Ramon is the creator of Travelling Companion. He focuses on flight reviews, hotel reviews, and helping stretch your travel dollars, miles, and points further while traveling in comfort.
In this series of five reviews I focus on the experience flying American Airlines in First Class domestically and Business Class on flights to the Caribbean. The posts compare American Airlines First Class and Business Class across four different aircraft on medium-haul flights between 3-4 hours where meals are served.
American Airlines First and Business Class Reviews
American Airlines CRJ-900 SBA-DFW First Class Review
American Airlines 737-800 DFW-DCA First Class Review
American Airlines E-175 NAS-DCA Business Class Review
American Airlines E-175 DCA-MSY First Class Review
American Airlines A321 SJU-CLT Business Class Review
Flying through Lynden Pindling International Airport (NAS) in Business Class on this ancient Embraer 175 in Business Class was a terrible experience and only marginally better than economy.
Cons- Poor Check-In Experience, Bad NAS Ground Experience, Aging Plane, Bland Food, Uncomfortable Seat, Barely Functional Power Plugs, No Seat-Back Entertainment, Limited Wi-Fi and Streaming Entertainment, No Amenities, Limited Storage
Check-In and Immigration
For this flight we were headed back to Washington D.C. from Nassau on a non-stop flight to Ronald Regan National Airport (DCA) which American Airlines operates seasonally around Christmas and New Years. When we arrived at Lynden Pindling International Airport (NAS) about two hours before our flight we had already been upgraded to Business Class utilizing our 500 mile upgrades. Because we were upgraded so far in advance we had the opportunity to take advantage of the American Airline's priority ground services at NAS. The American Airlines priority check-in line was very long so we decided to use the check-in machine to check our bags. After quickly completing the check-in we still waited in a slow bag drop line while the check-in agent took about ten minutes to tag our bags and then proceeded to another check-in desk to check my golf clubs since American Airlines requires a separate check-in for specialty equipment at NAS. After about 20 minutes we were done with the check-in process and I realized that our bags were never tagged as priority by the check-in agent. Overall, I found American Airlines check-in process at NAS to be slow and cumbersome.
After we completed the check-in process we proceeded through immigration. When returning to the United States this process is usually seamless for Christina and I since we have Global Entry. However, NAS is one of the locations with a pre-clearance facility meaning that travelers to the United States clear before arriving in the United States. For the vast majority of passengers this provides a more pleasant experience since the flight can arrive at a domestic terminal. The problem with this is that for passengers with Global Entry the experience can be mixed since the experience at the pre-clearance facility may be slower than on arrival in the U.S. Unfortunately, we experienced this first hand at NAS. When we entered the pre-check line there was only one couple ahead of us in line, however, we took an hour to clear immigration! This was by far the longest I have ever taken to clear U.S. immigration and our traveling companions who did not have Global Entry even cleared the normal immigration line before we did. My advice is to arrive early for any flight out of NAS.
Graycliff Divans Lounge
Despite arriving at the airport about two hours early we ended up with only about 30 minutes before boarding once we cleared immigration. We decided to go to the only Priority Pass lounge in the U.S. Departures terminal Grayliff Divans. This lounge is located near Gate C-41 and open 7 am-7 pm daily and passengers are provided with a $20 USD credit for food and beverages.
Upon checking in we were asked if we wanted a Wi-Fi code and when we said yes the agent printed out what seemed to be a unique Wi-FI code. The lounge has an indoor smoking section to the right and a non-smoking section to the left along with a an outdoor deck which also allowed smoking. I really didn't like that people could smoke in the majority of the lounge.
When we sat down we were given menus and after reading the menu I planned on ordering breakfast. However, when we went to order we were told that no breakfast items were available for order, despite being advertised as an all day breakfast, and the only snack item available was the french fries with truffle oil and parmesan. We ordered the french fries and I ordered an orange juice. The service at the lounge was terrible and when our server was rude when taking our orders. After 30 minutes of waiting for our french fries we checked in on our order and instead of bringing the order to the table the waitress sent Christina with the order back to the table while she texted. Once we got the french fries they were cold since they had been sitting and waiting. Overall, this lounge was really poor and I would recommend skipping it.
Plane and Seats
Boarding started right on time and we were the first people to board the E175 operated by American Airlines' regional affiliate Republic Airways.
