After flying Etihad first class, their First Apartment, and Singapore Suites (cabin to ourselves!) I actually had a little bit of trepidation about flying American Airlines business class home across the Atlantic.
Not because of the seat, American Airlines has some of the very best business class seats across the Atlantic, certainly on their Boeing 777-300ERs, Boeing 787-9s, and some 777-200s (with the Super Diamond seats, though I don’t mind at all the Concept D seats which are also fully flat with direct aisle access). The biggest reason was the pillow, American’s thin pillow, so I fully prepared like any good 13 year old girl and brought my own. (New Casper sleep products should help, but even here American is chintzy, transatlantic business will get only a pillow and duvet.)
I checked in at Paris Charles de Gaulle and found a snaking line, I’m not a fan at all of American’s understaffed lines for all premium and elite passengers at outstations (even busy ones like Paris with plenty of premium passengers).
I was asked a series of ‘security’ questions, what I had done on the trip and what I do for a living, by someone not at all qualified to evaluate my responses. I got SSSS’d for extra screening at the gate.
Then it was off to the lounge, I decided to use the Cathay Pacific lounge instead of the American Admirals Club although the two are actually surprisingly similar especially in the morning before Cathay’s Noodle Bar opens (it opens just as the Paris flight starts to board).
Agents questioned me on entering, as a oneworld business class and top tier elite member, “the American lounge is over there” “yes but I prefer to use this one” “oh ok.”
It was less crowded than the American lounge would have been at this time, but even the furnishings and and views are similar.
There’s hot food and cold items as well, plus self serve beverages.
Sadly, no noodle bar for me this morning and that’s the only real plus feature of the lounge.
I half wanted to wait around for some noodles that I’d have to eat quickly, but my flight was departing from the other end of the airport, it seemed as though I had to walk all the way to Orly from the lounge in order to board.
Since I was SSSS’d I was pulled aside on the jetway. There was a line of people being SSSS’d. One line was for economy passengers and another line for business class passengers. Business passengers got priority to have their bags opened, completely unpacked and repacked.
Once onboard I made it into the fantastic 787-9 business class cabin, which I’d flown in before but am always happy with. The Super Diamond business class seat is one of the better base business class products in the sky. It was the most advanced business class that Qatar offered, for instance, before the introduction of their new Qsuite.
The only thing American’s version lacks is any sort of privacy screen between the two middle seats that you can put up or down. There’s no privacy at all for a passenger traveling solo in a middle seat. Fortunately that wouldn’t matter on this flight as I was together with my wife.
I had a look around the seat.
I then had a look at the menu for the flight. Since I didn’t get any noodles…
Then I opened up the amenity kit to see what was inside.
We were finally fully boarded a few minutes late once all the extra security flagged passengers were off the jetway and onto the aircraft and we pushed back.
I popped open a book for our taxi and takeoff. On this flight I was finishing up the Sebastian Mallaby biography of Alan Greespan. I kept going with it because I was determiend to finish before making it back to the States, one less thing to travel with. I’m a bit strange in that I don’t carry a tablet, just my laptop and phone, and don’t really do ebooks.
I read until it was time for lunch. I just had water to drink. Here I’ll say that American’s spirits and whiskies are fine for business class, so are their soft drinks. I don’t love Minute Maid juices but there you go.
Fresh Poo coffee is something that United ditched (for Illy) but American still serves. It continues the theme that American is often last to and gets dragged to the product improvement party by their competitors, resisting as long as they can (like bedding, United’s Saks bedding is more consistent across business class and Delta has offered Westin bedding for some time).
And while I wish that American would invest a bit more in premium cabin wine, if all they’re going to do is provision a retail $15 cab they’ve actually picked a decent one. At the same time if they’re going to serve a $15 Australian red, even from this winemaker, I’d just assume it was a shiraz. These are minor quibbles however.
Although the caprese salad and wedge salad are listed as separate courses, they were served together and were enjoyable.
I had pre-ordered my entree, the beef tenderloin with oxtail ravioli. I figured it was a safe choice even if steak usually comes out overcooked (and it wasn’t exactly as if the flight attendant asked for my preferred temperature).
So imagine how shocked I was when the dish arrived and it was fantastic. Seriously, I thought American had tossed out its catering and replaced it with something else entirely (and not at LAX). The steak was perfectly done, a little more cooked than I normally like it but for the grade of meat and inflight probably the right choice. And the ravioli was delicious.
I then had an ice cream sundae for dessert with a glass of baileys to accompany.
I read some more and watched television and after perhaps two and a half hours we were halfway through the flight and I decided to take a brief nap so that I’d be able to keep going until my regular bedtime at home in the States despite coming in from Europe.
Nailed the Halfway Point Exactly for Laying Down to Rest
I made my bed with the blanket as a mattress pad.
Then I got my bag down out of the overhead where I’d stashed an extra pillow, and I laid down to rest for a couple of hours. I got up, caught up on work for a bit with internet pretty functional, and flight attendants came around with the second service.
I asked for the ‘barbecue beef cheese toastie’ though I should really know better. It’s supposed to approximate comfort food, but it really doesn’t. I took a bite, bite and a half, and called it good, ate the fruit that accompanied it while waiting to have my tray picked back up.
Soon enough we were on the ground in Dallas where I’d make the quick pass through Global Entry, and reprinting my connecting boarding pass got me PreCheck for my final segment home to Austin despite having been SSSS’d in Paris.
Service on the flight was fine though unremarkable, fairly assembly-line like but this is business class and they have a lot of people to serve. Every interaction was pleasant enough if not particularly memorable.
As long as the flight isn’t served by a Boeing 767 (seats too narrow) or 757 (no direct aisle access, using B/E Diamond seats that United is replacing with Polaris), I’d choose American Airlines business class over pretty much anything else that’s flying transatlantic. They offer really good seats and functional internet. And my main meal really surprised me by how good it was. They’re also improving the bedding.
Ultimately I consider business class to be primarily about the seat, and that’s just where American shines. I prefer them over British Airways, Lufthansa, Delta (I haven’t yet flown the new Delta One suite headed mostly to Asia), KLM, and I prefer them of course over Air France’s angled A380s though not their reverse herringbone direct aisle access 777s.