Each year we go on a January family vacation with the South American side of our family, normally to someplace warm and sunny. This year we all met at the Hard Rock Resort in Punta Cana which started with a great trip down from CLT.
After a quick 45 minute commute from RIC-CLT, we spent about an hour in the lounge for a quick breakfast. Sorry– no pictures of the CLT Admirals Club…let's just say we're looking very forward to its overhaul.
Walking to our gate, spotted a few things that grabbed my attention.
The vintage Piedmont livery really brings me back to being a kid–we were a loyal Piedmont family back in the 80's (sorry for the resolution)…
Allegheny vintage livery:
We arrived to our gate just as the Priority boarding was to begin.
With this being a 100% leisure flight booked with tourists, many of whom seemed not to really know how the boarding process works, we had to push our way through a gaggle of people. The gate agent did a nice job of keeping non Priority/Business passengers away, allowing absolutely no deviation to the boarding process– I liked her!
Quickly got settled in to our seats. We were originally in 4H, 5H, and 5F. Since my daughter was travelling with us, another couple offered to split up so that I could move back to 5H to sit next to her and my spouse took her space in 5C. With the open suite configuration, it really didn't matter that we were all sitting on the same row, but a nice gesture at least.
The last time I was on the same aircraft was for a CLT-LHR trip and a MAD-CLT trip made last summer. I absolutely love the fact that American leverages wide body aircraft for select Caribbean island hops that last about three hours (or less!). To that end, I was a bit tricked into thinking that I was getting settled in for nine hours!
Though this product is starting to show some wear and age, I still really like it.
The lay flat seat is still more comfortable than what I've experienced in United BusinessFirst.
Plenty of space…
Since this was a completely leisure flight, our FA's were very accommodating for taking pictures of everyone settling in. They really set the tone for starting everyone's vacation in a very celebratory tone! Pre-departure drinks were quickly ordered and served…
So, I mentioned that I was a bit tricked into thinking this was a long-haul flight because of the aircraft. There were three reminders that this was not going to be a long haul flight…
First, we were given domestic first class blankets– which really were just fine for this sort of a trip.
Next, when headphones were distributed I was anticipating the Bose noise canceling variety…instead…we were handed these things from the dollar store…
…thank goodness I brought my own!
Finally, I was wondering where the menus were for lunch. Instead of menus, our FA verbally gave us the options when she came to take our orders. Since we were upgraded only 24 hours before departure, we didn't have the opportunity to pre-order our meal. In another outstanding service moment, though we were in the last row of the cabin, our FA let me place my daughter's meal order first just to make sure she got something she would eat. To me, that was going above and beyond anticipating passengers' needs.
A short taxi to an on time take off…
Still love seeing the old livery from time to time…
Drink service began about 20 minutes into the flight and Dominican customs forms were distributed.
I mentioned that the cabin is starting to show its age. Many of the suites, including mine, had rather difficult to operate tables. In fact, our FA had to struggle to get at least three open. Once it was fully opened, the sliding mechanism worked just fine and it was easily stowed at the end of our flight.
Nice vodka on the rocks to start things out.
Explored the IFE a bit while waiting for lunch. Really good variety– just a rather small screen that is a bit far from the passenger's eyes…
Though there were a number of current movies available to watch, I originally didn't want to start a movie and not be able to complete it on this flight! Instead, my intention was to be music all the way down.
Feet up for lunch!
Choices for lunch were either ravioli or a cobb salad. My family all ordered the cobb salad–which turned out to be the right decision as, from what I could tell, the ravioli was a complete fail.
Though the catering was good, the presentation just didn't fit the cabin. The dressing was really tasty but it was just given to us in a container that looked like it was from a fast food restaurant. The meal looked kind of thrown together, but it did hit the spot on this relatively short flight. The chicken was very moist and had a good, roasted flavor. The prosciutto was nice and I would have gladly bought the same product on the ground.
Dessert was a lemon meringue inspired pie that was good but definitely not great.
After our meal, took a quick trip to the lav to freshen up. Very clean but no special amenities for the premium cabin.
Crew rest quarters…definitely won't be needed on this short flight!
Time for everyone to unwind for the rest of the flight…my daughter enjoyed a movie…
Seat in full lay flight configuration…the light from the Galley right behind us would have been bothersome if I was actually going to sleep.
…and I gave in and decided to get through as much of The Martian as I could…I would eventually finish the movie on our return trip in Y.
Just as I was really getting settled in…cabin lights came on and we were getting close to our destination!
During our descent…
Dried grass roof to the airport…
Waiting to pay our arrival tax and to get through migration.
Just in case you didn't get a free customs form on board your flight…here are more free forms… I can envision some local trying to sell these.
After paying our taxes, we got through passport control and customs no problem. Our chauffeur was waiting for us and we were at our hotel in about thirty minutes.
US Airways US Airways Club - Concourse C
Charlotte - CLT
Punta Cana - PUJ
I really like CLT as our connecting, hub airport since our home airport of RIC has few direct connections to major destinations. Once the lounges are upgraded this year (or next...) an already good refuge will be great.
The FA's did an outstanding job on this flight, truly making it a remarkable business class experience for a US carrier. Our needs were anticipated and always catered to.
Though this former Envoy cabin is showing its age, I am delighted that AA flies wide body aircraft on such short island hops. We weren't really ready for the flight to be over!
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