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Review: American Airlines Economy Class London - Charlotte in the Airbus A330
Charlotte in the US state of North Carolina is one such city that, despite its high national importance, hardly attracts tourists. In Germany, at most, the airport is known as the hub of American Airlines, as it handles 45 million passengers a year.
Cheap flights to Seattle allowed free mini-stopovers to be booked in the US in the fall. I put one of them in Charlotte, so I was booked on the London Heathrow - Charlotte flight in September 2017. During the flight I once again captured a few impressions in picture and text form and have now compiled them for you.
But first a few more flight details:
- Flight: American Airlines AA 733 from London Heathrow to Charlotte
- booked seat 15H
- Scheduled departure: September 5, 2017 2:00 p.m.
- Scheduled arrival: September 5, 2017 6:10 p.m.
- Flight duration: 9h 10min
- Aircraft: Airbus A330-200 (formerly US Airways)
Booking & check-in
The low-cost flights to Seattle were booked directly on the American Airlines website due to the many stopovers. It was easy to pay by credit card there, but it was a bit trickier to reserve a seat. Customers with Oneworld Ruby status with American Airlines are theoretically entitled to otherwise chargeable seats. This also applies to the “Main Cabin Extra”, which, like the United Economy Plus, offers a larger seat pitch than the regular Economy Plus. Sapphire and Emeralds can theoretically reserve the seats as soon as the booking is made, Rubys only a week before departure.
The practice looked different again and you wanted to collect a few dollars for each seat. A call to the German-speaking American Airlines hotline helped and the desired seats were booked free of charge. In the American A330 there are unfortunately only seats with more seat spacing at the emergency exits (all of them were already occupied), but at least we got a seat in the front part of the cabin.
Note: Without a status, seat reservations can also be made free of charge from the time of booking. However, at this point in time, there is a substantial surcharge for the 2-person seats in the front economy half. A free reservation is only possible after check-in.
The actual check-in was really chaotic. We flew with a British Airways feeder from Copenhagen to Heathrow and therefore had to check in at the British Airways counter in Copenhagen and drop off our luggage. Despite the clearly formulated Oneworld rules, they refused to take the second piece of luggage with them free of charge.
At first it was astonished that Air Berlin was supposedly a Oneworld member (still the case in September). The supervisor then refused to take the 2nd piece of luggage with you free of charge. The plan now was to simply pay for the excess baggage first and then claim the costs later. However, the system did not do this, so that it was possible to take it away free of charge in the end. What a shame ...
Changeover & lounge
So much for the prehistory. The flight to London then went smoothly after visiting the very pleasant Eventyr Lounge in Copenhagen. We landed in Heathrow Terminal 5 and had to take the bus over to Terminal 3. Compared to the new British Airways Terminal, the old building is an enormous downgrade, especially in terms of organization. Overview plans of the terminal only contain the shops and no gates. A sign indicated special controls for US flights, so that one should go to the gate at least one hour before departure. In reality, however, there were no further controls.
The British Airways Lounge was not allowed to be used as an American passenger, so it went to the American Airlines Admirals Club. Contrary to expectations, it was anything but poorly equipped. There is a selection of cold and warm dishes, salads, desserts and of course drinks. The warm options were pasta with tomato sauce and chicken wings with BBQ marinade. Unfortunately, with two hours between arrival and onward flight at Heathrow, there wasn't much time for the lounge, but everything on offer tasted quite good.
The location of the lounge turned out to be impractical. American started from the gate on the south wing, which can only be reached via a narrow corridor. The easy way to get there then took almost ten minutes. At the gate, it was not straight to the plane, but in between to an intermediate area with additional seating. From there, the orderly boarding took place, whereby not all of the seven boarding groups were used.
Cabin & comfort
Fortunately, so far only a few airlines have come up with the idea of squeezing rows of 9 into the Airbus A330. American Airlines therefore has a classic 2-4-2 arrangement in Economy Class. If you are only traveling in pairs, you do not have to worry about someone sitting next to you. In addition, everyone benefits from the fact that a maximum of one additional person has to get up to go to the toilet.
As for the seating comfort, I was pleasantly surprised. The interior was apparently a bit older and was therefore not yet subject to the usual austerity requirements as is the case with the camping chairs from Air Canada. Even when sitting for a long time, there was no back pain and the width of the armrest is also okay. There are negative points for the fixed headrest. This could neither be adjusted in height nor bent to lean on the side. Not exactly practical at a height of 1.98 m.
There was nothing to complain about with the seat spacing. Although, according to AA, this was no larger than on the economy seats further back, there was a decent gap of more than 5 centimeters between my knees and the seat pocket. Even with the person in front inclined, it was not tight.
