Winston Aldworth flies AA82 from NZ to California

The plane:

A Boeing 787-800 Dreamliner. But watch this space, American Airlines is putting the service on hold for two months from this Sunday and when they return to Auckland on October 7, it'll be in a bigger 787-900. The longer version of their Dreamliner carries 285 passengers, compared with the 226 that can ride in their 787-800.

Class: Business Class. It's a fine product. Worth noting too that the 787-900 will have a 21-seat Premium Economy (there are no PE seats on the 787-800). They look a decent option for the trans-Pacific haul.


Seat: I'm in 4H. There are 28 flatbed seats in the Business Class cabin of the 787-800, alternating between forward facing and rear facing. The 787-900 carries 30 Business Class, all in the traditional forward-facing fashion. The seats are good — comfortable with plenty of room, they compare favourably with pretty much all of the lie-flat Business Class offerings that fly out of Auckland.

Flight time: It departs Auckland at 1.20pm, arriving in LA at 6.30am. At a scheduled 12hr 13min and with an early-morning arrival, you'll really want to get some sleep.

Service: The woman running the Business Class cabin was a wise-cracking veteran of the industry. "Hey," she says, when clearing my plate, "I wouldn't eat the salad either." Gold.

How full: Overflowing. At the check-in desk, Economy Class passengers were being offered $1000 worth of American Airlines flights and the chance to rest up in a nearby hotel if they would agree to take a flight later in the day. A total no-brainer! I was surprised to see one woman decline. Then, by totally random chance, two friends of mine stepped up (Hi Jaime! Hi Mark!) and took the deal. Stoked!

Fellow passengers: More Americans than you encounter when flying with the koru. But I reckon price — not nationalism — is still the big deciding factor.

Food and drink: There's a decent dinner and a breakfast served at the other end. They were carrying Samuel Adams Boston Lager and some pretty good Californian wines.

Toilets: They passed the patented Grant Bradley three-quarters-of-the-way-there test.

Airport experience: If you want to arrive in Los Angeles like a celeb, book yourself in for American's Five Star Service.

I was greeted at the plane's door by a glamorous AA staffer who whisked me around all the queues before delivering me to the AA lounge (I had a couple of hours layover before connecting to DC). A fabulous service. She tells me she's greeted Arnold Schwarzenegger, Richard Gere and Susan Sarandon.

"When you meet Arnold," she tells me, "he's a lot shorter than you'd think."

He probably wouldn't be overly impressed by me either.

On arrival in LA, I had a couple of hours layover before flying on to Washington DC. The American Airlines lounge at LAX is in the middle of a radical transformation. (Los Angeles is AA's Pacific hub and they're investing $2.2 billion on revamping their operations there.)

At Auckland Airport, American Airlines' customers make use of the Qantas lounge. Like many of the Auckland lounges, it's overdue for a revamp.

On the plus side, there's now Tuatara APA beer in the fridge, a vast improvement on previous offerings.