Today, we have a guest post from my friend Derrick. He and his wife flew to Spain ahead of a Mediterranean cruise and couldn’t wait to share their flight experience with all of our readers. This first post is about their American Airlines Business Class flight from Charlotte to Barcelona. Enjoy!
My wife and I recently had an amazing trip to Europe for a 7-day cruise around the western Mediterranean. I’m going to give some reviews of the different aspects of the trip, starting with our flight over the pond. After a connecting flight from Kansas City to Charlotte on AA, and some time in the CLT Admirals Club, we boarded an American Airlines Business Class A330 bound for Barcelona. This plane is a legacy US Airways Airbus, and the business class features what used to be called the “Envoy Suite.” As far as business class goes, I’d rate the whole experience as slightly above average. Here are some details…
American Airlines Business Class A330 Seat
The American Airlines Business Class A330 is configured in a 1-2-1 reverse herringbone configuration. I chose seats 1C and 1F because they have slightly wider footwells (I knew this from a previous trip). Typically, I don’t like to pick the first row, as I’m sensitive to noise from the galley, but the additional foot space outweighed my concerns about noise. I like to move my legs around a lot, so any extra space is great for me. That being said, the legroom on all the seats in business class is really good.
I also like the first row because we got served first on this American Airlines Business Class flight (although on other carriers I’ve been served last sitting in row 1). Also, the food prep happens in the galley behind Row 4, so the majority of the galley noise was behind us. The small galley up front was only used for preparing beverages. I ended up very happy with our seat choices.
While the Envoy Suite has some nice features and dimensions, it is probably due for a refresh. The seats can be a little lumpy and the IFE is subpar compared to more modern business class offerings.
The American Airlines Business Class A330 herringbone seats mean you have a partial barrier between the two middle seats, so you have to lean forward a little bit to talk. I still prefer this to talking to a travel partner from across the aisle, but some people might like that better. For a solo traveler, all the seats offer decent privacy if you want it, and they all have direct aisle access.
The IFE screen is about 12” diagonal and is in a fixed position above the footrest. Picture quality is good, not great (I’m pretty sure it’s not HD). The remote is stored on the wall next to your shoulder, along with a reading lamp, USB port, and electrical outlet. All of these items were functional for both my wife and I. For storage, you have a cubby under the footrest, and a small table (just big enough for an iPad). There is plenty of overhead bin space, and I’ve never actually seen the bins full, even on a sold out flight.
American Airlines Business Class Flight to Barcelona
Upon boarding our American Airlines Business Class flight, we were greeted by the flight attendants and offered a pre-departure beverage: water, OJ, or champagne. When I asked for a gin & tonic, the FA told me that they could only do those once we were in the air. I’ve tried this on numerous flights, and always get a different answer about why I can’t get the drink I want. The real reason (as I understand it) is that while on the ground, the airline has to pay taxes on any liquor they give out and they don’t want the additional cost.
In any case, I do enjoy a mimosa on occasion, so I mixed one up and settled in for the flight. We had to wait about 90 minutes for a flight crew, so I may have had a couple more mimosas in that time…eventually, the pilots showed up, and we pushed back from the gate and got airborne.
We had ordered our entrees in advance via the AA website, so my menu viewing was mostly to see the wine offerings. They had 2 red, 2 white, and a champagne, all solid but unspectacular quality (I’d estimate all the wines were in the $20 retail range).
I ordered the “Express Meal” where they bring out all the courses at once. Since this is only an 8-hour overnight flight, I wanted to eat fast and leave as much time for sleep as possible. The surf & turf left a lot to be desired- the shrimp and rice were OK, but the steak was bland and mushy (I’ve actually had decent steak on an airplane before, but it definitely wasn’t on AA). The wedge salad was pretty good, and I declined a dessert. My wife got the Caribbean Jerk Mahi-Mahi and she enjoyed it, said it was very flavorful.
Sidebar: I’ve always avoided fish on airplanes, but I feel like either the fish has gotten better or the meats have gotten worse, to the point that I may start ordering fish!
After dinner, feeling quite a bit tipsy at this point, I stretched out the lie-flat bed and went to sleep. The American Airlines Business Class bed was comfortable, offered plenty of space for me (I’m 6’ tall with broad shoulders), and the controls worked smoothly. The AA blanket was comfy, but the pillow was pretty thin. I slept through breakfast and woke up as they were making the landing announcements.
Once on the ground in BCN, we deplaned via outdoor stairs and got on a bus to the terminal. Immigration only took about 10 minutes, and it was very easy to catch a cab to our hotel (unfortunately there’s no Uber or Lyft in Barcelona). Despite the delay in CLT while waiting for the flight crew, we were only about 15 minutes late upon landing. All-in-all it was a pleasant flight and experience.
American Airlines Business Class Ratings (1-10 scale)
Seat: 7 – lots of space, but dated. Needs more padding and storage
In-Flight Entertainment (IFE): 6 – smallish, fixed position
Food: 6 – Fish was better than steak, wine selection was average
Service: 8 – our crew was very friendly and accommodating, dinner service moved fairly quickly
Overall: 7 – slightly above average
How to Book this Flight with Airline Miles (Business Class one way rates)
We used the best travel hack out there to book this American Airlines Business Class flight…somebody else’s money (the trip was a gift from my wife’s parents). But, if you want to use your miles to book this, here are some options if you can find AA “SAAver” availability:
AA AAdvantage – 57.5K miles (Saver)
Alaska Mileage Plan – 50K miles
BA Avios – 75K miles
Cathay – 45K miles
JAL Bank – 80K miles
Etihad – 50K miles
My Personal Business Class Rankings
Cathay 777 ORD-HKG (#1 for solo fliers)
Qatar 777 ORD-DOH (#1 for couples)
ANA 777 NRT-ORD
AA A330 (Legacy USAir Envoy Suite)
BA 747 upper deck
BA 747 lower deck (center seats OK for couples)
AA 777 (old angle flat seats)
Thai 787 (narrow seats)
Thai A380 (narrow seats, super loud galley)
Cathay 777 regional business class
The Bald Thoughts
Big thanks to Derrick for sharing his American Airlines Business Class flight experience. What a lucky guy to have his wife’s parents pay for their flights. I’m glad that he shared his preferred options for redeeming miles for Business Class flights because I’m much more focused on using miles than cash when I fly. I’m looking forward to reading about the rest of his journey.
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