Mark Garrison flies AA82 from NZ to the USA

The plane:

A Dreamliner 787-8. American Airlines has put this route on hiatus until October 7. They will then operate the service with a Dreamliner 787-9, a longer version of the aircraft which can seat up to 285 passengers, 59 more than the 787-8.

Class: Economy. The Economy cabin was pretty much full to capacity. A flight attendant told me the aircraft had 195 passengers on this flight out of 226 seats though it seemed more full than that. Seating was a standard Dreamliner 3-3-3 configuration.


Price: You can get return Economy Class tickets for $999 for flights from October 7 to December 3 and from January 16 to March 24. Sale lasts until September 24.

My seat: I was blessed to get a bulkhead seat on the aisle, which was like winning the lottery. The seat has a 31" pitch and a 17" width. Seats also have 110V power ports. It felt confining and for a long flight was not ideal. The tray table was too small and early into the flight my drink fell into my lap so I sat in moist silence for several hours. I was certainly better off than my fellow passengers in non-bulkhead rows. Looking around, everyone seemed cramped. The overhead compartment had ample room for my cabin baggage, which was good as there was no seat in front of me to stick items underneath.

On time: We left early and arrived in Los Angeles at 5.50am, approximately 20 minutes early. The flight duration was 11 hours.

Fellow passengers: A mix of American visitors and Kiwis off on US holidays.

Entertainment: A really excellent selection of movies and TV and a particularly good selection of box sets available. There was also a surprisingly decent choice of international films available, something Air NZ sorely lacks. I finally saw La La Land, which was so good it made the flight worthwhile just for that alone.

Food and drink: Top marks for the availability of food and drinks. The food was pretty average, but it was plentiful. The chicken teriyaki was fine, but I found the traditional American breakfast a bit heavy. The mid-flight snack of five-spice chicken panini and Kapiti ice cream arrived at the perfect time. Self-serve snacks and non-alcoholic beverages were available for the duration of the flight. Drinks were disappointing. There was only one red wine and one white on offer. I tried to get a second gin and tonic but they had run out of tonic. I asked for a vodka and Sprite and got vodka and Mist Twist, which I had never heard of — it's revolting. I'm kind of glad it ended up in my lap.

Service: The flight attendants were fine, though they looked exhausted and rarely smiled. These long-haul routes are hard on the crew so that wasn't an issue. What I did find surprising was how every flight attendant pulled out their mobile phones on arrival into LAX and talked among themselves without taking the time to thank passengers. It was efficient service but definitely lacked warmth.

Luggage: First two bags are free, then additional bags are $200 each.


Airport experience: I had heard so many nightmare stories recently about LAX and its frustrating and time-consuming immigration procedures that I disembarked the aircraft with a mild sense of apprehension. So it may be a surprise to hear that I sailed through the completely empty terminal, immigration and customs in 15 minutes. No, I am not joking. There were literally no queues at all. It was a truly glorious experience.

Would I fly this again: Absolutely. Air New Zealand had a monopoly on this non-stop route for far too long. Competition is a great thing for all Kiwis who want to head overseas. I can't find any compelling reason to not recommend American Airlines.