It'll be all white on the flight The main title is not meant to sound racist
I'd set two alarms for 7am. Consensus was that the balance of airports-are-boring (they aren't), me needing to find Agent Takeover, me wanting to sample the lounge, etc meant I should probably aim to get a cab about 8.30am, so 90 minutes would hopefully be enough time to wake up, blog, shower, and say goodbye.
In actuality I woke up at around 5am, and remarkably didn't feel hungover at all. It's a good job I was already awake because some drunkard rang the doorbell at 5.30am or so and that can fuck right off. It woke Russell, who stared out of the window and mumbled and went back to bed. By 6am I'd put some lights on and started being mesmerised by the sunrise, and by 6.30am I'd started blogging Saturday.
I also was doing loads of flight shit. Like, looking at flightradar24 to track my inbound flight and check out crazy maps of really busy skies in the western states.
After my one free premium lager I settle into a seat with a straight on view of the airbridge to gate 59, where my plane will be departing from. I spend the whole time chatting to Helen on Facebook and Mark on IRC. The inbound plane arrives a bit later than I expected and I'm wondering if we'll get away on time, but come 1100 - 25 minutes before departure - it looks like they're loading cargo so I head off to the gate.
Looks can be deceptive. The gate entrance is fucking miles away, because there's a monstrous airbridge. En route I walk past a bona ride airside supermarket and think, hang on, a supermarket in an airport? What's this? At the gate I am of course too early, and boarding has yet to start. I take one of them there tactical pisses and then they announce priority and military personnel boarding has started, so forward I stride.
Once on the plane I take my seat, 3A. Oh, I'm sorry, did I forget to mention somethng? UPGRADED TO FIRST CLASS, Y'ALL. OK so not for free - I paid, because the kiosk offered it for a price I was more than happy to take - and Jesus H Christ I was so up for this journey now. Not that I disliked the transcontinental business class service on Thursday night, far from it, but first is a whole new kettle of frogs.
The cabin is laid out 1-1 (I.e. only 2 seats per row instead of 4, with shitloads of privacy plus direct aisle access etc) and there's only 10 of them on the plane. There are 4 members of staff working the cabin so the service levels are off the charts. The seat is the same as the AA (and Cathay and others) international business class seat, which means tons more space both in the seat and surrounds and two windows and oh everything is just lovely.
It's actually quite embarrassing that all boarding is done through the forward doors and so every single person bar 4 flying today has to walk past me. I am a full on dishevelled hobo scruff bag in first motherfucking class and can't help but like it. It's also a fine example of trickle down capitalism, I'll have you know, because my purchase of an upgrade has almost certainly resulted in someone else's upgrade application from economy into business being cleared, and some such. Ah I dunno.
Once boarding is complete but before we start to taxi, Jason comes round and introduces himself. He seems a bit stern and I'm worried he won't like me. He asks if I'd like a drink before departure and I ask for champagne, which he's more than happy to serve. It comes in a glass tumbler. Glass! I thought AA only served pre-departure drinks in plastic these days. This is already, somehow, exceeding my sky high (no pun intended) expectations.
The captain comes on the tannoy and gives us all a Super Bowl Sunday welcome, telling us we have a 20 minute taxi then 5h3m airborne time with some bumps expected about 90 minutes in. I'm handed a menu, and bring the armrest up, which I'm not supposed to do before we're at cruising altitude and I can't work out how to put it back down. Jason does it for me, with a wholly unwarranted apology.
Throughout our taxi and takeoff I hear constant beeps from whatever electronics the man in 4A is doing, and then a really really loud Knight Rider theme tune because apparently he's going to watch an episode with the speakers on and what the fuck? Thankfully after a couple of minutes he goes quiet but seriously, what?
As we take off I read the WWE article in the magazine, which is short and rubbish but somehow still manages to give me goosebumps. Once in the air Jason hands me some BOSE noise cancelling headphones, promising I won't hear a thing, and I give the 3D map thing a go. Unlike on Thursday, the handset really is controlling the screen and it's all kinds of fun.
It started like this
the window was a fair distance away, so I had to lean a lot. Jason kept replenishing my champagne before it got down to around 25% left
The views were gorgeous.
And more gorgeous.
And more gorgeous.
And just relentless, really.
It stayed ridiculously white and impressive for well over an hour.
But also, while taking photos of landscapes and getting wankered on champagne - real champagne, not prosecco, I'll have you know - the food service started. Here's the menu.
