Ex EU experience and American Airlines.Back to Forum
Anonymous9 Aug 2013
Several months ago I was planning a vacation and came across a business class fare ex the EU which was too good to pass up. The fare kept me on oneworld carriers , which I happen to think is the best alliance overall but also kept me off BA for the long haul sectors but still managed to provide a silver card thanks to code share arrangements.
Best of all it allowed me to to try out American Airlines new 777-300 business class product.
The only problem was today I had to get to Brussels to begin the journey and avoid any cross border ticket issues. This however gave me the opportunity to use T5 and see for my self what the fuss was about the lounges and catering.
Checking for the BA flights was painless using the app however a few hours later and checking in for the return and onward flight to LAX things began to go a bit off course. First a message which said fatal error ( always disconcerting but more so when flying is involved!)
My boarding pass was then provided but only to LHR from BRU and not onward. After much searching of the net and AA.com it transpired that mobile passes are only available on AA if directly departing LHR. Transit passengers cannot do this…..others may know differently but that is my experience.
Crack of dawn and at LHR and checking bags to BRU. Now this was where not using BA on the long haul sector was an issue. If doing EU same day returns it is possible to check you bags in for the long haul flight and go out to Europe with only hand luggage. Some brave souls even leave this in the lounge and travel sans baggage. With the long haul being on American this was not possible and so the bags had to go BRU first. As a result returning on same aircraft is also difficult but the BRU schedule means that there is a connecting flight at 11.50, so there is about 3 hours on the ground. This is plenty.
I was on a redemption fare and having lost silver some months ago, entry was gained using my Marco Polo Gold. The lounge dragons were out in force and care was taken to put my card details into the system.
I was surprised having read so much negative press about the lounge to find it was clean and tidy and the food offering acceptable. There is clearly a significant reduction in catering and choice, but 4 choices of cereal, 3 choices of juice and several hot options were available. There is only only semi skimmed milk. For me it was an entirely satisfactory offering but would hope that the First lounge and Concorde room would have a more extensive offering.
The flight was a coaching departure which in the rain was ghastly but the flight was nearly empty with 3/4 of the seats taken in euro traveller and just 1 passenger in club. Despite that there was not a single redemption seat available on the flight for over a month in advance of the flight. The flight was delayed a few minutes by ATC.
Arrival in Brussels was painless and the bags were delivered in under 15 minutes. Checkin was easy and my AA boarding pass was issued. The agent did warn me that it is not always possible to get it as their systems are not synching correctly. However within 45 minutes of landing I was again the lounge.
I was quite taken by the BRU lounge. Whilst here were no sandwiches ( and why would there be at 9am?) there were pastries and toast and 2 cereals. The was however a large sign stating that all food had to be consumed in the lounge and this is probably due to the number of people ( myself included) who take crips and biscuits to have on board.
The lounge was light and airy with plenty of seating and a good view of the airport and planes. The staff wore Iberia uniforms.
So the BA lounge experience was good at both T5 and BRU. Euro traveller is euro traveller and there is not much you can get excited about.
Flying back to LHR in club there were 12 in club. The crew were more than a little flappy on the ground but once airborne delivered a professional personal service. There was a choice of ham and cheese croissant or salami selection. I had the latter with a glass of champagne. It was perfectly satisfactory for the time of day and duration of flight.
Overall then the BA return to BRU was a good experience.
AA review to follow….9 Aug 2013
The transfer to T3 was fine but once here things were not so great. T3 is simply horrible and I escaped to AA lounge but perhaps should have used BA galleries. The American lounge was fine but lacked any feeling of exclusivity. It was a big open area with food islands scattered among the seats. There was an excellent Waldorf salad and some sandwiches and a wide selection of alcoholic drinks none of which were premium names. It rather smacked of a downmarket all inclusive hotel.
It was however an oasis of calm with very few people in the lounge. The wifi did not work which is ludicrous but my biggest gripe was the intrusive security process which was frankly over the top.
To be fair I have not flown on any American airline for many years so this may be perfectly common but it is light years from BA processes and I did not like it on a personal basis. Between this and the lounge checking process it took over 10 mins to get from the door of the lounge to a seat.
Boarding was painful with yet more security and more checks…… It took what seemed forever. Or was that just the walk from the lounge.
But once on board…….OMG…. Brand new aircraft and absolutely stunning seats. So much better Than I had anticipated, despite having seen the CX product last year. It is vast seat angled into the window with more leg room than I need. Water, menu and Bose headphones already in place. Crew, and it has been just a few minutes , are personable, energetic and smiling, all of them!
Have struck up conversation with guy beside me something I rarely do and everyone is happy to be sitting in this fantastic product. If the flight is half as good as the first few minutes have been it I going to be spectacular. This is simply way better than I had hoped and makes the grief of the ground operation worth it.9 Aug 2013
There is no denying that American have a poor reputation among many travellers and perhaps mostly those with experience of other major airlines. Consequently I was fully ready to be hugely critical of American on this flight and the truth is I can’t find fault.
