With an earlier arrival into MIA, I took advantage of the extra time and went to the Admirals Club in Terminal D for a quick shower before my long journey to GIG.
The lounge was rather empty and I approached the nice agent to request the use of a shower room. She immediately summoned the shower attendant to escort me there.
AA Admirals Club @ Terminal D in MIA.
After an invigorating shower I went to the gate where boarding has already started. I presented my boarding card along with my driver's license but the agent requested to see the passport. I personally thought that showing the passport was redundant since the boarding had DOCS OK printed in big letters. A license is still an official document after all.
I boarded the plane and felt that I was entering a bear's cave. A robust FA greeted me at the door and the other FA in the back was having a conversation with a passenger.
I arrived at my seat and I was very pleased with it. The seat looked roomy and very private, with controls that were intuitive and easy to figure out. A menu with an image of asparagus as the cover was already placed by the seat. I confess that I quite enjoy the covers of the new AA's menus and think they are the best of the 3 major U.S. carriers. At least some thought went into designing them. Unfortunately the seat and the menu were the best parts of the inflight experience.
Limited storage space for small items only. One is located next to your seat and the other in the charging outlets.
As soon as everyone boarded, a FA distributed the amenity kits followed by pre-dept. drinks - water, orange juice of sparkling wine, and finally individual bottles of water. I noticed that she was not very engaging and never replied when people thanked her. This observation will set the tone for the rest of the service for tonight's flight. You know when deep down inside you feel that a flight will be great and at other times it be the other way around? Well, the crew on this flight has to be one of the most jaded and disinterested that I have encountered on AA. I've been lucky with crews for the most part and very rarely have run into a bad one, but not tonight. Crew hardly interacted with passengers and many of them did not reply to thank you's. I got the sense that they just wanted to get the work done and then retrieve. This was confirmed when later during the flight I caught a glimpse of another FA in the galley on the way to the WC and upon seeing me he pulled the curtain. Wow, sorry for paying your salary. Please don't mind me. The only exception was a Brazilian FA who started chatting with me and she was very attentive and proactive. I suspect that she might have been the purser.
I got the AirCal kit.
Another FA came around with publications on a cart and offered them to each passenger. I took a USA Today since there was nothing of interest on the American Way magazine. Perhaps it's me, but I find that AA's magazine is less interesting these days with mostly articles that cover sports and domestic travel destinations. In that regard I think UA's Hemisphere is a bit better. I know that AA is a U.S. carrier and that you need to cater to your home market, but if you consider yourself a world carrier then try to appeal to a more varied segment of your customers with your official publication.
We left the gate on time and taxied on the runway. After about 20 min. we were still there so I thought that there must be a big line with all the flights to South America lining up for their turn to take off. Then it was 30+ minutes with no announcements and I suspected that something was not quite right. Finally a few more minutes passed and the captain goes on the speaker explaining that there was a problem controlling the air flow in the cockpit and we had to return to the gate for the mechanics to come onboard. I was expecting the worst and resigned to lose my first night at the hotel in Rio. The mechanics entered and the waiting game continued.
Back to the gate.
Meanwhile, the purser started to serve warm nuts along with drinks.
At one point, the captain tells people that if they want to get out of the airplane they are welcomed to do so. Later on, he clarifies that those that disembark will not be allowed back to the plane and that their bags will not be offloaded and will go on the flight. Needless to say, this created a lot of confusion and some Brazilian passengers by the door were becoming agitated with good reason. Eventually another announcement was made saying that the problem will be fixed quickly in 30 minutes. I let out a sigh of relief at this point and at 02:30 we left MIA instead of 11:59. So in the end we had a 02:31 hrs delay on today's flight.
I made a quick trip to the WC before the meal service and found it stylish with the faux wood panels and the ceramic sink. Too bad that it was not stocked with toiletries or hand lotion. Very premium isn't it?
FA's went into action as we leveled off and started service quickly on our delayed flight. Hot towels were followed by Bose headphones and then dinner.
I seldom travel on AA long haul premium cabin, but when I was presented with a tray with the appetizer, salad and main dish together, I thought that this was done for the sake of practicality due to our very late departure. In this case I totally understand the necessity for an expedited meal service which I don't mind in order to maximize sleep for passengers. As I found out later on my return flight, this new protocol of serving everything together except for the dessert was the norm now. I was shocked that a regular meal service has actually turned into some sort of express dining one on long haul, at least to deep South America. By the way, where was the tuna appetizer that people were raving about from the beginning when the 773 was introduced along with this new dining concept? I was expecting a similar appetizer to be served in courses. Alas, the novelty has worn out. I guess more cut backs were implemented ever since.
The beet appetizer keeps haunting me like a recurring nightmare. It first happened on my LH flight from YVR-MUC and now it reappeared on AA disguised under another form. I'm sorry, but this small appetizer that is mostly vegetarian to a meat eating country is not a proper one for this long haul flight. I dare to say that the shrimps that I had on my SFO-MIA were better than this.
A variety of breads were offered. I chose the cheese one.
The pepper and olive tapenade (sounds familiar?) had a slight citrus undertone in the sauce and overall this dish did not leave me impressed at all.
Let's not forget the Peruvian chocolate on the tray. According to the Brazilian FA, sometimes the tray comes with the chocolate but not always. AA's slogan is going for great? Not only is the chocolate missing at times, but on top of that you use a brand that has very little intl recognition in a premium cabin (unless you go to LIM).
