Saturday, November 9, 2013

Australia September 2013 - American Airlines 2456 First Class (SFO → LAX)

***This post is part 2 of a full trip report. The index can be found here***

I arrived at Terminal 2 in SFO almost two hours before departure. There was a short line for first/business class passengers, but the wait was no more than five minutes. My large backpack was checked all the way through to MEL and I was given boarding passes for the American Airlines flight to LAX as well as the onward connection on Qantas. After a quick security check, I walked directly to the Admirals Club Lounge entrance, located on the left side of the main hall. A friendly agent checked my boarding passes and welcomed me inside.

SFO Terminal 2

American Airlines check-in

First/business class line

Admirals Club lounge

Despite being more than two years old already, the Admirals Club lounge at Terminal 2 still looked beautiful and quite new. They've done a great job so far maintaining the space. I especially liked the entryway, with its faux trees at the end creating a courtyard-like setting. It never got too crowded at the lounge, and there were always plenty of open seats and tables. Service was very good, with multiple people coming by to clear used plates.


Bar area

More seating

Food options were sparse as expected. There were cookies, snack mixes, fruit, soda, coffee, tea, and water offered. Premium beverages and hot meals were available for purchase at the bar, though I did not give them a try. I grabbed a few things to nibble on and occupied an empty table, where I played around with the complimentary WiFi for about half an hour.


Snacks and drinks

There was a small business center just behind the entry rotunda, with two computers for guest use. Plenty of windows throughout the lounge provided natural sunlight and an airy feel, not to mention open views of the tarmac and taxiing aircraft. Unfortunately, the windowpanes all had a spotted pattern tint, which made it rather difficult to take any decent pictures. 

Business center

Our 737-800 to LAX

With about 40 minutes left before departure, I exited the lounge and headed to Gate 59, where our 737-800 was already parked. After all the incoming passengers had deplaned and the aircraft was ready, first class passengers were called, followed by other elites. I was one of the first to step on board, and took my window seat at 4A.

Terminal 2 food court

Gate 59

American Airlines 2456
Boeing 737-800
San Francisco (SFO) - Los Angeles (LAX)
Sunday September 8, 2013
Departure: 2:55 PM (scheduled) / 2:50 PM (actual)
Arrival: 4:20 PM (scheduled) / 4:29 PM (actual)
Duration: 1h 25m (scheduled) / 1h 39m (actual)
Seat: 4A (First)

The domestic first class recliner seat was pretty standard - comfortable and spacious. There was plenty of legroom and good storage space under the seat in front of me. Also in front of me was a couple who appeared to be on their honeymoon, judging by the amount of kissing, touching, and all-around PDA that was transpiring between them. Our cabin was 100% full for this flight. 

Domestic first class

We pulled out from the gate early and quickly taxied to the runway, where we abruptly came to a halt. In fact, none of the planes in front of us were moving or taking off either. After about ten minutes, the captain came on and announced that the 49ers game at Candlestick Park was having some sort of aerial display during halftime, and flights out of SFO were temporarily halted.

Thankfully, the delay didn't last too long, and we soon took off without incident. Ironically, we flew directly over Candlestick Park as we made a U-turn above San Francisco on a spectacularly clear day. Perhaps I'm a little biased, but I would argue that taking off from SFO provides some of the most beautiful views of any major city in the world. As we approached cruising altitude, it was possible to see the tall plume of smoke emanating from the massive Rim Fire that was still raging out of control at the time.

 Fog rolling into San Francisco

 Candlestick Park

 SFO and the Bay

 Smoke from the Rim Fire

Service was friendly and efficient on this short hop to LAX. Drink orders were taken soon after take-off, and I decided to go with an orange juice. Only a small pack of snack mix was provided throughout the flight. I much preferred the service United provided on this identical route, where a basket of different snack options was displayed and passengers could choose whatever they wanted.

After a brief interval at cruising altitude, we began our descent into Los Angeles. The weather was just as clear in Southern California, and it was smooth sailing all the way until touchdown. Upon disembarking, I decided to kill some time at the American Airlines Flagship Lounge in Terminal 4 before heading over to Tom Bradley International Terminal. With more than seven hours before my departure to Australia, I was in no rush.

At the entrance, I showed my boarding pass to the agent, who informed me that my departure was actually from the International Terminal, and I could use the OneWorld Lounge there. I told her I had a lot of time and just wanted to check out the Flagship Lounge before heading over. Without hesitation, she smiled and invited me up the stairs. In the main lobby, another agent handed me a card key and directed me towards the Flagship Lounge doors on the left.

Admirals Club and Flagship Lounge entrance

Left for the Flagship Lounge, right for the Admirals Club

After the doors, there was a third check of my boarding pass. This agent, however, was incredibly friendly and slightly hilarious. She again informed me that I could use the OneWorld Lounge in the International Terminal. Then, with a chuckle, she added, "they may have better food there, but we have the better alcohol." With that in mind, I walked in and found a very elegant space, despite being somewhat disturbingly quiet. There were maybe three other people in the entire lounge.

Needless to say, there were tons of open seats and tables. The specialized lounge chairs with noise-cancelling earphones were a nice touch, although hardly necessary judging by the nonexistent sound level. A small business center with two computers for guest use was located near the middle of the long hall, and showers and restrooms were further down at the very end. Free WiFi could be found throughout the lounge.

Business center with computers

At the opposite end of the lounge was the dining area. I was pleasantly surprised at the quality and selection of food and drinks here. There were the typical cookies, crackers, and chips, but also finger sandwiches, salads, cheeses, and fruits available. I thought the roasted red pepper bisque was delicious as well. Unfortunately, the hot entrees were still being prepared while I was there, and I didn't stay long enough to see what they were.

There were plenty of beverage options, including sodas, fruit juices, milk, Evian, and even Pellegrino sparkling water. And true to the Flagship Lounge agent's words, there was a very good selection of top-shelf liquor and wine available for self service. I gathered a small plate of food for myself, and finished watching the Williams versus Azarenka U.S. Open finals match on TV before deciding to head over to the International Terminal.

Dining area

Drinks selection


Soup and hot entrees (not ready yet)

Cold entrees

Wine and liquor

The long row of windows throughout the length of the lounge provided some superb views of the tarmac between Terminals 4 and 5. Prior to leaving, I stood there for a good ten minutes taking pictures and just watching the American and Delta planes taxiing to and from the runways. After exiting airside, I made my way out from the departures level and walked over to the International Terminal.

Views from the Flagship Lounge

Exiting Terminal 4 towards the International Terminal


  1. The trees in the Admiral's Club are a nice touch. Haha.

  2. You could have got the airside bus from AA to Qantas at TBIT

    1. Ahh yes, I did forget about the Qantas airside bus! Although I wanted to get my boarding pass reprinted on Qantas stock (as I mentioned in the next installment), so I probably would have gone landside anyways. Thanks for the heads up.