Ranking the Different American Airlines Business Class Seats

Product consistency?  Who wants product consistency?

Certainly that’s not the goal at the new American…. at least not as far as Business Class seats are concerned!  Due to its merger with US Airways, an aging international fleet and seat supplier issues, American now features no less than nine (9) different international business class products.

Nine.

Of those, seven (7) are on wide body planes used for the vast majority of international routes to Europe, South America and Asia.  Over the past year or so, I’ve been able to fly on each wide body business class cabin in the American fleet, so I figured it was time to decipher the differences and rank them — all in one post!

But first?  The candidates (along with my past and future reviews of these flights) – many of these flights were in the last few weeks or months, so are in my queue to either write and/or edit and publish reviews:

  • A330-200 and A330-300 “Envoy” Suite
  • B767-300 “old” configuration
    • MIA-MXP (upcoming)
  • B767-300 “new” configuration
    • ZRH-JFK (upcoming)
  • B777-200 “old” configuration
    • MIA-EZE (upcoming)
    • SCL-MIA (upcoming)
  • B777-200 “new” configuration
  • B777-300ER
  • B787-8 Dreamliner

Let’s go ahead and profile each of these types of Business Class seats!

A330-200 and A330-300 “Envoy” Suite

Envoy Suites class on US Airways A330-200

Envoy Suites class on US Airways A330-200

Continue Reading →

Review: American 787 Business Class Tokyo to Chicago

After  leisurely three hours in the fantastic JAL First Class lounge at Narita Airport, my delayed departure time for my return trip back home had arrived.  I made the pretty long haul from the JAL First lounge all the way to the AA departure gate for ORD.  It was the very last gate in the main terminal.  As I got to the gate, it was apparent that there would be an additional delay, so I took a seat.

Thirty minutes or so later, the crew boarded.  Another thirty minutes later, it was time to board.  The queue lined up pretty long for Business Class and Priority Access — and the gate agent didn’t really do a great job in organizing the boarding process, but what else is new?  Anyway, after this somewhat lengthy delay, it was time to enjoy the brand new American 787 Business Class.

Continue Reading →

United B787-9 International Routes Announced

It seems that Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) will become a haven for the new B787-9 Dreamliners!  United has revealed that a number of its new, B787-9s will be deployed to Houston to takeover existing routes currently flown by other equipment.

United 787-8 Dreamliner

The transition to the United B787-9 begins in the fall:

Airlineroute.net reports the following equipment  updates:

eff 18AUG15 Houston – Rio de Janeiro 787-9 replaces CO 777-200ER
eff 24SEP15 Houston – Frankfurt 787-9 replaces 787-8 and other aircraft types
eff 25OCT15 Houston – Buenos Aires 787-9 replaces UA 767-300ER
eff 17DEC15 Houston – Amsterdam 787-9 replaces UA 777-200ER
eff 05JAN16 Houston – Santiago de Chile 787-9 replaces UA 767-300ER
eff 03MAR16 Houston – Tokyo Narita 787-9 replaces CO 777-200ER

This announcement comes on the heels of United announcing a change in its overall fleet strategy by replacing some future B787 orders with larger B777-300ER aircraft.  Furthermore, the airline announced last month that it would be extending the life of its B767-300ER fleet, shifting some current B777-200s to domestic service, and substituting larger aircraft on many Transatlantic routes currently served by the B757-200.  This announcement makes it more clear as to where those larger aircraft will come from.

So it seems by next Spring, IAH will be a mini Dreamliner hub — great news for Houston, as the Dreamliner is one of the more comfortable airplanes out there.  I thoroughly enjoyed my United flights on the B787 Dreamliner though they were on the -8 variant instead of the larger 787-9.

My Dreamliner reviews can be found here:

H/T:  Airlineroute.net

Review: LAN Economy Class Santiago to Sao Paulo on the B787

I was scheduled to have about an hour and twenty minutes on the ground in Santiago between my incoming flight from New York-JFK and my connecting flight to Sao Paulo.  After a quick trip to freshen up in the LAN Mistral VIP Salon, I made my way to the gate, passing Dreamliner after Dreamliner.  Santiago is truly a B787 Dreamliner paradise, as LAN has taken delivery to quite a number of the new aircraft.  During the mid-morning hours, the LAN B787 fleet all seems to be back in Santiago before dispersing to other locales around the globe.

