Oneworld Megado Day One: American Airlines JFK-LHR First Class and British Airways in London
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The first ever Oneworld Megado began yesterday with a quick jaunt across the pond from JFK-LHR aboard one of American Airlines’ flagship 777-200’s.
American Airlines really rolled out the red carpet for attendees making it quite possibly the best customer service I’ve ever gotten in an airport. Upon arrival I was welcomed numerous times and escorted through security. The lines weren’t bad at all, but it was nice to have an entourage. The reps taking me through had even done their research and knew I was a Delta fan, so they promised that by the time I was done with American Airlines on this trip I’d be a convert. I’m still waiting on that, but it was good to hear.
There was a whole roster of pretty cool events at JFK before we took off. Airline officials then took us on a quick tour of the AA operations tower at JFK where the airline handles everything from guiding pilots to the runway, monitoring planes so they don’t sit on the tarmac too long and even managing luggage issues.
Next we had cocktails on the terminal bridge outside of the Admiral’s Club while reps from Finnair touted all the reasons we should fly them: namely that they’re one of the longest-running airlines (since 1923) though their fleet is one of the youngest with an average plane age of 6 years, Helsinki is a no-hassle airport for connections, and since Helsinki is so far north and a hub, they have relatively short flights. Plus the airline operates four saunas at the airport—45 euros entry but free for Finnair Platinum elite members!
Before I officially changed my citizenship to Finnish (and the friendly Finnair rep convinced me to fly their airline this summer for a Baltic trip I’m planning), we boarded the plane. I had won a charity auction to get one of the Flagship First Class seats — one of only 16 at the front of the 777-200.
During the flight, I thought the meal service was decent, and actually really enjoyed the chicken consommé and the shiitake-encrusted beef. I do think that AA can upgrade their alcohol—the first class gin is Beefeater and they don’t even pour a Cabernet Sauvignon! I know, I know, #firstclassproblems. The Vinalba Malbec I had was pretty nice however.
While I freshened up before bed, they offered me turndown service and pajamas—the new enhancements since the last time I flew them. Service was great, and our purser, Dannye, was phenomenal and outgoing, although they knew we were a special tour, so take that for what it’s worth.
The flight’s supposed to last about 7 hours, but the tailwinds were strong, so we made it to LHR in less than 5 hours and 45, which means I didn’t get much sleep. However, the fully-lie flat First Class seat is comfortable and AA now provides mattress pads so once I did lay my head down, I was out for hours until I was woken up before landing (and luckily had time to change out of my pajamas!). While AA First Class isn’t fancy, especially compared to foreign competitors, it is certainly spacious and I never felt cramped. I really wish they’d let you use two EVIP systemwide upgrades to go from coach to First, but unfortunately that’s currently against the rules. I won a charity lunch with new AADvantage head Suzanne Rubin, so I look forward to lobbying her for that change. AA really values their Executive Platinums, so I don’t see something like that out of the realm of possibility (though maybe I’m just really jetlagged right now).
When we got to the airport, Oneworld rolled out the VIP treatment, though frankly I was just excited that our bags were off the plane within minutes.
I was able to get to the Sheraton Heathrow and book a day room for 49 GBP to take a fantastic 3-hour nap since we had almost 4 hours of time to kill before the British Airways portion of the event. As a Starwood Platinum I got lounge access and had a hot breakfast and 3 much needed hours of rest. This was the first time I have ever gotten a day room and I can’t reiterate how much the experience allowed me to reset on such a short transatlantic trip.
The Megadoers spent the day at the British Airways Waterside Headquarters, which was pretty nice. A lot of PR and marketing folks spoke about the company’s goals to refurbish its fleet—especially the 777-200’s and the 767’s and some lounges while providing customers with better food and ground experiences, and I personally liked the new “pimped out” logo. They were also super excited about the A380’s they’re currently having built, which should be arriving in about one year from now (January 2013).
The most interesting part of the day was hearing Andrew Swaffield, the head of the parent company for Avios, speak about why the airline basically turned three mileage programs into one, and hearing several members of the audience grill him about the devaluation of miles and the lack of communication. No, they didn’t come to a happy accord, but what’s done is done, and we just need to try to maximize Avios for what they are worth. Well, that’s my opinion, anyway.
I personally asked if they were going to bring back the 100,000 mile bonus with Chase and he successfully dodged the question, which I fully expected. Though it wasn’t a firm no, so take that for what it’s worth.
The Heritage Centre
Next we visited the BA Heritage Centre, which as super cool, with all kinds of retro exhibits and peeks at the airline’s new classes of service including the new first class suites (which I flew in June 2010 and loved), World Club Business Class and Premium Economy (see the gallery below for more photos). I especially liked checking out memorabilia like the Concorde seats and stewardess uniforms, and testing out the new Club World Business Class. Just a note: you can get a bus pass to visit the Centre on any layover at LHR.
Then we headed for the last stop of the day: a quick visit to BA’s arrival lounge at Heathrow Terminal 5, where we were greeted with glasses of Taittinger and Bollinger rosé, and shown tricked-out arrivals lounge cabanas with suit pressing closets and infinity-edge bathtubs.
Finally, it was off for a bit of sleep at the Hyatt Churchill before the return flight in the morning. My room looks fine–nothing special–but at least I’ll be able to get a little rest before stepping back into the Megado madness!
We fly American Airlines from LHR-DFW later today and meet with the American Airlines and Hyatt Gold Passport people, so stay tuned for more updates from that, as well as tours of Boeing on Thursday and Cathay Pacific and the Qantas while in Los Angeles on Friday. You can follow my up-to-the-minute updates on twitter @thepointsguy as well.
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