The 12 First Class E-175 seats were arraigned in a 1-2 configuration versus the 2-2 configuration in economy. Christina and I were seated in the bulkhead seats 1D and 1F on the right side of the First Class cabin. Once we were seated the First Class flight attendant asked us if we wanted a pre-departure beverage and let us know that because of Customs regulations American Airlines cannot serve alcohol on the ground in Nassau. Since some airlines don't serve alcohol on the ground to avoid paying duty I wondered whether this truly because of customs regulations or more to do with avoiding alcohol duties. As passengers boarded the flight attendant encouraged passengers to sit down quickly since some passengers had tight connections in D.C. As the rest of the passengers settled in the captain said we had a 2 hour and five minute flight time and that we should expect a bumpy ride.
My first impression of the plane was that it as aging. The First Class seats looked beat down and had a drab dark grey color. The seats had shared power plugs located between the seats. However, the plugs were so loose that every time we tried to plug in our IPhone or IPad to charge our devices they fell out. The seats were in the bulkhead so had good legroom and the tray table was located inside the armrest. The seats were not comfortable despite the padding and they had no storage areas. The seat was made more uncomfortable because the headrest wasn't properly attached to the seat and the "pre-recline" made it difficult to read.
The door closed right on time and our flight pulled off two minutes later with one empty Business Class seat. As the plane taxied I was really annoyed by how loud it was. Then the captain announced that the plane had a maintenance delay and we taxied out of the way to fix the issue. The maintenance issue was fixed and we departed about 25 minutes late from a foggy Nassau and ultimately landed 15 minutes late in DCA. The loud noise, beat up seats, and maintenance issues made me think this aging plane has seen better days.
Amenities and In-Flight Entertainment
There were no pillows, blankets, or any other amenities on this flight. The seats also had no seat-back in-flight entertainment (IFE) which meant the only way to access the streaming IFE was using our tablets or phones. However, the Wi-Fi which powers the streaming IFE was down for the majority of the flight since it did not provide coverage in The Bahamas. When Wi-Fi coverage kicked in about half way through the flight we explored the streaming IFE options. The streaming options were more limited than the seat back IFE and included Mission Impossible Fallout. We ended up not watching any of the IFE options because our tablets were low on power and we continued to have issues with the First Class plugs. Since Christina fell asleep about half way through the flight and I didn't bring a book I was left to listen to my music and stare out the window.
The flight attendant started the meal service quickly after takeoff. The service started with a warm towel. While I have experienced the warm towel service on numerous flights it didn't make sense on a flight from a warm climate like The Bahamas and I think instead it should be a cold towel service on flights from warm climates. On this flight we were served lunch and Christina and I were the first people to order but we ended up being served last since the flight attendant served from back to front. The meal choices were a Chinese chicken salad or a BBQ chicken wrap. I chose the BBQ chicken wrap while Christina chose the Chinese chicken salad. I also ordered a Sam Adams Octoberfest while Christina ordered red wine.
The BBQ chicken sandwich was served with cold peanuts, pita chips, salt and pepper on the side, and chocolate mouse cake. This sandwich was really bad with only a hint of BBQ sauce and was so dry at point I started choking and heavily downed water.
Christina's Chinese chicken salad had peppers, mango, chicken. The salad was very bland but better than my sandwich. The best part of the meal was the chocolate mouse cake which was not dry. Overall, our meals were bad and we once again had a bad experience with American Airline's First Class catering.
When it comes to service onboard American Airlines I came in with low expectations based on my previous experience and this flight met those low expectations. I appreciated that the flight attendant offered us pre-departure beverages, not always a guarantee on American Airlines, and quickly cleared away our plates when we were done with our meals. However, during meal service we were never proactively offered drinks and after the meal service we were pretty much ignored until landing. I would grade the service on this flight as average which is about the best I have come to expect on American Airlines.
I always appreciate a First Class upgrade, however, flying in First Class with American Airlines on this route was only marginally better than economy. The priority ground experience in Nassau was meaningless since the priority line was longer than the bag drop. Furthermore, the ground experience at NAS was weak with the Global Entry line taking longer than the standard immigration line and the Divans lounge delivering a bad experience. In the air our ancient E-175 was a terrible experience and once again we were failed by American Airlines. The convience of flying non-stop to DCA was nice but this experience was bad enough I would consider connecting next time. Also, as an American Airlines elite I would advise to skip using a 500 mile upgrade on this route.