IMG_9699

My LAN B787-8 awaiting departure for Sao Paulo

I boarded my flight to Sao Paulo with the first group.  My visa was then verified and I made my way to the sparkling new Dreamliner. Continue Reading →

Review: LAN Economy Class New York – JFK to Santiago on the B787

I recently attempted a weekend trip to Iguazu Falls, Argentina and failed miserably.  So many things went wrong that ultimately led me to ditching the itinerary in Sao Paulo and returning to New York.  But what let up to that point?

A comedy of errors on this itinerary resulted in me getting pretty much no sleep, which led to exhaustion and my eventual decision to fly home before making it to my intended destination.

It all started Thursday morning as I attempted to check-in for my flight with LAN.  The problem first arose when the LAN website indicated that my confirmation number was not valid.  As such, I called LAN to see what was wrong.  The agent with LAN told me that my SCL-GRU segment of my itinerary was showing a significant delay, and I would mis-connect in Sao Paulo for my flight to Foz do Iguazu.

He offered me two options — to overnight in Sao Paulo and get to Iguazu on Saturday afternoon.  I declined this option, as it would only leave me a day in Iguazu.  The second option was to take an earlier flight from JFK to Santiago and on to Sao Paulo on the LAN 787 Dreamliner, then have a ten-hour layover in Sao Paulo before continuing on to Iguazu on the same flight.  In order to do this, I had to leave work three hours earlier and confirm standby space on an earlier flight from DCA-JFK.  After speaking to American about changing my DCA-JFK flight, I decided on this option.

I figured that I could ultimately deal with this undesirable itinerary as long as I was able to sleep on my flight to Santiago.  I didn’t think this would be much of a problem since I’d been assured a bulkhead seat by the phone agent (I had a bulkhead seat on my original flight booked for six months).

Again, when he changed my flights, the LAN agent assured me that I had confirmed a bulkhead, window seat on the 787, seat 12L.  At 6’4″, an exit row or a bulkhead seat is a necessity for me traveling long-haul in economy — I just need the extra leg room, otherwise I’m miserable. Continue Reading →

A 36-hour Trip to Nowhere: An Iguazu Fail

I write this post on Saturday morning — not from Iguazu Falls as planned, but from New York – JFK, Terminal 2.

That’s right.  I never made it to Iguazu Falls.

There were a ton of little things that went wrong with my trip, and they all caught up with me Friday afternoon in Sao Paulo.

Red:  Planned Flights Blue:  Actual Flights Purple:  Planned = Actual

Red: Originally Planned Flights
Blue: Actual Flights
Purple: Planned = Actual

Basically, I was both physically and mentally exhausted.  Confronting me was a ten-hour layover in Sao Paulo before a late night flight to Iguazu Falls.  Considering how exhausted and out of it I felt at 4pm, I couldn’t imagine dealing with negotiating with a Brazilian cab driver, crossing the Brazil / Argentina border, and locating a small hostel in Puerto Iguassu, Argentina twelve hours later.

But what exactly happened to get to that point?

Continue Reading →

DC to Dubai and Tokyo via… Santiago? Review: United BusinessFirst – Seattle to Tokyo

Introduction
Planning
TAM Economy Class New York JFK – Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro
Santiago
LAN Economy Class Santiago – Sao Paulo
TAM Economy Class Sao Paulo – New York JFK
United BusinessFirst Denver to Tokyo Seattle (Emergency Landing)
United BusinessFirst on the 787 Seattle to Tokyo
Cathay Pacific Regional Business Class Tokyo Narita – Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific “The Wing” Business Class Lounge Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Business Class Hong Kong – Dubai
Dubai, Day 1  (Traiteur Brunch, Park Hyatt Dubai, Burj Khalifa, Atlantis Palm Islands)
Dubai, Day 2 (Shark Dive at Dubai Aquarium, Burj Al Arab, 360)
Cathay Pacific Business Class Dubai – Hong Kong – Tokyo Haneda


Following an unplanned night in Seattle, I slept in a bit at the Hilton SeaTac before heading to the airport about two hours prior to my flight.  TSA Pre-Check was open, so security was a breeze.  I then proceeded to the brand new United Club to check my e-mail and kill about 30 minutes before boarding.  I noticed that the flight was to be operated by another physical airplane (#3904 instead of #3906).  This was re-assuring, as I didn’t exactly have confidence in the airplane that caused all the drama the day before.

