Advantages Comfortable seating. Plently of leg room. Excellent website.
Disadvantages Disappearing Attendants.
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It was our 30th wedding anniversary in May and we wanted a holiday to remember! After much deliberation we decided on a music themed road trip in America. Starting in Chicago, we would travel via the old Route 66 to St Louis, then onward to Nashville, Memphis, Jackson, Lafayette and finally New Orleans.The next decision was with which airline to travel. To a degree the decision was made for us as American Airlines fly directly to Chicago daily from Manchester (our nearest airport) at a reasonable time - leaving at 10.30 a.m. and arriving in Chicago's O'Hare at 1 p.m. (Other UK airports served by American Airlines are London's Stansted and Heathrow). Return flights to Chicago are currently (May 2008) £351 per person. Other US destinations are available at a range of prices.
To keep things simple we also used an American Airlines domestic flight between New Orleans to Chicago at the end of our road trip.Booking was easily accomplished. Their easy-to-navigate website, www.americanairlines.co.uk, enables you to book online using a comprehensive form and secure payment. Of course, booking can be made through any local travel agency.
~~Check-in~~For the international flight from Manchester to Chicago, recommended check-in time was 3 hours prior to take-off. Recommended check-in time for domestic flights is 1½ hours.
Before reaching the baggage desks, we as do all passengers had to pass through an interview with flight officers (there were three on the day we travelled) and answer a number of questions about the purpose of travel, what our occupations were, where we were to stay in the US, how we planned to travel once in the US, how we packed our luggage, where the luggage was stored prior to travel etc, etc. This is all done at supposedly enough distance away from the queue for privacy! Supposedly - you can of course hear all from the queue!! Anyway, the officer dealing with us was friendly with the process lasting a few minutes only. We were issued with our boarding passes and shepherded onward to the baggage desk.Baggage allowance is more than generous. Two pieces of luggage weighing 50 lbs/23 kgs or less per person is accepted free of charge. Any more than this is subject to an excess fee. Each person is also allowed one carry-on piece of luggage as well as a hand bag, rucksack or similar. Restrictions for carry-on luggage still apply - liquids must be in a 3.4-ounce container or smaller and transported in a one-quart clear, plastic, zip-top bag. No sharp items, lighters or alcohol.
~~The Planes~~There is a marked difference between the aircraft used for international flights and those for domestic flights.
For their international flights, American Airlines use Boeing 777s or 767 (ours a 767)... There are three classes of service on these planes: First, Business and Economy. There is also a marked difference between classes! Our class - economy!The first class cabins are incredible. The seats are arranged in rows of 2-2-2 format divided by two aisles and are leather. There is enough room to lay the seats down flat to sleep if you so wish. If you are in the sitting position, there is a footrest. Individual DVD players are distributed allowing you to select from a wide-range of films.
The economy class cabin itself is fairly roomy. The cabin arranged with in rows of seven seats in a 2-3-2 format divided by two aisles. The seats are cloth but comfortable - well as far as airline seats go - with enough leg-room to enable you to stretch out your legs comfortably. A small TV monitor is situated immediately to the front of your seats as well as larger monitors centralised between the aisles. Toilets are situated between cabin areas. Four in total for economy passengers! They were at least clean!
Each passenger is allocated with a seat assigned to a group:
Group 6 - economy passengers assigned to sit at the far end of the plane (tail)
Group 5 - economy passengers assigned to sit 1/6 away from the tail of the plane
Group 4 - economy passengers assigned to sit 1/3 away from the tail of the plane
Group 3 - economy passengers assigned to sit at the middle of the plane
Group 2 - economy passengers assigned to sit right after the business class
Group 1 - passengers in the business class, passengers with children and with disabilities, and frequent flyer card holders.
Two films are shown during each international flight between the US and UK - one recent release and one a little older (no choices). Before and after the films a variety of US TV programmes are aired including CBN news.American Airlines has its own in-house flight magazine, American Way, provided to each passenger. The magazine is published twice a month and does contain some interesting articles including information about holiday destinations and attractions, book reviews and airport maps. It also has a few pages of puzzles including a sudoku page which kept me busy between films.
Two meals are served during international flights. One is a main meal with a choice of two meals - nothing fancy but edible - lasagne or chicken and pasta with a bread roll and a flapjack. Coffees, teas, fruit juice and water are free with frequent opportunities for top-ups. Wine, beer etc are chargeable $5 for a small bottle of wine. The other meal is more of a snack - a slice of pizza.For our connecting flights (New Orleans - Chicago) on the other hand, food is not free. Drinks are. Cookies, cheese and biscuits etc are available at a cost!
~~Service~~Airline Attendants on each of our three flights were more mature (average age approximately 40). For the beginning of the flight, they rushed about with drinks and food all in a very automated manner. No delays allowed. My husband had trouble getting his tray unfolded from the armrest. The attendant offered no help - just handed me his tray to hold then moved on.
Food and drink over, the attendants seemed to disappear from sight (for at least 2 - 3 hours) only to re-appear an hour before landing for the second round of drinks and food!This is for economy class. Service appeared to be far better in first and business classes.
~~The Frequent Flyer Program~~I cannot claim to be a frequent flyer however for those who are lucky enough to be,
American Airlines is part of the frequent flyer program known as the One World Alliance. Any flights that you take on American, Aer Lingus, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Iberia, Lan Chile or Quantas count toward this programme.AA has three levels of elite status, Gold for those that fly 25,000 miles per year, Platinum for those that fly 50,000 miles per year and Executive Platinum for those that fly 100,000.
Once you have reached one of these elite levels you are granted upgrade segments. The segments (good for 500 miles of flight) can be used to upgrade your flight to first class. They can also be purchased in blocks of eight for £200.~~Summary~~
American Airlines offer a reasonable service: Website is excellent, Boarding is efficient. Comfort is good. Food is fair. Service (for economy) poor.I would fly again - comfort and safety taking priority for me over the food and service.
Overall - American Airlines are Absolutely Average.
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