Tried & Tested

Aeromexico B767-200ER business class

28 Nov 2013 by Jenny Southan

BACKGROUND

Aeromexico will deploy a B787-8 Dreamliner on its Mexico City to London Heathrow route, which is currently operated by a B767, in April.

The Skyteam member plies the route three times a week, departing London on Mondays, Thursdays and Sundays on AM008 at 2230, arriving the next day at 0525.

The return flight from Mexico City (AM007) leaves at 2235 on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays, arriving at Heathrow the following day at 1515. In the New Year, the service will be upped to four times weekly.

For more information about the Dreamliner, click here.

CHECK-IN

I arrived at Benito Juarez International airport Terminal 2 at 1935, with plenty of time to spare until my 2235 flight (AM7) to London Heathrow. I turned left upon entering the building and walked a short distance to the premium check-in area, where I used one of six automated kiosks to select my seat (I had been assigned 2D but moved to window seat 4J) and then print my boarding pass. I was travelling with hand luggage-only so didn’t need to drop a case off.

There were also half a dozen staffed check-in desks on the right, spread between 23 and 42. A couple of minutes later, I walked back through the terminal to security, where my documents were checked and I was then able to go straight through to one of the screening channels. Again there was no one else ahead so I was through rapidly – taking out my laptop and liquids, and removing my jacket on the way.

THE LOUNGE

The airside Aeromexico Salon Premier lounge is right next to security as you exit, to the left, on the upper floor accessed by a lift. It was a fairly large facility with various seating areas and workstations – most pleasantly lit, though one area was very bright. The first thing I did was have a shower (there are two cubicles – just put your name down on the list). There was also a small spa offering paid-for massages and an oxygen bar.

Waiters were on hand to bring snacks and drinks, though you could help yourself from the self-service counters as well. There was not much in the way of food, just a few sandwiches, olives and nuts, while fridges were stocked with coconut water, soft drinks, beer and mixers, and there was also spirits and wine. Departure screens and TVs were dotted throughout, as were power points and PCs for working. It was quite busy but I didn't have a problem finding somewhere to sit. Wifi was free throughout, and accessed with a password.

BOARDING

Although screens in the lounge said the flight was departing at 2330 (one hour later than scheduled), staff at the front desk said it would be on time, and I should leave no later than 2145, which I did.

I took the elevator back down to level one and turned left towards Gate 67, which was about five minutes' walk away. Boarding started at 2200, with business class passengers allowed to board first. Documents were checked and customs forms taken.

Passengers including myself were then randomly selected for further security screening, which involved my hand luggage being checked manually. Luckily she didn't go through everything very thoroughly so it only took a few minutes, but by this time a queue had formed on the lower ramp that led towards the airbridge.

There was then a further delay as a sniffer dog checked everyone's belongings, before we were the able to filter on to the airbridge.

While we were waiting, there was some commotion as crew were stomping back and forth with suitcases. One appeared to have a black eye and looked upset. Apparently there was a problem with the paperwork, so there would be a later departure. Finally, at 1020, we were able to board the plane, though some passengers were also given a body scan with a handheld metal detector just before getting on.

THE SEAT

Business (Clase Premier) is fitted with angled lie-flat seating on this B767-200ER, and is arranged 2-2-2 (A-B, D-F, H-J), while economy is fitted 2-3-2 (A-B, D-E-F, H-J).

I was in my seat (4J) by 1025, stowing my belongings in one of the overhead lockers. The aged business class (Clase Premier) product is angled lie-flat and sits in a worn fixed shell surround with no built-in AVOD in-flight entertainment, hence the need for iPads to be handed out, though these had the same poor selection of movies as on the outbound flight. (Click here to read the review.) In economy, there were shared overhead screens but no iPads.

On the plus side, next April will see the introduction of the new Dreamliner to the route, and this will be fitted with superior fully flat bed seating and 16-inch individual IFE systems with entertainment on-demand.

There were seat-back pockets for pamphlets, as well as slots for the in-flight magazine. Small pillows and cotton blankets were provided though the latter didn’t provide much warmth during the night.

