Hello and welcome to the return segment of this short series of Flight-Reports,
It was time for my annual pilgrimage home to the motherland, but this year the choice of airline and routing was a bit more difficult than past years. OpenSkies would have been my first choice, unfortunately, this lovely boutique airline was due to cease operations at the beginning of September 2018 so I would have only been able to take OpenSkies on my outbound flight. I'd flown OpenSkies several times in the past and I was saddened to learn that one of my favourite carriers would cease to exist. As a French expat and oneworld flyer in the U.S., I liked OpenSkies for its perfect mix of what I like about British Airways but with French flair and elegance. *sigh* Au revoir OpenSkies ! ?
Living in Washington, DC, there are no non-stop oneworld options to France and I generally prefer to avoid connecting at Northeast U.S. airports in the summer unless I have time to build in a long layover to minimize risk of missing connections. With AA's Philadelphia hub being about 2 hours up I-95, I looked at non-stop flights out of PHL and found a good deal in Premium Economy. I'd been wanting to try AA's new Premium Economy and often find this class of service, positioned between Business and Economy, to be the perfect for short transatlantic flights.
I was impressed with the experience on the outbound flight–let's see if AA provides a consistent passenger experience in the new Premium Economy cabin.
Being that it was the first Monday in September, a time of the year known in France as "la rentrée" (back-to-work/school), we left Paris to head out to the airport around 6:30 AM for our 10:30 AM flight to avoid morning rush hour traffic. We made it to the airport in just over a half hour and dropped off the rental car.
We were at Terminal 2A by 7:15
Check-in was very fast as there was no one in the Priority queue…or any other queue for that matter as you can see below.
We then headed through immigration and security, which was also very quick at this time of the morning.
Past security is a shopping area beyond which is found the elevator to the mezzanine level where the lounges of carriers serving Terminals 2A and 2C are located.
This lovely art piece hangs from the mezzanine level above the shopping area
The lounges are clearly labeled
Once upstairs, there are four airline lounges, of which two are oneworld carrier lounges located right next to each other: the American Airlines Admirals Club and the Cathay Pacific Lounge. When given a choice between an Admirals Club and any other oneworld carrier's lounge, I would usually chose the latter.
The Admirals club in Paris is actually quite nice compared to Admirals Clubs inside the US. It seems that US carriers often have nicer lounges outside of the US than within the US–though that is changing with the introduction of new upgraded lounges like the United Polaris and American Flagship lounges.
Either way, as I don't often have the opportunity to visit Cathay Pacific lounges, it was an easy choice.
The Cathay lounge is quite spacious with nice tarmac views and a good amount of seating.
At this early hour, we mostly had the lounge to ourselves and were able to get good seats facing the tarmac and south runways.
Quite a nice view for #AvGeeks
The food selection was decent, with hot options as well as traditional continental breakfast fare. Breakfast isn't the most exciting time of the day as far as food options go in most lounges, but there was a good amount of choice and a noodle bar. I was hoping there would be some dim sum like in the Honk Kong lounges.
Meats and cheeses
Breads and pastries
Some drink options
My selection–I started with the hot options
And later got some pastries
I enjoyed the activity on the runways and tarmac during breakfast.
Air Algérie A330 with an Air France A380 landing
Our A330-200 arriving at the gate
The gate was just below the lounge…
Which was convenient for access and also for close-ups of the bird ^^
Hi-Fly A380 (formerly Singapore Airlines) flying on wet-lease for Air Austral
Delta Air Lines B767-300ER
American Airlines B777-200ER
Air Canada B777-300ER in the new livery
After an enjoyable stay in the Cathay lounge, we headed to the gate and arrived as boarding began.
We were the first to arrive in the Premium Economy cabin. The cabin is comprised of 3 rows of seats in a 2-3-2 configuration.
My window seat in the bulkhead row.
As mentioned in the first report, I selected the first row as there is a bit more room and the seats in that row have full leg-rests, while seats in other rows have pull-down footrests.
Video screens in the first rows are in the armrests, while they are integrated to the seat-backs in other rows.
Very good legroom in the bulkhead row
Pre-placed on the seats were a pillow, blanket, noise-cancelling headphones, and amenity kit by Cole Haan.
View of aircraft parked at Terminal 2A from my seat
In the first row, video screens are located in the armrests.
There is one video screen on the bulkhead, which shows the moving map for most of the flight.
