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AA Business Class - Delhi to Chicago

AA Business Class - Delhi to Chicago

Old Mar 25, 07, 8:54 am
  #1  
das
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AA Business Class - Delhi to Chicago

The following report documents my first experience in AA Business Class – with a number of comparisons to UA thrown in. I upgraded this flight at the last minute on impulse ($250 co-pay plus 40K miles) because I was stuck in a center seat in Y, and figured this was a good use of miles due to this flight taking 15.5 hours!

AA 293, Delhi – Chicago, 12:15am – 5:15am, Boeing 777

The airport was quite chaotic at curbside, because only ticketed passengers are allowed inside the terminal. After checking in and clearing customs, AA ground staff were directing passengers to the gate 2 hours before departure, because of the time required for security checks. Gate 3 at DEL, where this flight departed from, has segregated security from the rest of the terminal, I assume because of tight security on flights to the US. Once inside security, there are restrooms and a kiosk stand selling some disgusting looking snacks, drinks, and coffee – all at very inexpensive prices. I bought a few bottles of water after being told by the kiosk attendant that they were allowed on board. Boarding began at 11:20pm, with all passengers subjected to hand baggage searches on the jetbridge, at which time my water was confiscated. Upon boarding, pre-departure beverages of water, orange juice, and mango juice were offered. I am 99% sure there was no champagne offered – I think there are Indian regulations that do not permit pre-departure alcoholic beverages, or any alcohol consumption on domestic flights.

At each seat was a packet with a thick duvet-like blanket and large pillow, as well as a Temple Spa amenity kit which converts into a shoe bag. AA’s blanket, pillow, and amenity kit are several notches above UA – the amenity kit even included a pen – which is obviously handy for Customs forms. We pushed back right on time and were airborne by 12:30am for a long night flight. The westbound routing took us north over Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Russia, northern Finland, then we headed north of Iceland, over the southern tip of Greenland, before crossing into Canada and south into Chicago. I don’t think we went as close to the North Pole as I’ve experienced on PEK-ORD.

Due to the late departure, there is not a full dinner service, and instead a 3 course meal served on a single tray. While I’d understand the logic for a short transatlantic crossing, it seemed a bit rushed considering the duration of the flight – and certainly a contrast to UA’s late night flights to Australia where each course is served separately. Here is the menu for tonight’s Light Dinner:

To Start
Warm Mixed Nuts

Salad
Fresh seasonal Greens served with a Gourmet Caesar Dressing or Castello Monte Vibiano Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar

Entrees

Subz Biryani
Herbed Rice with seasonal Vegetables, grilled Paneer sautéed in a Tomato-Butter Sauce and accompanied by Black Lentils

Herb Shrimp
Shrimp sautéed in Herbed Butter Wine Sauce, accompanied by Dill Potatoes and grilled Vegetables

PlainYogurt and mixed Pickles are available upon request as an accompaniment to your entrée.

Dessert

Mini Fruit Tart

Champange
Pommery Brut Champagne

White Wines
Warburn Southeastern Australia Premium Reserve Pinot Grigio
Sileni Estates Hawkes Bay New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc

Red Wines
Chateau Batailley
Penfolds Koonunga Hill Australian Shiraz

Service began with beverages and warm nuts, which were mostly cashews (probably India-specific) – I noticed AA’s nut ramekins were shallower but larger than UA’s, but unlike UA, no second helpings were offered on the nuts. Next, tablecloths were set, and meal trays (containing all three courses) were served from a cart. Despite being an odd numbered flight, service began from the front of the cabin. The salad was iceberg lettuce, roma tomato, and cucumber, and the Olive Oil dressing was served in an individual bottle – a disappointing salad, especially given there was no appetizer course. I chose the Biryani for my main because often flight kitchens do the best job with local cuisine, but the shrimp dish looked really nice as well (large shrimps). The main was served in a casserole dish, which meant the portion was large, but the presentation was just so-so. It was tasty (rice and lentils, topped with cottage cheese cubes) but nothing particularly special. A bread basket with herbed Indian bread and white rolls was offered once. The dessert looked nice but was hard to cut because of its hard crust and pudding like center.

While the F/As were fairly proactive in refilling wine and water (if you have a lousy UA crew, this falls through the cracks), but overall the one-tray affair made the meal incredibly rushed. I was also fairly surprised there was no coffee/tea service proactively offered like on UA - I had to specifically ask and hold back my dessert when they were coming around to clear trays. But AA does have an edge over UA because its ceramic mugs are much larger than UA’s tiny tea cups. While Port and Sherry appeared on the menu, none was proactively offered. Following the meal, F/As handed out water bottles (vs. a water glass on UA) and offered periodic refills.

