American Airlines is the latest airline to order the Airbus A321XLR aircraft.
It has placed an order for 50 aircraft. This has been secured through the conversion of delivery slots for 30 Airbus A321neo aircraft to the Airbus A321XLR and an additional order for 20 aircraft.
The Airbus A321XLR is expected to serve as a replacement for the Boeing 757 which American has previously used on routes from London Heathrow and other UK regional airports. It currently operates on transatlantic routes such as the summer seasonal Edinburgh – Philadelphia route. As well as transatlantic routes from the US East Coast, American Airlines is also expected to use the aircraft on routes to South America.
This follows an order by IAG for Aer Lingus and Iberia. It is certainly clear that when the Airbus A321XLR enters service in 2023 is going to become a significant force in transatlantic travel and route development.
US airlines have never been known for topping lists of the best airline lounges in the world.
With operations largely focused on domestic flights in the US, where typically only First and business class on select premium transcontinental routes offer lounge access, US airlines have primarily offered membership club lounges with relatively limited food and beverage.
However, there are signs of improvement. With growing international long-haul networks and a need to offer comparable service to joint-venture partners in Europe and Asia, US airlines have been raising their game.
United has been rolling out its “Polaris” lounges. American Airlines has also been rolling out its “Flagship” lounges. These are available at Chicago O’Hare Terminal 3, Dallas Fort Worth Terminal D, Los Angeles Terminal 4 and New York JFK Terminal 8. Further lounges are due to open at London Heathrow and Philadelphia.
American also has a Flagship lounge on Concourse D in the North Terminal of Miami International airport, which is the subject of this review.
Lounge location and access
The Flagship lounge is located near Gate 30 on Concourse D in the North Terminal, with one of American’s two Admirals Clubs in the terminal.
The lounge can be accessed by Oneworld Emerald & Sapphire cardholders and international First and business class passengers. When you arrive at the lounge complex entrance you’ll be handed a laminated card to access the Flagship lounge upstairs.
Note if you’re flying on BA to London Heathrow from Concourse E you can also use this lounge instead of the Oneworld premium lounge on Concourse E, albeit with quite a walk to the gate.
To the lounge itself, and a quick tip that applies to almost any large airline lounge.
In lounges, passengers naturally gravitate towards the bars and where they see food. If you want peace and quiet, and don’t want to have to listen in on others’ conference calls, just head in another direction.
If you immediately turn left on entering the lounge you will find plenty of largely unoccupied seating areas:
American Airlines has opened its latest “Flagship Lounge” at its principal hub, Dallas Fort Worth airport.
If your only experience of an American Airlines lounge is an Admirals Club, the Flagship lounges are a huge step up.
The principal difference is a substantially broader and more generous range of hot and cold food, as well as a free self-pour bar.
The Flagship lounge can be accessed by all Oneworld Emerald and Sapphire cardholders, as well as international business and First Class passengers.
The 23,130 sq ft lounge is located between gates D21 and D22 in Terminal D of Dallas Fort Worth airport. This is the terminal BA flights to London Heathrow also operate from. If you are taking an American Airlines flight from another terminal at Dallas Fort Worth, you can take a shuttle train between all five terminals after security.
If you have limited time then the Admirals Clubs in other terminals (a lounge in Terminal E will open this summer) are perfectly satisfactory for a quick drink and recharging of devices.
Other Flagship lounges are also available in Chicago O’Hare Terminal 3, Los Angeles Terminal 4, Miami Concourse D and New York JFK Terminal 8.
Further Flagship lounges are due to open at London Heathrow Terminal 3 and Philadelphia. If American’s new Heathrow departure lounge is as well run as its Heathrow arrivals lounge, it should certainly be a very competitive option for Oneworld passengers at London Heathrow Terminal 3.
Here’s our review a return flight to London Heathrow on the Boeing 777-200. These aircraft have been retrofitted with a different seat the Boeing 777-300 and there are radical differences.
