Back to the dorms in American First Class

by Charles M. Kunz

Well I did the home life thing again, and frankly, I hated it. The cliché usually used in this situation is “everyone changed” but for me it was the exact opposite NO ONE changed leaving me surrounded again by the same people I had just gotten away from. But finally after a month I woke up on the morning of Saturday January 17 and I was going back to my other home, the one with people I had grown to think of as a second family.

American Flight 739
Scheduled Departure: 11:35 AM
Scheduled Board: 11:05 AM

The morning dawned sunny but still absurdly cold with temperatures in the low 20’s. For once I didn’t breathe a word of complaint, where I was going it would be three times as warm. Once again the family didn’t want me to go and there were many “I’ll miss yous” and “You’ll call me as soon as you get there, right?” This is the part of leaving I hate the most, I’m 18 years old and I’m supposed to be in college, it seems that only my father has figured this out. Once again my winged chariot would be my dad’s Porsche and it seemed he was trying to impress me by doing suburb cornering down the Hutchinson River Parkway on the way to LGA. Thankfully he didn’t hit anything while he deftly cut the wheel at every chance he could and we were at the Central Terminal in twenty minutes. After the obligatory handshake and slaps on the left shoulder that show strong male bonding (or so I’m told) I entered the Terminal with a mission to accomplish. I was booked on the 3:30 PM AA flight to DFW connecting with a two hour layover to the 8:41 PHX flight. But my friend Josh was making an earlier connection in DFW and as I never get to see him I had decided to standby on the 11:35 AA flight and surprise him when he came in from SFO.

Unfortunately this was a bit more of an ordeal as it should have been. After a five minute wait at the First Class/Elite line I approached the desk and asked to be put on AA 739. I was thus given a boarding pass for AA 731 which was leaving earlier. After pointing this out I got a boarding pass for an aisle seat on the correct flight. I figured that I had already put the woman through enough and I headed through to the Admirals Club to get a preferred seat.

Along the way I had a very nice encounter with a girl who was a sophomore at Reed College. While we waited in line to enter the D Concourse we discussed the basic college banter between two people recently introduced (dorm life, food, major etc.) and I told her if she was on the later DFW flight she could come to the Admirals Club with me, unfortunately she wasn’t but she lowered her voice and asked me “What goes on in that Admirals Club” in a bit of a worried voice. I was tempted to answer smartly with “Oh human sacrifices and the like” but I was nice and explained to her the comfortable seating and free non-alcoholic drinks that had convinced me to join. At the club door we parted ways with her heading off to board an MD-80 with a final smile my way. I will probably never see that girl again but I hope I made her wait for security a little nicer. Once in the club I got a boarding pass for seat 11F and confirmed I was on the Upgrade Standby List and I was informed my chances for upgrade was “probable.” Shortly thereafter I headed down to the gate which I was pleased to find rather empty. I passed my time while everyone else boarded reading the USAToday about the new QM2 causing me to be reminded of the 70’s disaster The Poseidon Adventure . I hope the passengers on the real QM2 don’t get turned upside down as happened in the flick.

Right after Final Boarding was called the gate agent read out Standby Upgrade names and when mine wasn’t called I went to go find out what the problem was. It turns out I was put on a separate list because I already had a coach boarding pass. I was then handed a pass for 5B and after I asked for a window seat I received another one for 3F. Once I had that in my hand I commented that her printer was running out of ink and so without me asking she printed me out another pass, that means I was given six different boarding passes in an hour and a half at LaGuardia, that is a new record I’m sure. After showing my ID at the gate I was the third last to board:

Gate D8
Seat 3F First Class
737-800, N902AN
Actual Board: 11:06 AM
Actual Depart: 11:43 AM – 8 Minutes Late
Take off 7 minutes after departure

