HKTravelBlog

A Hungry Long Haul: American Airlines AA126 Hong Kong to Dallas Fort Worth

We previously reviewed this long route on American in the opposite direction.

At the Airport

People often gather at the checkin booths of American carriers before they have even opened, and that was the case here. The checkin counters opened at eleven o’clock, three hours and twenty minutes before the scheduled departure. I had tried to assign myself an extra legroom seat on the rather unfriendly American website the previous day but they were not available. It was a crowded cabin, so I had plumped for an aisle seat in a pair at the back (42C): at most I would only have one passenger beside me so would be less likely to be interrupted. The seat beside me was spare, but by checkin it was taken and indeed the flight looked more or less full in ecomomy.

The ground agent was a young and enthusiastic man and helpful. I had to pay some excess charges. American only accepts credit cards – not cash and not even EPS cards. I find that very passenger unfriendly.

As American is a member of One World, for a One World status holder one of the good things about taking the airline from Hong Kong is the wide range of lounges available.

Departure was slated for gate 46. I had had “SSSS” printed on my boarding pass, which meant that at the gate I was pulled aside for additional security screening, but this was very simple and quick.

Equipment

The flight was operated by a Boeing 777-300ER, a plane in which I always feel safe for long haul flights. I think the American interior looks decent: there is an understated elegance to the simple colour choices.

The American 777 in a drizzly Hong Kong airport.

The seat was poky but still quite comfortable, with some recline and adjustable headrests. The benefit of 42C was that it was in a row of two behind a row of three, so people passing in the aisle typically didn’t hit me as they passed as there was surrounding space.  At the seat was a small, scratchy pillow and blanket. The crew distributed earbuds. The seatback entertainment system had a fair selection of primarily American entertainment, although the music part felt weaker than on some previous American flights. There was enough to be getting on with for a flight, for sure. The seat also had a plug socket and USB port.

Flight

This was a fine flight, with pretty consistent bumps up to and past Japan, although I always feel safe in the hands of mainline American pilots and this flight with its relief flight crew had quite a few pilots on board, it seemed.

We pushed back on the nose from a rainy Hong Kong and arrived early into a bright, sunny DFW. The queue for immigration took over half an hour (most of one episode of In Our Time, a less frustrating way to pass time in immigration queues I find) – sitting almost at the back of the plane probably wasn’t a smart move in that sense.

Going to Dallas, the flight was a couple of hours shorter in duration than going the other way.

Service

There was a mixture of American and Asian cabin crew, who spoke Cantonese and Mandarin as well as English. Some of them were friendly but some were quite disinterested in tone, so the service level was inconsistent and at times felt a bit rushed (although if a fast eater, that could be a good thing in that the trays were cleared minutes after being set down for meals).

Shortly after takeoff the crew served drinks and mini pretzels, and also wet wipes. About an hour later came the meal, with drinks. The snack was about six hours in and the breakfast service came about an hour and a quarter before landing.

The crew occasionally came through the darkened cabin with water, and set up water, juice and mini pretzels in the rear galley.

Food and Drink

The crew distributed the paper menu and drinks list at takeoff, which was as follows.

The food on this flight was a disgrace. There were only two choices for the main, and I went for lasagna not because I wanted a vegetarian main but because I had so little confidence in the alternative having any flavour. The dish was indeed fairly flavourful, but the presentation was ugly and showed how little food there was, emphasising the overall lack of substance in this meal. For a flight of over eight and a half thousand miles, there was not even a starter.

About six hours in, the crew distributed the snack – the savoury pastry and cake come in a single box, which may seem efficient to the airline’s capitalist overlords but looks ugly. I also would prefer to have a healthier, fresher snack – a toasted, freshly made sandwich, for example, as I had the impression that this pastry was designed for long storage.

For breakfast I went for dim sum, which was tasty enough.

The drinks menu was decent although not all of the drinks were available, even in the first drinks run. At one point I went to the galley and asked about whisky and was asked for a credit card, as I would have to pay for it. It was on the menu without a price, but I presumed that the crew member knew what he was talking about. In fact he was wrong, but American’s unnecessarily complicated drinks policy (spirits are free to Hong Kong and some Japanese ports, but not to China or Korea, something not explained in the inflight literature) meant that he seemed to know no better than I did at that point. An unnecessarily complex policy, poor staff training or a combination of both: whatever the reason, this sort of interaction is one reason I prefer not to fly with American Airlines.

Conclusion

Overall, this was a fine flight except for food and drink. But on an ultra long haul flight like this, food and drink matters and the American offering in this regard simply wasn’t up to snuff.

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