Living It Up in New York City

Dec 03, 2014 Avatar Hilton Smith Hilton Smith

Opinions are all over the place regarding New York City.

I could live there if the weather extremes could be fixed and I was a lottery winner. In the meantime, I satisfy myself with the occasional visit. That always makes me fall in love again, as I go when the weather is almost always perfect.

This October did not disappoint.

I decided to explore American’s brand new First Class Flagship product for LAX to JFK on the uniquely designed A321T, with a 1-1 set-up seat wise on the aircraft.

The special manned International Flagship entrance at LAX was indeed a treat, and I was quickly escorted by private elevator to the security line and given top priority.

Then I had entrée to the American First Class Flagship lounge at LAX where I could relax until flight time. A full breakfast was offered.

I went downstairs for boarding and entered a very spacious cabin, with just ten lie flat First Class seats with lots of storage space.

I felt like I was on an international First Class flight. That feeling went away quickly as I found the two First Class flight attendants had two fellow AA employees traveling in the cabin.

They got a lot of attention; I was neither welcomed or called by name or really catered to the entire flight. I received the food and beverages as required, but nothing beyond that.

I enjoyed the seat and the movies. I got the feeling that I was a distraction for the attendants and I definitely know AA has work to do to make this new service really work.

Upon arrival at JFK, and after about a 15-minute wait, I took a taxi for the $52 flat rate, plus tolls, to The Four Seasons Hotel on West 57th Street. Here service was a completely different story, as I was made to feel welcome each and every time I spoke to an employee.

I had room 2501 with a King bed, a huge closet and a partial view of Central Park. Every aspect of the hotel was perfect, including the new lobby bar.

A late dinner with a friend that evening on the Upper West Side set up a long but fulfilling stroll back to the Four Seasons, past landmarks such as Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall, and even a detour to Times Square.

The unique energy of Manhattan is unduplicated.

During my stay I inspected two new hotels. The Park Hyatt is now open and a testament to new contemporary thinking: striking, colorful and comfortable.

The rooms are large and suites make up about half of the room count. It was impressive.

Equally impressive was The Quin, a more boutique style hotel with a nod to the performers at nearby Carnegie Hall, with artwork to match.

Over the weekend I did miles of subways and walking with visits to the High Line Park, Washington Square Park, Central Park and the Intrepid Museum with an actual British Airways Concorde on its flight deck.

How about a Korean food festival in Times Square or a slice in Chelsea? The possibilities are indeed endless and well worth a trip.

The most moving time was Sunday morning, when I went back to the 911 Memorial which I had seen before, as well as a first look at the newly opened 911 Museum. The museum requires paid admission at approximately $24.00, but I felt compelled to go. It was worth it and the exhibits, visuals and voices of that day could not have been better displayed. It was quiet and subdued inside, as it should be, and it brought back those memories. In the end, as I came up to ground level, I saw the magnificent new One World Trade Center Tower.

It was much better in person than what I saw in the earlier drawings, and it appears finished from the outside. That, along with the soaring roof of the Spanish Designed WTC Transportation Center, will make this a completely revised areas when completed.

At the end of the weekend, it was back to JFK to sample Delta’s new Business Elite Business service to LAX on a 9:00 p.m. Sunday night departure. Their new extension in JFK Terminal 4 is impressive, but with long walks. The new Sky Club is huge with an open terrace. Inside, it looks like a huge fancy concourse with lots of bright lights, but little warmth.

On board were lie flat seats on the B767-300ER aircraft. The staggered design eliminates any jumping over aisle customers.

On the down side, the seats next to the window have a large cavity to stick your lower body into which I felt a bit confining. I would go with the seats right on the aisle for a bit more room.

Service wise, it was more than I expected with a welcome aboard, being addressed by name and a full hot meal service at a 9:00 p.m. departure time, with some of the best presented and seasoned delights I have had for many years on any airline. The atmosphere was friendly and attentive and I even got a little sleep before landing.

Timing is important, but the Big Apple is still very big and welcoming. Let us hook you up today for a bite.

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