Los Angeles to Tokyo in American Airlines economy seat (bulkhead 13H): A rough journey for the privileged premium traveler
My perspective is written from the business/first class perspective. My last flight before this AA LAX-HND flight was on Korean Air First Class a few months prior. I accrue a lot of miles through promotions and credit card bonuses so I prefer to fly in the nicer cabins when I can. This flight choice was more about saving time than comfort.
I initially had a better flight, but sometimes booking with United is a nightmare.
As the story normally goes, it all started on a crowded morning in LAX. TSA pre-check doesn’t mean anything if everyone has it.
This line was still shorter and faster than the non-TSA pre check line
There was very little space in the seat. In the bulkhead area, there isn’t a pocket for your small items so I carried everything in my jacket pockets. We received a very small pillow and thin blanket. I did however have plenty of legroom and a noisy seatmate (crying child).
I usually fly in the premium cabins so my packing style accounts for that scenario. With that in mind, I went on vacation without a toothbrush because I was expecting to get one with my amenity kit. The harsh news about economy is that you do not receive an amenity or a toothbrush. Just a seat on the plane and the hopes of getting off that seat at your destination.
At one point I realized I was very dehydrated and had a headache after not having any fluids on the flight for 6 hours. I needed water but the flight attendants never showed up to check in on me. No one showed up when I pressed the attendant button. I pressed it a lot before giving up.
I had some chicken and rice and it didn’t taste like food. They gave us plastic utensils instead of metal. It was a small amount of food that I didn’t want to finish but forced myself to finish to keep my strength up. After serving the food they came by for drink orders. I asked for two cups of water with no ice. I finished the first glass immediately then stacked the cup under the other full water.
This was the 2nd meal they served. When they came by to serve the meals, I was sitting in the aisle seat. I took out my tray and asked for the safer sounding option, which was the chicken at the time. They took out the chicken platter and then there was a stalemate. I looked at the flight attendant, then looked at the easily accessible tray already in front of me (I had to set up the table…there was no tablecloth), then glanced back at the attendant holding the tray. He put hesitantly put the tray down on the tiny table. After this 2nd interaction, I realized most people have to take the tray from the attendant’s hands. Not something I plan on learning.
The IFE (in-flight entertainment) selection was pretty good. Unfortunately they gave me some really uncomfortable earphones. That’s earphones and not headphones. A lot of sound leaked in, they were uncomfortable to wear and they had no bass.
It was very difficult to sleep on my flight. To the right of my seat was a family with 2 kids: one toddler and one baby. The toddler had a lot of energy and kept running around and throwing things. I was hit several times throughout the flight. The baby was a loud crier. I couldn’t enjoy any movie and switched to using my ear plugs instead. Luckily I brought an amenity kit from my last flight and happened to have legit earplugs in it. That wasn’t enough though since the parents laid the baby out in the chair next to me and from time to time he’d just kick me.
This was one of the longest flights I’ve ever been on and wasn’t worth the timesaving. The direct flight was great but I would have had one the next day with Singapore in Business. If I slept on the flight I would have been less likely to arrive sick and jetlagged. But that just serves as a reminder to why travel hacking is important.