Different Airlines – Same Routes – To Chicago with American Airlines and British Airways
Or “Oh Sandy. You came and you gave without thinking….”
Onto the flying business aboard American Airlines. Does the AA Experience beat or loose to the United Trans-Atlantic economy flights? Find out below..
AA099 (Sold as BA1540) – London Heathrow Airport – Chicago O’Hare International
American Airlines, Boeing 777-200ER, Seat 26J, Economy Class
35 Tier Points Earned, 7906 Avios Earned (3,953 Base + 3,953 Bonus)
After a short wait on the airbridge, I made my way onto the 777 where I was greeted and directed down the correct isle of the plane.
777’s are odd beasts when it comes to airlines as no one airline has found what it thinks is the “right” configuration. For some it’s the classic 3-3-3. For certain nut-job airlines (including AA when they get their 777-300ER’s), it’s the pain of 3-4-3. There’s ANA who have their 3-4-2 layout… and then there is old United and American who run 2-5-2 in their seating configurations.
I happen to like 2-5-2 as a fan of the 2-4-2 layouts. What I was not expecting however was how tight the legroom would be.
Cabin during boarding.
Home for 8 and half hours.
Now I’m the best part of 5ft 9″/5 ft 10″, so economy class is normally not burden for me. This however was a burden and there’s no way to describe this as “tight as hell”.
This didn’t get any better when my seatmate arrived, who wasn’t a passenger of size, but did tend to spread everywhere – from seat to the armrest (over the AVOD remote… thanks), to leg room.
Sigh. Personal space. He’s heard of it.
This 8 hours and 30 minutes upcoming was looking to be a very long flight…
Boarding took its own merry time with a view of a 747-400 being serviced outside.
Eventually the plane was buttoned up and was pushed back near enough on-scheduled. The safety video played and the flight attendants went through the plane, in preparation for departure.
Our departure off runway 9R meant a taxi past Heathrow T5, with the rows of British Airways jets lining up proudly at their hub. As we taxied past T5, FireFly was sat awaiting her next duty.
(The plane that looks like someone threw custard over it – that’s FireFly).
With a small queue for departures, it was about a 3 minute wait to line up for 9R…. and then the power of those engines came online.
The plane took to the skies quickly, and begin a quick climb into the air, clearing the low cloud and breaking through to the blue sky and suns rays.
At about 10,000ft the welcoming announcements were made, as well as the service levels on this flight.
Above us only sky…
Anyway, I had a quick fumble around the IFE system. And whilst its a step up on the United old 777 system (for starter’s there’s this odd thing called AVOD – Audio/Video On Demand), the content was … lacking.
Therefore, we all know what happens next don’t we?
AA’s AVOD system at the top – Kevincm’s GhettoIFE solution (featuring iPhone5) in its usual place. And those iPhone5’s are getting a bit wide for those sick bags now. Ho hum… maybe that iPad IFE is coming one day (meanwhile on the screen, it’s Red Dwarf Series 1. Those of you who are old enough will know the theme tune off by heart… )
However, there appeared to be rustling and sounds coming from the galley, and soon enough two trolleys drifted by with the promise of breakfast.
And the offer came of pancakes or omelette. Knowing omelettes have cheese in them, I reluctantly went for the pancakes.
I’ll listen to myself next time to the part of me that says “order a lacto free meal, and drat the possible opup”. Saying that, the Pancakes were pure sugar – but edible sugar. The scrambled eggs were light and fluffyish – not bad by airline standards. The fruit was fresh too.
The addition of a little snack pack is a great idea so you don’t get peckish mid-flight – and most of it was edible. With the scrambled egg, I took the risk… and during the flight, I didn’t suffer. Call it mild-lacto for sake of argument – I’ll live with that.
There were two drink runs – one just before food and one after the food service was complete.
On the 2nd run, I experimented with the table which had a wonderful feature – you could split it in half and half a half table for drinks whilst giving you some room.
Not bad at all here people. If the seat wasn’t so tight, it would be acceptable.
Now by this point, I was exhausted. After the empties were collected, I closed my eyes. The next thing I knew the plane had almost cleared the Atlantic. Now, considering food was cleared down after Ireland, this represents the best part of 5 hours out cold.
I think I’ve got this West-bound travel thing worked out at last!
Looking at the cabin, the 777 cabin is still… a 777 cabin. And there’s nothing inherently wrong with the 777 cabin with the curves giving you space, air vents to keep you cool and the space you get in a widebody jet (unless some idiot installs 3-4-3 seating in them).
The toilets seemed to be clean even 6 hours into the flight (which isn’t a bad thing) and the crew seemed to be a chatty mood – it’s a darn good thing when you’re flying as it seems to lift their moods. Requests for drinks from the galley were met with happily – as was a pen (where I learned where there are safety bins when you don’t think there are in a 777).
The route took us north, following the great circle route, with the usual dips and turns before Chicago.
Sadly, outside it wasn’t what I would call a great day for flying, as cloud seemed to be the order of the day – no matter where i was in the world.
Still as the time closed in on landing, it was time for a snack service – and it was a hot snack service. Coming from United’s “sandwich with mystery meat”, this was going to be different.
The bread thing was tomato and bready – and warm. No cheese of any sort I could detect (although knowing my luck…). The pasta was cold and inoffensive, and the cookie… yep – that had milk, so that went in the bag.
Whilst the United catered meal out of London felt like a picnic, this felt like a warm snack, and that adds extra bonus marks in my book. Again, two rounds of drinks were offered.
We’re onto Red Dwarf X now…
Clear down happened quickly enough and after watching the map for so long, Lake Michigan came into view as decent begun. The Welcome to America video was run (the same one run in Customs and Border Patrol area), and arrival information was posted
Clearing the East side of Lake Michigan and over the blue.
A final clear down was made, and soon enough, decent began, crossing over the West side of Lake Michigan, and down over the Chicago suburbs
The plane lined up and soon enough the plane touched down.
As we pulled into O’Hare it was obvious we had arrived to the far side of the T1, so it was a slow taxi past T1, over the bridge past T3 and finally coming into to T5 at Chicago O’Hare. The plane took its time, but we arrived 30 minutes early as the bongs to release the seatbelts were made.
Mr lack of personal space finally got up and I managed to recover my bag, and made my way off the 777 thanking the crew and captain
Overall: I’m fast concluding that going over the pond, flying in economy is fast turning into a glorified bus with a bit of food if you’ve been good. Saying that the service offered by American was of good quality and reasonable enough service… if missing some little things (like walking up and down the isle with water). But those seats are just a touch tight for my liking…
Next up – Dealing with the CBP and Crowne Plaza O’Hare