Note: I took this flight on January 2017. It’s been a while, and I have taken similar flights since. The product has hardly changed, except for the amenity kits which the kit itself has gone from good to absolute trash. I hope you enjoy this trip report down memory lane.
American has really stepped up their game on Transatlantic Flights. Although not the best airline to cross the Atlantic, the improvement over their previous product(s) is noticeable. Their 777-200ER with the Zodiac style seats are not as bad as people make them sound. Wifi, good food, and good bedding make for a pleasant and relaxing flight.
The Good: Comfortable seat, although a very interesting design. Improved food quality and functionally fast wifi.
The Bad: Indifferent/robotic crews.
The Noteworthy: My seat did not rock/shake when the other person moved, I don’t know if it was because of where I was seated, or because I lucked out!
I booked this flight via Google Flights, as there were affordable tickets between DCA and Barcelona. I had been meaning to go to BCN for a while, so when I saw cheap tickets, I made it work. The flight was only $385, and I easily upgraded using Business ExtrAA Points.
Arrival at JFK
Since my flight from DCA ended up being delayed about 30 minutes, it only gave me 30 minutes from landing to the scheduled start of boarding at JFK. This meant no Flagship Lounge 🙁 . As soon as I got to the terminal, I walked over to the gate for my Barcelona flight, which was some distance away. Once there, boarding was only 4 minutes away. Quick note: there were 8 people who cleared at the gate for upgrades (most were non-revs).
Airline: American Airlines
Cabin: Business Class
Route: New York JFK- Barcelona
Boarding began quickly and efficiently with Concierge Key members. I was expecting there to be maybe one or two CK members (as is what I have come to expect from transAtlantic flights). Surprisingly, there were none. About 5 seconds after they realized, they called Group 1 to Board.
The Zodiac Aerospace Cabin is quite elegant, but also very sterile. The seats are in variations of the color grey, along with the walls. Mood lighting makes the cabin feel more welcoming. It is worth highlighting, however, that at the entrance there is a cool light fixture. It is lit red, white and blue, and gives the galley a patriotic feel. The business class cabin consists of two separate sections. The front section and the back section are about the same size, but the front section avoids extra traffic during boarding. I also find turning left on a plane to be an awesome feeling.
Behind Business Class there was the economy cabin. It was set up in a 3x4x3 configuration, which is one more dense than the old style.
I had selected 7L, a window seat on the right side of the plane. The seats, as mentioned before, are staggered, some are front facing and some are back facing. I personally prefer the back facing seats, since they offer better views of the window, and more privacy when sleeping.
On my seat there was already a pillow and a blanket. American now uses the Casper Bedding. I really like their pillows, but the new blankets are thinner and less soft than the old ones. So I would call this one a toss up in terms of improvement.
The seat has a mini ottoman, which you can’t use for very much. Above the ottoman is the IFE screen. They are pretty high definition, but not as High Def as the ones on the new 787-9 (in my opinion).
Next to the seat there is a small storage compartment, where the amenity kit was stored. One of the nice things of this version of the Business Class seat is that it comes with two USB Ports and two Universal Power outlets. In proximity to the outlets there is a small compartment where you can store small things. I kept my phone and wallet there during the flight.
The seat controls are found on the opposite side of the window on the rear facing seats. They are touch screen controls, and are a bit overly responsive. They turn on easily and a slight touch will move your seat. The IFE controls are on the window side, as well as a reading light.
As I mentioned before, there was a Casper bedding set waiting for me at my seat. There was also an amenity kit, a menu and a pair of Bose Headphones. The Cole Haan Amenity Kit was stocked with the usual CO Bigelow products, and all the rest of the basic items.
Departure and Take off
While I investigated my seat, a flight attendant walked by offering passengers the option between orange juice, water and champagne. I selected the OJ, and it was presented in a plastic glass. By this time, the business class cabin was totally full, and the flight was about 85-90% full, per my estimates.
The captain came on the PA to announce that we would be departing about 5 minutes early, and he expected us to arrive about 40 minutes ahead of schedule at Barcelona due to favorable winds. We pushed back and began our taxi to the runway at JFK.
It kinda sucks that you can’t take very good pictures from any of the business class seats because of the angle. The rear facing ones are angled away from the window, and the forward facing ones are too far away. A true design flaw for those AvGeeks out there.
We took off after a shorter-than-expected wait in line for the runway.
Dinner began very quickly after the captain signaled the crew could begin. The flight had both dinner and breakfast service, which was a bit a food considering the flight time of just over 6h30m. The menu read as follows:
The crew began by distributing hot towels, the same ones they offer in domestic business class. Afterwards, they came by and set the table.
Following, they brought out warm nuts and drinks, and I ordered my favorite soda: Dr. Pepper.
The appetizer was a Thai Chicken breast with some fruit garnishes. It was rather bland, and tasted just like the Subway chicken breast. The salad was small and simple, but the dressing was pour at your seat, a nice touch.
For the main course I ordered the beef fillet. It was tender and juicy, but the mac and cheese was tasteless. I had to use the leftover sauce from the beef to add some flavor.
For dessert, there was a chocolate mousse cake, which was the highlight of the meal.
After Dinner and Sleeping
After dinner, I watched some TV and then I decided to go to sleep. Before I clocked out, I went to check out the onboard bar, which was stocked with snacks, water, and sandwiches and wraps. THERE WAS SO MUCH FOOD ON THIS FLIGHT. Comparing the amount of snacks available, and the visual quality, American literally destroys British Airways and Iberia. As a matter of fact, they even outdo Cathay Pacific on longer flights. WOWZA.
When I got back to my seat, I put it in lie flat mode. It isn’t particularly wide, and feels a bit claustrophobic, but I did not mind. The pillow and blanket were nice enough to sleep in. Within 10 minutes of lying down, I fell asleep, only to wake up before breakfast.
About 1h45m before arrival, the flight attendants came by to offer breakfast. As opposed to most American flights, the crew was doing it sort of on-demand. As people began to wake up, they were asked what they wanted for breakfast. By 1h20m before arrival, everyone had basically woken up.
I ordered the egg dish, which is the exact same one they offer on domestic first class. It was alright.
Landing and Arrival
Approach into Barcelona was smooth and beautiful. The sun was only beginning to rise, and you could sense peace in the sky. We flew over the city, out into the Mediterranean, and then landed in Barcelona El Prat Airport.
After 10 minutes of taxiing, we were at a gate and were able to deplane.
American has one of the better Trans Atlantic business class options. Although not as fancy as Air France, nor as refined as Lufthansa, they offer a competitive option. I would fly them over Lufthansa, any IAG airline, and some Air France aircraft in a heartbeat. The service is the only place where American can improve, but this applies to almost every United States airline. If I ever find a cheap and easily upgradeable fare, I would hop on it immediately. My only concern is how difficult American is making it to get upgrades a few moments after ticketing. If they released more upgrade inventory, that would be awesome.