After being in an Admirals Club airport lounge for the first time, being seated as a passenger in the first class cabin on an airplane for a domestic flight operated by American Airlines from Atlanta to Miami, and being in the Flagship airport lounge for the first time — a review of that experience is forthcoming — I boarded the Airbus A319 EOW airplane for another first for me: traveling while seated in the business class cabin for an international flight operated by American Airlines.
My First Time in American Airlines International Business Class — and The Verdict Is…
I boarded the airplane in Miami. A pillow and blanket awaited me, wrapped in plastic, at my seat — which was one of only eight seats in the small business class cabin. The seat was reasonably comfortable — but as my final destination was Bogotá in Colombia, I was not exactly expecting a lie-flat seat or substantial leg room.
A hard zippered case enshrouded in cloth — which contained Bang & Olufsen headphones — was handed out by a member of the flight crew to each passenger who was seated in the business class cabin.
I opened the case and tried out the headphones with my mobile telephone to listen to music, as the plug will fit in the jacks of most portable electronic devices as well as for that of the in-flight entertainment system. I am no audiophile, but the sound quality overall was very good to excellent. I used them for most of the flight.
The overhead storage bins offered ample space for luggage; but they were not the most spacious ones which I have ever used. Despite a small notch at the base of the wall in front, the bulkhead seat did not seem to offer much leg room.
Behind the seats shown in the photograph above were two men who were obnoxiously loud and obviously inebriated. One of them fussed extensively over being served two small bottles of vodka which were already opened and demanded two small unopened sealed bottles to be served instead. One of the men was a builder who loudly bragged about two girls who were Lesbian and Latino to the other man, who was associated with a truck cleaning service.
If you are wondering what I am talking about, I have no idea. The unavoidably loud conversation — which was punctuated with guffawing and lasted through the duration of the flight — was incomprehensible at best.
I have heard about the mixed array of warm nuts — including almonds and cashews — repeatedly over the years which are served in the premium class cabin aboard airplanes operated by American Airlines…
…and yes, they were indeed warm — but I did not eat them because I do not like nuts.
I chose the chicken entrée over the pasta one, as the latter one sounded like it had a lot of cheese, which I also do not like. The breast meat of the chicken was divided into three pieces; and it came with a penne rigati pasta salad, an appetizer of salami with mozzarella cheese, a chocolate chip cookie, a pat of butter, salad dressing, salt an pepper, and a warm roll — which came later and is not pictured.
The meal was good overall and sufficed for the remainder of the flight — although passengers also had a choice of assorted snacks which were offered.
Service during that flight was good; but one member of the flight crew stood out because he was quite attentive — to the point where he voluntarily and graciously wrote down suggestions for me of what to see and do for my first time in Bogotá.
The Return Flight
The flight from Bogotá to Miami three days later was a nearly identical experience which was also aboard an Airbus A319 EOW — and I understand that the EOW means Extended Over Water — except that the departure was delayed by one hour and one minute due to the aircraft arriving to the gate late.
The seat was the same as the origination flight — except that this one was directly across the aisle. Interestingly enough, the same passenger who sat across from me on the outbound flight also sat across from me aboard this airplane as well — as well as the person who sat next to this passenger; and they did not know each other. What are the odds of seeing two of the same passengers in basically the same seating configuration on the airplane for the return flight as on the outbound flight?
Thank goodness the two inebriated men were not aboard this airplane for the return flight, which was significantly quieter than the outbound flight.
The in-flight entertainment system offered literally hundreds of choices of movies, television programs, games, music, and an interactive map.
In addition to the tray table and a smaller tray from inside the center console to hold a beverage, a third tray option folds out from the center console of the seats in front of the one in which I sat. I thought that this was a useful feature — especially if you need to reach down to the bag located under the seat in front.
As with recent flights operated by American Airlines, advertising and public address announcements constantly interrupted the in-flight entertainment experience. Bring a portable electronic device loaded with your favorite entertainment to fill in for most of those interruptions.
As with the outbound flight, a moist hot cloth was handed out to each passenger seated in the business class cabin prior to the meal service but after a choice of beverage was served. I do not drink alcoholic beverages — so the only ale I drink is ginger; and the only beer I drink is root.
An assortment of warm nuts was again offered to start off the meal service. This time, I offered it to the aforementioned passenger across from me, with whom I had a conversation while we were waited at the gate to board the delayed airplane. The passenger accepted the warm nuts and appreciated the gesture.
The meal choices were worse for me this time around: cheese ravioli in pesto sauce or a pork entrée. Other than bacon, I do not eat pork — I know, I know, how can I not like nuts, cheese or pork — so I chose the ravioli, which I wished had more tomatoes.
Despite the cheese, the ravioli was as good as it could have been, I suppose. Accompanying the ravioli was smoked salmon with cucumber pieces and cherry tomato halves; a salad with fresh mushrooms, tomatoes, lettuce and thin strips of red pepper; a small bottle of olive oil, a pat of butter, and salt and pepper.
A warm roll was later offered to each passenger during the meal service…
…and a member of the flight crew offered more warm rolls. I happily obliged.
Chocolate ice cream in a strawberry sauce and topped with chocolate shavings was offered for dessert.
The business class experience was pleasant overall; but with few exceptions, it was unremarkable. I would recommend the experience if the cost — whether using miles or paying money — was reasonable or if you can take advantage of a good deal; but it is not substantially different from the experience of being seated in the economy class cabin.
Although I have traveled in the business class cabins of numerous airlines over the years — including Delta Air Lines, Copa Airlines, Qantas Airways and Alitalia as four of many examples — I had never had the opportunity to travel in the international business class product offered by American Airlines…
…and interestingly, American Airlines operated the flight of which I was a passenger aboard an airplane for the first time.
Perhaps one day, I will be able to experience being seated in the business class cabin of an airplane for a long-haul transoceanic flight operated by American Airlines — and if I do, I will be sure to review it.
Photograph ©2019 by Brian Cohen.