Santiago – Miami
Booked on AA.com. An excellent website. Clear, well designed. Allows you to select your preferred seat at time of booking as well as hold reservations for free for 24hrs. You can even select your dinner main course from the menu 30 days before departure. Four hours before my flight departure AA sent me a text confirming the on time status of my flight as well as departure and arrival gate information.
At the airport/check in:
AA offers one daily flight to both Miami and Dallas from Santiago. They both depart within a couple hours of each other in the evening. Both are operated by 767-300 aircraft with a two class Business/Coach set up. There were four economy desks and two desks for Business/Sapphires/Emeralds. Check in was swift and we were airside within ten minutes.
AA has it’s own Admirals Club at Santiago airport. The lounge had a self service bar, some snacks (sandwiches and a hot soup), plenty of seating, free wifi and a Business Centre. As the terminal is quite compact and we had arrived early we decided to check out LAN’s two lounges at it’s home hub also. LAN’s decor was a bit more modern while Americans was very traditional.
All three lounges were practically identical in size and layout. Even the sandwiches and soups were exactly the same in each of the three lounges although LAN had a few extra food items (a cheese tray and a plate of sushi). But apart from that they were all much of a muchness.
The flight started boarding 40minutes before departure with priority given to Business Class and OneWorld Sapphire/Emeralds. We departed ontime.
– First impressions: in a word, crowded and grey. Maybe it’s because our LAN flight was on exactly the same aircraft type and seemed to offer vast amounts of personal space that we found AA’s Business Class a little ‘tight’.
– The seat: there are five rows of Business Class in rows 2-5 (row 2 is actually the front row) and they are six abreast (AB DG HJ). Our flight had AA’s angled-flat long haul product which is found on all of their 767-300’s and all their 777-200’s. There are four pre-set positions, a memory function and a unique styled tray table where half folds out from your armrest and the other half folds down from the seat in front. The seat seemed comfortable enough to sit in but the difference in pitch and personal space compared to LAN was instantly noticeable.
For sleeping, both of us found the seat poor. Apart from feeling like you are constantly sliding down, your feet fit in an alcove under the seat in front of you where there is very little space between your feet and the top of the alcove. I sleep on my side and found it impossible to get comfortable. I guess if you sleep on your back you may find it ok.
The armrests do not retract when the seat is flat either, so can feel quite narrow. The worst thing however is that if you are in a window seat there is no way you are getting out of there without disturbing your neighbor if s/he is in the ‘flat’ position. If you are traveling alone I would definitely avoid the window seats. Also row 2 has the galley and washrooms directly in front and row 6 has the economy cabin directly behind.
– Amenities/service flow: there was a nice wash bag, a bottle of water and a superb pair of Bose noise cancelling headphones at our seat when we boarded. Newspapers, menus and immigration forms were then distributed. Pre departure drinks were offered (a choice of OJ or champagne).
After take off a drinks were served with warm nuts. This was followed by hot towels. The flight attendant then took meal orders (in our case confirmed our pre-selected choices) and asked us if we wanted to be woken for breakfast. Dinner was then served before lights out for sleep (if you could get comfortable). Breakfast was served around 70 minutes prior to landing in Miami. Just prior to final approach the crew served chilled sparkling water with lemon.
– Catering: Definitely one of AA’s strengths. We were to be two hot meals on tonight’s flight, dinner and breakfast. The dinner starter was Smoked salmon with wasabi carpaccio. Followed by a mixed green salad with choice of dressing.
There were four main course choices: Chateaubriand with peppercorn sauce, zucchini, carrots and oven roasted potatoes. Coq au Vin with potato puree and haricots verts. Portuguese codfish with onions, potatoes and green olive tapenade. And Cavatelli pasta with puttanesca sauce. Desert was a made to order sundae complete with hot fudge, butterscotch, seasonal berries and nuts, or a cheese plate.
You could ‘Dine Upon Request’ at any point during the flight with the appetizer, main course and dessert served at once. The main courses were very generous in portion served on large plates usually found in F. The food was all plated in the galley and was of high quality. I had the fish which was a delicious. And the sundae was definitely decadent!
Breakfast was a choice of hot (Ham and cheese omelette) or continental.
– crew: the entire crew were Santiago based. Like their American colleagues we experienced on our AA JFK – Orlando they combined warmth and friendliness with a genuine desire to please and a pride to work for AA. Although I have to say it, the Santiago based crew did offer a small amount of Latin flair and were much better turned out in their uniforms than their American colleagues. They seemed very experienced with two of the crew in Business Class having badges on their uniforms that indicated they had done 30 years service with AA. They cracked jokes and at no point tried to cut corners or rush through the service. The Purser came to each passenger at the end of the flight and thanked us for flying American. The crew were great.
– IFE: I always download my own content onto my iPad when I travel but if IFE is important to you, you will likely be disappointed. AA offers a handheld Samsung Galaxy in Business Class. Content seemed decent enough but choices were limited and it is obviously not as convenient as having an integrated system. In fact the only aspect of the IFE I do enjoy, the moving map, was not available. Even worse if you are in ‘coach’. I had a wander around the aircraft and there are no PTV’s in coach, just ceiling mounted main screens. Leg room looked good for Y class though.
While AA’s current long haul seat is a disappointment their new seat on the 777-300 looks great. Combine that with wonderful food and crews that seem to take a real pride in their company and AA really could be a force to be reckoned with on the transatlantic market. I really think I would choose to fly them over any of the European airlines if I knew I would be on their newer aircraft.