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Earlier this month, I flew American Airlines Business Class from Los Angeles to London Heathrow and while a full review of this particular flight is probably unnecessary (I’ve got another AA Business Class review in the pipeline), I thought I’d share a few thoughts and observations now that the number of people flying from the US to Europe is on the rise.
1 – The VeriFLY App Is Excellent
VeriFLY is the app that both American Airlines and British Airways use to allow passengers to have their pre-departure paperwork checked before they get to the airport. The app is free, easy to use, sensibly coded (it will prepopulate mandatory fields if the information you provide suggests that there’s only one option – if there’s only one possible flight that you can be taking, the app will automatically insert the correct flight number into the form), it makes it very easy for a passenger to see what documents are required for travel, and it makes it easy for a passenger to upload the required documents.
In the case of travel between the US and the UK, a passenger will need to upload proof that they have taken (and passed) a Covid test in the 72 hours leading up to travel and proof that they have filled in the UK passenger locator form. Passengers who have been fully vaccinated can also upload proof of their vaccination status.
Once all the forms have been uploaded to the app (I found it easiest to upload them as images from my iPhone), the app will verify the uploads, and once a user has confirmed they have all the documents they need via the “Final checklist”, they will be given the all-clear to travel.
Best of all, once the all-clear is visible on the VeriFLY app, a traveler is free to check in. There is no need to show all the paperwork at the airport…and that can save a considerable amount of time!
2 – Still Only One Lounge At LAX T4
American Airlines is still operating the Flagship Lounge and Admirals Club at LAX 4 as a single lounge where (mostly) Admirals Club rules prevail.
For premium cabin travelers and elite flyers who would normally have access to the Flagship Lounge, this means no complimentary food (at least none that I could see) and mostly terrible complimentary drinks options.
At the time of writing, this link leads to the latest Ammirals Club drinks and food menu.
It’s interesting to note that while United Airlines has found a simple way to give a little extra recognition to its elite and premium cabin flyers traveling on international routes while its Polaris Lounges are closed (eligible United Airlines flyers have their boarding passes hole-punched at the lounge doors and can use their hole-punched boarding pass to order all available drinks free of charge), American Airlines doesn’t seem to feel that a similar gesture is necessary.
3 – A Lot More People Are Traveling TATL Again
On an American Airlines transatlantic flight that I took back in May, this is what the Business Class cabin looked like after boarding was complete:
There was just one passenger in the cabin and that passenger was me. On my flight just a couple of weeks ago, the 52-seat Business Class cabin was full and I’m reasonably sure that no upgrades cleared at the gate.
Now that most countries in Europe are welcoming vaccinated US travelers with open arms (although, if you follow the logic being adopted by the US government, this shouldn’t be the case), it looks like a significant number of people are happy to travel even if it means wearing a mask for most of an 11-hour trip.
4 – Average Age Of The Crew Seemed Lower
Generally speaking, American Airlines transatlantic flights are crewed by the airline’s longer-serving flight attendants, and even when a few of the younger flight attendants get to work the airline’s more prestigious routes, they’re usually to be found taking care of the Economy Class (“Main) cabin.
On this flight, a significant number of the flight attendants working in the Business Class cabin were noticeably younger than the flight attendants we usually see in Business Class on the LA to London flights, and they were noticeably upbeat, helpful, and keen to please. This isn’t to say that older crew members don’t often offer the same level of service (some of them do), but this flight offered a good example of what service levels can be like when crew members are hungry to do well and to impress.
5 – Pre-Departure Beverages Are Still A Major Health Hazzard
As has been the case throughout the pandemic, American Airlines continues not to offer pre-departure beverages on its long-haul flights and I’m not sure that I understand why this is the case.
PDBs were eliminated as soon as Covid was a word on everyone’s lips but with the airline happy to serve drinks at all other times of the flight (albeit in plastic cups), and with the crew having to continually walk up and down the aircraft aisles as they perform their other duties, I don’t understand how the elimination of pre-departure drinks is keeping anyone any safer.
Naturally, the elimination of PDBs is a nice money-saver for American Airlines but as we’re told that all the service changes the airline has introduced over the past 18 months are in the interest of crew and passenger safety, that can’t be the reason for their continued absence…can it? 🙂
6 – Order The Chicken
On this particular flight, one of the dinner options was roasted chicken breast with rosmesco sauce, cauliflower mash, pesto tossed broccolini, and roasted cherry tomatoes and, much to my surprise, it was very good.
