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Old 3rd June 2017, 01:56 PM   #1
yflyer
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Default Gibsons, Ostra, and Flying Flat on a One Hour Flight: AA Transcon Airbus 321 BOS-JFK

Last October, I spent a week in Chicago, Boston and New York, spending just a day or so in each city (I got to the USA on Finnair via Helsinki, previously covered here.).

Apart from several interesting meals, including dinner at Gibsons in Chicago and Ostra in Boston, and an ORD airport run, I got to check out AA's transcon configured A321, which must be one of the most pleasant A321's to fly in anywhere in the world.

I flew AA's three-class transcontinental A321 from BOS to JFK. This busy route has 15 or so nonstop flights a day, operated by AA as well as JetBlue and Delta. This sector has a scheduled time of around 1 hr 25 min. The flight time is less than an hour, making it quite similar to SIN-KUL in profile. In fact the flight distance between BOS-JFK and SIN-KUL are almost identical at about 186 miles / 300km, although the scheduled time for SIN-KUL is a shorter 55 min, possibly due to greater airport/airspace congestion, or differences in routing, on the BOS/JFK route.

Of course, being yflyer, my ticket was an economy ticket. How did I end up flying flat? Read on to find out!

Last edited by yflyer; 4th June 2017 at 12:18 PM..
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Old 3rd June 2017, 02:19 PM   #2
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This TR starts at ORD. (To skip ahead to the AA BOS-JFK flight, click here.)

I was just there for a one day, and spent the night at the Aloft Chicago O'Hare before flying out to Boston the next day. Not a lot to say about the Aloft -- the brand is so consistent, each Aloft is almost like any other (In North America, at least.). And being an airport hotel, it was in the middle of nowhere.

Nowhere? Well, not exactly true. The Aloft was next to O'Hare airport, in an area with shopping, factory outlets, restaurants, a cinema, and a convention centre. And there was a branch of Gibsons Steakhouse, which HUGE AL had previously recommended.

But knowing the size of steaks in Chicago, I had to burn off a few calories before dinner, and so I decided to head out for a run first. Where to go? I opened Google Maps and did a quick terrain analysis. To the west, the airport...to the right, Catherine Chevalier Woods...and were those trails on the map? It looked very promising, and quite straightforward.

It was already getting dark when I headed out. I headed out onto the sidewalk and jogged slowly eastwards, and headed along the edge of the forested area, trying to find a way into the woods.

Hmmm...fences, no paths, signs or any bridge across the river into the woods themselves. No clear path that I could find from anywhere near either the Donald Stephenson Convention centre, or even the Hyatt, as I ran northwards towards the Kennedy Expressway.

The woods were dark and a little forbidding. But there must be trails in there somewhere...or some sort of path or entrance. I am typically not averse to a little "bashing" through bushes or forest to get to a trail, and I stepped off the asphalt behind the Hyatt and stepped into the forested area to try and find a trail into the woods.

But I stopped cold when I saw the dark silhouette of a large animal about 10 meters ahead. Now that I did not expect. Was that a deer up ahead? Sure looked like one! And by then the sun had set, and it was quite dark. I ran along the edge of the woods to look for another way in. I headed south along the edge of the woods towards W Lawrence Avenue, eventually running out of pavement, and running along a narrow dirt strip, with cars whizzing by. But no way into the forest, and no trails either on the enter western length of the woods. This was not working.

No...I would have to abort the plan. A run through the Catherine Chevalier Woods would have to wait for another time. I spent the rest of the run clocking mileage along the pavements of the commercial lots in the area. Boring as hell, although at least it was after hours, with the streets quite deserted. My route below, starting and ending at the Aloft. Just over 6km, with the deer sighting probably at the 1.5km mark.



Conclusion? An exceedingly boring run, a strong challenger to a recent one in CDG, for title of dullest run ever...

I made a mental note to return another time to do another run (In daylight!) through the woods, with proper route planning next time. Some times just winging it and heading for an open-ended run without planning a route works. But not always, and not that day.

A quick shower back into the hotel, and then I headed out for a short walk to Gibsons Steak House, just down the street from the Aloft.

Last edited by yflyer; 4th June 2017 at 12:28 PM..
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Old 3rd June 2017, 02:45 PM   #3
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Gibsons seems to follow the same format as other great American steakhouses, although the vibe there is a little more raw, perhaps even more authentically local, with more Chicago flavour, than that other iconic steakhouse, Mortons.

The menu has a nice selection of typical steakhouse starters, but is dominated by large slabs of meat.







Your meal starts with a menu presentation, including a display of some of the cuts of meat on on the menu that day. Again not unlike the elaborate menu presentation that Mortons does, but less fussily delivered.



Some of the cuts of meat looked quite amazing.



I placed an order for a steak, and began my meal with an ice cold martini...



Massive portion of bread (And butter...)...



My appetite was (is...) not big, but I was keen to have something as a starter. I noticed that the menu offered shrimp and oysters individually...

Would they mind if I ordered just one of each to try? "Sure!" my waiter replied. The waiters here were all exceptionally warm and friendly in a very informal, boisterous and loud way.