Even when I looked at the seating plan shortly before departure, I noticed the low occupancy of the economy (40 - 50%), while the business was booked quite well. So I took the chance again and grabbed a free row of 4 seats after the seat belt sign went out. Just quickly fold up the armrests and hide the seat belts - and the 2m long lie-flat bed in the wood class is ready:
Even during the day flight, there were fabric blankets and the usual mini-pillow with a scratchy cover at every seat. By combining two ceilings, the short length of these is no longer a problem.
Food & service
The question of “chicken or pasta” is familiar from the long-haul flights of various airlines. American is also not exactly creative when it comes to catering and on the flight to Charlotte offered a choice between pasta with tomato sauce and chicken with rice and vegetables. However, details about the supplements had to be requested personally, as there is no information to choose from beforehand. This is not a big problem (also thanks to the transparent lids of the meals), but it is a much better solution at Air Canada. The complete menu is already stored there in the in-flight entertainment and helps with decision-making.
I chose the chicken in some sort of soy sauce and was happy with this choice. The food was (comparatively) nicely arranged, the rice wasn't too dry and the amount of meat was quite generous. There was also a fresh salad with dressing, a dry roll, crackers, cream cheese and a delicious mini cheesecake. Later they served a creamy vanilla ice cream and in the middle of the flight the usual mini pretzels. Shortly before landing, there was a small snack box with hot pastries and a warm coconut "muffin".
So nothing negative to say about the food and the same applies to the drinks. For the main course there was a 1/4 liter bottle of water and the usual drinks service including free coffee, wine and beer. In contrast to British Airways, one is not stingy when it comes to beverage cans and one with 350 ml content is enough. In addition, unlike many European airlines, ginger ale, club soda and tonic water are on the drinks list.
Afterwards, the crew kept coming through the cabin with either water bottles to refill or the complete trolley. As far as I could tell, there were no German-speaking employees on board. The crew was always friendly and communication went smoothly (apart from the usual communication problems when pronouncing “ginger ale”).
Not only were the seats on the aircraft a bit older, the entertainment system should also be at least 5 years old. The resolution of the screen was still ok, the controls less so. The screen does not react at all to gentle touch and the system allows itself some time to think about each time it is pressed.
The selection of films and series was good. Current and German films were also available. Which films will be shown on your future AA flight can be checked in advance on the airline website. Some games (including Bejeweled, Geospot and Pacman) were also loaded. However, controlling the insensitive display is not a pleasure and any strong pressure on the display should be noticeable for the person in front.
For me, the most important point at IFE is the “moving map”. American was not doing well here. There is only one video in autoplay mode, the view cannot be moved, enlarged or otherwise changed. In addition, flight information (altitude, temperature, etc.) is displayed in full screen half of the time, which hardly changes after reaching cruising altitude. By the way, exactly the same map was also displayed on the large screen at the front of the bulkhead. At least a kind of multitasking is possible.
Theoretically, the system supports the display of current news from various categories. However, the menu remained empty for the entire flight and the function was therefore useless. There was no separate cable remote control.
In summary, the entertainment system is quite out of date, but it does the basic functions. It is enough to watch films, most passengers carry their own devices for everything else anyway.
This chapter is nice and short, because there weren't many extras on the flight. Not even sockets are built into the economy. The smartphone and tablet are powered via a USB port in the armrest, which could not have been placed more stupidly. The freedom of movement of the leg is severely restricted when the cable is plugged in. In addition, careless movement could quickly break the connector.
However, the integrated USB ports in the aircraft charge so slowly anyway that I always recommend taking a power bank with you. This has enough space in the seat pocket of the front seat.
Speaking of seat bags: in this I found the airline magazine “American Way”, the safety card and a vomit bag.
The cleanliness on board the aircraft was good and apparently the toilets were checked regularly. As far as I could tell, WiFi was not available. In the meantime, however, Internet access is possible in many aircraft in the A330 fleet. Those who didn't have a headset could get free in-ear headphones from the crew.
Overall, I was very happy with the economy flight. The most important thing is the seating comfort and in this point the older age of the interior design ensures a good rating. The seats were (despite the non-adjustable headrest) sufficiently padded and not uncomfortable even after several hours. The distance between the seats is generous. The flight was particularly pleasant due to the poor occupancy rate. Due to the rows of 2 at the window, a fully booked flight should also be quite comfortable. There is also no drop in catering compared to transatlantic flights with other airlines. The biggest point of criticism is the outdated in-flight entertainment and an electrical outlet would still be good. In the economy of the A330, these are apparently installed in some, but not all, aircraft. I would book the flight again at any time and once again realize that there are hardly any major differences in the on-board product of the “full service carriers” (now partially without service).
peerStudent from Rostock and regularly in the air. He has been on Travel-Dealz for many years and has been on board as an author since 2017. Favorite Destinations: North America and Islands around the World.
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