American Airlines leads the way in short-haul business class finesse and its newest product, aboard modern 737-800 aircraft, makes even the shortest hops a pleasure, discovers Nick Walton.
A staggering 6,700 scheduled flights operated each day makes American Airlines not only a major international player but a North American regional leader as well. A member of the oneworld alliance, the airline has an extensive network between North America and destinations in Latin and South America from Los Angeles International.
LAX can be a frazzling airport to navigate at the best of times but the American Airlines check in crew at Terminal 4 were charming and efficient and had me checked in for my AA1050 flight at 11am in minutes thanks to priority business class queues. After a relatively painless security process (other surprise) I made my way to the airline’s signature Admiral’s Club, which is located overlooking the tarmac and is manned by equally pleasant staff.
Accessible by American Airlines’ business and first class passengers (there is also a designated international first class lounge that is presently under renovation) as well as oneworld sapphire and emerald members, the spacious lounge features plenty of natural light, freshly-made coffee, plenty of continental breakfast items, and staff that obviously knows many of their guests from their frequent visits. The lounge was busy during my visit but staff maintained the space well and I managed to get a spot of work done over a bagel and an espresso.
After a short wait, we boarded at gate 46B onto a new-looking 737-800 aircraft that boasts one of the best business class products I’ve seen in a narrow body commercial jet.
The 737-800’s business class cabin features a total of 16 21-inch wide Weber business class seats in a 2-2 configuration. The wide and comfortable leather seats are dressed in calming cream and dark grey, with each featuring a pitch of 40-inches, a large 12.1-inch HD-capable personal monitor built into the seatback in front, retractable drinks trays, USB, iPhone and AC connectivity, wifi access, and laptop or tablet storage under the armrest. A communal drinks tray between the seats in front is shared by the two seats. The plane has that lovely new car smell, the seats are cool and beautifully-soft, and the Thales TopSeries in-seat entertainment system boasts enough movies and television shows (200 flicks and 180 television episodes) to keep you entertained all the way across the US let alone on the two and a half hours down to Cabo San Lucas.
For a short hop to paradise crew take orders without having to hand out menus. A selection of innovative dishes created by Dallas celebrity chef Julian Barsotti were recently added to American Airlines’ domestic business class (known as first class in the US) and on our flight these included a choice of red enchiladas stuffed with queso fresco and monterey jack cheese with carmelized onion; or saffron orzo salad with haricot verts, baby squash, and shrimp. As I was headed to Mexico I figured I’d go local and the enchiladas were fluffy and gooey at the same time and were served with a fresh side salad, a warm bread roll, and a cinnamon sponge cake. The meal was perfectly proportioned and beautifully matched by a duo of well-measured gin and tonics.
I always have my hesitations about US cabin crew, especially on domestic flights when even the most cheerful staff seems so much more harried than their Asia counterparts. However, on this flight cabin attendants breezed through the meal service for the six passengers in business and were only too happy to top up drinks and give activity recommendations for Cabo. Crew were quick to take drink and meal orders before we started to taxi and had the meal out minutes after we reached cruising altitude.
Whether you’re headed to Latin America for work or play there’s a lot to be said for going in style and American Airlines has shown its regional business class product is a market leader.
American Airlines Los Angeles International to Los Cabos International Airport in business class from US$761; www.aa.com