One shrimp and one oyster duly arrived on a bed of ice...



Good! An ice cold prelude to what was to come: a beautifully charred steak, a 13 oz New York Sirloin...



And this was one of the smaller cuts...

A wonderful steak, done a perfect medium rare...



I could not resist ordering a baked potato to accompany the steak. Not unexpectedly, the potato was gargantuan as well.


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Old 3rd June 2017, 02:56 PM   #4
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A steak like that had to be eaten with a suitable knife...



I simply had no space for desserts after that, but I did ask to look at the dessert menu...



The folks at the tables around me did manage dessert, and even they seemed surprised when massive slices of cake and "pie" showed up at their tables. One dessert portion could probably feed 4 people...

Quite a few folks were celebrating their birthday there, with many desserts coming out of the kitchen with a lit candle, and the waiters crowding round to sing a unique version of the happy birthday song.

A great dinner, and a place I would return to if I ever had a craving for steak!
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Old 3rd June 2017, 03:46 PM   #5
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The next day, after an early morning flight out of ORD, I found myself at the dinner table in Ostra in Boston. Ostra is a restaurant serving ultra-refined modern American/European cuisine, with fresh seafood being a speciality.



I was quite impressed by the large monkfish, nestled on crushed ice alongside the other fish on display. You don't often encounter monkfish outside of Japan and Korea.

Ambience was wonderful, with a spacious dining room, done in off-white, and separate bar/lounge area, where an outstanding jazz pianist was playing.



The day's menu...



...with an intriguing selection of starters, first courses and entrees...





I began with a Gruner Veltliner from Landhaus Mayer, an Austrian white wine, picked out from an extensive list of wines available by the glass...





A wonderful ciabatta-style bread with onion and potato topping...



For my first course, I opted for the sea bass tartare, topped with black truffle carpaccio...



Tartare AND truffle may seem like too much of a good thing, but these constituent ingredients worked well together, with a delicate texture and rich subtle flavour...



This went beautifully with the Gruner Veltliner...

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Old 3rd June 2017, 03:47 PM   #6
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Rather than have a single main, I opted for two starter-sized courses, beginning with a richly flavoured coastal fish soup...





...which had amazingly fresh seafood and a deep umami flavour...

...and then spaghetti with clams and garlic...



...which was another winner, with very plump clams.



This time round, I had space for dessert...



I picked the Snow Egg...



...and was not disappointed...a crisp meringue shell encasing tangy lemon curd mousse...heavenly!



I ended dinner with a chocolate praline.



A top restaurant. One of the nicest meals I have had in Boston.
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Old 3rd June 2017, 04:08 PM   #7
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My flight from Boston to New York was an early morning AA service.



This was just a 1+ hour flight, however it was operated by one of AA's transcontinental-configured Airbus A321. I am guessing this plane would then continue from JFK to SFO or LAX, where the full benefits of the 3-class configuration would be apparent.

On the lucrative US transcontinental routes, American Airlines' competitors include UA's P.S. (Premium Service...TR here) and Jetblue Mint (See Carfield's wonderful TR here.).

When I selected my seat on the self-service check-in kiosk in BOS, I was first presented with the usual 3-3 economy seat map on the A321. But I had itchy fingers and pressed the up and down arrows to scan other parts of the cabin.

What's this? There were seats configured 2-2 that were available for me to pick? I grabbed a bulkhead aisle seat in the 2-2 section.

I am not sure if these seats were open to all Y pax to select, or if it was because I had Oneworld Sapphire status, but I was quite happy to snag one of these seats. At that point, I had no idea what the cabin config looked like.

When I boarded, I was pleasantly surprised to find that this was not your ordinary A32x narrowbody config.

There was an F section, with the highly regarded Cirrus seats arranged 1-1 (These are what AA and other airlines use for longhaul J).



And then, there was J cabin configured in 2-2 using B/E Aerospace Diamond seats.



On today's short BOS-JFK sector, this J cabin was sold as economy. A very comfortable cabin for a short flight!

This was not unlike how in the "good old days" when SQ operated 3 class aircraft (Whether A310 or 772) but sold only F and Y tickets, and where it was sometimes possible to snag J seats on SQ's SIN-KUL service when flying on a Y ticket. (In those days, everyone had different strategies about how to get these SQ J seats allocated when flying on a Y ticket. Some folks said check in super early. Others said check in at the last minute. It all seemed quite random.)

Last edited by yflyer; 3rd June 2017 at 05:23 PM..
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Old 3rd June 2017, 04:15 PM   #8
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My seat was 6C, a bulkhead aisle seat.



Seat controls, including a button to recline to fully flat bed mode.



Reading light...



Universal A/C power, USB charging, and both 3.5mm and airline headphone sockets...



Large clear AVOD IFE screen...



...and handheld controller...



Take-off from BOS...

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Old 3rd June 2017, 04:18 PM   #9
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I explored the IFE, which had a good selection of movies and television...





...including episodes of the hit series Game of Thrones...



...where I rewatched highlights of Season 6...



A large and sturdy faux wood tray table...