After taking my seat I mused on how someone could not love these Next Generation 737’s. A quick glance around the spacious cabin revealed large overhead bins, clean walls, lots of windows and a generally large atmosphere. I dug out my phone and called Mission Control a.k.a. B747-437B and let him know I had gotten onto the earlier flight and a First Class seat to boot, I’m sure he went limp with relief. Shortly afterward, our F/a John worked his way up from the back following FEBO procedures and asked me what I wanted once airborne as well as dispensing pre-departure drinks. For the first time on an American flight in my memory, I was given a refill on my Orange Juice. John set a standard early in the flight by getting meal choices and taking drink orders quickly as well as refilling the early beverages. I knew early on I’d have a good flight and that made me settle back into the adequate padding of my seat and relax fully.

Soon we were airborne as I watched LGA slip away under me and turn into Flushing Bay with a view up the coast of Westchester County a rare smile broke over my face. I’ve experienced happiness of take offs before as I love flying and take off is the best feeling, but this was more then any others before. I was going back to what has become my family and leaving the previous life behind again and it felt absolutely wonderful. Lyrics from Supertramp sprang into my head from their song Stranger “It was early morning yesterday, I was up before the dawn, and I really have enjoyed my stay, but I must be moving on.” My thoughts exactly, except perhaps the really have enjoyed my stay part, I don’t know how accurate that is.

As I had predicted the flight was possibly the most enjoyable I have ever taken thanks largely in part to John. Once airborne he brought me my Diet Coke and later followed with the mixed nuts and he made sure to warn everyone the bowls were hot. What really amazed me was between the time I got my first Diet Coke and the time we received the hot towels I had received two refills. Little gestures like this can ease anyone’s mind and cause a much more enjoyable flight. Soon lunch came around, as is the norm with an American First Class lunch on a mid-con flight it was a one tray affair. The choice had been salmon salad or Mediterranean Chicken and the latter was going to be my indulgence for the day. The tray featured a large bowl with lettuce and five large slices of chicken with cheese. Under the chicken was some noodles with capers as well as onions and tomatoes. The salad also featured an orange and a strawberry but I moved those aside for later as I don’t think fruit and salad mix. Now, I may not have very skilled culinary tastes, in fact I think “refined palate” is something they’re using at that construction site next to my dorm, but this was a good meal. It was a perfect size and complimented perfectly with the Caesar dressing. After the salad I had some Carr’s Crackers with Monterey Jack cheese and two Oreos that also were on the plate. The Oreos were odd and I felt Milanos might have been better. John came around offering Red or White wine which was even offered to the underage me, but I stuck with water which also was offered. After the meal one could have more crackers and cheese if one wished but I did not.

I spent the remainder of the flight pursuing Skymall and the American Way while listening to The Who. At one point I got a wild idea and I asked John if he had any extra Bistro Bags I could eat at DFW, he brought me two and loaded in some pretzels as well. As I type this I’m eating some of the pretzels he gave me. I also drank the equivalent of nine Diet Coke cans as anytime the glass got near empty it was refilled, now this is how Premium Travel should be. The pilot announced our routing would be over Pennsylvania into West Virginia but he stopped there, not that it mattered as there were clouds over all of the Southern States until we hit Texas and then it was time to descend and time for this flight to be over. After a landing on 35A and a slow taxi to the C terminal I thanked John once again and went out in search of my friend Josh.

Scheduled Arrival: 2:36 PM
Actual Arrival: 2:34 PM
Gate C16

January 17 – Dallas-Ft. Worth International Airport, Dallas, Texas

As Josh didn’t get in until 3:30, I went off to the A Terminal Admirals Club and cooled my heels while waiting for him. At one point I sat down at a computer and the person next to me appeared to size me up and then slid his Business Class Boarding Pass to MEX for my eyes to see. Well two could play at that game as I put my First Class Boarding Pass to PHX within his eyes. I wonder what he sought to gain by me knowing he was flying Premium. I then headed down to A29 and Josh nearly jumped out of his skin when he got a load of me standing there. It’s sad how little I get to see him, with me living in New York and him in San Jose, CA and us being 1262 miles away when we’re both at college I felt this encounter was necessary. He had an hour until his jaunt up to STL so we relaxed over at the C Concourse Admirals Club and caught up on what was knew until 4:50 came all too soon and he boarded with the rest of the Group 4’s and 5’s and once again I was alone with only a handful of people knowing where I was. That feeling always makes me feel small, when I’m at a huge airport like DFW and I’m surrounded by a huge number of people, none of which I know or know me and the only people that know where I am is my family and those that care enough about air travel to know where I connect.