United Airlines (UA) 1749
Seattle (SEA) – Tokyo-Narita (NRT) 
Aircraft: Boeing 787-8
Seat: 4A (BusinessFirst)
Wednesday, June 19
9:30AM – 10:41AM (+1 day)
Duration: 9:01

This flight was the continuation of the previous day’s attempt at Denver to Tokyo on United flight 139.  I chose to take this flight instead of the other two options, for a number of reasons detailed in my previous post.  Upon boarding, I was welcomed back onboard by the same fantastic crew that we had the day before.  It was a very light load in the BusinessFirst cabin, as it was only booked half full.  I changed my seat to a window seat, 4A so I could play with the electrochromatic windows that are found on the 787.   For those who are unfamiliar with these windows, the dimness of the window is controlled with a button, and there is no physical window shade to pull down.

Window with no tinting

Window with no tinting

Window half tinted

Window half tinted

Window fully tinted

Window fully tinted

As a result, even at the darkest setting, one is still able to see outside — it’s pretty cool, though I wonder what will happen when this nifty feature inevitably breaks.  I imagine it would be pretty obnoxious to have a broken window dimmer during a 12 hour Transpacific flight in the daytime.

Flight Path SEA-NRT

Flight Path SEA-NRT

Row 4 is the bulkhead row in the second cabin of BusinessFirst.  Due to being a bulkhead, row 4 (as well as row 1) sports a larger foot well, and are probably the most spacious seats up front for that reason.

Bulkhead seat 4A

Bulkhead seat 4A

This aft BusinessFirst cabin was only had three of us, so it felt almost like a private jet for this flight across the Pacific Ocean.

I practically had the BusinessFirst cabin to myself!

I practically had the BusinessFirst cabin to myself!

Awaiting breakfast service

Awaiting breakfast service

I cannot say enough about this crew, led by Denny, the inflight service manager.  From start to finish of this flight, they provided exceptional service by any airline’s standard — even more so for United.  They were friendly, engaging, and really couldn’t do enough for me.  I surely hope this is where service is going onboard United, because they were simply fantastic.

After numerous apologies from the ground staff at Seattle and the flight crew, we pushed back about 45 minutes late due to a catering delay, as this was an unplanned, second departure for Tokyo that day.  There were some small hiccups, such as the catering forgetting to produce menus for the flight (bad), and the lack of BusinessFirst amenity kits that resulted in passengers receiving United GlobalFirst amenity kits (good).

Climbing out of Seattle

Climbing out of Seattle

After about 30 minutes, lunch service began featuring the same menu as the day before.  I selected the beef tenderloin again as my main course since it was excellent on the DEN-SEA flight.  This time, it wasn’t quite as good, and was a bit too well-done.  The sushi appetizer again was excellent, as was the salad.  They offered pretzel rolls (awesome) and garlic bread, which highlighted a selection of five or six breads.  Dessert, as usual was tasty with the ice cream sundae.

Sushi selection

Sushi selection

Sushi appetizer

Sushi appetizer

Salad

Salad

Beef tenderloin with gnocchi and asparagus

Beef tenderloin with gnocchi and asparagus

Ice Cream Sundae!

Ice Cream Sundae!

Lunch service lasted a good hour.  I finished watching a movie (“Jack Reacher“) that I started the previous day before it was so rudely interrupted by a fuel dump and emergency landing.  After the movie, I settled in to catch up on some rest, as the previous 24 hours had been relatively stressful.  

Crossing the Pacific

Crossing the Pacific

I slept a good 5 hours, and awoke about two hours outside of Narita.  I watched a documentary before breakfast was served.  It consisted of an omelet and potatoes — it was a definite step down from the lunch provided several hours earlier.

Breakfast before arrival in Tokyo

Breakfast before arrival in Tokyo

As I finished up breakfast, the flight attendants finished preparing the cabin for landing in Tokyo.

Due to the unusually early morning departure and subsequent arrival, we were the first United flight of the day to arrive at the normally very busy Narita International airport.  I thanked the crew, deplaned and quickly went through transit security.  I made my way to the inter-terminal bus, as I needed to transfer to Terminal 2 for my flight later in the day on Cathay Pacific to Hong Kong and then Dubai.

NRT inter-terminal bus

NRT inter-terminal bus

The bus leaves from gates 28 and 59 in Terminal 1 every 30 minutes.  I would NOT recommend booking a close connection between airlines in separate terminals at Narita.  In my case, I had about 7 hours, so I was fine.

Overall, this flight was fantastic.  It really shined on every front — the service, the food, and the seat.  It was a great performance by the United crew, and was easily the best overall flight I’ve ever taken with United.