Ramon is the creator of Travelling Companion. He focuses on flight reviews, hotel reviews, and helping stretch your travel dollars, miles, and points further.
My first flight on a 777-200 was the best American Airlines I have ever taken. My experience reinforces how stark the differences are in equipment and service American Airlines offers at its various hubs and aircraft. Pros- Great in-flight entertainment, good food, friendly flight attendants, mood lighting, widely available power plugs, efficient boarding. Cons- Low quality wine selection
Trip Overview: European Adventures 2018
Flight Review: American Airlines A330-300 Economy CLT-LHR
Hotel Review: London Marriott Regent's Park
Food in London
Flight Review: British Airways A319 Economy LGW-BCN
Hotel Review: AC Hotel Irla Barcelona
Train Review: Renfe Clase Turista Barcelona-Valencia
Exploring Life in Valencia
Exploring Life in Barcelona
Flight Review: American Airlines 777-200 Economy BCN-JFK
Flight Review: American Airlines A321T Business Class Seats JFK-DCA
After our terrible stay at the AC Hotel Irla Barcelona we eagerly checked out of the hotel and headed to the Barcelona El Prat airport (BCN). The airport is located on the western edge of Barcelona and we took a taxi to the airport which cost about 41 dollars (35 euros). Barcelona El Prat has two terminals and Terminal Two primarily serves low cost carriers. Our flight departed out of Terminal One which was built in 2009 and I was impressed by the bright, beautiful, and modern terminal. We checked in at the American Airlines desk which was manned by contract workers. As was our experience at London Gatwick, the priority line was longer than the standard check in line but this time we waited in the priority line. After checking in we headed to security. One note of caution, once you clear security at this airport you once again need to pass through passport control to get to your flight at gate C or Gate D.
Joan Miró VIP Lounge
Barcelona El Prat has four VIP lounges, three of which are in Terminal One. These lounges serve many of the travelers flying in business or first class leaving on flights in their respective terminals. However, these lounges are all also accessible to passengers with Priority Pass membership. I am going to talk about the benefits of Priority Pass in future post but for frequent international traveling companions it is a potent membership.
We had access to the Joan Miró VIP since we departed on an international flight. We took an elevator down one floor from the departure level to second floor to access the lounge. The check-in agent scanned our boarding passes and we quickly entered the lounge. This was the nicest lounge I have ever been to though I don't have much to compare it to since most of my lounge experience has been Admirals Clubs in the U.S.
The lounge had a rest area which was dark and quiet. This was a great place for a weary traveller to take a nap. The lounge also had a small kid's play area with pink and blue chairs though no kids were in the lounge during our visit. Other amenities in the lounge included a shoe shine machine, the first time I have ever seen one, and shower stalls. The main part of the lounge featured worn but comfortable large black leather chairs. This part of the lounge also had views of the terminal and lots of natural light.
The lounge had a separate dining area which had several food stations. These stations featured cold items such as Iberian ham, various cheeses, bananas, oranges, chocolate cookies, and chocolate croissants.
The lounge's drink selection was particularly impressive and included a variety of alcohol and alcoholic drinks such as beer, wine, juices, soda, and chocolate milk.
My biggest disappointment was the lounge did not have any hot food items. However, I was able to piece together a decent breakfast from the variety of cold food items. Overall, the lounge was comfortable and a good place to spend time waiting for our flight. The meal and drink selection was extensive enough that we did not buy breakfast or any drinks in the terminal. I would recommend that anyone with a Priority Pass membership departing on an international flight from BCN visit the Joan Miró VIP Lounge.
Our flight departed out of D21 the closest gate to the lounge which was very convenient and allowed us to maximize our time in the lounge. Boarding for our flight began two minutes late and was very efficient even though one boarding machine was broken. No one boarded when group one and two were called and after a small group three we boarded very quickly in group four as this flight was very elite lite in economy.
Plane and Seats
We boarded the plane through the second door on the left side of the plane walked straight and turned right and passed through the rear business class cabin. I was immediately impressed by how modern this plane felt compared to the A330-300 we flew to London. The business class seats were lie flat and very impressive and I hope to try them on a future flight. We passed through the business class cabin and took our main cabin extra seats 14 J and K on the right side of the plane. The economy cabin had five lavatories. Three of these were at the center of the economy cabin and two were at the rear of the cabin while the business class cabin had two bathrooms at the center of the cabin and one at the front. This design was much more intuitive than the A330-300 and meant that the closest lavatory to someone at the front of the cabin was in the economy cabin and not in business class.