This flight was a connection at Dallas Fort Worth, so we’re unable to comment on check-in and security, other than that it can appear to be very busy.
Ordinarily, flights to London leave from Terminal D, but this flight departed from Terminal A. From relatively limited experience of flying from Dallas flights can change terminals at short notice. To change terminals, if you are airside there is a shuttle train. If you are landside you can take a shuttle bus.
The nearest lounge was the American Airlines Admirals Club Terminal A. US airline lounges are never going top the charts of most favoured worldwide lounges. But this lounge does have a lot going for it. It’s bright with a good ceiling height, there’s lots of room and seating choices. Not entirely sure of whether it’s solely by virtue of frequent flyer status or also cabin but you should receive chits for two free drinks from the bar. The catering is relatively limited: soups, a borderline meagre selection of salad options, and cookies. It really wouldn’t take much effort to give it a bit more pizzazz. Amusingly, there was a giant dispenser of Coca-Cola.
As is to expected from American, boarding started efficiently 40 minutes before departure.
The layout of the cabin requires an explanation.
This is a three class aircraft, with the business class cabin divided into two. There are 37 business class seats across ten rows in a 1-2-1 configuration, save for row 6 before the galley which has just one seat. All seats have direct aisle access. However, the precise layout alternates by even and odd rows.
On odd rows, the window seats face backwards towards the aisle and the centre seats face forward and inwards.
On even rows, the window seats face forwards towards the window and the centre seats face backwards out towards the aisle.
Here’s a window seat on an odd row facing into the aisle:
Here’s a wide and closer view of a pair of centre seats on an add row each facing the centre of the cabin:
Here’s the view from a window seat facing towards the aisle on an odd row, and to the right of the picture you can see a centre seat on an even row facing into the aisle.
There are a lot permutations of individual preferences according to whether you prefer to face backwards or forwards; enjoy a window view; having your head positioned near to the aisle; and whether you’re travelling with a partner. This is a far cry from the simple window or aisle preference of the Boeing 777-300.
There’s one other thing you can not fail to notice: the sheer abundance of grey.
With the exception of the carpet, almost every fixture and fitting in the cabin is grey! The Boeing 777-200 business class cabin had a similar scheme to this before it was retrofitted. It was overpowering then and it is overpowering now. There are shades of corporate America here. It’s almost as if travelling business class must be seen to be a strictly utilitarian experience.
Let’s turn to the seat itself.
Again, it is very different to the Boeing 777-300 seat.
It is a narrower seat. There is a control panel at shoulder height. There is a smartphone style touchscreen to adjust the seat, as well as separate preset buttons for the upright and fully flat positions. There is also a reading light and controller for the in-flight entertainment system.
The relatively narrow width of the seat is compensated for the fact you have plenty of room to rest your elbows when seated upright.
There is a footstool. This is much smaller than the foot stool on the Boeing 777-300. This leads to practical difficulties. You can’t really use it for storage. Also, when seated upright your feet won’t reach it if you’re of average height. There’s also little room to position your feet when sleeping.
The seat has a small storage unit for personal items. Interestingly, there appears to be no requirement for the TV screen to be stowed for take off and landing.
There are also literature pockets immediately to the left and right hand sides of the seat.
In terms of comfort for sleeping, the seat did feel relatively hard. However, the main issue is the aircraft itself. When you’ve become accustomed to flying overnight on the Airbus A380 and Boeing 787, you forget just how noisy the 777 is. To make the inevitable comparison to BA Club World, whilst this a better seat for a day flight, when laying flat you do have more room at the shoulder and the foot in Club World.
In terms of amenities, bedding, an amenity kit, and noise-cancelling headphones are positioned on your seat before take-off.
