This was probably one of the easiest and quickest award bookings I had ever made.
American Airlines (AA) award redemption on AA operated flights and selected partner airlines such as British Airways and Qantas Airways are all bookable via aa.com and if the seat is available, bookings can be made in less than 5 minutes (if you have the miles available in your account).
However, having booked my seat only 6 days out, I was charged USD 75 as an award booking fee when bookings are made less than 21 days of departure.
To quote AA’s optional service fees:
AAdvantage award processing
$75 for award tickets booked or mileage upgrades requested less than 21 days prior to departure
AAdvantage Executive Platinum, Platinum Pro, Platinum or Gold members using miles from your account are exempt from the fee
If I had booked this seat more than 21 days prior to departure, I would have only paid around USD 21 and 80,000 AAdvantage miles for a one way business class seat.
The cost of redemption when flying in Economy one way between LAX-MEL is 40,000 AA miles and 110,000 AA miles in First Class.
The 3 airlines with non-stop flights between LAX and Melbourne are Qantas, Virgin Australia and United.
While AA only flies non-stop to Sydney (no flights to Melbourne), I had to take a connecting flight from Sydney to Melbourne with Qantas (domestic).
I prefer to fly AA Business Class rather than Qantas Business Class on this long-haul 15-hour non-stop flight because their cabin configuration are completely different, 1-2-1 seats on AA and 2-2-2 seats on Qantas.
I had flown Qantas Business Class from MEL to LAX on A380 in the past and even though it was a comfortable ‘Skybed’, the seats did not have as much privacy as the reverse herringbone seats on the American Airlines B777-300.
So the extended hours of traveling definitely worth the extra comfort and privacy in a much more modern cabin.
AA International flights do not operate out of Tom Bradley International Terminal like most of the other international carriers. Instead, check-ins are processed at the same terminal as the rest of AA flights including domestic routes.
Frankly, I found the TSA checkpoint at this terminal to be quite faster than the Tom Bradley International terminal. Although it didn’t feel like you were going to travel internationally when departing from this terminal.
When flying in premium cabins on AA international routes, you’ll get access to the Admirals Club in Terminal 4. I had written about the AA Flagship Lounge in LAX & Chicago in the past but this visit felt slightly different because half of the lounge had been upgraded, the check-in desk were all brand new but the inside of the lounge is still similar to the old one.
American Airlines 73 on B777-300ER
Route: Los Angeles to Sydney, Australia
Flight time: 15 Hours
Business Class: 52 Flat Bed Seats, Seat Width 26″ (66 cm) , Bed Pitch 75-78″ (198 cm)
The service was courteous and friendly, although it did take over 15 minutes to get attended after I pressed the call button (this would never have happened with Singapore Airlines – you’d get attended in less than a minute).
However, since it was a full cabin, I can understand how overwhelming it can be for the flight attendants to serve that many passengers.
In the middle of the flight when everyone else was sleeping I enquired about the ‘Anytime Meals / Snacks’ and apparently it was a self-serve system where you have to walk to the middle of the business cabin (bar area) and help yourselves with the food & beverage. It was not a big deal but I was disappointed how they did not have any hot food options for the ‘Anytime Meal’.
I slept for a good 6-hours and watched 3 movies, I had hoped for the flight to be longer so I can have a prolonged “me time” but I guess a 15-hour flight could be overwhelming for some.
Overall, I really enjoyed this overnight flight over the Pacific especially at the catch of sunrise while approaching Australia.