My strategy to beat jet lag is to act like I’m on destination time, so I stayed up reading for a few hours before getting some shuteye. While I found the seat to be comfortable, it seemed to have less recline than UA’s seat, even though SeatGuru shows AA’s seat as having a few more inches of pitch. Overall, I didn’t find the seat particularly impressive, given my last experience in Business Class was on Lufthansa – where the seats lie almost flat.

About 6 hours into the flight, I was offered a mid flight snack:

A choice of Vegetarian or Chicken Sandwiches accompanies by Grapes and Sweets

This was served on a tray (unlike UA where sandwiches, snacks, and fruit are set up the galley) – which had some quarter sandwiches (3 layers of bread), a bag of potato chips, some black grapes, and this weird banana chocolate cake. I wasn’t particularly fond of this snack; the sandwiches were dry and tasteless – but given India isn’t know for sandwiches, this wasn’t really a surprise.

The menu also mentioned a Cinema Snack:

Gouda and Canzona Cheese offered with candied Pineapple and Apple, and fresh Grapes served with crackers

I must have slept through the Cinema Snack because I never saw it. Overall, I prefer UA’s practice in the premium cabins on long haul flights of having snacks available to pick and choose from, instead of serving a set tray at times when I may be asleep.

About 1.5 hours prior to landing in Chicago, Brunch service was offered –

To Start
Your choice of Juices (Orange, Tomato, Apple)

The Breakfast Cart
Seasonal Fruit Appetizer

Breakfast Bread Basket
An assortment of warm Breads

Entrees

Mushroom and Chive Omelette
An Omelette prepared with sautéed Mushrooms and Chives, served with an Almond and Potato Cake and grilled tomato

French Toast
Egg-dipped golden-brown Toast offered with Maple Syrup and Chicken Sausage

Aloo Corn Bharta
Slow-cooked spiced Potatoes and Corn with Onions and Tomatoes served with Green Pea Patties, oven baked Indian Bread and Carrots

Cereal

Flavored Yogurt is available upon request as an accompaniment to your entrée

Just like the light dinner, the breakfast was served from the cart all at once as a one-tray affair. Unlike UA, there was no hot towel service prior to breakfast (it was offered prior to landing), there was no juice service prior the meal, and there was no tablecloth for the breakfast tray. In spite of this streamlining, AA’s breakfast service has an edge over UA’s breakfast offering on transpacific (fairest comparison due to flight duration), because fruit was offered with all entrees and there were multiple bread selections – cinnamon roll, banana muffin, and croissant (vs. only croissants on UA), and finally AA offered refills on the juice (only happens when you get a good crew on UA).

I chose the omelette, which was really moist and tasty, the Almond and Potato cake was crunchy and interesting as well. I was going to ask for a bowl of cereal to accompany the omelette, but I figured that would be asking too much – because cereal is phrased as a separate entrée choice, vs. a separate course as is common on some international flag carriers.

The pre-arrival beverage of Chilled Sparking Water with Fruit Garnish listed in the menu never appeared, but given the F/As were generous with beverage refills, this wasn’t a big deal. We touched down in ORD just after 5am, and at this early hour, immigration and customs was fairly quick.

I enjoyed this flight on AA and felt that upgrading this long sector was a good use of miles; it was interesting to see the subtle differences between AA’s and UA’s international business class products. I’d be keen to hear your impression on which product is better (knowing that both airlines are relaunching their products which makes this topic fairly moot)…..
das is offline  
Old Mar 25, 07, 9:14 am
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Thanks so much for sharing, das!^ Having flown UA C and F dozens of times it is very interesting to read a comparisan like this from the dAArkside. It is interesting that they seem to even out, both having their pros and cons. It seems strange to me that they have an abbreviated dinner service on such a long flight, which is not good.

So inbetween the meals they came around twice with distinct snacks on trays?
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Old Mar 25, 07, 12:21 pm
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Great trip report, das! Since I've never flown in AA J before, it's a good read, especially comparing the finer points of service to UA's service. Fascinating to see that you pay attention to the details (shallower nuts dish compared to UA, for example!).
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Old Mar 25, 07, 12:34 pm
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The short dinner is weird, and I'm really surprised there are only 2 entree choices.

