First Class Ain’t What It Used To Be. But Neither Is Coach.

Over the years, I suppose I’ve made the Hawaii-U.S. mainland flight 200 times. It’s five hours heading east, usually about 20 minutes more than that going the other way.

Thanks to some accumulated miles, I was in first class last night on my American Airlines flight from Maui to Los Angeles. We had a pretty stiff tail wind and touched down at LAX a full half-hour ahead of schedule. And then we sat on the taxiway for 45 minutes waiting for a gate. Of course, that was annoying, but it was an opportunity to think about the flight and about the service.

There were two flight attendants assigned to first class. Both guys. Both well into their 50s. They were pleasant enough, but neither one was particularly attentive. Just doing their job.

The food … well, we were started off with a decent salad and there was complimentary wine. For entrees, there was a choice between a steak or lasagna. The guy sitting next to me ordered the steak; I went the italian route. The steak was done to smithereens, and he remarked that he should have ordered the lasagna. He was wrong. The lasagna would not have passed muster as a Stouffers frozen dinner. 

I must say I scored with dessert: an ice cream sundae – vanilla, topped with strawberries and a sprinkle of nuts. My seat mate opted for the “cheese tray”, which proved to be a 6-inch diameter paper plate with three pieces of cheese on it … handed to him still wrapped in Saranwrap. That’s first class?  

Basically, what we got in first class last night was not that much better than what coach passengers routinely got to that many years ago. And there’s no comparison to what was served up to first class passengers back then. I clearly remember a Western Airlines flight attendant wheeling a cart up to my seat and slicing off a thick filet mignon from a sizzling slab of prime beef. And it was certainly a treat being invited up to the second deck on one of the PanAm 747s where three tables for four had been set up … complete with table cloths, silverware, and chinaware.

Yes, the first class service is better — a lot better — on the international flights, but for a $12,000 fare on a LAX-to-London flight, it damn well ought to be better! The actual first class fare on my flight last night was a lot less than that — about $2200. I used Aadvantage miles and was disappointed. If I had paid cash, I would have been pissed!