This was a cash ticket. We have highlighted very cheap American fares on this route before, and with the current fare competition on the route between incumbent Cathay (whose economy class on this route we reviewed here) and relative newcomers American and Hong Kong Airlines, it is likely that there will be more hot fares to come.
The American flight leaves mid evening and arrives late afternoon, which can make it better for some connections on the Los Angeles end than Cathay’s flights which arrive later at night, albeit the are timed such that you can have dinner in Hong Kong before departure.
At the Airport
American uses checkin aisle E. I was able to use a faster queue because of my One World status, but the queue to checkin for economy class was otherwise long and slow moving. There was no allocated gate. I was seated in 31A, a window seat in the exit row although in fact without a window.
This was operated by a Boeing 777-300 ER (registration number N733AR) – the very one I flew last year from Dallas to Hong Kong.
The interior felt fairly fresh. The seat did not recline much and felt a little narrow but was adequate. Having the extra legroom of being in an exit row made a big difference to its comfort. The seat was close to the toilet but this did not cause any inconvenience in terms of noise or people waiting. There was a foldout television with a mixed selection – very strong for American television and films, not nearly as good for more international entertainment. It had live satellite television including sports, albeit not working when I tried it.
The seat had a blanket and decent sized pillow at it on boarding.
We boarded at gate 67 with the usual slow process of boarding American carriers. We pushed back at the scheduled time of 7.40 in the evening. Economy class was almost full. There was a lot of turbulence en route but we managed to avoid most of it, by levelling off initially at 21,000 feet and then only getting to 37,000 feet in the second half of the flight, as well as steering around some patches of it, which the flight map shows slightly. The pilot felt like he knew exactly what he was doing in this regard.
We arrived eight minutes ahead of schedule at a remote bay and were bussed to the Tom Bradley International Terminal.
The crew were fine – not especially friendly or helpful, but doing what they needed to and professional. The announcements were in English, Mandarin and Cantonese. The most spirited part of the service was the Change for Good appeal, with two announcements, a long video and an enthusiastic flight member escorted by a young passenger. Lots of passengers donated so maybe this rather energetic approach bore fruit.
The crew distributed earbuds before takeoff, then a sizeable, lightly glossed menu. A drinks run with mini pretzels soon after takeoff followed in rapid succession by the dinner. Snacks including unheated chicken pastries and drinks were laid out in the galley. There was a breakfast service about an hour and a quarter before landing. Outside of those times, the crew were generally not visible in the cabin. At one point I did go to the back to ask for a pair of earplugs but was told none are carried in economy, which is a bit poor.
Food and Drink
The food and drink was more impressive on paper than in reality.
I thought it odd that the main meal only had two choices and both were Asian, and had no starter, or any small touch like cheese or a chocolate. I had the fish which was fairly tasteless, although the portion size was generous.
For breakfast I had the American breakfast, which again was a good size and was tasty – much better than dinner.
As had been the case on the Dallas flight, there was no Sam Adams, and no Courvoisier so the impressive looking drinks menu may be just that. On the other hand, wine was available although not on the drinks list and when I asked about whisky I was offered Glenlivet, a good single malt for economy class also not on the drinks list. So although the drinks selection is a bit confusing, it is a good one and above the food offering.
American’s economy class product is underwhelming when it comes to service, food and comfort. The cockpit crew came across as very professional and there is a fair entertainment selection. It certainly wouldn’t be my carrier of choice, but if you know what to expect it is fine. With some recent fares as low as they have been, that seems reasonable.