After the meal the FA asked if I wanted dessert. I chose the cake and it was brought to me with a cup of tea. There was no trolley service and if they offered ice cream it was no longer the create your own kind with different toppings. How the mighty has fallen.
My Four Seasons cake. I believe this was the same cake that KevinDC had when he flew DFW-HKG.
I checked out the entertainment system and saw Mad Max. I thought that the system was solid with a good selection of movies including some classics. The only minor flaw is that in order to plug the headsets, you need to look under your armrest on the side and this is not very evident.
After the meal service I decided to get some sleep and was able to get really comfortable in the bed position. I did not feel constricted at my feet due to ample space at the other end of the seat.
I did not sleep much because it is difficult for me to sleep in the plane, so I visited the galley to see what kind of snacks were available. Basically there were cheese plates and cakes leftover from the meal service, along with mini bottles of water and a snack basket with packaged goods.
At one point there was a passenger who ate a cheese plate right at the galley and left his mess there. When he saw me approach the galley he left right away. Yes, get out of the way so that I can take my pics. :P Why can't people be considerate and take things to their seat and leave the galley clean for others to enjoy? Perhaps they expect the crew to clean after them but with this crew I doubted that they will make frequent sweeps.
Very soon it was breakfast time and FA's started their second round of service with hot towels again. I opted for a hot quiche breakfast and it was delivered without any linens.
Quiche with a very pungent cheesy smell.
FA's prepared the cabin for arrival and when I handed back the Bose headphones neatly placed in its container to the FA working on my side she said thank you dear with a fleeting smile. At the beginning of the trip I wanted to test a theory and see if one can actually kill someone with kindness. Despite the FA's indifferent attitude, I took the high road and was extremely polite and pleasant with her. Eventually little by little I saw her take a more agreeable disposition. When I came out of the WC she and another FA were in the galley blocking me from going to my seat, she stepped aside and said go ahead sweetie letting me pass them. I'd like to think that my theory proved me correct in this instance, or perhaps it was the anticipation of the end of the flight that put her in a better mood.
I wonder now if this approach of killing someone with kindness is effective in a non-American environment. Of course, I could always use the Italian approach and say vaf@ncul@!
GIG airport is in Zona Norte, which is a rough area of Rio. As we approach the airport, one can get a glimpse of the poor neighborhoods that make up this part of the city.
A reminder of the past.
Taxiing to the gate with some spotting.
One last look at my seat.
The weather was supposed to be rainy during my stay in Rio. Thankfully there were times that the sun came out briefly and some days it was more cloudy than rainy so I made the best out of it.
Rio has a bad reputation and while you do have to be vigilant and exercise caution, thankfully I did not encounter any problems during my short stay. Having said that, the same day that I arrived I saw in the news that two people died during a shooting in front of the Cathedral de Se in Sao Paulo and a Brazilian friend has told me about the murder of a physician while bicycling near Lagoa in the upscale area of Zona Sul in Rio.
No place is perfect and Rio has its big shares of problems. When I landed here, I took public transportation instead of taxi to get to my hotel contrary to the advice of most travel guides and websites. Riding on the bus and then the metro gave me a first hand taste of how locals live here. The ride from the airport to the metro station is not a pretty one. You pass through worn out neighborhoods and an open sewer with the smell that manages to permeate through the air conditioned bus, but this is a part of the Rio experience as much as staying in Zona Sul and the rich neighborhoods of Lebron or Ipanema. In a Latin American country where social disparities are so wide, it's really eye opening for those coming from affluent countries to see how the less fortunate people live in Brazil. I grew up in Central America so I know first hand about these social inequalities and it's sad.
On a positive note, Rio is one of the most spectacular cities that I have been to. Its natural setting with curvy mountains and sandy beaches makes it one of the most gorgeous cities in the world and there are beautiful architectural works found throughout the city. Perhaps one of the greatest charms of this place is the friendliness of the people and see how common it is to encounter a smile.
Here are a few of the sights that I encountered.
I stayed in this area in Zona Sul which has a lot of good restaurants, stores and consulates.
Corcovado with Christ the Redeemer.
Going up on the tram one can catch glimpses of the view that awaits at the top.
More of Rio to come…
American Airlines Admirals Club (Concourse D)
Miami - MIA
Rio De Janeiro - GIG
First time in a reconfigured 772 and I enjoyed this new J cabin with direct aisle access and good privacy in every seat. The lie flat position makes it a really comfortable bed and I did not feel enclosed or constricted. There was plenty of room at the end for my feet.
The big disappointment is the catering. The lumping of appetizer, salad and main dish makes it look like an express dining concept that should not be offered on a long haul premium cabin. The absence of a la carte ice cream sundaes served from a trolley along with other choices was a feature that will be missed. The appetizer and salad were not up to a premium cabin in my humble opinion. Portions were small and not very sophisticated. Having a vegetarian appetizer going into Brazil seems a bit odd. The second service presented all at once without linen looks cheap. About the few positives out of this is the nice menu design and the availability of leftover desserts and small bottles of water in the galley between meal services.
Service was deplorable with a tired and disinterested crew with the exception of the Brazilian FA who was friendly and professional.
I enjoyed the entertainment system with a big screen and a good selection of programs.
A 2.5 hrs delay is bad but things could have been worse.
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