Ramon is the creator of Travelling Companion. He focuses on flight review, hotel reviews, and helping stretch your travel dollars, miles, and points further.
My first trans-Atlantic flight to London-Heathrow was one of the worst flights I have taken and showed that American Airlines needs to retire the A330-300s. Pros- Lots of leg room and a quick boarding. Cons-Horrible food, old plane, old and unresponsive in-flight entertainment, and cold service.
Trip Overview: European Adventures 2018
Flight Review: American Airlines A330-300 Economy CLT-LHR
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Food in London
Flight Review: British Airways A319 Economy LGW-BCN
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Flight Review: American Airlines 777-200 Economy BCN-JFK
Flight Review: American Airlines A321T Business Class Seats JFK-DCA
We had a tight connection for our flight to London so we had no time to check out the Admirals Club in Charlotte. Our flight from Washington D.C. was scheduled to arrive at 5:15 pm but ended up arriving about 13 minutes early. However, we still had a tight connection for our flight to London which began boarding at gate D11 while our flight from DCA landed at gate B5 across the airport.
Charlotte does not have an airport train so this meant that we had to sprint through the airport to our gate. Thankfully because of our Gold elite status with American Airlines we were seated in row 8 on our connecting flight and were able to quickly deplane and sprint across the airport to our gate. We arrived at our gate completely out of breath and having dodged numerous passengers in the terminal to find out that boarding hadn't commenced. Four minutes later boarding began and we boarded with Group 4 and were on the plane.
Plane and Seats
We boarded the plane through the second door on the left side of the plane. We were on the plane and in our seats in about two minutes the fastest boarding process I have ever experienced. This was due to the fact that we had the bulkhead seats 8A and 8B on the left side of the plane and immediately to the right of the boarding door.
This flight continued our 100% streak of free main cabin extra seats as American Airlines Gold elites. Typically these seats are half off at booking and free at check-in for Gold elites. I thought that our steak would end on this flight because there are only 16 main cabin extra seats on American Airlines A330-300s and there were no main cabin extra seats available at check-in. However, about a few hours before boarding two main cabin extra seats opened and we upgraded our seats to Main Cabin Extra.
The A330-300 cabin is set up in a 2-4-2 configuration in economy and we were able to score one of the two seats together on the left side of the plane which was great for us as couple. Even better these seats had about 36 inches of pitch compared to the standard 31 inches in economy on the A330-300. This was great for our nearly eight hour flight to London. In fact the legroom was so good that I was able to cross my legs and even get up and stretch during this flight.
Our seats featured USB power plugs in the armrest and on the setback screen which has to be stowed during takeoff and landing in the bulkhead seats. Despite the extra legroom there were two big downsides to our seats. First, the armrests were immovable and this ended up being very uncomfortable for sleeping. Second, the proximity to the galley meant more light and noise.
The cabin also featured a flight map in middle bulkhead of row 8. This map displayed information on the flight including the plane's location, remaining flight time, along with departure and arrival city time. As you can see in the photo below the A330-300 definitely is showing its age. The seats and the bulkhead had marks all over.
I had significant issues sleeping on this flight and only managed about 30 minutes of sleep on the nearly eight hour flight. I typically cannot sleep on planes but this plane made the flight experience even worse. As a disclaimer Christina managed to sleep nearly six hours on this flight. The plane made a loud hum throughout the flight and the warm temperate of the cabin made it more difficult to go to sleep. I tried to use my noise cancelling headphones to block out the plane noise and my eye mask to filter the light coming from the galley but for the vast majority of the flight was unsuccessful. The departure time for the flight, about 6 pm, also did not help my sleep and in the future I will try to schedule a later departure time in an attempt to improve my sleep. Unfortunately, the issues with the plane were not just cosmetic and extended to the in-flight entertainment system.
The in-flight entertainment had a selection of movies, tv shows, live television, music, and video games. American utilizes the same system on many of it's trans-continental flights and I thought that this selection was even more comprehensive than those flights. However, at times the system was completely unresponsive and during the flight I couldn't load any of the video games. The system functioned so poorly that a one point the flight attendants shut down and restarted the entire system. The touchscreen was old and very difficult to use. I found it cumbersome to scroll through the selection and the content loading very slowly. Despite the comprehensive selection this was one of the worse in-flight entertainment systems I have seen on a plane and it made my lack of sleep even more difficult to bear.
Dinner service began about 30 minutes after takeoff and the flight attendants started at the front of the cabin which meant we were served first. Separate food and drink carts went down both aisles. For dinner we were offered a choice between chicken and pasta. To drink we were offered a choice of soft drinks and a selection of complementary beer and a choice between red and white wine. On flights to Europe and select international destinations American offers free wine and beer in the main cabin.
I chose the pasta dish and a glass of red wine. The pasta was served with a salad, olive oil and vinegar dressing, bread, a cheese wedge, crackers, and a caramel brownie. I must say that this was one of the worse meals I have ever had and by far the worst on an airplane. The salad was extremely bland with lettuce, shredded carrots, and no cheese. The wine was the worst red wine I have ever had. Christina described it as sharp and terrible. The pasta was a bland and flavorless excuse for pasta. The brownie was thick and dry. The only thing which was decent was the gruyere cheese with bread. I appreciate that American Airlines still offers complementary meals on transatlantic flight, however, I wish I has skipped this one.
I appreciated that dinner service started quickly after takeoff since this allows passengers to maximize sleep on this relatively short night time transatlantic flight. However, this is about the only positive thing I can say about the service on the flight. The flight attendants were cold.
One example of this was my interaction with the lead flight attendant when I attempted to go to use the business class bathroom during the meal service. Because of the poor design of the A330 the nearest economy bathroom on the plane was about 16 rows away from behind row 24. I have seen passengers on domestic American Airlines flights utilize the First Class restroom on numerous occasions without any issue if the aisle was blocked with the service cart. However, on this flight as I stepped into the business class lavatory I was strongly reprimanded and told to use the lavatory in the back of the cabin by the lead flight attendant. When she realized the dinner service was underway and the aisle blocked she offered to have the flight attendants stop service and bring the cart back to the front of the aisle to let me use the economy restroom. I said no thank you and proceeded back to my seat.
I was absolutely in the wrong here for not using the economy lavatory and it is her job to enforce the rules, however, the sharp rebuke that I received from her that really disappointed me and was unnecessary. There is no need to be rude to someone just trying to use the lavatory. Also, I did wonder would she really prefer to stop the entire meal service and further delay passenger's sleep to stop my from using the business class lavatory which had no special amenities?
On approach to London we circled the airport several times likely due to the significant amount of traffic generated by the early arrivals to London Heathrow. We landed in London at 6:45 am 30 minutes ahead of our scheduled arrival.
This flight showed American Airlines equipment at its worse. As a part of the merger with U.S. Airways American Airlines inherited many subpar planes, including the A330-300s, which primarily fly out of former U.S. Airways hubs. The A330-300s have an average age of about 18 years and definitely are showing their age. The poor equipment coupled with the cold service on this flight led to one of the worse flights I have ever had. Thankfully American Airlines plans to retire these planes by the end of 2020. Until this time I would recommend that you avoid flying an American Airlines A330-300 on a long haul route.
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