Airline business capability model
American has been flying from RDU to London (initially Gatwick, but later transferred to Heathrow) for nearly two decades thanks in large part to the large number of pharmaceutical companies like GlaxoSmithKline with bases in the Research Triangle region of North Carolina.
This year, I decided I would take a trip to London for my birthday. As an AvGeek, I decided to book my trip on the only airline currently offering widebody service at RDU. This would be my first mainline experience on American, so I booked a Business Class seat to LHR, and an economy seat for the return leg to compare the two.
The flight departing RDU was briefly delayed (typically a 6:30PM departure) as a substitute crew was flown in from O’hare due to the significant (for North Carolina at least) amount of snow and ice.
The flight would be operated on a Boeing 767-300 aircraft, a model which averages over 20 years in age in American’s fleet. The interior of the aircraft on the initial leg of my journey reflected this.
I boarded the plane by squeezing into the cabin via a galley area. Once through the galley, the interior of the aircraft instantly came across as drab and musky.
After taking my seat in one of the 30 angle-flat seats onboard, I was greeted by a stewardess with a friendly welcome and a glass of champagne. She took my coat to store in a closet, and I settled in with my pillow, blanket, and amenity kit including socks, a toothbrush, lip balms, soap, and a pen.
Instantly, I noticed that the majority of the crew was not dressed in typical international flight attire. Also evident was the amount of confusion among the crew preparing for the journey. Upon conversation with a few crew members during the flight, I discovered that this would be the crew’s first international flight.
Prior to takeoff, I discovered that there was no WiFi onboard (which I found out later is currently only available on Boeing 777-300ER aircraft on international flights, or 10 aircraft in American’s fleet). With flights to LHR averaging around seven hours (eight and a half hours on the return leg) and a significant number of passengers on the flight for business purposes, this was a disappointing fact for any long-range aircraft in the year 2014.
Despite the lack of WiFi capability, Business Class passengers were provided entertainment pads after takeoff that featured movies, music, and select NBC television shows. I jumped at the opportunity to catch up on a couple of movies I have missed, and tried out an NBC series that I had not watched in the past.