The menu actually was no different to business class, which meant my original pre-ordered choice of main had stuck. I went for the tomato and goat cheese strata to start with, having no idea what it meant. Turns out it was basically a cheese sandwich which used tomato instead of bread, and was accompanied by some leaves. It was lovely. Then came the actual salad, which was pretty nice and I've never had strawberries in a salad before.
Then the crab cakes. Oh my god. Nicest food I've had on a plane for quite some time. What's more, there was some hot sauce which was actually hot. This is a revelation! Honestly, fantastic stuff.
For dessert I go for the cheese plate, obviously. I'm offered a coffee or tea but ask for a port, which is the right thing to do. Jason is actually awesome. He's asked me where I'm from, he knows I'm connecting to a London flight at the end, he totally approves of all my photo taking and talking to my gf and suggests I send a photo including the champagne, and he never lets my glass get empty. I even get a refill of the port, way after the cheese has gone.
As it goes the port refill was definitely required, because I lost some of the original glass because them there 90 minute bumps were a real thing. Turbulence kicked in big style; I'm not sure I will ever experience a more first world 0.01% problem than spilling champagne on my iPad on a first class flight. HELL YEAH.
It's not meant to be gloating or boasting, but I am so fucking happy at that point. The Internet has gone off and the beautiful isolation of flight is there, I'm being waited on permanently, drinking lovely booze and experiencing science - it's a metal tube travelling at 400+mph in the sky!!! - and everything is just so fantastic. I do do some punishing routes and stupid arse shit sometimes but this is exactly what I want to be doing at any time. It's put me in such a good mood I'm even looking forward to the flight which comes after this.
The only downside of what was happening is that it was only a 5 hour flight, to JFK. I know, I know, I'm doing it for the tier points and I really want them and it's a long game, but I just wished there and then it was a 16hr service or something.
During Sicario I honestly realise that some of the Spanish I've been learning has actually sunk in, because I understand what's being said despite the subtitles. After it finishes I go to the loo, in what is without doubt the most cramped aeroplane toilet I've ever used in any class anywhere. Back at my seat I put on an episode of the Simpsons and promptly fall asleep.
An hour or so later I woke up and there were no glasses anywhere. WHAT. We're now somewhere near Chicago and I put on a documentary about Tupac which is actually a curated compilation of interviews with and footage of him. It's much better than I expect, and also the perfect length because it finishes just as we're about to touch down.
Prior to that the rounds had been done. There was a warm cookie, a hot towel, and a "can I get you anything to drink?" offer which resulted in a very large gin and tonic. I realise I'm connecting from AA to BA and wonder if one day I could construct an itinerary where I do the same and then connect to CA (China Airlines, I think). Is there a DA?
With half an hour to go they come to collect the headphones, so I swap them out for my £15 in-ear things and mine are just so much better than the expensive BOSE things. New York looks pretty and then we're out over the Atlantic because, oh, we've overshot and are turning back to approach JFK. I see Stamford, Connecticut on the map and get goosebumps again. What the hell is wrong with me?
As we land I try to draw the New York Yankees logo and fail, multiple times. I also realise there was no amenity kit. Why no amenity kit? I have another quick glance through the magazine and decide to write them a letter in an effort to win 100k AAdvantage miles, and continue grinning like fuck at the whole experience of transcon first for an upgrade price I was more than happy to pay. Fuck yeah, AA12.
The churlishness of having no amenity kit is compounded when I stand up and see that 4A fucking got one but didn't even use it. DAMN YOU, KNIGHT RIDER MAN. We've touched down at 2020 and taken a little while to taxi to a stand, and now comes what I have long been anticipating would be the worst part of my entire trip: the Sunday evening transit from JFK T8 to T7.
In less than half an hour I am airside again. What the fuck. Strolling through T8 was a piece of piss, which was expected I guess, and the Airtrain was a fairly long walk but timed perfectly. I virtually had the monorail to myself - which tempted me to stay on it longer - and since the fail of September had learnt how to deal with T7. I went round to the premium check in and security and there was literally no other passengers there, such that the staff almost seemed surprised to see me.
I'm totally prepped and ready for how this rolls so the feet come off, iPad and liquids out, bags through, and I'm done in no time. The lounge is a long walk because for some reason the entrance is right next to where you emerge if you go through regular security, not fast track business class security. That's all kinds of wrong. But anyway, less than half hour from touch down in one terminal to airside in the next is basically the most efficient transfer experience I've ever had anywhere. Who knew JFK could be a pleasant place to be?