Food and Drink
Here’s is the menu:
Poached Shrimp Remoulade
arugula, lemon wedge, New Orleans remoulade sauce
Baby Spinach and Arugula Salad
strawberries, heart of palm
Korean Braised Short Ribs
brown basmati rice, kimchi pickled red cabbage, bulgogi sauce
Red Snapper Tagine
celery and carrot couscous, sautéed vegetables
Buffalo Skillet Chicken
jalapeño cheddar corn cakes, Gorgonzola, golden beet and carrot slaw
Bulgur and Feta Stuffed Portobello Mushroom
roasted golden beets, crumbled fontina, arrabbiata sauce
Traditional Ice Cream Sundae
vanilla ice cream, hot fudge, butterscotch, seasonal berry toppings, whipped cream, pecans
It wasn’t until long ago that, at least if you were based in the UK, when flying transatlantic you chose either BA or Virgin Atlantic.
They each covered the major gateways from Heathrow and differences between the two airlines were largely a matter of personal taste. You only ever countenanced a US airline if there was an exceptionally good fare.
A combination of financial restructuring under Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings and the launch of transatlantic joint-ventures led US airlines to raise their game.
In the case of American Airlines, a step change came with the introduction of the Boeing 777-300 aircraft six years ago. This operates from Heathrow on selected frequencies to Los Angeles, Miami and New York JFK. It also operates one frequency to American’s biggest hub in Dallas Fort Worth, which is the subject of this review.
Check-in at a very quiet early morning Terminal 3 was swift.
For some reason American’s premium check-in desks are located separately in Zone B from its main check-in area. Fast track security was similarly quiet.
Arriving at the gate 40 minutes before departure, boarding was already well under way. There were no queues and it was straight on board the aircraft for an on-time take off.
This is a four class aircraft that has been retrofitted with premium economy.
The business class cabin is divided into a small “demi-cabin” of two rows behind First Class. Behind the galley is a much larger cabin of 11 rows. The cabin features Safran (formerly Zodiac) Aerospace’s “reverse herringbone” design where seats face inwards in a 1-2-1 configuration.
There are no bad seats in the cabin but, for reasons explained below, it’s best to be seated away from the galleys.
There is no question that this is a superb business class seat.
There is plenty of room at the shoulder and at the foot. All the seat controls are intuitive and close to hand. There is ample storage in a personal vanity unit, and by your feet in the side of the seat and under the foot rest. At seat power is provided through a three pin plug and USB charging port. Whilst the seat does not offer complete privacy, it is more than enough. Only one awareness point is that the arm rest on the aisle side of the seat needs to be lowered for take off and landing.
You certainly couldn’t ask more for space to work on a day flight. It did make for a very comfortable flight. Even with a relatively long flight time of nearly ten hours, there was never any sense of the flight dragging.
Having previously flown on this aircraft on a night flight, only one minor quibble is that as your head is positioned towards the aisle when sleeping, you might find yourself easily disturbed by noise in the aisle.
In a potentially unpopular opinion, if an alternative aircraft such as the Airbus A380 was available for a night flight, I would choose this, even with an inferior seat, because the 777 is so noisy.
American Airlines and British Airways are launching, to use marketing speak, an “activation” in Canary Wharf over two days next week.
Called the “Altitude Academy”, the promotion is intended to showcase American Airlines and BA’s joint transatlantic network from London and the respective premium cabins and service of the two airlines.
Across four different zones, passengers will be able to discover their “frequent flyer style” and take part in games and challenges. Of greatest interest will be opportunities to win business class tickets to the United States. Complimentary catering will be supplied by Rhurbab who also cater for American Airlines’ lounges at London Heathrow.
The Altitude Academy will be located in Jubilee Plaza, in front of Canary Wharf Tube station. It will be open from 11:00 to 19:00 on Wednesday 19 September and 07:00 to 19:00 Thursday 20 September 2018.
The Florida Keys, as the southernmost point of the US, have long been a popular escape from winter in the Northern hemisphere for those seeking a more bohemian alternative to the crowds and overt self-confidence of Miami Beach. And it has better sunsets.