I have been completely wowed by the service on this flight. The crew have been fantastic. The service is very American but it is friendly and focused and you really cannot beat that.
I have not seen s trolley and the meal service has been restaurant style, my only gripe would be the size of the table which is too small. Quite why I can’t say as every other aspect of the seat is simply superb.
The starter, salmon cheesecake was excellent and accompanied by a very good seasonal green salad.
The main, which incidentally can be per ordered before your flight….. That’s right no more “am sorry we do not have your first choice” and this is business class, not First!
Main was Cajun chicken, very tender and entirely edible but perhaps could have been a bit more Cajun!
The ice cream sundae….. Yes ice cream in business class…..was huge and topped off a good meal.
It could not be said this was haute cuisine but it was tasty well cooked wholesome fayre, well presented and really is anything else required.
Back to seat. There is quite simply acres of personal space with lots of places to store things during flight. There is even a mirror in the small storage unit which is great to check appearance. For me personal freedom on a flight is paramount. Direct aisle access, freedom to move around, space to keep things and fully flat bed to sleep trump lounges FTC programmes and food.
Then there is the bathroom. I use that word deliberately as this too is vast. It is what a premium cabin loo should be. There is a table which can be used at the same time as the toilet or indeed the large sink. For someone of my size changing was a breeze. There was even a full length mirror.
The curtain dividers between cabins are really cool too. They are net like, and you can see into the next cabin up. First class has 8 seats, 2 more than Cathay on the same footprint. I rather like this ability to see beyond the curtain.
The in flight entertainment is extensive but is not perhaps as up to date as it could be. Notwithstanding I have watched a couple of movies.
There is a paid for WiFi service which at $ 19 for an 11 hour flight is not bad and this post was uploaded via that service.
Have just encountered random act of kindness by the cabin crew.
Sitting here typing this and crew member asked if I wanted anything. She then commented on my BA first pyjamas and then provided a pair of AA first pyjamas! What a lovely gesture.
This has been an excellent flight.
All in all a world beating product and one I will enjoy for some hours ahead.9 Aug 2013
HarryMonk – 09/08/2013 23:28 GMT
Ungracious comment and uncalled for.
pdtraveller, thanks for the info. I had an AA trip back in J earlier in the year and the food/service was as you describe, but we had the old seats.
I will move AA up above BA in my list of preferred airlines on the basis of your seat review and the pre-ordered meal, I’m sick and tired of BA not being able to give me my first choice on a ticket costing 4 figures.10 Aug 2013
Interesting write up pd traveller, made a change to read a “live” review. Hope you enjoyed the rest of the flight. BT, please remove the offensive comment. What is the matter with people? Why make nasty remarks or try to make a fool of someone. A critical comment is fine , but should be made in a polite and educated manner.10 Aug 2013
PDtraveller – when I use ex-Milan tickets for BKK, it also means out/in to T5 and then over to T3 for BA’s flight to BKK.
I would never consider taking my bags to Milan, rather one of the following:
1. left luggage in T3 – however, that means coming landside after return from Europe to check in bags
2. go to T3 first thing in morning to check bag in for longhaul, I have never been refused.
With regards to leaving bags in the lounge, I always do, they are safely put into storage and I go on my way…..
Obviously there are downsides to using ex-Europe tickets, but the cost savings can be enormous so a little bit of hassle in London, to me, is well worth suffering…
GOOD REVIEW…10 Aug 2013
I’ve been eagerly awaiting someone from the BT Forum to fly the new AA product, I am booked with them in November to Austin / Sao Paulo and both transatlantic flights are on the new aircraft.
It sounds terrific and I am looking forward to it even more now with your enthusiastic ‘on-the-spot’ review, thanks for sharing with us.
@HarryMonk – what a really unpleasant contribution to the thread. One of the main benefits of this forum is that we can all share in new product with real-life, trustworthy reviews and not the views of journos (nae offence meant to BT themselves), the post from pd is on point, interesting and informative on a number of levels. Conversely, your post is not.10 Aug 2013
pdtraveller and Martyn
What do you tend to do on the return flight with these ex EU fares? Do you end your journey at LHR…I mean if you have checked-in luggage and your ticket is for example DFW-LHR-MXP.10 Aug 2013
When on BA I tend to not fly the last sector and doing this once or twice a year has never been an issue.
From reading the flyer talk AA pages seems AA may be tougher own this and so fully intend to use the final sector.
Martyn… Bags on BA have never been an issue for me either but I was not going to try it with AA. Their ground process I suspect would go into melt down. It was hard enough trying to explain that I live near Heathrow but had arrived from BRU!
For those interested Tier points and Avios all posted overnight.10 Aug 2013
Enjoyed reading your reports. How busy was the AA flight in J class ? I couldn’t find any reference.
I suppose the downside with having a better business class and a premium economy cabin is that AA’s B777-300ER economy passengers now find themselves sitting 10-across 3-4-3.10 Aug 2013