SFO-MIA in Y - will not report. MIA-GIG in Y - you are here. GIG-JFK in J - click here. JFK-SFO in Y - depends if I get upgraded.
It looks like GIG is becoming a pilgrimage destination for me. Last year I visited this city twice (in Sept and Oct). This time I came with relatives and that meant a bit more planning and compromise.
I start with the boarding experience out of SFO where I was issued the connecting passes for my flight to GIG.
I requested a taxi to take us to the airport and once there we checked in at the Priority counter because on person in the party had requested a wheelchair. I was helped by the most indifferent agent that I have ever encountered during check-in. There was an issue with the documentation for one member in our group and despite providing proper documentation, she took the paperwork back in the office to consult with someone. It took about 10-15 min. and when she came back she did not even thanked us for waiting or apologized for the delay. She proceeded to check us in and issued the boarding pass mentioning that we might run into this situation when we return from GIG. I told her that we have dealt with this issue previously returning from several different countries without a problem and was then handed the boarding passes. At that point i mentioned that I requested a wheelchair and she said something like "oh I didn't see that but it is here" and immediately paged for assistance. This experience was a stark contrast to her co-workers working by her side who at least wished customers a good trip and smiled. Although she was not rude, the whole check-in process was utterly apathetic to this EXP member.
We all received "TSA Pre-Check" on our boarding passes and went through security quickly and painlessly. No need to take off shoes, belt or get the computer out of the luggage. We stayed at the Admirals Club in SFO for about half and hour and then boarded our flight to MIA which left on time.
On arrival into MIA, the crew did not give out connecting information so we had to ask the agent or check the boards upon arrival. This was the first time in all my SFO-MIA flights that I recall not hearing such announcement because a big percentage of passengers on this flight are usually on their way to somewhere in South America. Even if gate information was unavailable, the FA should have mentioned that when taxiing to the gate. I hope that this is a one time "off" incident and not an indication of further service deterioration, although this comes as no surprise from a recent change in my reservation.
I am the type who occasionally checks on my reservation to make sure everything is in order. A few weeks before the trip I noticed that the configuration of this flight in premium economy went from a 3-3-3 layout to a 3-4-3. Up to that point Y+ was spared from the torturous 3-4-3 layout of the rear Y cabin but not anymore. As a result of this reconfiguration, the bulkhead row became 2-4-2 resulting in only 2 sets of seat pairs for people traveling together in that cabin. This new layout is not featured in "seatguru" or AA sites yet. Kind of sneaky to make this change without an announcement (which will no doubt affects AA negatively) or advise the customers holding a seat in Y+. The only positives are the 2 sets of couple seats and the aisle seats behind what would have been the third seat in the front row, which gave those seats ample room making them in effect another "bulkhead" seat. I was the beneficiary of that as you will read later.
Upon arrival in MIA we headed to our connecting gate and sat for a few minutes before boarding. We forgo going to the club since we would not have enough time to relax in it and would rather be at the gate for pre-boarding. There was 1 agent when we arrived but eventually more showed up as we got closer to boarding time. They were all pleasant and professional which is always a welcoming sight in a major hub like MIA.
Because of my party who requested a wheelchair we had access to pre-board . There was another passenger with wheelchair along with 2 individuals being escorted by Customs.
Upon boarding there was a FA at the galley but he failed to greet us. I thought that was blatantly rude, especially towards the elderly couple who boarded first.
View from 14J.
Eventually boarding proceeded with the rest of the passengers and an announcement was made that it was going to be a full flight. At one point I saw 2 people holding a glass of pre-dept. sparkling wine and orange juice past me. I wonder if they avail themselves of the unattended tray of drinks destined to J passengers while passing through the galley.
It was now 22:25 and there was no sign of the aircraft moving. We sat for about another 30 min. and finally an announcement was made for the crew to get ready for departure. There was never any communication by the cockpit about the reason for the delay.
Dinner service started with chicken or pasta and drinks. It was the usual lackluster typical dinner that can only come from a cost cutting U.S. carrier - small salad with lettuce and a few shreds of carrots as appetizer, a reheated frozen food main dish and a bag of chocolate brownie for dessert. At least there was a wedge of industrial cheese and crackers. I ate the salad and after a few bites of the chicken I left everything else on the tray.