An El Al B737-900ER replaced the Air Algérie 737
Cabin crew handed out menus towards the end of boarding.
Drink menu on the reverse side.
A nice feature of Premium Economy is the ability to pre-order meals on AA.com. This feature was previously only available for First and Business class.
Boarding was completed early and the doors were closed as the safety video played.
First in English…
…and then in French.
We pushed back a few minutes ahead of schedule.
There's always good planespotting during taxi in Paris.
Jet Airways A330-300
Gulf Air A330-200
Air Canada B777-300ER
American Airlines B777-200ER
Air France A380 landing
Air France A330-200
Air China B787-9 and WestJet B737 MAX 8 at Terminal 1
Air China A330-200
Singapore Airlines A380
It's always cool to taxi over highways at CDG
Though it was a typically long taxi to the north runways, there was no wait for takeoff.
The clouds had cleared up and it turned out to be a sunny day.
We took off towards the East and make a U-turn.
Nice views of CDG as we swung back around to the west.
After takeoff, I put on a movie and relaxed. The IFE has good content with movies, TV series, documentaries, and music.
The leg-rests help make the flight more comfortable.
We headed out over the ocean off the coast of Normandy and Brittany.
About a half hour into the flight, cabin crew began the drink service followed by meal service.
There is only one drink service as the meal is served right after, so I asked for a Disaronno as my pre-meal drink and red wine (a Spanish Rioja) to go with lunch.
As on the way over, the drinks were served in plastic cups, so now I know it wasn't a fluke…it's just odd.
Shortly after came the meal tray. I had pre-ordered the chicken option on AA.com.
Seasonal salad Basalmic vinaigrette
Grilled chicken breast Grana Padano sauce, orzo pasta, grilled vegetables
The lunch was tasty and the presentation was good. Aside from the plastic cups, the catering had a generally premium feel.
After lunch I had a double Baileys and fell asleep watching a movie.
I slept most of the flight and woke up about an hour and a half out from Philadelphia.
The pre-arrival meal service began shortly after. A Thai noodle salad was an exotic and interesting choice, as well as a tasty one.
We began our descent as we reached the coast of New Jersey.
The New Jersey side of the Delaware River a few seconds before landing.
We landed at 12:24 PM, well ahead of schedule.
We parked on the far end of Terminal A-West
Being in the first row of Premium Economy, we were right by the door and were among the first to deplane.
With Global Entry, immigration took less than 2 minutes. Of course, getting through faster when you have bags just means you have to wait longer for the bags.
The first sentence of the preamble of the Declaration of Independence, signed in Philadelphia in 1776, adorns the walls of the International Arrivals hall.
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness"
Cathay Pacific Lounge
Paris - CDG
Philadelphia - PHL
This second flight in Premium Economy convinced me that American Airlines offer a consistently good Premium Economy experience. The seats, also used as domestic First class on some narrowbody aircraft, are comfortable with good legroom, width,and decent recline. The IFE is top notch with plenty of content and a sharp image with good resolution. The catering is a very noticeable upgrade from Economy class, with meals resembling a slightly better version of US domestic First class catering. Meals are well presented on china with metal cutlery; however, drinks are served in plastic cups, which is one point that could be improved.
Cabin crew were pleasant and attentive, though again, as the Premium Economy cabin is rather new to pre-merger US Airways metal and crews, it felt like crews were not used to the service as it seemed very clumsy at times. On two separate occasions, different flight attendants dropped meal trays while tripping over each other--one of which ended up all over a passenger in the row behind me. The FA was very apologetic, but having a hot meal spilled all over you cannot be a pleasant experience. The other meal was dropped on the floor--thankfully with no victims this time. I have never seen one meal tray dropped in my many years of flying, much less 2 within 15 minutes. I'm not an in-flight service protocol expert, but I believe AA may need to re-think their service flow in Premium Economy, at least on the PMUS A330s as the meal services were consistently awkward on both flights and I believe using a drink cart, and then a cart for meal trays, when you only have 3 rows of seats, crowds the aisles and FAs end up tripping all over each other.
Although U.S. carriers were late to the Premium Economy party, I believe that years of observing the successes and failures of other carriers' Premium Economy products has allowed them to implement a solid product from the start. In my personal experience, having flown in this cabin class on several carriers, American Airlines offers one of the more premium experiences.
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