American’s 757-200 in Business Class
San Juan (SJU) to New York (JFK) | Trip Report | June 2016
What I thought was going to be a fairly routine and enjoyable trip turned out to be something much more complicated than I could have ever imagined. From delays to diversions, I went through hell and back just to fly on an aircraft with a unique configuration. Was it worth it? Of course.
Originally, I planned on focusing on how I scored such an inexpensive premium class fare and of course, a full review of American Airlines’ internationally configured Boeing 757-200. Now, it looks as if this trip report will be more along the lines of a rant with a trip report mixed in. Still I’ll do my best to keep the ranting to a minimum. Just know that what was supposed to be a three and a half hour flight in an international business class cabin became a nearly seven-hour circus production.
I have previously addressed why I decided to take this trip. The main reason was that it allowed me to travel on American’s internationally configured Boeing 757. Second, the trip allowed me to earn miles. Lastly, I wanted to travel after a long and stressful academic year. I recently stumbled across a $410 fare from San Juan to Cape Girardeau, Missouri. The itinerary featured stops in New York, Chicago, and my hometown St. Louis. The trip was originally scheduled to depart on the seventh of June and wrap up in Cape Girardeau on the eighth. The original routing changed quite a bit for a few reasons. Once again, everything just kind of fell into place. One itinerary after the other just begun to fall into place. Unfortunately, mid-way through the long and grueling itinerary, things came crashing down in an instant.
*SJU-JFK was original flight plan, diverted to Hartford-Windsor Locks (BDL), continued to JFK from BDL
- Flight: American Airlines AA1357
- Departure City: San Juan, PR [SJU]
- Arrival City: New York, NY [JFK] (Note: Diversion to Hartford, CT)
- Departure Time:12:35pm; Late
- Arrival Time: 4:38pm [BDL], 6:02pm [JFK]; Late
- Aircraft: Boeing 757-200 (757-223; N178AA)
- Cabin of Service: Business Class
- Seat: 1F Window
- Meal(s): Lunch
- Total Flight Time: ~5hrs
My day began in Jacksonville at 2:45 am. From Jacksonville, I flew a short (and terrifying) hop through Tropical Storm Colin down to Miami. From Miami, it was off to San Juan. Both flights though very early, went very well and the crew was fantastic on both segments.
My problems began in sunny San Juan upon landing. As we taxied to the gate, I was notified by American Airlines that my flight to New York-JFK was delayed an hour. I would miss the rest of my flights that evening because of that delay so American (without my authorization) “accommodated” me on a flight to Dallas-Fort Worth. Anyone else in that situation would have been grateful for American’s automated system that automatically rebooks guests that are affected by delays and cancellations. I, however, was not. The primary reason for this trip was to fly on American’s internationally configured Boeing 757. By rebooking me on flights operated by 737s and MD80s, American essentially took a sledgehammer to my itinerary and decided to create their own. Instinctively, I called American’s 1-800 number to be put back onto by original flight. I would miss the remaining flights in the itinerary by doing so, but I didn’t mind as I decided I would just book a hotel in New York and move the rest of the itinerary back a day.
I made the mistake of thinking American would effectively and promptly handle the situation. They did not but rather they informed me that I booked my flight in a lower fare class –a fare class that was no longer available. I then proceeded through a hot, humid, and muggy maze of an airport to a bustling ticketing counter. I thought for sure the agent would be able to put me back on my fight to New York. After a few minutes, the agent said that American told her that if I were to have continued on my delayed flight to New York, they could easily accommodate me on other flights the next morning. I requested that the agent put me back onto my original flight and put me on flights out of New York-JFK in the morning, and that is what she attempted to do until she encountered that fare class issue.She explained that my fare class was no longer available so she could not put me back on my original flight until she received authorization from reservations and customer service. That begun the hour long ordeal of automated prompts and hold times as we both attempted to get responses from the 1-800 number. Finally, after an hour of holding up the Priority AAccess line, she was able to reissue the ticket.
The agent explained to me that my fare class was no longer available so she could not put me back on my original flight until she received authorization from reservations and customer service. That begun the hour long ordeal of automated prompts and hold times as we both attempted to get responses from the 1-800 number. Finally, after an hour of holding up the Priority AAccess ticketing line, she was able to reissue the ticket.
I wish I could brush off that event as a minor hiccup, but I can’t convince myself to do so. Except for the ticketing agent, there was little effort by American to be hospitable and understanding. They acted as if I were crazy for wanting to fly on a certain aircraft and tried to persuade me out of being placed back on my original flight. American also went against their policy of first contacting the passenger and getting authorization before re-accommodating them on other flights. Not getting my authorization and taking a sledgehammer to my carefully crafted itinerary is what sent me over the edge, not so much the poor customer service reps working for the 1-800 line.
Thank you for sitting through my little rant. Once that ordeal had finished up, I proceeded to security. Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States, not an official state; however, the TSA and DHS take care of airport security which means there was a TSAPre line. The TSAPre line was empty except for an older couple in front of me. I managed to get through security in under three minutes. From there I proceeded to “The Lounge” through the obnoxious duty-free store that passengers are required to pass through in order to get to any passenger gate.
