Updated 12/22/2015 @ 4:38pm PT
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With critters, music, food, gifts, and didgeridoos on hand, American Airlines celebrated its inaugural flight from Los Angeles to Sydney last Thursday, marking the first time the airline has directly flown to Australia from the contiguous 48 states with its own aircraft, this route featuring its flagship Boeing 777-300ER.
But even hard-core AvGeeks would be hard pressed to focus on the 777 on the other side of the windows when there was a baby kangaroo (WHAT?!)…
The carrier had previously served Sydney from Dallas with a stop in Honolulu, but that route ended in 1992 and American has since relied on oneworld partner Qantas for service to Australia through codesharing.
This new flight is part of an larger cooperative trans-Pacific strategy between American and Qantas; the shift of one of the LAX frequencies to American freed up the aircraft for Qantas to resume non-stop service between Sydney and San Francisco, which it suspended in 2011.
To match Qantas’ standards, American introduced enhanced service and amenities in business class not found on other routes, such as pajamas and additional meal choices. Complimentary Five-Star Service is also being mulled for first class passengers.
“We’re really committed to growing at LAX,” said Kyle Mabry, Managing Director of Global Sales for American’s West Region. “We’re excited about next year because we will add a couple of great routes that we’ve already announced, including Auckland and [Tokyo] Haneda, and that is the focus, definitely, of this hub in L.A.”
American’s new service to New Zealand from Los Angeles will commence in June of 2016 using the Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner. The new LAX-Tokyo Haneda service will begin on February 11, making it twice daily flights to Toyko from Los Angeles, with the other flight servicing Tokyo Narita from LAX. Uncorroborated rumors suggest that American may the cease LAX-Tokyo Narita flight at some point, with access to Narita continuing to be available through oneworld partner Japan Airlines.
“We want to build a really robust hub,” Mabry continued. “Where we’ll go next, we’re not sure… right now, we’re looking at a lot of opportunities. The new aircraft that are coming on board our fleet are actually great additions because they allow us to fly to places economically that might not have worked before, so it opens a whole new set of horizons that we’re really still evaluating right now. The opportunities are limitless.”
“This [flight to Sydney] really is significant to our growth into the Asia-Pacific region,” added Juan Carlos Liscano, Managing Director of Operations at LAX for American. “It’s really a statement to our belief that Los Angeles is the gateway to the Pacific, and this is our access to the fifth continent out of LAX Airport for American Airlines customers.”
Speaking of customers, the excitement level in the departure lounge before the inaugural flight was palpable, highlighted in no small part by the photo op with the baby kangaroo (or, “joey” for those Australians) whose name was, appropriately enough, “Sydney.” There was a constant queue for the photo booth, and many waiting were not actually flying to Sydney (the city). In speaking to some of the passengers waiting in line for Sydney (the kangaroo), there were a wide range of thoughts regarding the inaugural flight:
- Jose Kirchner, who also goes by the handle JDiver on the frequent flying forum Flyertalk: He purposely booked a seat knowing that this flight was the inaugural. He was connecting onto Perth for a few days before returning home to Sacramento.
- Adriana and her son, who arrived on the inbound flight from Miami, with Los Angeles as their final destination: They said that the crew on her flight announced something about the new onward service to Sydney; however, they did not expect to walk into a party atmosphere. “We had no idea. It was surprising to see all this, but it’s cool.”
- Solara, who is from Costa Rica and lives in Los Angeles: She was heading to Sydney for a week, and her father had mentioned that it was the inaugural flight when he booked it for her.
- Married couple Jake and Ashley, going to Brazil: “We came from San Francisco,” said Jake, “and we’re on our way to Miami. And then we saw a kangaroo, and we were like, ‘well, I guess we gotta make a pit stop.’ I said, ‘I think that’s a kangaroo over there…’ [Ashley:] WHAT?!”
- Then there were Tim and Kelsey, actually flying to Sydney: They booked their tickets on the Qantas website and happen to be on this flight. “We had absolutely no idea, we were wondering [what was going on]… this is American to Sydney?” When asked whether they saw Sydney (the kangaroo), their response: “A real kangaroo…?”
Aside from poor Tim and Kelsey, the common thread was that nobody had any idea that they would be taking pictures with a kangaroo that day, but they were all very excited about it. Along with Sydney (the kangaroo), there was also a skink and a lizard representing Australia’s diverse fauna.
As for having a taste of Australia, a buffet station was set up with meat pies, croissant rolls, and Aussie-favorite “Lamingtons,” which are cubes of sponge cake coated in chocolate and rolled in coconut. A live DJ was playing Australian folk music as well as playing his didgeridoos. There was also a ribbon-cutting with comically-large scissors that surely would not make TSA so happy.
Just before boarding started, Mabry and Liscano took a couple of minutes to thank everyone for being part of the celebration and speak a few words about the flight, the 20-year partnership with Qantas, and American’s buildup at LAX. Shortly thereafter, the announcement was made and passengers started to queue up for boarding. Everyone on the flight received a commemorative blanket, and a few received gift bags containing memory foam neck pillows, aboriginal-style keychains, and even a few rugby balls.
At last, it was time to send the flight on its way.
Author’s Note: I myself will be taking this flight in the very near future for a personal trip, and will be writing up a review, so please stay tuned!
Correction: A previous version of this story indicated that American would cease operating LAX-NRT when it makes the switch to HND. It has been clarified that as of right now, American’s schedule shows both flights in operation, and that the cessation of the NRT flight is an unconfirmed rumor.
So what’s this about a gift bag?
Well, one lucky winner will receive a gift bag complete with a memory-foam pillow, keychain, blanket, and tote bag. Another winner will receive a blanket. Leave a comment (or two) below for your chance to win.
Giveaway rules: Open to anyone with a U.S. mailing address, 18 or older. One lucky commenter will win a gift bag, courtesy of American Airlines, and another will win a commemorative blanket. To enter, just leave a comment below. Maximum two entries per person. For those with multiple comments, only the first two will count. Winners will be randomly selected on January 9, 2016 by a random number generator from Random.com. Winners will be announced on January 9 and contacted for mailing address. Prizes must be mailed to a U.S. address. If, after five days, a prize is unclaimed or cannot be sent, another winner will be selected. All decisions are final, all rights reserved. By entering this giveaway, you agree to the aforementioned terms.