My ticket from Paris to Minneapolis, via Philadelphia, cost me approximately 50,000 AAdvantage Miles and $149.50 in taxes and fees in Business and First.
After relaxing in the Cathay Pacific First and Business Class lounge at Paris, I made my way to the gate, which was actually quite the journey from the lounge itself. The lounge, as I explained in my previous post, is located at the intersection of Terminals 2A and 2C, so the trek over to the Satellite Terminal (our boarding gate was A39) took more time than I had expected.
Fortunately, I arrived in time for boarding, and Business Class passengers were still the only group being processed. The gate area itself was full of gate lice and was quite chaotic.
American’s Airbus A330-300s feature 28 open Suites in Business Class, with a 20.5 seat width and a 48″ seat pitch. It measures up to 80″ in length, which is perfectly adquate for slightly taller travelers. These are the US Airways Envoy suites that were introduced in 2009. The largest selling point of the seat was the direct aisle access enabled by each of the suites, with US Airways being the first carrier to launch the “reverse herringbone” concept as part of this configuration. With the seats facing towards the cabin windows, it offered the perfect blend of privacy as well as exterior views of the aircraft, which I did not find to be the case when I flew Virgin Atlantic in Upper Class earlier this year.
Boarding was smooth and straightforward, and as I settled into the Business class cabin, I felt a nice relief from being able to turn to the left instead of the right. On one of my prior flights from Paris, where I was seated in Economy, the aircraft boarded from the front of the plane (since it was a United flight and we were out of Terminal 1) and it was probably annoying for the First and Business class customers to have all cabins boarding through their area.
At first glance, the seat was very comfortable. It features plenty of stowage spaces. Even though it is several years old, it does not show any signs of aging. Customers seated in Business were offered pre-departure drinks of champagne, orange juice or water. I had all three.
What I liked most, above all, was how organized and straightforward everything was. I was seated in 2H, and by the time I boarded, I knew where all of the tools were located in order to access my PTV, menus, amenity kits and adjust the seat controls within 60 seconds. The seat felt VERY comfortable from the second that I placed myself into it. Finally, although a small detail, the wood paneling in the cabin felt soothing.
Taxi, Take-off and Menu
We pushed back fairly quickly, albeit 19 minutes behind schedule. Due to strong headwinds, we would actually be adding an additional 25 minutes to our journey into Philadelphia that afternoon, ultimately arriving 44 minutes late into PHL.
I noticed that as we taxied, we went past an Air France Concorde on display at CDG. Any trivia fans know why this is posted here?
We lifted off into blue skies — much nicer than the drab and dreary weather in Paris that morning.
I was excited for the meal service on-board today’s flight. I had heard that the catering on American was supposed to be phenomenal on long-haul flights, ex-Paris.
Today’s flight would feature two meals: a main lunch service followed by a light meal prior to arrival. The main meal started with a Hummus and Pita plate, followed by a seasonal greens salad. For the Entrees, customers had four choices between Blue Cheese-Crusted Tenderloin, Jalapeno Chicken with Cream Sauce, Tomato and Olive Crusted Tilapia, or Vegetable Korma.
In between services, a dessert menu entailed of a Traditional Ice Cream Sundae, Gourmet Cheese Plate or Pecan Tart.
For the second service, customer could choose between a Grilled Vegetable Flatbread and a Charcuterie plate.
I didn’t delve much into the drinks section just simply because I planned to have a few more mimosas on this flight before sleeping, rather than try any beer or wines. To be quite frank, the list didn’t seem above ordinary or mind-blowing: for beers, they had Budweiser products, Dos Equis, Sam Adams and Heineken. Surprisingly, they probably offered more variety on domestic flight in coach to customers rather than on international to Business customers.
Once we reached cruising altitude, we were served our first round of beverages with a selection of warm nuts. I decided to continue my mimosa train as I dined, given the fact that I wanted to get a nice buzz going before I ultimately fell asleep.
The next course featured the Arabic Mezze Appetizer, which was probably one of the more solid parts of the meal. It consisted of warm pita, hummus, dolma, tabbouleh, olives and a side of pretzel bread. The salad was relatively standard, but contained some nice additions in the form of feta cubes and toasted almonds.
For the main dish, I had the blue-cheese crusted beef tenderloin, which was served with rosemary jus, broccoli mashed potatoes and sauteed carrots.
Unfortunately, I should have tempered my expectations: the beef was severely overcooked. It was not possible to enjoy it fully, because it was basically a step below being burnt.
For dessert, I went with the ice cream sundae, with the works. It was, along with the appetizer, one of the only redeeming components of the overall meal service. I enjoyed a baileys with it as my, “night cap.”
Prior to arrival, roughly one hour before landing, we were given a light meal. I chose the Grilled Vegetable Flatbread with a side salad and shortbread cookies.
In one word, I would describe this meal as inedible. The flat bread was basically uncooked, as it was essentially a microwaved pizza that had been heated up and served on fine china. It was probably one of the most putrid dishes I’ve ever had on an airplane (including meals I’ve been served in Economy). The hot wrap that U.S. airlines serve in coach on Westbound transatlantic flights taste better than this.
The salad and cookies were good, I guess. I had a ginger ale with this to wash the taste out of my mouth.
Aside from the meal services, I used this flight to sleep. I probably secured a good 5 hours of continuous sleep during the entire journey, which is pretty incredible given that I have difficulty sleeping on flights.
I attribute this entirely to the seat. The seat itself is so comfy and really is perfect for getting the right amount of rest. I felt that I slept better in this seat than I did in Asiana’s First Class Suite that I had flown from New York to Seoul a few days prior. Since I slept the entire time, I did not play around much with the entertainment system.
The crew on this flight were pleasant, but nothing above ordinary.
Upon arrival in Philly, it was a LONG walk to the Customs and Boarder Patrol Area, but fortunately, thanks to Global Entry, I sped through the process and then attempted to rush to see if I could get on an earlier, but delayed, flight to MSP. Although I sacrificed my First Class seat, I managed to get on and arrive into Minneapolis a few hours earlier than planned.
American Airlines Business Class: Bottom Line
If you are flying on a L-US Airbus A330 in Business Class, the hard product is fantastic. The seat is extremely comfortable, private and elegant, while simple. The soft product, on the other hand, leaves a bit more to be desired. The meal service was very hit-or-miss. I wish that I could say that I enjoyed the food service, but overall, it was a 5/10.
That being said, U.S. carriers, particularly American, are not known for providing the best meal services in the industry. However, American has recently hired Dallas-based Chef Julian Barsotti to design some of its in-flight menus, so hopefully, improvements have already began.
For the price that I paid, however, flying in Business on this segment was highly worthwhile for the sleep factor alone. I would definitely do it again.