The tray tables lifted out of the central armrest panel and were quite narrow so there was not much space to spread out, and small coat hooks were embedded in the back of the seats. Adjustable reading lights protruded from between the seats pairs, and there was in-seat power and three pre-set recline positions.

WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE?

There are five rows of business class seats and all have direct aisle access except those by the windows.

Sitting in row one offers plenty of extra legroom but there can be a fair amount of light and noise coming from the galley. The right-hand side of the plane was darker as the curtain from the galley closed properly on this side and the washroom was to the left so people were coming and going on the left-hand side, which was quite disruptive.

Row four is a good choice as quieter and darker, though you will have to climb over the person next to you to get out if sitting in a window seat. For this reason, it is better to go for an aisle seat.

THE FLIGHT

Passengers were given a choice of orange juice, Jacquart Brut Mosaique champagne and water, followed by menus and amenity kits. The plane pushed back at 2235 and took off at 2300, half an hour late. The cabin lights were out during take-off and remained dim for the majority of the flight. The meal service began at 2345, though this was further delayed by turbulence.

The shared IFE screens began showing a film just after midnight, though the sound quality from my headphone socket was so bad I couldn't watch it. (I couldn’t use an iPad during my meal as there was no where I could prop it up.)

The menu listed mixed seasonal greens with orange segments and glazed peanuts to start, followed by breast of chicken filled with corn fondue, “enhanced by pumpkin flower sauce” and served with roasted potatoes and grilled zucchini, or penne pasta with mini meatballs, chipotle chilli and tomato sauce.

I thought it was a shame not to serve traditional Mexican dishes as they would work well in the air, being tasty and suitable for reheating. The courses were served at the same time on a tray with cheese and biscuits, and there were suggested wine pairings for each one, though there were two reds and two white wines to choose from.

These were: Santo Tomas Viognier (Mexico), Marques de Riscal Rueda (Spain), Santo Tomas Xaloc (Mexico) and Marques de Riscal Rioja Reserva (Spain). Corona beer and Maestro tequila was also available.

My pre-ordered vegetarian special meal was fairly uninspiring – white rice with diced vegetables, a salad with palm hearts and vinaigrette, a white bread roll that tasted peculiar, and a fruit salad. I also asked for the cheese and biscuits, as was still hungry, and a member of crew managed to find me a spare as my meal officially came with fruit instead. I also had a chocolate ice cream and then requested an iPad to watch a movie on. This proved fine to use when propped on a pillow on my lap. Bottles of water were handed out. Toilets weren't very clean and smelt of pot pouri.

I reclined my seat as far as it would go at 0245 and managed to sleep for about five hours. It was reasonably comfortable for me as a five-foot-two woman but anyone bigger would find there wasn't a lot of width for shoulders and arms, as the middle armrest is fixed and the window-side armrest doesn't lower all the way down.

Breakfast was served at 0735, with trays presenting a china plate of melon carpaccio and red jelly, a pot of jam, some tortilla chips, strawberry or plain yoghurt, a choice of breads and brioche, juice, tea and coffee. There was also a hot option of scrambled eggs with concasse sauce, Manchego cheese gratinee, roasted sausage and sauteed vegetables. Trays were collected at 0810. Staff were friendly and spoke good English.

ARRIVAL

The aircraft landed at 0930 (1530 local time) after a ten-hour, 30-minute journey (quicker than on the outbound). It was a 20-minute taxi to the stand but disembarkation via an airbride at the front was quick.

Fast-track passes for security were handed out to business class passengers but the immigration hall was empty when I arrived. With hand-luggage only, I was able to immediately exit the baggage hall downstairs, walk to the Underground station and find a seat on the Tube by 1005.

VERDICT

The B767-200ER is a very old plane with a dated business class product – not having a built-in, audio-video on-demand system or a fully flat bed puts it at a disadvantage when it comes to the competition. The food experience also wasn’t as good as one might hope from business.

On the plus side, the flight schedule is convenient, the crew friendly and next year the introduction of the Dreamliner will be a huge improvement.


FACT FILE

  • CONFIGURATION 2-2-2 (A-B, D-F, H-J)
  • PRICE Internet rates for a midweek return flight in business class from London to Mexico City started from £3,016 in January.
  • CONTACT aeromexico.uk.com 


Jenny Southan


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