American Flight 2164
Scheduled Departure: 8:41 PM
Scheduled Board: 8:11 PM

I went back to the A Admirals Club which would be my home for the next three hours and parked myself at the bar where I ate a Bistro Bag and was actually looked at by people whose faces showed jealously. What? For a Bistro Bag? Granted the sandwich was good but they could find far better food out in the terminal! Once that was done I utilized a computer terminal and read through a Steven King novel I’d taken from my house to provide entertainment while I waited through my long connection. But it wasn’t too long in reality, it’s just when you look your itinerary spelled out on paper and the time “6 hours” jumps out at you it feels like half a lifetime.

Once at the gate I ran into a small problem after I tried to board the plane. My boarding pass was rejected by the machine and it turned out my itinerary had been inadvertently canceled by the woman at LGA who had screwed up when I’d stood by on the earlier LGA-DFW flight. I didn’t lose my upgrade but I went from 4A to 1F in the bulkhead. But it was still First Class and I was still going home.

Gate A33
Seat 1F First Class
757-200 N661AA
Actual Board: 8:12 PM
Actual Depart: 8:44 PM – 3 Minutes Late
Take off 14 minutes after departure

This flight was a bit of a let down after the great one I’d had coming into Texas and it started badly as no pre-departure drinks were given. I understand we boarded through Door 1L so it wasn’t easy to do so and the plane was short staffed but the non-rev family in 1A-E received drinks so I was a bit perturbed. Take-off put these thoughts out of my head as I remembered where I was going on this big Boeing machine and I reminded myself I was going there in First Class. Once airborne I got an Orange Juice and one bag of pretzels, the only difference between this and coach was my OJ was in a real glass. I had only upgraded this flight to experience First in an AA 757 as I’d read so many complaints about the seats. Although it wasn’t as nice as the ones on the flight before hand, it was no “leather covered park bench” as I’ve heard before. I settled back into it and did a little writing on my laptop while I listened to the Moody Blues. The F/A did one more beverage pass and I requested more pretzels. Later I flagged her down a third time and got one more drink before we came in for landing amidst very heavy chop. I looked down and was able to pick out all the landmarks that reminded me why I was calling AZ home now. I saw the bridge which crosses the Salt River leading to the park where I spent happier days with my ex-Girl Friend Marissa. I saw A mountain and the football stadium and then followed State Route 202 up towards the airport where trips began with home and some trepidation and had always ended with happiness to be back the land where I feel extremely welcome.

Scheduled Arrival: 10:13 PM
Actual Arrival: 9:55 PM
Gate 6

I was given an extremely rare treat by the woman in 2E, she took down my two bags out of the overhead and passed them to me so I didn’t have to go back to get them myself. I have never had anyone (not even my own family!) help me with my bags before, I hope she realized my thanks was real and heartfelt, not the meaningless words “thank you” has developed into due to the slow degradation of polite society. Stepping out into the terminal I was greeted by an empty, echoing building with only our plane load and the TSA at the security check point habiting the Secure Area. It was a bit of an unsettling sight actually. On the way into the Terminal from the gate area is a big sign saying “Welcome to Phoenix” with a logo of the mythical bird that is reborn out of the ashes on it. Welcome to Phoenix indeed Charles M. Kunz and even more, welcome home. Home       Trip Reports Index       Whine And Cheez Index       Discussion Forums

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