Be my guest First out, First In
Up at 4am. Again. Is this jet lag? I'm not convinced; I think my body just wants me to be awake for at least one hour a day when the heat isn't unbearable. Even so, I wake up bathed in sweat. The alarm is set for early anyway, 'cos it's time to head home.
On our way to reception, Paco pops his handsome head out to give us a proper send off.
I sign for the room and turn down the offer of a cab. I booked transfer both ways with SuperShuttle, and have an email explicitly saying our reservation is prepaid, confirmed, and no further action is necessary. The leaflet we'd been handed when we got the van here last Friday seemed like a laughable attempt at upselling us local tours and stuff.
Pick-up window is 0810-0825. By 0835 no cab has turned up, so I phone the customer services number listed under "our local team" and the man at the other end is like, wait, you're in Cabo? I'm in Cancun. Let me give you the real local number. So he does, and I call it, and no-one answers. Bleurgh.
With Helen on alert to call me if someone turns up, I pop into town and withdraw another $100, Of course no-one turns up, so she gets reception to call us a cab and that turns up in 5 minutes. It's a nondescript ride to the airport and costs only $35, which is way less than expected, but still, I prepaid SuperShuttle. Hopefully a complaint will get me a refund.
The airport is seriously empty. The self service check-in machines accept Helen's passport but shits itself over mine, refusing to scan it and on manual entry telling me to go see a person. So we wander up to one of the vacant desks and a very friendly man prints out our boarding passes, and staples our exit visa to the first one.
There's no fast track security nor airline lounge here, but there's really no need for the former. Two security lanes are open, staffed by around 8 people, and we're the only people going through. It's the fastest international transition to airside I've ever experienced.
There are airports in worse settings, I suppose.
I love the 'noir' filter.
It takes ages for service to start. The cabin attendant has seemed a bit standoffish before, but once the drinks start she's a model of southern hospitality. We get beer and a mimosa, and have our pre-ordered food confirmed but not served until the inflight map tells us there's only 45 minutes left of our 2.5hr flight.
The inflight map lied. It had us down as arriving 50 minutes early, which seemed and was unrealistic. I manage to catch a bit of Vice News, which is equal parts interesting and depressing. An excellent chocolate mousse is handed out, the leftovers of which are consumed by the crew. Meanwhile, the sky and America look pretty out of the window.
A Mexican stowaway admires his new homeland.
Apparently, we're going to pull a fairly vicious U-turn over Dallas.
And we do, banking pretty drastically.
I'm surprised how much water there is around here.
Two other planes land at the same time as us. DFW is a pretty big operation.
I was not looking forward to the Dallas/Fort Worth transfer experience. In April for Wrestlemania we'd taken forever to get through immigration and customs; a recent anecdote on Flyertalk had been a horror show, even for someone with Global Entry.
So, as per usual after reading airport scare stories, we breeze through in no time at all. There's an "E-Z" line for people without checked baggage, to avoid customs. We approach the desk but are shouted at and shunted towards the machines, which are labelled US citizens only. She tells us we can still use them, so we do - answer a few questions, photo taken, fingerprints, get a printed receipt and hand it over to a friendly desk guy. Empty corridor, up one storey in a lift, and we're landslide.
I don't expect to be landside. I thought there would still be a connections route. No matter, security is just up the way and quicker than April too. The three lanes all seem to operate differently, one requiring everything in boxes, shoes off, etc, the other one the complete opposite. It doesn't make much sense to us, we stick to where we are and get through. After being scanned for explosives and stuff, one of the men says he needs to give my left ankle a once over. Well, OK then. It's about 20 minutes since we got off the first plane and we're airside again. Screw you, scaremongering Internet.
The AA lounge reception is a few steps away, and at the desk the woman scans Helen's boarding pass and gives her two "free premium drink" vouchers plus an invitation to the first class dining room.
I offer my boarding pass too, but she refuses and waves me away. This doesn't seem right to me. Up in the lounge, I feel more culturally alien than I did at any time in Mexico.
I know the shit drinks are free, but I'm pretty sure you need to tip - and I only have $20 bills. So begrudgingly I go up and order a premium drink and offer a bill, only to be told they don't take cash. So in the end I pay well over the odds with a card for a beer I don't really want. Meanwhile Helen uses one of the tokens for a prosecco.
I'm a bit angry. I read online that I really should have been given my own drink chits and invitation. We're both in first class and both should get the same treatment, but what's actually happened is that I'm Helen's guest in this lounge. A guest! Me! This is a disgrace!
Helen of course totally loves this. She invites me to join her in the first class dining room, which is pretty laughable for something described as "flagship". There's a small buffet of soup, fruit, cheese and crackers. A few buckets with beer bottles in, and some self-service champagne. Oh, FINALLY, champagne! I serve myself the first two glasses and the next two are offered by a member of staff. But really, this is a tiny room like a BA business class outstation. Give me the Qantas lounge in LAX any day!
6.30pm rolls around and our flight to London is boarding. The priority line this time is not chaotic, and we board and turn left, to row 1. We have the middle suites, 1D and 1G. I've never flown AA first class before so am intrigued to discover it all.
Nothing is as private as the BA suite, let alone Cathay Pacific or Qantas (see August and February 2014 on blog.darrenf.org for reference), but still first motherfucking class and I'm rowdy annoying drunk and happier than a pig in shit. Peak smug.
There's loads of room, two big tables, USB power sockets, a giant TV, and these seats swivel to face one another - no buddy seat required to dine together. Michael introduces himself and I ask for the fizziest champagne he can muster. We've pre-ordered our main meals, again, but nonetheless there's a menu which we need to consult for the other courses.
I love the swag - the pyjamas look great to me, though Helen prefers the BA kit. The amenity kit bag is (faux?) leather, unlike any I've had on other airlines in any class.
And, for some reason, I'm handed UK entry paperwork but Helen is not. Obviously I don't need it, but I'm intrigued because I've never seen one before. The front is less intrusive than many countries' forms, while the entire rear side is left blank for the UK Border Force to write disparaging comments about foreigners on.
The seat controls are this small touchscreen tablet, full of pre-set positions plus individual aspect control. The headphones are fancy Bose things, and the entertainment screen control pad is like a PSP. You can have the map display on it while watching TV, which is excellent.
Food is immense. Nuts with the champagne, then 3 courses before the main. A flaky tomato thing, a cup of soup, and a salad. Helen has coffee crusted beef for main; I have giant spinach ravioli. It's all great, though of course they could serve me cold beans straight from a tin and with this much bubbly inside me I'd still consider it the height of luxury.