Just drinks and a snack on this flight (Still far more than what SQ provides on the SIN-KUL sector,)


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Old 3rd June 2017, 04:33 PM   #10
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A very short flight, but there was still enough time for me to take a few pics of the seat in "seat" mode...



...and what is the use of a fully flat seat if you don't check out bed mode?

Now this was a 1 hour flight. I am pretty sure I was the only person who fully reclined the seat. Bed mode on this short sector? Other pax would look at you in a funny way. "What a sua ku" would be an appropriate Singlish expression. But if I didn't do it, this TR would not be complete, would it? Not an FAA violation either!



A very comfortable sleeping surface. On a transcon sector, it would probably be possible to get a few good hours of sleep. At least for those people who can sleep on planes. A surprising number of people I know cannot sleep on planes in any class of travel. Let's see if SQ's future A380 premium cabins can remedy that...

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Old 3rd June 2017, 04:40 PM   #11
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The bathrooms were done in stylish dark tones.



For those on the right side window seats, a very scenic flight along the East Coast and over Long island.





Views of Manhattan in the distance after landing at JFK...



At the gate...



A retro arcade machine in the JFK airside area after arrivals. A nice touch.



Overall a very pleasant flight. On an hour long sector, with a Y ticket, you could not have asked for more.

The fact that the J hard product was available to Y pax also highlights the occasional opportunity to fly in greater comfort than usual on some flights where airlines operate aircraft with cabin configs different from classes of travel sold. In the context of SQ, there are probably opportunities where aircraft with a PEY cabin fly routes where PEY tickets are not always sold -- there are probably opportunities where PEY seats are available to Y pax, e.g. SQ956 SIN-JKT, which is sometimes (Maybe always?) operated by an A350, although no PEY tickets are sold.

Back in Singapore, I googled Catherine Chevalier Woods, and found that it was indeed a forest preserve with a large deer population. My eyes weren't deceiving me when I thought I saw a deer ahead in the vegetation. There were trails and picnic areas, but none of these appear to be accessible from the Western side of the woods. You would need to access them from the South or Eastern sides of the woods. A run to plan for next time, then, during daylight hours.

As for Gibsons and Ostra, both of these are restaurants I would want to return to again. I would want to head to Gibsons for their steak, maybe with several other dining companions in order to share their gigantic desserts. As for Ostra, it is one of those places which I could return to over and over, just to try different things on their menu.

Thanks for reading!

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Old 6th June 2017, 02:46 PM   #12
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Default Gibson's…and the Galaga Machine

That New York on the display platter is looking kinda sad.

Mashed Potatoes and Creamed Spinach are the classics.

Told you that pie is INSANE HUGE!! LOL



Can't believe they want a dollar to play the old arcade machine.
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Old 6th June 2017, 07:52 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HUGE AL View Post
That New York on the display platter is looking kinda sad.

Mashed Potatoes and Creamed Spinach are the classics.
Yes, that was not the most well proportioned NY strip. I would have picked a different one for their display platter. But that T-bone was a thing of beauty.

OK next time round I will try the mash and spinach...

Quote:
Originally Posted by HUGE AL View Post
Told you that pie is INSANE HUGE!! LOL
And the way they stick the steak knife in it when they serve it is quite macabre...very Chicago though.

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Can't believe they want a dollar to play the old arcade machine.
I would't pay a dollar to play Galaga. But I would for Galaxians!
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Old 7th June 2017, 02:01 AM   #14
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Good to see AA finally doing something good with J class.

A few years too late but still great to see AA finally making movement in the same way United is now doing with Polaris. The US airlines have so much potential to do a lot better but they seem to be stuck on domestic competition with each other. The upgrades from economy to first class on Delta, Y to Y+ on United......of course when I'm upgraded I don't mind but there just seems to be something missing still.

Great photos, I want to try United to SFO one day but the 2x2x2 configuration just isn't appealing for such a long flight for the price you pay.
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Old 7th June 2017, 10:10 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mlee888 View Post
Great photos
Thanks, Mlee888!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mlee888 View Post
I want to try United to SFO one day but the 2x2x2 configuration just isn't appealing for such a long flight for the price you pay.

Yes 2-2-2 is not really state-of-the-art for business class these days. Still better than 3-3-3 in the Y cabin, though!


Quote:
Originally Posted by Mlee888 View Post
Good to see AA finally doing something good with J class.

A few years too late but still great to see AA finally making movement in the same way United is now doing with Polaris. The US airlines have so much potential to do a lot better but they seem to be stuck on domestic competition with each other.
I have actually been quite impressed with AA Y when I have flown them domestically in the US. More often than not, I have had new cabin products on their 738s, rather than the old cabin products, although HUGE AL insists it is pure luck. Of course this A321 was far and away the most comfortable domestic flight ever on AA.

Again, maybe just luck, but I have had pretty decent experiences on United too.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mlee888 View Post
The upgrades from economy to first class on Delta, Y to Y+ on United......of course when I'm upgraded I don't mind but there just seems to be something missing still.
Still waiting for United to give me an op-up. CX, BA, QF, LH, QR and SQ have all op-uped me at some point over the years, but not UA (Or EK). Probably too many of their own elites to upgrade before considering SQ*G.
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