Written by Mark Smith. Published on .
As the largest airline in the world for passenger numbers, number of aircraft in their fleet, and how many destinations a passenger airline serve, I knew it wouldn’t be too long until I got to experience the American Airlines business class product. So earlier this year when I visited Miami, I booked myself a return flight on AA38, their Boeing 777-300ER between MIA and LHR.
This review is actually the second of two reviews, the first being the outbound leg with British Airways, and this the return journey with American Airlines.
I apologise for taking my time in getting this review out, but I promise that this American Airlines business class review may just have a surprise or two in store!
I’d had a fantastic time in Florida, so much so that I’d arrived late at Miami International, leaving almost no time for the lounge. My heart sank when I saw the volume of people in the check-in area, but as a stroke of luck I enquired if I could squeeze through with one of the assistants.
It may have been because of the time of my flight. It may have been because of the lack of others using it. Or it may even have been my sunny disposition and charming demeanour. Whatever it was that swayed the situation in my favour, being allowed past the barrier into the Flagship ‘First’ check-in counter in its own private and secluded area was something not to be passed up!
Using the Flagship’s priority security line to expedite the process through to the airside, the entire process from arriving to sitting in the Flagship Lounge took no more than a couple of minutes… a benefit usually of only first class passengers. The lounge in the North Terminal is only recently renovated and as such the entrance was still under construction, making passengers walk down a service corridor before taking an elevator to above the concourse.
First impressions of the Flagship Lounge is its size. Spanning both sides of the concourse, with a viewing area to look down on the passengers below, the more I explored the larger it seemed to get. Around every corner were further seating areas, quiet zones, business centres, and even a theatre room. Being a hub for a lot of American Airlines flights it was quite busy, but due to its space and cleverly designed corners and nooks, it never felt crowded. I took my place in the deep and comfortable lounge chairs overlooking the runways and was tempted by a light meal from the buffet of seafood, sliced meats, cheeses, and salad. Paired with a glass of white wine from the extensive range at the bar, I quickly relaxed from the rushed arrival.
Before leaving the lounge, I noticed in the back corner a specially divided area accessed through a black automated door. On closer inspection, this was American Airlines’ first class dining area and although I was curious, I must have used up all my luck at the check-in counters.
Time to board and being a 4 class B777 I was part of the second group to be called, first class being, as the name suggests, first. I was welcomed courteously by the cabin crew and directed to my seat 12G. I had selected my seat late and the flight was very full so I had to settle for not having a single seat by the window, but in a 1-2-1 configuration, every seat still has direct aisle access. The dark grey fabrics and woodgrain highlights gave an immediate sense of luxury, something missing from the BA flight earlier in the week, and the angle of the seating meant there was ample room to stretch out as well as on side tables.
With a glass of wine in hand to settle in as we taxied out of Miami, I explored the ample personal storage space and functions of both the seat and the inflight entertainment system. Briefly interrupted by the crew, they took my order of poached shrimp remoulade with a baby spinach and arugula salad, Korean braised short ribs with basmati rice and kimchi pickled red cabbage for main, and a selection of gourmet cheeses for dessert. The meal took about 90 minutes from ordering to the final dessert plate being delivered meaning I didn’t have a chance to feel hungry but neither did I feel rushed. The food and wine were excellent too. With increased competition and higher expectations from customers, airlines have to take food seriously and American Airlines performed well. At the end of the meal, I was also asked if I would like to be woken for breakfast before landing, which I declined as I usually sleep light and was sure to be awake anyway.
With dining over I relaxed with a movie. The large seatback screen had great resolution, was easily used, and the selection was fantastic, a big point of difference between American Airlines business class and my experience earlier in the week. Reclining my seat into a comfortable position to watch, I soon started to drift off, so lowered the seat into its fully flat bed and closed my eyes. The bed is supportive and remarkably comfortable, although I was woken several times by the cabin crew walking down the aisle throughout the night with trolleys delivering drinks to passengers, and the lighting was never really dark enough to make for a great sleep. I ended up giving up and being awake several hours before arrival.
As the cabin crew began serving breakfast, and although I was clearly awake and sitting upright, they did not offer me any breakfast. Now I realise that I had said that I didn’t want to be woken up for breakfast, but I thought that if I was awake they would at least offer me some rather than ignore me completely. Easily rectified though when I asked for a cooked breakfast and was brought it promptly.
Just before landing, the staff handed me a card explaining where to find the arrivals lounge at Terminal 3, and then it was collecting my luggage which arrived promptly with the priority service business class receives. Showered and with a glass of fresh juice in hand at the arrivals lounge, my American Airlines business class experience came to an end.
So which did I prefer? Ba or American Airlines?
There are distinct benefits to making American Airlines your choice for your next business class flight. Firstly, the business class cabin is spacious, comfortable, and has excellent entertainment options. Secondly, the arrivals lounge is an excellent touch for those needing to hit the ground running. All of these features were far superior to what I experienced when I reviewed the British Airways cabin. What I didn’t expect was a lounge that was well catered but felt a little generic, and the noisy and bright cabin that made sleep difficult even with a comfortable lie flat bed. In this regards, BA would definitely be my preferred choice.
In my opinion, I did the trip the wrong way around. I would have preferred a day flight with American Airlines where I could utilise the entertainment system better and enjoy the dining and space to simply relax. Then take an overnight flight on BA where the service and atmosphere make all the difference when trying to sleep.
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