American Airlines’ Premium Economy to Europe

My mom wanted to head to England this summer, so Beloved and I opted to go with her. I have three quarters of a million miles flown on United, but she’s an AA flyer all the way (okay, she started as a TWA faithful, but they got eaten by AA around the turn of the century).

Add to that, United’s equipment is trash, and their treatment of frequent flyers is rubbish. Despite 12 years of gold (and once 1K) qualifications, I’m a silver only because I’m a titanium in Marriott’s hotel program, which these days, means almost nothing. If you haven’t spent cold hard cash on flights in the recent past, don’t be expecting anything from that airline. PFFFT.

My mother is rather fond of flying international business. Hell, I’d like to be fond of it. However, she inherited Daddy’s million mile standing as well as his account with a poodle of miles, so she can pull it off.

We realized, though, on the international flights, AA has a fourth class: Premium Economy. It ran us quite a bit extra ($1,900 RT instead of $1,100) but nothing like a business class ticket ($3,600). Premium Economy, advertised as recliners, has a seat width of 18.5 (compared to 16.1 – 17.1” in regular economy… can you imagine wedging your backside into something less than 16.5 inches across? OMG. No. I walked through the back of the plane once and those poor guys with broad shoulders… they’re miserable).

Economy is 3-4-3, Premium Economy is 2-4-2 so there’s substantially more room. However, all the promo materials and informational videos show the section as 2-3-2, which only occurs on the slimmer 787s.

Looking around for alternatives, for the same amount, we could have bought an Air New Zealand “Skycouch” which is a row of three where footrests pop up to form a very short bed. Yeah. I’m 5’4” and seriously, the three across is not long enough to stretch out. And it’s not really wide enough for two people, if you ask me – or at least, it didn’t look it, so we went with American’s premium economy.

Just remember, you’re paying for a larger seat rather than improved service or luxuries. The website said we would get an amenities bag, but we didn’t discover them until the middle of the flight – this tiny bag is buried in with the plastic wrapped pillow, cheap polyester blanket and pair of headphones.

Not to sound ungrateful, but I wasn’t terribly impressed with the goodie bag. If you’re going to give me something, please make it worthwhile… a toothbrush and toothpaste is terrific. A light blocking mask that is too small for anyone not suffering from small head syndrome (so it pulls across your eyeballs, flattening them into disks) is not a worthwhile addition. Neither are cheap acrylic socks. Suggestion: only buy one of the two aforementioned items and upgrade it with the savings.

Pen… always useful. Surprised it didn’t have AA engraved on the cardboard barrel, though. Earplugs… not really, but what the heck, and another set of cheap earphones? Okay, if I can afford to pay nearly double for a ticket in premium, I’ve likely got a set of AirPods (which I do) as well as an over-ear set so I can switch out, both of which are noise-cancelling. Thanks, but save your money on including wired earphones – also, it would lessen the amount of trash.

Breath mints would be an excellent substitute. So would a single dose of any number of medications (aspirin, acetaminophen, whatever, it’s always handy to have an extra on hand).

The other annoyance was the treatment of the bathrooms. There are four between Business class and premium economy, two on each side. They’re put curtains diagonally across the aisle so the two classes are separated with one restroom clearly meant for business – that curtain is firmly snapped at shoulder level to prevent the unwashed masses from sliding into not-their-loo.

There’s a dividing wall between premium and regular economy, but no curtain, so those in regular are able to walk up and use the two restrooms. Not that I begrudge them the use of the potties or the snotty potties reserved for Business, but you do not want to sit in row 16. At all.

People wait for the loos in front of you if you’re in the side seats (A,C or J,K). If you’re in the center four seats, yes, you do have a bit more legroom but you also have people climbing over your feet to get to the bathroom on the other side of the plane. Constantly. It would have driven me insane.

The footrests are subpar. I thought these were supposed to be recliners where you can control the footrests (a la the old style first class seats), but it’s a glorified steel bar with pedals, attached to the back of the seat in front of you. It flips down a bit, but it’s no recliner – you can’t adjust it more than the height.

Dinner was quite decent, especially as I’d discovered you can pre-reserve your meal. I’m sure some people find butternut squash risotto a perfectly acceptable main course, but I am not one of them. Beef with pasta in a mushroom sauce was actually very good, salad, bread, crackers with Swiss cheese and a tiramisu kind of cake slice – all in all, for airplane food, very good.

Yes, I’d pay for it again, but I’d rather fly Norwegian’s premium class, but sadly, they no longer fly LAX – Gatwick. Oh, well.

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