Hello and welcome to the 2nd and last report in this short new series.
Every year we choose a different destination for the U.S. Presidents' day Holiday weekend. In past years we've squeezed far flung destinations in Europe or the Middle East into a long weekend; however, with a busy travel year ahead, this time we decided on Puerto Rico as it's a relatively short flight from the East Coast. Puerto Rico's tourism industry has taken quite a hit since the devastation brought by two Category 5 hurricanes in the fall of 2017, so this felt like one small way of contributing to the recovery. Just a few months after the hurricanes, "La isla del encanto" was as charming as ever and I was impressed by the resilience of the Puerto Rican people I met, many of whom still had no electricity in late February.
Although I believe US Airways may have previously flown DCA-SJU nonstop, there are currently no nonstops with American Airlines so we had to connect through one of AA's East Coast hubs. I specifically routed through PHL on the outbound flight for the A330–I love that AA frequently flies widebodies domestically and to the Caribbean.
Unfortunately, I was not able to make an A330 routing work on the return flight so I just took the most conventient timing which would take us through CLT, another PMUS hub.
It almost looks like the Bermuda Triangle doesn't it?
Pre-flight & Lounge
This report will be very short as I hadn't originally intended on doing a Flight-Report on a boring LUS (Legacy US Airways) A321 domestic flight. I decided to post a quick report as it seems there aren't any recent reviews of LUS A321s since the cabins have been updated in the post-merger AA style. For comparison, here is a recent report I did on an LAA domestic A321 [spoiler: the LAA A321 offers a better experience]
We arrived at the airport about two hours prior to departure to drop off the rental car. Rental cars at SJU are located in the garage right across from the terminal, which is very convenient. Without checked bags, we headed straight to security–we were through quickly with TSA Pre✔️
After some duty free shopping, we visited the Avianca lounge (operated by Global Lounge network), which can be accessed with Priority Pass. The lounge is on the small side and was very crowded, but we were able to find some free seats in one of the quiet rooms, away from the crowded main area. Again, not really intending on doing a report, I didn't take any pictures. Overall, despite the crowds, the lounge was comfortable with decent food and drink options for a domestic lounge. The food was nothing fancy, but there were some hot options with a pasta bar and meatballs in marinara sauce.
Boarding & The Flight
The lounge wasn't too far from our gate and we arrived just as boarding began. The cabin has been refitted in the post-merger AA grey. Although not the most exciting of colors, the cabin looks much nicer than it did in the US Airways days, in my opinion. You can see the PMUS cabin in this report I wrote a few years ago.
My seat in the last row of the premium cabin.
For those not based in North America, U.S. carriers normally market the premium cabin as "First class" on domestic flights and "Business class" on shorter regional international flights operated with narrowbody aircraft. The premium cabin on flights to and from the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands are marketed as Business class despite being domestic flights–confusing, huh?
Parked at the gate next door is an internationally configured B757-200 with new lie-flat seats in Business. The 752, which operates the evening flight to PHL, would have been a good option, unfortunately, we bought our tickets last minute and the premium cabin was already full.
As per usual U.S. carrier protocol on domestic flights, pre-departure drinks were served in plastic cups. One thing with flying on LUS metal on domestic flight, is you know you'll get a PDB, which can still be hit-or-miss on LAA metal, though it's getting much better.
I had a mimosa
Decent legroom with the standard 38"
Though the seats are wide, well-padded, and generally comfortable, there is no in-seat power. It's a real shame not having any power to charge devices considering that there's no IFE. AA is progressively installing in-seat power throughout the LUS domestic fleet, but it will be at least two years before the work is completed.
We pushed back on time and taxi time to the runway was quick.
JetBlue A320 in special FDNY livery as we line up for takeoff.
Bye Puerto Rico, hasta la próxima!
Our Aircraft's shadow in the clouds surrounded by a rainbow halo
The service began shortly after takeoff with warm nuts and pre-dinner drinks to start
There may be no IFE, but there's a nice view out the window on a sunny day.
For dinner there was a choice of chicken pesto with green beans or a vegetarian pasta option. I chose the chicken; it was fine, though more pesto would have been nice.
The appetizer of smoked salmon and salmon mousse was very good.
A rather rich chocolate cheesecake for dessert accompanied by a Bailey's on the rocks.
After dinner, I took a quick nap and woke up as we were making out descent into Charlotte.
The sun was setting as we descended.
We landed very early and arrived at the gate over 30 minutes early. I guess we had good winds that day!
Thanks for reading this very short report! See you soon for a new series to a much colder destination.
↓ Puerto Rico Tourism Bonus below ↓
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Beautiful old San Juan mixes an old world European feel with the sun and sea of the Caribbean.
Castillo de San Cristóbal
Colourful Old San Juan
Plaza de Colón - statue of Christopher Columbus
Castillo San Felipe del Morro
Catedral Metropolitana Basílica de San Juan Bautista
The famous Arecibo Observatory featured in several films including Contact and Golden Eye
The large antenna that was previously on the right of this structure broke off during one of the hurricanes.
Playa Condado, San Juan
Avianca operated by Global Lounge
San Juan - SJU
Charlotte - CLT
The AA premium cabin experience to and from Puerto Rico is inconsistent to say the least. On flights or similar length, I've experience the best and the worst that AA has to offer. The LUS A321, with no IFE or in-seat power, offers a very basic experience compared to the outbound flight's long-haul lie-flat Business class seat with IFE, power, etc. Despite the shortcomings of the hard-product, the flight was generally pleasant. The seat itself is just fine for a 3 hour flight and the catering was decent--I particularly enjoyed the salmon starter. The cabin crew were friendly and attentive throughout the flight.
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