Chicken with rice.
Service was good with smiling and attentive FA's. During the meal distribution i requested a cup of hot tea for my seatmate. The FA apologized that he did not have any hot beverages on his cart but after the meal service he delivered it as promised. i suspect that they might have been short of crew members because usually there are 2 FA's in charge of the cart and this time only 1 person did the whole beverage service on my side.
There was a good selection of movies to choose from but I just browsed through a couple of titles without really getting into any particular one that I liked. AA seems to offer a "live chat" feature on their entertainment system now.
Drinks were placed in the galley and when I inquired about small bottles, the FA offered a big one for me which was greatly appreciated.
The cabin was plunged into darkness and most people were sleeping. As we got closer to GIG, the lights were turned on 1 hr. before arrival and the breakfast service commenced. It is now a hot flat top muffin (less quantity) served with yogurt and orange juice. I had a cup of tea and did not touch this continental offering at all.
During the tray collection, the FA accidentally spilled some coffee on my pants when the retrieved the tray from the passenger in front. He immediately stopped what he was doing and went to the j class galley to get a cloth towel for me. Later on he offered me some wine but I declined since I don't really drink and settled for another big bottle of water. This FA was really good to me and spoiled me throughout the flight by going out of his way and even gave me amenity kits.
We arrived a few minutes later and there was a cart to pick up our wheelchair passenger. The only problem was that only the person requesting the wheelchair could be on the cart and the party had to split. We couldn't do that due to some possible language issues so an actual wheelchair was brought and an attendant took us together to immigration & customs. On the way there, at least 3 different attendants were in charge of our wheelchair since there was a shortage of agents. Sometimes we saw an attendant handle 2 wheelchair passengers at the same time. In the end, we ended up with the attendant that we got from the beginning since he relieved his co-worker right after immigration. The whole situation was comic to say the least. I did not feel infuriated because it was no use to get angry. I just rolled with the punches.
Upon arrival I pre-ordered a driver through Ocab via Mozio. Originally I requested the driver to wait for us at 08:00 but we ended up clearing Customs at 09:00 because of the wheelchair situation and 2 other flights arriving at the same time. When we exited Customs (which now requires you to pass through Duty Free upon arrival), our driver was waiting with a sign that had my name. In my confirmation email from Ocab it stated that the driver will keep track of my flight in case of delays like these so you had to enter your flight information before finalizing your booking. The ride from GIG to my hotel in Catete cost me USD 25 or EUR 22 including taxes and tips.
The driver was very professional and talkative. At first we spoke in English and later in Spanish when he learned that I could speak it fluently. Eventually he confessed to me that he had a French background when we got into a conversation about the influence of the French in Brazilian history and how this is seldom acknowledged on Brazilian texts. I felt like asking if he thought the same about Catherine of Medici's contribution to French gastronomy, but I reminded myself that my life was at the hands of my driver at the time and it would have been wise to refrain from any provocations, however harmless or superficial they could be.
It took us approx. 2 hrs to arrive to the Windsor Florida hotel where we were staying. This was partly due to heavy rain at the time, construction work and commuting traffic. The hotel was very accommodating and gave us an early check-in so that we can settle and rest.
*** BONUS ***
The hotel is supposed to be a 4* but it felt more like a 3.5*. It is located in a safe residential neighborhood convenient to the metro, restaurants and supermarkets. The staff was professional and willing to please, which is the most important asset of this property.
Pool with view to Christ the Redeemer.
Room with refrigerator (but no iron nor ironing board).
On the first day we crashed and decided to have dinner at the buffet restaurant of the hotel. Buffet featured a decent selection and the beef was not overcooked which can often happen in buffets. Desserts were nice.
Miami - MIA
Rio De Janeiro - GIG
The cabin change came as a surprise and it's disappointing to see Main Cabin Extra go to a 3-4-3 layout. The only positive as I mentioned on the report are the pair of "couple" seats and the aisle seats on the sides of the second row that feature plenty of room to stretch.
Cabin crew at the front was not the best, but the ones working in the back were solid.
Catering is really cheap and AA would do itself a favor and enhance the offerings in Y.
GIG is going through some last minute "fine tuning" before the Olympics. At the airport and in the city I saw construction going on at a fervent pace. I hope they can finish up on schedule.
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