Boarding began thirty minutes after our initial departure time. To my surprise, boarding announcements for the flight were done almost exclusively in Spanish. Luckily, I’ve had nearly six years of middle and high school Spanish courses. Twenty or so minutes after I arrived at the gate area, the agent finally welcomed, “clase ejecutiva o clase primera.” I sprinted eagerly down the jetbridge and made a left into the business class cabin.
American’s internationally configured Boeing 757s have seen better days. The internationally configured birds were retrofitted with the pseudo-lie flat (angled lie flat) business class product American has in older 777s, back well before the merger. According to some AA press releases I’ve managed to come across, these birds were retrofitted with the product in 2009. Both the forward and main cabins showed signs of significant wear. Also noteworthy, seatback in-flight entertainment can only be found in the business class cabin while main cabin passengers can watch programming on the overhead monitors. These aircraft also lack wi-fi which I can imagine, makes a seven-hour hop across the Atlantic in coach unbearable.
As previously mentioned, the business class cabin features angled-lie-flat seats. Still, I managed to take an hour or so nap. I also found these particular seats to provide an exceptional level of privacy when in the bed mode. Additionally, the armrests are retractable making the seat width a non-issue while the seat length could potentially pose an issue if you are over six foot. The seat, however, was much more comfortable than I previously imagined it would be.
Legroom was also fantastic. The legroom combined with the seat’s width might rival the Airbus a321-200Ts First Class and Business Class product. The headrest is also adjustable and padded more so than the headrest found on domestic first class seats. The seats feature AC power outlets which functioned for half of the flight. I did find the seat controls to be a little daunting at first as I always do with non-digitalized set-ups. The seat itself is fairly versatile which is why there are over ten individual buttons on the small seat control panel. A coat hanger, leg rest, retractable remote, shoe storage, and additional storage compartments are also part of this older business class product.
American Airlines 757-200L Business Class Gallery
I’ll start off by saying, the meal service was underwhelming. This is not an Emirates or Cathay Pacific trip report–don’t expect much. Still, I enjoyed my meal and found it to be pretty filling.
The service commenced when I was offered a pre-departure beverage. Water and orange juice were presented on a tray while other drink orders were also taken by the purser.
Shortly after we reached ten thousand feet, I was offered the signature AA warm nuts and a beverage of my choice. I went with a good ole’ fashion Coke mainly because I cannot drink yet. I cannot tell you how tempting it is to just flat out ask for a glass of wine when I fly up front. However, I am an innocent law abiding child so no alcohol for me!
I’d heard from past trip reports, and I’ve found in American Airlines service manuals that on flights to and from the Caribbean that are longer than 3.5 hours that menus are supposed to be handed out and the meal service is supposed to be a little more extensive. I guess that is not the case because I received no menu or explanation of service. I had two choices; a cheese lasagna or chicken and rice. I was in the mood for some comfort food, so I went with the lasagna.
Accompanying the lasagna was a small side of smoked salmon, a fresh salad, and a piece of cheesecake. A bread basket was also brought around. For once, the bread was cooked to perfection. Everything seemed fresh and was very tasty. I expected a little bit more out of the lasagna but, for a four-hour flight, it wasn’t bad.
Each business class seat features a small in-flight entertainment screen that is both touch compatible and can be controlled via a remote in the armrest. The system was surprisingly responsive and featured a wide array of movies though the choices were limited compared to what’s offered on American’s wide-body fleet and Airbus a321T. Audio programs, as well as arcade games, are also included with the system.
I decided to watch “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” starring Tina Fey. I was not expecting much as I had not heard much about the movie and what I had heard wasn’t very positive. The runtime fit perfectly as it took nearly half of the flight and left an hour following departure and an hour before landing for me to explore the aircraft. I actually enjoyed the movie though the small screen did take away from the experience.
Diversion to Hartford, CT (BDL)
Shortly after I awoke from my nap, the pilot announced that we’d be exiting our holding pattern in a few minutes. I wasn’t even aware that’d we been put in a holding pattern and for what reason. Five minutes after that, our pilot relayed the bad news; we were diverting to Hartford, CT.
Due to a lack of fuel to safely hold while the weather passed New York-JFK, the pilot decided to head to Hartford. I was quite ecstatic as it meant extra time to spend with my favorite bird in the sky. Thirty minutes after the announcement, it was wheels down at Hartford-Bradley International.
The diversion lasted around an hour and then it was wheels up to New York-JFK. The flight attendants and more importantly, the pilot, handled announcements and the diversion perfectly.
Though it meant spending the night at a pretty crappy Hilton Garden Inn near JFK, I am happy I decided to stay on my flight to New York from San Juan. The Boeing 757 is one of the most majestic birds to ever grace the skies. Soon the 757 will be history–a relic of the past–this made my flight from San Juan to New York meaningful. To be able to spend over five hours with my favorite bird and earn a bunch of miles while doing so is absolutely amazing.
Unless you plan on booking in the Main Cabin, don’t be afraid if your next trans-Atlantic hop on American is operated with a Boeing 757-200. The seats are old yet very comfortable, and American’s updated service on long-haul business class flights is pretty impressive. All in all, I earned more than 5,000 miles on this one itinerary.