We booked our Christmas odyssey of flying Barcelona – Stuttgart – Cologne – Manchester – Chicago – Manchester – Barcelona, all in the space of two weeks, quite late. So late that flying Manchester to Chicago round trip direct actually ended up being cheaper in Business Class than in Economy. We chose to splurge, rather than take a long detour with multiple stopovers. Christmas flights on American Airlines Business class – yay! Needless to say I was excited like a little girl in the weeks before Christmas. So here’s my American Airlines 757 business class review.
As Manchester – Chicago isn’t the most popular route, American Airlines still flies its old Boeing 757 planes on the route. The internet is full of complaints about these planes, but I knew AA had started retrofitting them. I went as far as finding the plane IDs of the few planes that had already received their retrofits, in order to find out whether we’d get the new 757 business class, but it seemed we were out of luck. Still, business class is business class, so I was stoked for our travel day to arrive!
American Airlines Check In
American Airlines flies from terminal 3 in Manchester. It’s fairly small and compact, and usually easy to find your way around in. Nonetheless, it took us a few tries to find the business class check in counter which ended up being completely separated from the AA economy class counters at the other end of the hall. Once we were there though, check in was a breeze, we were given our boarding passes and lounge invitations and went straight on to security – wouldn’t want to miss out on lounge time!
The business class lounge at Manchester Airport
American Airlines customers in Manchester get to use the British Airways Terraces Lounge in terminal 3. The lounge is one floor up from the main concourse and can easily be reached via stairs or an elevator. There’s a detailed review of this lounge on Boardingarea.com, so I won’t go into it too much. The lounge was fairly empty, which meant it was comfortably quiet. Our plane was already waiting for us just outside the lounge, and we could watch it being prepared for the long flight ahead of us.
Food choices in the lounge were a bit limited for breakfast. I ended up having some fresh fruit with yoghurt and a chocolate croissant (ok, two…). The only hot option was porridge, which I didn’t fancy.
They took our flight details when we entered the lounge, and made a boarding call just before business class boarding began. We strolled out of the lounge, straight to the gate, and straight through to the plane. Zero waiting, it was perfect!
The new American Airlines 757 Business Class
To my surprise and delight, our plane did end up being one of the newly retrofitted 757s! So we got to try out American Airlines’ new business class product after all.
The seats are in a 2 x 2 layout. It’s comfortable as long as you’re in your seat, but if you’re enjoying a window view, you do have to climb over the person next to you if their seat is lowered. If you’re flying together though as we were, it’s a perfect set up.
In-flight food service in AA Business Class
We were welcomed with the traditional glass of champagne before take off, and treated to a refill as “we couldn’t waste champagne!”. Shortly after take off, we were offered bar service, and couldn’t say no to a celebratory gin and tonic (It was Christmas, after all!), which was served with a little bowl of warm mixed nuts.
We had pre-ordered our main courses for the meal service, and a flight attendant checked in with us to make sure we were still happy with our choice. Here’s the meal we had:
And of course, the whole meal was served with wine, as if we hadn’t had enough alcohol yet. I enjoyed this meal. Slow braised beef sounded like a good idea when we picked our meals, as reheating on the plane doesn’t affect its taste or texture, and our assumption turned out to be right, it was juicy and tender. The portion was also quite substantial, I couldn’t finish mine, so I’m sure nobody would go hungry with this meal.
The new business class seat on AA’s Boeing 757
After all that food and alcohol, I decided it was time for a little nap. This also gave me a good excuse to test out the lie flat beds, even though it was a daytime flight.
The seats in the retrofitted 757 lie completely flat, unlike their predecessors which were angled lie flat seats. Converting the seat to a lie flat bed is easy, you can either play around with all the individual seat settings, or just press the lie flat button, and the seat will go all the way down. In the flat setting, the bed/seat is 78 inches long (1,98 meters). As I’m unusually tiny for a German, that was more than enough for me and I had a comfortable nap. The fluffy pillow and big comforter that were provided also helped with that.
There is plenty of storage space on both sides of the seat, as well as in front of the seat. I ended up storing my blanket and various other things underneath the foot rest. There is also a plug at each seat to charge your electronics, with a USB charging option included as well.
What’s missing though, and for me this was a bit of a negative point, is an individual screen. Instead of a built in screen, AA chose to go with Samsung tablets for business class. That in itself sounds like a good idea, but we didn’t receive our tablets until about half an hour after take off, and they were taken away again a good hour before we landed. We had brought our own tablet and computer loaded with movies and series, so it didn’t affect us too much, but with the potential new laptop ban that’s being discussed all over the news, this could be frustrating.
The tablets themselves, once we had them, were good. There was a decent choice of movies and series, although it couldn’t keep up with the huge entertainment libraries of Emirates or Singapore Airlines. We received Bose noise cancelling headphones, which I’m a huge fan of, and our amenity kit included padded covers to fit over the ear pieces of the Bose.
Aside from that, the Cole Haan branded amenity kit included eye shades, ear plugs, tooth brush and tooth paste, mouth wash, a pair of socks, an AA pen, as well as some CO Bigelow Lime Coriander body lotion and a C.O. Bigelow lime lip balm which was absolutely amazing, and might actually make me use the 20% off C.O. Bigelow products voucher which came with the kit.
The amenity kit comes in 8 different color variations. I had the grey and yellow option on both the inbound and outbound flight. Aside from the bag being in grey and yellow, there was also yellow on our eye shades and the socks, so I imagine you could build quite the collection of socks if you’re a frequent traveler!
Return flight: The American Airlines Lounge at Chicago O’Hare airport
We flew back from Chicago O’Hare’s terminal 3. For check-in, we were shown to a self check-in counter as the airport was extremely busy post holidays. It was easy, and we were checked in and our bags were sent off within minutes.
We then went straight through security, which I always dread, especially in the US. But I have to give credit to the TSA team at O’Hare, they were absolutely lovely and made everyone smile.
As business class customers, we had access to the Admirals Club Lounge in concourse H/K. When we checked in at the lounge, we received vouchers for a glass of wine each. I’d heard that there were “snacks only” provided for free, and that other meals had to be purchased, so I didn’t have huge hopes for the food. However, the humble “snacks only” menu consisted of a buffet with cheese and olives, a spicy salad which I ended up getting three portions of, some other small snacks and a choice of soups. There was also a station where someone was making fresh guacamole, and a big display of freshly baked cookies. For me, that was plenty of food, and I didn’t feel the need to buy anything in addition to that.
The lounge was quite crowded, which made it a bit loud and hectic. That may just have been bad luck though, as we were traveling in the peak holiday period, and AA is currently updating the lounge as well, so space is a bit limited. Nonetheless, we found two comfy seats with matching foot rests and a view out the window. That’s all I need really, for a short lounge stay before a flight.
New retrofit business class, again!
We lucked out and got one of the retrofitted planes on the way back as well, which was awesome, considering this was a night flight. Here’s the food we had on our Chicago to Manchester flight:
Breakfast was apparently a quiche lorraine with fire roasted turkey sausage and paprika potatoes, or a fresh fruit bowl with granola and greek yoghurt. Unfortunately I completely slept through breakfast thanks to the comfortable lie flat seats. I did, however, get you this beautiful sunrise picture: