After the American Airlines-US Airways merger, AA have inherited several Airbus A330s for their long-haul flights and indeed the Philadelphia hub. They now operate a sizeable range of transatlantic flights from Philadelphia including Manchester, London Heathrow, Munich, Frankfurt, Athens, Rome, Paris, Madrid, Glasgow and Barcelona. Throughout my journey to Pennsylvania, I was curious to find out:
- How does American Airlines compare to British Airlines on transatlantic flights?
- Has the “new” American identity shone through on these ex-US Airways birds?
Boarding & Departure
Upon arriving at our gate, at 08:50am we were called to board the aircraft. However, due to the aircraft’s late arrival from Philadelphia, boarding actually began at around 09:30am. My flight would be operated by N270AY, an Airbus A330-300, delivered to US Airways in March 2000.
My request to board the aircraft early was granted, and the boarding agents were very keen to learn more about my interest in aviation. I was met by Elizabeth, who was extremely kind and talkative throughout the flight, one of the best cabin-crew members I have encountered throughout my experiences. She allowed me to take as many pictures of the Economy Cabin as I wanted and then I was allowed to take some shots of the Business Class – formerly ‘Envoy’ cabin – and then speak to the Captain on the flight deck.
The Captain talked me through the routing, showing me the iPad, and was really nice and informative. It was a great experience in a widebody cockpit.
I then went back to my seat – 10A – which had a superb wing-view! Looking around the aircraft, I asked the flight attendant, “is this it?”. The reply came, “I was expecting more!”. The plane was around 1/3 full – a joy for the passengers as every passenger got atleast two seats for themselves and all the rows in the centre of the aircraft were being used as quasi-flat beds. I had the two window seats (A & B) to myself which was really great.
We took off from Heathrow at around 10:25am, and quickly got on our routing to Philadelphia.
As soon as the seatbelt signs were turned off, the meal service began. The choice? Shepherd’s Pie or Thai Vegetables. An inventive selection, which impressed me, rather than the usual “chicken or beef?”. I picked the Shepherd’s Pie option, which was delicious. The meal service came with a pretzel stick, a choice of beverages, a salad and a chocolate brownie. Further into the flight, ice cream was served, which was a nice touch.
Just before arrival into Pennsylvania, a small snack was served, which consisted of a pizza slice and a red velvet sponge.
Who won: BA or AA? American Airlines – we didn’t receive a second meal on British Airways.
The Business Class cabin is in a 1-2-1 configuration, meaning direct aisle-access at every seat and a full flat bed:
The Economy Class cabin is in a 2-4-2 configuration (as is standard on the Airbus A330) and was very comfortable. The legroom was decent, and the recline was also very comfortable. My only criticism would be the IFE system, which was quite clearly outdated and insensitive. If this was improved, it would definitely beat BA’s 777 Economy Cabin.
Who won: BA or AA? British Airways, slightly.
Cabin Cleanliness/Cabin Crew
The cabin was spotlessly clean – even the lavatories. The cabin crew were also some of the best I have come across.
Who won: BA or AA? American Airlines.
Arrival into Philadelphia
Just before cabin crew were instructed to take their seats for landing, one of the male FAs quickly came to me and gave me an ‘Aviator Logbook’ including information about AA’s fleet, history and a logbook, of which the crew had signed. This was a really nice end to a great flight. The pilot executed a smooth landing and we arrived onto stand at 12:52pm, around 15 minutes ahead of our scheduled arrival time.
So, back to the two main points, were there traces of US Airways? Yes, the cabin crew still wore US Airways aprons when serving meals and ice cream, the galleys and service trolleys were still branded US Airways. Overall though, the “new” American has been embraced on these birds.
And, finally, who would I choose: BA or AA? Having flown London to Philadelphia on both these airlines, within a year of eachother, I would choose American Airlines. The timings are more convenient, and my experience was much more personable on American.
Meal Services: 9/10
Overall Experience: 9/10
How has everyone else’s experiences been on American Airlines?