Christina and I once again were able to score complimentary main cabin extra seats at check in thanks to our American Airlines Gold status. The main cabin extra seats had about 5-6 inches of additional pitch on the 777-200. The additional legroom made a huge difference on this eight and a half hour flight. However, unlike our flight from Charlotte (CLT) to London Heathrow (LHR) we chose seats in row 14 and not the bulkhead which I think was definitely the right decision on this aircraft. While bulkhead seats offer additional legroom they do not have moveable armrests which prevented us from putting up the armrest on our flight from CLT. This is an annoying feature if you are traveling with a traveling companion. Also, the bulkhead seats had in-flight entertainment (IFE) screens stowed in the arm rest which means that the seat width is reduced and you are unable to watch the in-fight entertainment gate-to-gate. I think we made the right decision choosing row 14 main cabin extra seats.
However, a word of caution if you fly on a future American Airlines 777-200. American Airlines is streamlining its fleet of 777-200 aircraft and plans to install premium economy on all 777-200 aircraft. This means that row 14 will no longer be Main Cabin Extra and instead will have premium economy seats. While it is positive that American Airlines is giving customers a choice between economy and business class on international flights this mean a reduction of the number of main cabin extra seats for elites and other willing to pay for additional legroom. If you fly the 777-200 the plan is to start the economy cabin start at row 17 and feature this seat map.
In Flight Entertainment
Our seats featured seat back in-flight entertainment (IFE) monitors with one USB and one standard charger below the screen at each seat. This allowed for the charging of multiple devices at each seat and did not require sharing outlets which is common on American Airlines domestic flights.
These monitors were touchscreen and similar to the monitors you will find on some American Airlines A321s and 737-300s with a few enhancements. First, they had a remote which could be used to scroll through and select media on the touchscreen. I found the touchscreen easy to use and very responsive so I primarily used the touchscreen to control the IFE but I appreciated having the option to use the remote. Second, the selection of movies and TV shows was significantly expanded over what is an already impressive selection on American Airlines' domestic IFE. Third, the screens allowed for a second person to plug into your IFE monitor and watch the same movie, TV show, or listen to the same music. The ability to share entertainment on the same screen with a traveling companion was a very cool feature.
Lunch meal service began with a bag of mini pretzels. Before the entree was served the flight attendants announced the entree choices in English, Spanish, and Catalan. The choices were turkey chorizo meatballs in tomato sauce or pasta penne with yogurt sauce. I appreciated that the flight attendants actually announced the ingredients in the dishes unlike the flight from Charlotte where they simply said chicken or pasta. Given my experience with the pasta dish on the flight from Charlotte I chose the turkey chorizo meatballs and it was a very good decision. The meatballs came with a serving of rice and vegetables including carrots, corn, and green beans. This was a very good entree particularly for an economy meal on a U.S. airline. The meal service also included a side salad which was boring and a piece of bread which was okay. The meal also came with cherry crumble cake for dessert which was good.
As I mentioned previously, on flights to Europe and select international destinations American Airlines offers free wine and beer in the main cabin. On the flight from Charlotte I selected red wine and I did not enjoy it so this time around I chose white wine and it was just as bad. The wine was way too sharp and after two fails I have learned my lesson in economy on American Airlines flights don't order wine. About four hours into the flight the flight attendants served a snack of vanilla bean ice cream which of course was very good!
The biggest surprise of this flight was the great service by the flight attendants. I am so used to dismissive if not mean service from American Airlines flight attendants in economy that this service surprised me. The flight attendants were very efficient and completed meal service for the 215 seat economy cabin in less than one hour. They also worked really hard and passed through the cabin for three drinks services and two snack services. Also, the flight attendants were actually friendly. The flight attendant working our aisle noticed that Christina was cold and asked is she wanted another blanket. I believe that a significant factor in the improved service was that we were served by a New York John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK) based crew. JFK is a legacy American Airlines hub while Charlotte is a legacy U.S. Airways Hub and nearly four and a half years into the merger the flight scheduling for the flight attendants has not been merged. This means that legacy U.S. Airways flight attendants can only work legacy U.S. Airways aircraft and vice versa. I believe this really shows up in the service provided by the legacy U.S. Airways versus legacy American Airlines crew. American Airlines plans to merge it flight attendant scheduling system in October 2018. However, until then I would strongly encourage you to connect through legacy American Airlines hubs to improve your chances of getting better equipment and service. However, flying through JFK in American Airlines is going to be more difficult as American Airlines continues to reduce their presence at JFK.
This flight showed American Airlines at its best and I would definitely take this flight again. I really enjoyed my first flight on the 777-200 and the plane was modern, had ample power, and great in-flight entertainment. The crew surprised me with their friendly and efficient service. This further reinforced the inconsistency of American Airlines fleet and service. I would recommend that you take the flight out of JFK if you are flying to or from Barcelona.