There was nothing particularly great about the rest of the meal (you’ll find the menu below) but if you’re offered this option on your next American Airlines transatlantic flight I suggest that you give it a try – all parts of the main course were flavorful and the chicken was very well cooked (i.e very tender and not dry as Death Valley).
7 – The Overhead Screens Can Be Annoying
All the Business Class seats on the American Airlines 777-300ER have their own inflight entertainment screens through which the airline can show the safety video and whatever it wants to advertise, and they allow passengers to watch TV shows and movies, to play games, to listen to music or to check the progress of the flight via the in-flight map.
All of this makes the overhead screens in the aisles more than a little redundant and it means that if you’re a flyer who prefers to sleep without an eye mask, it also makes them incredibly annoying when they remain on when the rest of the cabin is in darkness.
For most of a flight, all that these screens display is the flight map (something every passenger in the cabin can view on their personal screen) so I don’t understand why they have to remain on when passengers are trying to get some sleep…especially as they illuminate parts of the cabin like a star that’s just gone supernova!
8 – Be Prepared For A Possible Sauna
The cabin temperature is controlled by the crew and the air vents above the Business Class seats are too far away to do any good if the crew decides that the cabin temperature should approximate the temperature of the sun. A high cabin temperature isn’t always the fault of the crew (you sometimes get a passenger requesting that their fellow passengers be slow-roasted as they cross the Atlantic), but American Airlines crews are notorious for keeping cabins hot so come prepared with breathable and cooling clothing the next time you fly across the Atlantic with American. Failing that, bring a towel and embrace the Scandinavian in you.
9 – Onboard Wi-Fi Is Still Overpriced And Bad
On transatlantic flights, American Airlines charges $35 for a full flight wi-fi pass and that’s simply too much.
$35 would be too much if the wi-fi actually worked (United has the cheek to charge $37.99 for a similar distance flight) but it’s an insulting price when, while still over the United States, this is what you’re left to watch for 5 minutes…
…before being presented with this:
The wi-fi connection on this flight was so bad that it was even impossible to view American’s own website:
I’ve learned (slowly) from my mistakes and I now refuse to even attempt to purchase wi-fi on American Airlines international flights if I can see that the wi-fi is struggling to allow me to access aa.com while we’re still over land.
10 – This American Airlines Business Class Seat Is Still Among The Best
I’ve flown on more Business Class flights than I care to remember and the Business Class seat on the American Airlines 777-300ER remains one of my favorite seats to travel in.
I haven’t had the opportunity to try the Delta One suite or the new British Airways Club suite (my flights keep getting cancelled!) but American’s 777-300ER Business Class seat is a class above most other seats operating across the Atlantic…and that includes United’s flagship Polaris seat, Virgin Atlantic’s new Upper Class suite and anything that Lufthansa chooses to offer.
The good news is that you don’t have to fly with American Airlines just to try out this seat across the Atlantic as Finnair and Air France both offer a near-identical product on their 777s and A350s (respectively) and Delta offers a very similar product on its A330-300 aircraft.
11 – The Landing Was Incredible
The landing we made at Heathrow was among the best that I’ve ever experienced. In fact, from a comfort point of view, it may have been *the* best landing that I’ve ever experienced.
There was no “wriggling around” on approach (I assume that this is because there wasn’t much wind), there were no sudden changes in altitude or speed, and the aircraft made less impact with the runway upon landing than I make with the floor when I get out of bed every morning. The landing was so soft that I had to look out of the window just to be sure that we were really on the ground – huge kudos is due to whoever was at the controls when this flight landed because it was incredible.
12 – TATL Travel May Be On The Up But Arrivals Was Empty
Over the past 12 months, I’ve noticed that whenever I’ve arrived at Heathrow T2 the scenes in the arrivals hall (immigration) have mostly been chaotic while the scenes at T5 have been mostly been calm and stress-free. With American Airlines now operating in and out of Heathrow T3, I was unsure of what to expect and I confess that I expected the worse. I need not have worried.
The arrivals hall was empty (although none of the eGates were working), I got through immigration within minutes, and the baggage reclaim area was deserted.
It was bliss!
Sure, it still took over 30 minutes for the first bags to appear and “priority” baggage clearly didn’t really get any kind of priority treatment, but it was fantastic not to have to deal with any of the dramas that we’ve frequently seen played out at T2 in the past 12 months.
No doubt things will be worse if you happen to arrive at a time when multiple other flights are arriving too, but if you’re arriving from LAX on 134, things are pretty good right now.
Have any readers flown across the Atlantic in recent weeks? If you have, let me know what it was like in the comments.