That said, on late flights (like LAX-SYD), I really only want a few pieces of food and a bowl of soup.
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Old Mar 25, 07, 12:36 pm
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Originally Posted by UNITED959 View Post
The short dinner is weird, and I'm really surprised there are only 2 entree choices.

That said, on late flights (like LAX-SYD), I really only want a few pieces of food and a bowl of soup.
I did SQ C class LAX-TPE (another late nighter) in December 2006 and although I wasn't very hungry, I would have been a bit disappointed if the meal service was very rushed as well.
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Old Mar 25, 07, 6:52 pm
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Originally Posted by UNITED959 View Post
The short dinner is weird, and I'm really surprised there are only 2 entree choices.
AA should consider expanding their late evening meal service on departure from DEL. It's a fifteen hour flight so there's plenty of time to serve a proper supper, served course by course, and still allow passengers to get a good sleep.

In comparison, last month I flew CX from HKG to LAX on the late evening flight in J. There was an appetizer and salad, served at once. Then onto the main course, followed by fruit and cheese, and finally dessert with coffee and tea.
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Old Mar 25, 07, 9:05 pm
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Originally Posted by francophile View Post
In comparison, last month I flew CX from HKG to LAX on the late evening flight in J. There was an appetizer and salad, served at once. Then onto the main course, followed by fruit and cheese, and finally dessert with coffee and tea.
I, too, flew CX (LAX-HKG in J) late fall, and found that the catering was quite disappointing. What was your experience, especially in regard to how entrees were plated and the quality of the food? I was very surprised, and found SQ to be light years ahead of CX.
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Old Mar 26, 07, 4:18 am
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Thanks everyone for your replies - glad to see I'm not the only one who thinks that a single tray meal service is inappropriate on a 15.5 hour flight. My concern was much more about serving all courses at once than about the quantity of food. I like the way UA deals with late night Australia flights (offering a light entree choice - like soup, as well as a single tray Express Dine option) - so that people who want a longer meal can enjoy the experience. Another way some people dine on the UA flights is to just munch on the appetizer, salad, and bread before sleeping. There was no light entree option on this flight - and the tiny salad plate wouldn't be satisfying.

lucky7876coins, as far as the mid flight snack, it was not served by a cart, but F/As offered it to whoever was awake at a few different intervals (i.e. my neighbor was served the sandwiches about an hour after me). I have no idea if the Cinema Snack was ever served, but I'm not going to accuse the crew of not serving it because I was sleeping for most of the second half of the flight.

A few other observations I forgot -

1) Assorted chocolates were offered at the end of the meal service (not sure what brand they were). UA did away with Godivas a while ago. I'd personally prefer a coffee/tea service to a chocolate service (IMHO, the best way to beat jet lag on this flight is to drink coffee after dinner to help you defer sleeping til it's evening at the destination)

2) I was never addressed by name. On UA, you are addressed by name when you make your main meal beverage order, and when your main meal entree choice is selected. On SQ, you are addressed by name the entire flight. The irony with this is it's something that costs nothing yet is meaningful.

3) No gooseneck reading lamps like on UA. Which means I created way too much light in the cabin when I was reading after dinner - all I needed was a focused reading light.

4) I never saw any newspapers offered. Just thought I'd mention this given the thread in the UA forum.

5) The yogurt that was an optional accompaniment to both the dinner and the breakfast was hiding on the carts but never proactively offered. Maybe AA will conclude we don't like yogurt with breakfast because of all the waste - but I'm not sure the average passenger will even remember that yogurt was an optional extra. (I even forgot, in spite of reading the menu right before breakfast.)

Last edited by das; Mar 26, 07 at 4:27 am
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Old Mar 26, 07, 4:27 am
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Originally Posted by UnitedSkies View Post
I, too, flew CX (LAX-HKG in J) late fall, and found that the catering was quite disappointing. What was your experience, especially in regard to how entrees were plated and the quality of the food? I was very surprised, and found SQ to be light years ahead of CX.
This difference may be due to staffing levels. I have only flown Regional Business Class on CX, and my experience (especially on the 777-300 which has 56 Business Seats) is that the service is assembly-line like. Entrees are not plated on board, but served in casserole dishes, beverage refills were limited, and no post meal or pre-landing beverage service was offered (on a 4 hour trip from BKK to BOM). We had turbulence, so per CX policy, hot beverage service was suspended, but the F/As didn't bother offering a water/juice service instead.

