Reply To: American Airlines B767-300ER Business

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This was a flight from Miami to Madrid on April 24, 2013, and a return five weeks later.

We used the flagship lounge in Terminal E before heading over to D for the flight – no problem since it is an airside lounge. We were early for the 6.15pm flight so lunched there adequately.

We headed to the gate about 45 minutes before departure and it soon became clear something untoward was happening. There were a lot of Customs and Border Patrol people about as well as a couple of local cops. About 25 minutes before scheduled departure the gate agent announced maintenance were on board because “something had been found”. He continued with this message periodically as a sniffer dog boarded and a couple of CBP people stood around. We were eventually called at 7pm to find the jet way lined with maybe eight or nine uniformed and plainclothes officers, plus the dog, all looking menacingly at the passengers as they filed past.

Eventually everyone boarded but we then sat there for ages because the Captain still had paperwork to deal with (what he had been doing during the delay I have no idea). We eventually took off an hour and a half late. The Captain never mentioned the incident and flight crew when asked said “there was a maintenance issue”.

Why is it that airlines think they can insult customers’ intelligence? Do they not think adults can handle the truth? Clearly this was not maintenance. The single suitcase standing on its own some way from the plane as we pushed back bore testimony to that. Given that, we very nearly missed our connection at Madrid since the lost time was not made up.

We arrived at Terminal 4 as usual but our connection was out of Terminal 2 and anyone who has used Barajas will know that, whatever the airport’s strengths, speedy inter-terminal transfers are not among them when you have checked bags.

The plane – it must have been one of AA’s oldest and did not look too clean. I found the almost flat but not horizontal seat difficult to sleep in as did my wife. She found access to the aisle to go to the bathroom not easy and it would have been impossible had I not raised my seat and stood up to allow her out. This is not good enough for eastbound transatlantic night flights where sleep is necessary and compares unfavorably with European operators. It was a first for us on AA on a route we have used regularly for years.

Inflight entertainment. Another case of being behind the times and a somewhat inadequate attempt to deal with the matter. Business passengers have ceiling mounted screens as in the rest of the plane but are also offered tablets for use on the flight. I remember when the Eos, the loss of which airline is still a tragedy for those who enjoyed its innovations, provided something similar almost 10 years ago.

Fine in the AA case, except the power is provided on the back of the seat in front with the cable proving an additional challenge for window seat passengers trying to get out. Why can’t AA give you a screen which folds out of your seat like other airlines? Or at least provide the power from your own seat?

Food – excellent. Crew – jaded, maybe because of the need to wait around while all the customs people crawled over the plane.

Baggage – Thank God our bags were off in record time for Miami for our sprint and then bus across to the other terminal.

Return May 27, 2013. What a transformation! Aircraft parked at the nearest gate to the splendid Iberia lounge. Still the same poor seat though it was less important for a day flight. We pushed back early and arrived 25 minutes ahead of schedule. The cabin crew was outstanding. The food again excellent. The plane newer and looking more cared for. Very satisfactory.

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