Kuala Lumpur Mileage Run 1 – American Airlines 777-300ER from Dallas to Hong Kong

American Airlines Flight 137 – Dallas to Hong Kong
Dallas-Fort Worth International (DFW): Terminal D, Gate D27A; Runway 18L; Scheduled: 12:25p; Pushback: 12:59p; Takeoff: 1:14p
Hong Kong International (HKG): Terminal 1, Gate 49; Runway 25R; Scheduled: 6:00p; Landing: 6:31p; Gate Arrival: 6:41p
Flight Time: 16h 17m; Actual miles: 9,170
N717AN; Boeing 777-323ER; First Flight: Oct 17, 2012; 310 seats (8 F / 52 B / 30 E+ / 220 E)
Seat: JT: 18J (aisle), Katie: 18L (window), Main Cabin Extra

Our plane (N717AN) puling up to the gate (D27)
Boarding was scheduled to begin at 11:45am for our flight to Hong Kong. However, we could see gate D27 from the elevated Admirals Club, and our plane had not yet pulled up to the gate. As we saw a large AA plane leaving the maintenance hanger, Katie received an email and text from American saying our departure was being delayed by 50 minutes to 1:15pm.
Everyone crowding around the gate before boarding began 
As has seemingly become common for AA international flights, boarding was unorganized and passengers treated it as a free-for-all.  The gate agents started turning away people trying to board early and things became more orderly. We boarded during Priority Elite boarding, and our part of the cabin was surprisingly full. Boarding went rather quickly though – seemingly finishing 30 minutes before scheduled push back.
Our row for the 16+ hour flight
We booked the left-side aisle and window in the last row of the 3-3-3 arranged Main Cabin Extra (MCE) – seats 18J (aisle) and 18L (window). As we expected from the AA seat map, we did have a passenger in the middle seat – a quiet Asian guy. The plane seemed completely full – except for maybe 1 or 2 seats.
One of the flight attendants serving the economy cabin seemed to be the Cantonese-speaker for our flight since she translated all announcements. From her interactions with the other crew, she seemed to be far less experienced than the other FAs (JT spoke with one who was in her 28th year) – the benefits of being bi-lingual!
JT chatted up a few FAs during boarding – both in the far-back and mid-back galleys. A couple of them were very concerned that this flight wasn’t going to “make”. As this flight is an out-and-back (flies from DFW to HKG and then back to DFW with the same crew), this would have been a significant loss of pay for them if the flight didn’t happen – as they only get paid for flight hours. As all of the other scheduled flights already had crews assigned, they would just have to head home for a couple of days without pay.

As always, the small MCE section feels isolated from the remainder of economy – although the only thing that truly separates the cabin is a small wall. We especially like the last row of this section since there is a bulkhead behind these seats. This means you can recline without worrying about having anyone behind you – and you can store some items under your seat, leaving the seat in front of you free to stretch your legs.

We ended up departing 10 minutes ahead of our delayed time, reducing our delay to 40 minutes.

IFE screens were bright, but looked faded from the side, providing a bit of privacy
 Cheese ravioli lunch
Shortly after take-off, drink service began in the front of the MCE cabin. Katie ordered champagne – which she learned on her Johannesburg MR is stocked sparsely in economy – and was originally told she would have to pay extra for it. But JT asked for clarification on the charge, and the other flight attendant told the flight attendant serving Katie that champagne and wine are complementary. However, hard liquor is not complementary. Since each cart stocks only two mini champagne bottles, it was not surprising to hear that when a passenger in the last middle row of MCE attempted to order champagne, the cart was already out (just 4 rows into the first service!).

The IFE and charging were excellent, as expected. Window seat view sucked (blurry, no details or city names) though on my Maps feature (although it looked normal on others). In general, no city names (except Hong Kong and Dallas) were ever shown in any of the map views.

Mid-flight snack
Dinner was a choice of pork and fried rice or cheese pasta. Having learned from experience to generally avoid meats on American, we both choose the cheese pasta.

This was an excellent choice! We were surprised how good this meal ended up being. The salad – crisp lettuce with fresh sweet peppers – was tasty. The appetizer was edamame. Although not salty, it was a fun Asian-inspired dish. The cheese ravioli was pretty good – American should strive for all of their ‘cheese pasta’ dishes to resemble this one. It was well cooked albeit bland. The bread was nothing special, but we were happy that the butter was soft and spreadable. The meal ended with a pre-packaged Double Crunch Brownie that was surprisingly soft and savory. Overall, this is certainly one of the better AA economy meals we’ve experienced.

The crew serving the MCE cabin were generally easy to deal with. A flight attendant passed through every 30 minutes or so, although never with drinks.

Arrival meal
Our flight took a very northern path on its 16 hour journey. Katie spent the first third of the flight listening to podcasts before deciding to sleep for the rest of the flight.

The mid-flight meal was a box with a small ham roll and a rice crackers trail mix as well as salted caramel gelato. The ham roll was better than on previous flights, the rice crackers mix was interesting (but decent) and the gelato was good. The biggest annoyance of this meal was attempting to eat the gelato using the mini flat spoon from the cup’s lid.

We both went back to sleep after the mid-flight snack. Katie managed to sleep until the arrival meal.

Transfer security right around the corner
The arrival meal was ‘chicken and rice’ or ‘ham sandwich’. We both chose the ham sandwich, which ended up being a ham, egg, and cheese sandwich. Both entree choices came with a small fruit cup (1 strawberry, 2 small melon slices, and 1 small citrus slice) and mini bottle of water. Although not good, this meal was certainly edible.

Overall, we were impressed with the experience on this flight. In particular, the food quality and flight attendant friendliness/attitude exceeded our expectations (which, admittedly, were very low). The hard product was exactly what we expected, outside of Katie’s lacking Map program.

When landing, our plane was requested to circle for 20-30 minutes before final approach due to ‘weather’. When we finally did land, it was indeed bumpy as we landed rather far down the runway in a strong crosswind.

Katie enjoyed seeing the mountains and city during landing – this Hong Kong approach was the same as her first last summer and brings back good memories from our trip last November.

Deplanning was quick as we utilized two exits. Transfer was extremely quick as we only needed to pass through a security screening checkpoint before being deposited into the departures area.

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