To offer quality service and to individually plate entrees would likely require more F/As. When I've flown both long haul Raffles and regional Business Class on SQ, F/As are always running around serving me, and the meals are always nicely presented (regional meals may be pre-plated, but they end up looking nicer - maybe because the dishes are bigger?).

I remember getting about 5 refills of green tea (each time in a fresh cup) flying SIN-KIX, all within about a 20 minute interval. So does anyone know if SQ staffs more F/As than CX for a comparably sized cabin?
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Old Mar 26, 07, 3:16 pm
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Originally Posted by das View Post
This difference may be due to staffing levels. I have only flown Regional Business Class on CX, and my experience (especially on the 777-300 which has 56 Business Seats) is that the service is assembly-line like. Entrees are not plated on board, but served in casserole dishes, beverage refills were limited, and no post meal or pre-landing beverage service was offered (on a 4 hour trip from BKK to BOM). We had turbulence, so per CX policy, hot beverage service was suspended, but the F/As didn't bother offering a water/juice service instead.

To offer quality service and to individually plate entrees would likely require more F/As. When I've flown both long haul Raffles and regional Business Class on SQ, F/As are always running around serving me, and the meals are always nicely presented (regional meals may be pre-plated, but they end up looking nicer - maybe because the dishes are bigger?).

I remember getting about 5 refills of green tea (each time in a fresh cup) flying SIN-KIX, all within about a 20 minute interval. So does anyone know if SQ staffs more F/As than CX for a comparably sized cabin?
They offer the proper course-by-course service on the outbound flight to DEL, so staffing is not the issue.

Methinks AA uses the late departure time as an excuse to be cheap.
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Old Mar 26, 07, 6:16 pm
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The discussion here is for business class but I am chiming in with my experience in first class. On ORD-DEL flight ob Feb 6, after a full dinner service, nothing else was offered, only some cheap packaged full of sugar candies and chips. No cinema snack or mid flight breakfast as listed on the menu and no pre arrival snak either. Instead, breakfast was offered 2 hours prior to arrival in DEL. Nothing else on this over 15 hours flight. When asked about breakfast, the FA said it was Pursuers's decision and she was resting and nothing could be served until she was up.

The return DEL-ORD was just a tiny bit better there were no amenity kits, which got a tirade from one pax (must have been paying for his first class seat), food was good but not plentiful, service was just ok.
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Old Mar 26, 07, 9:28 pm
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Originally Posted by das View Post
To offer quality service and to individually plate entrees would likely require more F/As. When I've flown both long haul Raffles and regional Business Class on SQ, F/As are always running around serving me, and the meals are always nicely presented (regional meals may be pre-plated, but they end up looking nicer - maybe because the dishes are bigger?).

I remember getting about 5 refills of green tea (each time in a fresh cup) flying SIN-KIX, all within about a 20 minute interval. So does anyone know if SQ staffs more F/As than CX for a comparably sized cabin?
I think UA staffs two F/As on the upper deck of its 747s, as does CX.
UA does individual plating of dishes. I just personally think casserole dishes are pretty poor-looking.
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Old Mar 26, 07, 9:29 pm
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Originally Posted by PresRDC View Post
They offer the proper course-by-course service on the outbound flight to DEL, so staffing is not the issue.

Methinks AA uses the late departure time as an excuse to be cheap.
I wonder what AA does on late night departures to South America?
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Old Mar 26, 07, 10:17 pm
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Originally Posted by UnitedSkies View Post
I, too, flew CX (LAX-HKG in J) late fall, and found that the catering was quite disappointing. What was your experience, especially in regard to how entrees were plated and the quality of the food? I was very surprised, and found SQ to be light years ahead of CX.
I also got the casserole dish for my main course on CX. For me the dish tasted great and presentation was fine, nothing fancy. I agree that food presentation in SQ J is better. But in general, I quite satisfied with CX J catering.


Originally Posted by UnitedSkies View Post
I think UA staffs two F/As on the upper deck of its 747s, as does CX.
I've flown upper deck on SQ two times. I distinctly remember there being three FAs serving us on my SIN-NRT flight. I can't remember how many FAs were on my SIN-HKG flight.
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Old Mar 27, 07, 9:35 am
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Great trip report.

can't believe AA served the whole dinner on one tray on a 15 hr flight. Even NW isn't that bad.
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