Plane type: Boeing 777
Date taken: 9th February 2014
I was looking forward to this return flight on AA like a hole in the head. On two occasions in the past, the airline has managed to misplace my luggage in transit. It’s reputation as a long haul carrier is somewhat lower than an insect’s dangly bits. And, to cap it all, I was flying from Miami, an airport synonymous with all the warmth and efficiency of a Dalek convention.
All in all, the omens were not good. Which made what followed a very pleasant surprise.
I arrived hours early at MIA and, unlike at many European airports, I was able to check in my luggage way in advance, leaving me free to head off to South Beach for a Sunday brunch, blissfully unburdened of all my travelling tat. And the AA staff- both in the lines and at the check in desk- could not have been more courteous, pleasant or helpful.
Needless to say, the security line was a forty five minute nightmare, but this is nothing to do with any airline. And, in all fairness, this time I found the TSA people on duty to be pleasant, efficient, and determined to make the process as painless as possible. Credit where credit is due here.
Embarkation was on time, prompt, and once again enabled by a personable gate staff. The welcome on board was pleasant, and not at all like some of the more brusque previous encounters with AA personnel.
This 777 had seating in a 2/5/2 configuration in economy, and the plane seemed to be in pretty good shape. I had pre booked seat 41B, an aisle seat on the left hand ‘2’ side. While the seat was a little hard, it had more than enough legroom for someone of my frame (5′ 6″). The recline was also more generous than anything I’ve experienced for some while, and I soon settled into it.
This flight encountered the most severe and sustained turbulence that I can ever recall in its early stages, lasting a full two and a half hours. Throughout all this, the staff on board were the height of care, concern, and professionalism. I was truly impressed with them, and their bearing in what was a far from comfortable or easy environment.
Drink runs were somehow made during this maelstrom; American Airlines now offers free beer and wine in economy, as well as soft drinks, plus tea and coffee. The fact that my wine was almost jolted into the ceiling says a lot about just how rough this portion of the flight was.
Food of a sort followed, with the usual choice of either chicken or pasta as a main course. The chicken was partly concealed in some kind of simmering, bubbling gloop that looked more than a little sinister, but that chicken itself was actually quite tasty. The carrots that came with this were crunchy, in a teeth clenching sort of way.
The bread roll that accompanied this was hard enough to hole a pocket battleship at twenty miles. It must have been easier cutting through the Siegfried Line than it was to wrestle with this brute. But this, in all fairness, is typical of most international airlines across all classes. We should just remain forever grateful that the late Adolf Hitler never got his hands on a stash of the damned things.
Being tired beyond any reason, I did not avail myself of the seat back entertainment, but there was certainly no shortage of films, television channels or music entertainment on offer. as well as games that could be played. And, once the turbulence abated, the plane settled down with lights out for the night and, to my surprise, I grabbed a good four hours’ sleep.
This cost me a light continental breakfast, but it was a worthwhile trade off to arrive at an unfeasibly sunny Heathrow a few minutes early. Disembarkation was quick and easy and, once again, the crew carried through what needed to be done with quiet, pleasant efficiency. And, to make it even better, both my luggage and myself enjoyed a highly emotional reunion.
I cannot commend the crew of this flight highly enough. We were kept constantly updated from the cockpit about the flight situation at all times. That, combined with the pleasant, ‘can do’ attitude I encountered at all levels across the American Airlines ground staff at Miami, has gone a long, long way to restoring my faith in an airline that I was previously very reluctant to touch at all. And yes, I would consider using them in the future, at least as a long haul option. Pleasantly surprised and impressed all round.