Tag Archives: Frequent Flyer

American Airlines International Business Class – Disappointment

American Airlines International Business Class

Do you have any experience with American Airlines International Business Class?

I have been a loyal AA and OneWorld frequent flyer since 1998!  You can imagine the miles I have accumulated over that time.  Let me put it this way – I have been at Executive Platinum for the last 10 years or so, and have a life time Platinum due to the number of miles flown.

So, when my family decided to take a vacation to Europe this summer, I decided that we will fly on American  – of course – and use some of my system wide upgrades to have us in international business class across the Atlantic between the US and Heathrow.

All of us were excited…Lie-flat seats, Entertainment, Premium dining….!

This is what we expected:  

American Airlines International Business Class
This is what American Airlines advertises on their Web page

Well, turns out our experience was less than great.  On the flight to Heathrow, our meals were inedible!  I kid you not. I had a wedge salad and roast beer.   Please see the pictures below and you will know what I am about to say:

American Airlines Premium Dining International Business Class
Premium Dining? Really?
American Airlines Premium Dining International Business Class
Would you consider this Premium Dining..? I do not
American Airlines Premium Dining International Business Class
How does one cut this Wedge salad with a butter knife? I could not

The wedge salad was impassible to eat – it was a hunk of lettuce which I had to slide with a butter knife… .How?!?!  Others on the plane could not either….

Then, the main course – Beef sounds exciting — well, it was NOT!   It was shoe leather like, no taste, and please see the dish with sauce – it was spilled all over the place.

All in all – the dishes went back to where they came from.  I barely touched them…

The flight attendant noticed (I think others were in the same boat) – and asked me with an apology – “Should I bring you something else?”   I thanked her and did not take her up on the offer… I could not imagine the rest was any better.   

Our flight back from Heathrow, 9 days later, was not much better.  There was no wedge salad.. Thanks for small mercy!

The entertainment system was another story – on the flight from Heathrow to DFW, most of the business class passengers had the same experience – the system was not working properly… Oh, well – it is a premium experience 🙂

Needless to say – American, your service has SLIPPED big time!  I would not call our experience – all of my family flew business – anything to write home about!


Flying in China, or anywhere in the world for that matter…

Over the past 2 weeks I had the interesting experience of having a bunch of flights between Shenzhen, Shanghai and Beijing. The reason I call them interesting is that I heard again the strange explanation of why flights get delayed. Over the years of living and working in China I saw the country’s air travel network being stressed more and more. At the same time I also saw the masterful capability by the various airlines (Air China, Eastern, Southern….) not to answer your question when flights get messed up.

There are many ways to let the passengers know that they will not get on time to their destination, but the “best” one I hear all the time in China is “We regret to inform you that the flight is delayed due to aircraft delay”

Does this statement really provide any information? No, it just tells you “the flight is delayed” Why is it delayed? No plane… Duh…But why is the plane not on time? Well that is a whole different question isnt’t 🙂 and no, we will not tell you why 🙂

So, that is about it. Don’t worry when you travel — you flight could be delayed, and you will not know why, but on the other hand, does it matter 🙂 ? You just sit back and relax.

Oh, and by the way, my flight from Hangzhou to Beijing earlier today left about 10 minutes ahead of schedule. You better not be late for your flight 🙂

Air Travel Experiences – Plane Mechanical Troubles and Delays Abound

Over the last three weeks my family and I have had to travel on a number of flights and across several airlines (American, United…) for both business and personal reasons. Between the Thanksgiving holiday and business travel for me we logged in over 18K miles each and over 6 flights. During these flights we experienced numerous delays due to plane mechanical issues. For example – our Thanksgiving trip included travel from Austin (TX) to Huntsville (AL). That involved 4 flights. Out of the 4 flights, three had mechanical trouble. These were all on American airlines. That resulted in delays from 40minutes to 2 hours per flight.

Then last week I had to fly to San Jose. I arrived at the airport (for an early morning flight === for an early morning meeting in San Jose) to find out that the night before the 6:40 am flight has been canceled. Lucky for me I was able to jump on a flight to Dallas and from there to San Jose resulting in only 1 hour delay of arrival. The alternative was pretty bad — I was going to meet a critical customer meeting! By flying via Dallas I was able to notify the customer and delay the meeting by one and a half hour — 1 hour flight delay plus time to get to the customer site (my original flight was to arrive early enough that I could make it to the customer’s location way before the meeting time)

Then came my most recent flight Taipei – San Francisco – Austin (just yesterday) —> the flight from San Francisco to Austin got delayed as well (by 1 hour) as the plane had trouble with the navigation system and required parts replacement while the passengers were on-board….That was an United flight.

Have I had only one or two such troubles in a short three week window of time, I would have thought — “This is just a normal / sudden issue”. But the case here was different — I was on 12 flights in a matter of three weeks and four of the flights had issues with the planes. Add to that the now usual time delays due to traffic congestion and you have yourself a pretty tough situation for us the travelers.

What is the lesson learned from all this — well, I do not think we can do much to change the readiness of the planes — this is the airlines’ responsibility. I hope the airlines are taking steps to renew their fleet and / or keep the planes in better shape. What can we, the travelers do? One thing only — always plan your trips with the thought that you will be delayed and figure out ahead of time what your options could be.

Best airfares not to be found online?

In recently booking some international travel for a buying trip for my online store ( www.chinafinds.com ), I came across an interesting phenomenon. Although I have always been a big fan of online booking sites such as Orbitz and Expedia, I found to my surprise that the best deals on American Airlines and United were to be found, not on their websites or on Orbitz/Expedia, but with their telephone reservation centers. Several years ago, the airlines started charging an additional fee to purchase flights via their telephone reservation agents, while it remained free to purchase flights via their websites. As a result, I had pretty much abandoned telephone reservations. However, in searching for the cheapest and best economy flights from Austin to Beijing, I found that Orbitz had the best online fares, with Expedia a distant second, and that the airlines’ own websites sometimes had decent prices, but were generally higher than those on Orbitz. However, if you called to check with the airlines, the fares were not only the lowest available, they actually allowed you to make a reservation and would hold it from 24 to 72 hours, depending on the airline in question. Yes, you had to pay $15 extra, but it was definitely worth it. Why the airlines are pursuing this policy, I have no idea, and it may only be relevant to international itineraries. The next time I fly within the U.S., I will definitely have to check out the deals available online versus over the phone to see if this is the case with domestic flights as well. The deal I got with United was really excellent, by the way. With all taxes and fees included, I am paying $818 for my ticket and $679 for my 8 year old daughter’s. Plus, as my daughter has elite status on United, we get to be seated in the Economy Plus section of the airplane, which has 5 inches extra legroom compared with regular economy seating. The extra legroom will be a real bonus on the long, long flight to China. In addition, my daughter’s elite status gives us access to the business class lounges on the day of our flight. The lounges are great at any time, but particularly when you are traveling with a tired child. Elite status is really not that hard to get, particularly if you are planning to travel to Europe or Asia and are going to log a bunch of miles in a short amount of time. See my post on airline challenges for more information. Plus, if you have achieved elite status with one airline, others will usually match that status for the current year if you ask.