21st February 2014 at 19:51 #547709
Anonymous21st February 2014 at 19:51 #547710
This was the first leg of a return trip to Austin via Dallas. I purchased the business class fare for the amazing price of €1014 on the Iberia site after being alerted to this by ChristopheL on the forum back in November. I have not flown on American for at least 7 years so this will be the impressions of an effective newcomer. I have noted the comments before on the forum about AA’s old cradle seat and indifferent service by the cabin crew so I went into this with suitably realistic expectations.
CHECK IN at CDG
I arrived about 90mins before my flight by shuttle bus from my hotel and made my way to terminal 2C. The AA check in area was quite chaotic and it wasn’t clear where the business class check-in was. On enquiring with an AA agent, I discovered it was downstairs where there was a much quieter area. Check in was conducted efficiently and my bags were tagged through to my final destination of Austin. I was informed that I would need to pick the bag up in Dallas and then drop it off after customs.
CDG is not my favourite airport and the trip from check-in to departures illustrates this! First i had to go downstairs to check in, then I had to go back upstairs to find security. You then had to go downstairs again to enter the scanning lanes. I was given a fast track pass (known as No. 1 in CDG) and this was clearly marked by staff wearing different coloured uniforms. I was through security within 5 minutes but then had to go back upstairs to get to the departures area! Someone didn’t think this through when designing the terminal.
The AA lounge is next door to the Cathay lounge so since they are both OneWorld, I decided to use the Cathay lounge instead based on forum feedback. i think I made the right decision as it was a well lit lounge with views over the apron. I had 30 minutes to spare and since I hadn’t had breakfast that day, I decided to have breakfast in the lounge. Being Cathay, there was a choice between Asian or European food. Unlike BA, there was no “food appropriate to the time of day” policy in this lounge and it was all pretty much main meal related fare. I decided in the end to have some fish with spring onions & rice which turned out to be a very tasty breakfast though the rice was on the dry side. I checked my emails at the same time and then headed to the gate.
I found the gate numbering system confusing and started walking down a corridor to a satellite pier before i realised I was headed in the wrong direction. I reversed my steps and found that boarding had commenced and I was able to go straight through the business class lane and on board. Indeed, I was one of the last passengers to board. The cabin crew member at the door saw my white cane and offered to escort me to the seat which I accepted as the door area was quite dark. The escort wasn’t a success as he managed to guide me into a tray of orange juice on a shelf in the gallery which went flying. Fortunately only some went on my jacket which he was able to wipe off.
I was seated in 6J which is at the back of the business class cabin which consists of 5 rows in 2-2-2 layout. The flight was almost full and I could only see 5 empty seats. Fortunately one of them was next to me to so I had both seats to myself for the flight. As i sat down, Sally introduced herself as the crew member who would be serving me and immediately made an impression with her warm & friendly manner. I have to say that her being an attractive blond also made me warm to her as well!
Drinks were served, my coat was taken, newspaper handed out and my lunch order taken. I probably got to meet most of the crew by this point and I was struck by two things. First was the informality in their dress where it appeared that crew could choose from about 5 or 6 different uniform styles. Secondly, they were uniformly friendly and I was left with the feeling that I was about to receive some classic American style service which from what i read on the forum, is not normally the case on US airlines.
I was not disappointed with the service. In fact the service is probably among the best I have ever received on any airline and just increased the whole value for money of my already amazing fare. Normally, the service is the last thing I measure as I much prefer to be left to my own devices but I felt the attention was not intrusive but at the same time, if I needed something, it didn’t feel as though I was imposing on the crew.
FOOD & DRINK
Drinks were served about 30 minutes after take off and lunch about an hour after that. I chose a chicken with potatoes and beans dish and the chicken was very well cooked and tasty. The starter was a seared tuna which was probably cut too thick and a salad which was not inspiring and I only nibbled at that. Dessert was ice cream which I chose to have with caramel and nuts. I was kept topped up with champagne and water throughout and finished the meal with about 2 or 3 cups of tea served in a proper mug.
My take on the food and drink is that it was not michelin standard stuff but simple food served well in most instances. Frankly, I don’t expect michelin style food when flying as our taste buds change in any case. it is more important to eat wholesome, tasty food that fills you up and the lunch definitely ticked that box.
A second meal was served about 2 hours before landing and was a choice between a mini vegetarian pizza and a cold meat salad. I chose the salad which was again substantial and satisfying. it was supposed to be accompanied by a cheesecake according to the menu but I received a chocolate mousse instead. I did not enquire as to why there was a change.
There is no in-seat IFE on the 767 apart from some radio channels. Films are shown on screens in the cabin but in business class, Galaxy Tablets are given out instead along with headphones. Having not used a tablet before, i found it easy to use. However, I then discovered there were no subtitles with the films on the tablet which is an oversight in my opinion. Most IFE systems do not have subtitles and I would have thought that this is something that a tablet could address. I then discovered that the headphones were not working but since I had plenty of work to do on my laptop, I chose not bother with the tablet.
The seat is an angled lie-flat seat which also has a cradle position. One thing I really liked was having a raised console on the seat arm which clearly showed the different operations of the seat and its positions. this was intuitive to use and made it easy to change posture. I also liked the choice of two tables, one in the seat arm to be folded out, the other in front of you on the seat back. This seat back table locked away to form a large pocket which could hold a laptop with ease.
All in all I found the seat to be very comfortable for sitting, probably better than the BA seat which I am most used to. I am a fan of having leg rests attached to the seat rather than separate and the cradle position was particularly comfortable for resting especially as the head rest could be adjusted to a variety of positions. I did try to sleep after lunch and tried out the lie flat position. it transpired there are in fact two lie flat positions but this is not obvious from the buttons on the console. In one position, the seat is flattened around your shoulder and raised around your butt. Therefore, the whole position almost feels fully flat except that your legs are not supported and hang down. In the other position, the butt is lowered and the shoulders raised which creates a flatter posture but at an angle which is not comfortable. Whilst I didn’t actually sleep, I managed to doze for an hour or so in the former posture and felt that I would be able to sleep on my return journey.
We landed 15 minutes early and proceeded to immigration. There was a long queue and it would probably have taken 40 minutes to clear except that after 10 minutes, a staff member spotted my white cane and pulled me out of the queue. The time spent in the queue was not wasted as it meant my bags were on the carousel once I was through. I was quickly through the customs point and found the transfer area shortly after. As my bags had already been tagged to Austin, it was just a question of handing them over and proceeding to security for my next flight.
One of the best transatlantic flights I have had. Given the amazing fare, it is probably the best in terms of value for money. The cabin crew service was excellent, the seat was better than expected and the whole journey was generally smooth. I will definitely consider AA again for my travels.
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