a row of seats in an airplane

Review: American Airlines Premium Economy CLT-BCN

This post is part of a long-form series documenting the process of completing a status match challenge. For the master post on my experience matching from United Airlines MileagePlus Premier 1k to American Airlines AAdvantage Executive Platinum, click here.

American Airlines Premium Economy First Impressions

This was the first long haul flight I took during my recent status match challenge. It had been a while since I’d flown AA long haul and was excited to find a really great fare price to Barcelona on an open jaw booking I made:

FLL-CLT-BCN and BCN-ORD on my return. All in I paid $700 for the itinerary (and then ended up paying an extra $500 to upgrade to Business Class on the way home). Getting to FLL was easy (and cheap) using 12.5k AAdvantage miles which I’d begun to really rack up from bonus promotions with Avis.

The best part (besides getting a great rate in August) was that I’d be on a recently upgraded A-330-200. I thought that the rumor was Executive Platinums would be able to get complimentary upgrades on a space available basis. I did as much research on The Points Guy, Award Travel 101 and ExpertFlyer as I could and spoke to some AA experts who all said that they thought that was the case.

Of course, it would have made way more sense to have information on their website (which has been greatly improved and updated) but at the time, there was little to no info to be found. As of now, they still say that “AAdvantage awards and upgrades into Premium Economy aren’t available now, but will be at a later date”. The only upgrades available at this time are for Executive Platinums traveling to/from Hawaii and on a space available basis.

Please Take My Money

By the time I got to CLT, I was sure that speaking with an agent at either the Admiral’s Club or the gate might offer some more clarity. I’d gotten nowhere with agents on the phone. Either way, it had been a week full of travel and complimentary upgrade or not, I didn’t want to be cramped into Economy. I was shocked that the Premium Economy cabin was totally empty with the exception of one passenger, yet I was being told that I BOTH couldn’t pay for an upgrade, or when offered to buy up, was being offered a price of $1,500.

I was still on the phone as I was forced to board by a gate agent who specifically told me there was nothing she COULD or WOULD do to help me. The flight’s purser overheard and right before doors closed, he came to fetch me and offered me a seat. SUCCESS! (Or so, I thought)

Service With a…umm…Lecture

So, because the cabin service is still new, I figured there’d be some hit or miss things, much like when I tried United’s Polaris during their “soft” launch. Well, since there were only two of us in the cabin, I really wouldn’t have known because I didn’t get the chance to witness a true Premium Economy service. And if what I did experience was what to expect, it wouldn’t be worth the price.

Sure, the meal is “technically” better and on china. However, the FAs were more focused on both the full Business and Economy cabins. As soon as they could, an FA came from business and dropped off ice cold mixed nuts. Five minutes later another FA popped up from Economy and asked me what I wanted to drink. Within ten minutes the same FA was flinging a tray of food at me, spun around and walked away.

Considering that I’d gotten some water to start, I was really hoping to get some wine to enjoy with my steak, but couldn’t get anyone’s attention. The FA from Business and I made eye contact, he came over and I asked if I could get some wine and he informed me that he couldn’t serve me the wine that was in his cabin.

As my meal is now super cold, a frantic FA from Economy comes racing up 10 minutes later with an extra full plastic cup. Not only was it served with a comment of “hope this will last you…” but also with a reprimand that they had “done me a favor” by offering me that upgrade and that I couldn’t ask any of the Business FAs for anything. They informed me that they would all be grateful if I stopped “rocking the boat”.

Food & Beverage

The food was mediocre at best. I wasn’t expecting amazing, but I’ve had far better meals in Economy on other carriers. The only thing worse than bad food is cold food. Basically everything was barely room temp, yet overcooked (for beef).

For dinner I had the beef short rib. There was nothing really to rave about. Their breakfast offering was far more lacking than I would have expected. Besides being on a plate, I think the only difference besides Economy was that I had fruit.

Amenity Kits & Bedding

This was honestly the best part of the experience. The recent partnership between AA and Casper is great: the pillow is PERFECT and so was the blanket. I was able to also score a pair of slippers and still use them at home! The Cole Haan amenity kit was also great. Sometimes amenity kits get too creative putting form over function. Here, you could tell there was great thought in how passengers could re-use the pouch (which come in various sizes to form a collection). The C.O. Bigelow products are nice as well.

Seating & In-Flight Entertainment

The IFE is good, not great. I enjoyed having a slightly larger screen and the recent interface updates American has made makes for an enjoyable experience in searching and selecting. What they could have improved upon was the location and design of the IFE handheld controller. The buttons are super sensitive and where the controller is stored means that with a slight movement of your leg, you might be fast forwarding or exiting from what you’re watching without wanting to do so.

The plugs and outlet are also in a pretty awkward location and got tangled up a few times.

Final Take

Unless I’m getting a complimentary upgrade or the price is just too good to beat I just can’t see the value in paying some of the super high prices they’re charging. While I’ve yet to try out a flight on Norwegian Air, friends who have done so have far more positive things to say about their Premium Economy product. They also charge less.

Sure it’s a middle ground between cramped Economy and lie-flat Business, but it feels more like a purgatory for top tier status members or fools with money who will happily pay way too much for way too little.

The post Review: American Airlines Premium Economy CLT-BCN was first published on Coworkaholic.

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