronly flight attendants gave us two choices: chicken or beef. I settled for the latter with a can of Diet Coke to go with it. What little beef there was got drowned in a rather bland gravy and the mashed potato lacked the weight and soul to make me full (picture at the top). It was one of the dullest in-flight dinners in coach I've had.
For this 6-hour overnight flight, I was thankful enough I was able to sleep for about four hours. The seat managed to be comfortable but it didn't recline as much as I would want to, seated as I was at the very last row of the front cabin (behind me was the lavatory!). I awoke to find the flight attendants distributing breakfast trays. My previous breakfasts onboard had been satisfying but this one showed how they've cut the cost - there's no more choices and no more bowl of fruits or yoghurt that they used to serve. Instead, everyone only got a piece of warm croissant with jam/butter, coffee and fruit juice. Hardly what one can call a great way to start the day or flaunt "We Know Why You Fly".
touch down view from my window
(watch those spoilers slow down the plane)
Our delayed departure meant a delayed arrival in London Heathrow which got all the more complicated as our plane came to a stop at a gate whose jet-bridge wouldn't budge any further to allow for safe disembarkation. For about half an hour we were stuck inside the plane, worried that any further delay would turn my trip to Central London via Tube upside down. My dear friend Mel after all, was waiting for me at the South Kensington Station and we both didn't anticipate this kind of delay. I'm already 2 hours late meeting him, oh my. I got out of the plane and into a packed immigration hall where my passport was stamped and hurried to the carousel where I got reunited with my luggage.
Central London here I come (better late than never)!