You can of course drive there, but there is also the option of flying. Many US airlines, through their regional affiliates, fly to Key West International Airport with varying degrees of frequency from their respective hubs. American Airlines from Dallas Fort Worth and Miami; Delta from Atlanta; and United from Chicago O’Hare and Newark.
You’ll also see a number of private plans on the airfield at Key West. Other than that it’s largely Silver Airways flights to the Florida region, an airline we don’t know enough about to comment on – though online reviews don’t instil confidence.
It’s flying between Miami and Key West over the Florida Keys on American Eagle that we’ll cover as it is the most likely route for visitors to Florida.
American serves the route many times a day, typically using Embraer E175 aircraft operated by Republic Airlines under the American Eagle livery.
One of the many unique things about London Heathrow is the sheer number of arrivals lounges.
Outside of London arrivals lounges are few and far between. The only lounges that immediately spring to mind are Cathay Pacific’s The Arrival in Hong Kong, Lufthansa’s Arrivals Lounge in Frankfurt and South African Airways’ Arrivals Lounge in Johannesburg.
At Heathrow, it’s a different story. British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Star Alliance offer arrivals lounges at their respective hubs in Terminals 5, 3 and 2. Plaza Premium also offer paid-for arrivals lounges at Terminals 2, 3, and 4.
American Airlines’ arrivals lounge at London Heathrow Terminal 3 is now closed for refurbishment. The new lounge will open on an as yet unspecified date later this year.
Passengers arriving in to London Heathrow Terminal 3 on American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, and Qantas Airways long-haul flights in first and business class can use the British Airways arrivals lounge in Terminal 5.
The lounge is not part of Oneworld alliance reciprocal lounge access arrangements. Therefore, members of American Airlines, Cathay Pacific and Qantas frequent flyer programmes cannot access the lounge unless arriving from a long-haul flight on these airlines in first and business class.
Only Gold members of the British Airways Executive Club can access the lounge when arriving from a long-haul flight in any cabin on British Airways.
Terminal 5 can be accessed from Terminal 3 by taking a free transfer on the Heathrow Express train service between Heathrow Central and Heathrow Terminal 5. The BA lounge is located on the first floor in the arrivals area and is accessible by lift from the arrivals area.
The BA lounge is open until 2pm and offers hot showers and a full English breakfast until around 11am and continental breakfast options until around midday.
Please note that in light of increased access to the lounge it is likely to be much busier, particularly during the transatlantic arrivals “rush hour” from 6am to 9am and access may be denied due to capacity constraints.
More than fifteen years since British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have operated premium economy cabins on long-haul aircraft, American Airlines has today announced that is to operate a dedicated premium economy cabin on selected long-haul flights from late 2016.
Airlines were initially reluctant to install premium economy for fear of cannibalising business class revenue but its adoption has gathered pace in recent years (the latest airline being Singapore Airlines.) US airlines in particular have historically chosen to offer a few rows of extra leg room seats in economy (Main Cabin Extra in the case of American Airlines), rather than a dedicated premium economy cabin.
From late next year, American Airlines will roll out premium economy on select long-haul flights, initially on Boeing 787-900 Dreamliner aircraft. The cabin will also be fitted on all Boeing 787, 777, Airbus A330 and Airbus A350 aircraft. It will not be added to Boeing 757 or 767 aircraft.
Details are scant at the moment, other than that passengers will benefit from wider seats with adjustable head and leg rests, more leg room and enhanced on board catering and amenities.
American has not yet indicated how the cabin will be accommodated on aircraft, either by reducing seats in other cabins, or removing other cabin classes (such as First or Main Cabin Extra) entirely.
American has also not yet indicated on which routes the cabin will launch. However, we expect London Heathrow routes to gain premium economy, partly to capture premium traffic demand and to have parity with its transatlantic joint business partner, British Airways.