When the amazing British Airways deal popped up for two days in October, I was a bit too slow to jump on a direct flight to London so I ended up with a British Airways codeshare flying Philadelphia to Manchester UK on American Airlines (formerly USAirways) connecting to British Airways onward to London. The upside is that the former USAirways business class cabin is a 1-2-1 configuration with only twenty seats in the cabin over five rows (for comparison, the British Airways First Class is 1-2-1, while their Business Class called Club World is 2-4-2). American Airlines does have a swanky new business class seat and cabin to London but it’s not available out of Philadelphia – you can find it on the B777-300ER planes from JFK, LAX and some flights from MIA and DFW. The downside of my flight to London was the unknown change at Manchester that gave me one hour and fifteen minutes (I’m not a fan of connections especially tight ones – would I make my flight to London?). Before I worried about that part, I had time to relax in the lounge.
The American Airlines Lounge at PHL
While I was on a British Airways codeshare flight flying American Airlines out of PHL, I was entitled to use the massive American Airlines Lounge prior to the flight or the much smaller British Airways lounge. I’ve reviewed the lounge in Terminal A West before when it was was part of USAirways. Not much has changed except the name. The lounge was pin drop quiet for the most part and relatively empty giving me plenty of seating options.
The A330 Cabin & Seat
Since I’ve flown this type of cabin before on the A330 from Paris (then called USAirways Envoy), I booked the window seat, 4H, which gave me plenty of space. The last row was empty and no one was across from me. I was welcomed by the flight crew with champagne or orange juice as is customary on all business class flights I’ve flown thus far. The flight attendants offered a selection of newspapers as well as a Bose headset to use during the flight (collected an hour before landing).
The seat contained a pillow and duvet in a sealed bag. The amenity kit was left on the shelf. The seat is on an angle and has a heavy duty padded seatbelt. The side pocket has a place for a bottle of water but unlike the Paris flight which had a bottle of water at the welcome, my side pocket would stay empty the entire flight (annoying to have to ask for a bottle water). The seat had all features needed for a comfortable flight – reading light, remote, charging area. Be careful not to lose your devices in the space between the wall and the seat. I didn’t use the IFE (in flight entertainment) this time as I was content to catch up on magazines and books that I brought with me.
AA Business Class Meal Service Philadelphia to Manchester UK
When I fly international airlines, I tend to order a lactose free (aka take your chances on what you get) or low calorie meal (usually a simple chicken) but flying American Airlines, I didn’t have this option so I ate a sandwich before arriving at the airport. How surprised was I that not only was I hungry when the food was served after the 9 p.m. takeoff but that I ate it all! I said yes to the wine and nuts.
Yes, to the Thai chicken with pineapple appetizer (a refreshing start).
I passed on the salad option and ordered the Almond crusted chicken with spinach and rice.
I definitely left room for dessert which was chocolate mousse (I had to pass on the ice cream or cheese plate) accompanied by Lactaid pills.
Paired with a French red wine and a pretzel roll (one of five bread choices and a popular one), my dinner was quite good. I was already taking indulging in my mantra “no calories on vacation”. My business class meal was simple and quite tasty which is a rarity for me to find on flights. It might not be a foodies paradise but that’s perfect for me. Here is the rest of the menu.
The table was a bit unstable when trying to cut my food as it moved up and down a bit so be mindful of that. I was surprised that the table didn’t move forward enough so I adjusted my seat position to be closer to my food (leaning into it). I still managed to drop the butter as I misjudged the edge thereby watching the butter slide down the front of my legs onto the floor. But hey, no rice mess which is a miracle!
I passed on breakfast as I had brought a banana and almond butter packet with me.
The American Airline Heritage Amenity Kit
American Airlines is celebrating their heritage with special toiletry kits to remember all nine of the airlines that now make up it’s employee base. My kit, a cool grey felt exterior which when emptied can carry a computer tablet, was orange and grey based in honor of American Airlines. The bag contained all the usual items – toothbrush/toothpaste, mouthwash, socks, sleep mask, tissues, ear plugs, tissues, a pen and red flower cremes that USAirways previously provided.
The Philadelphia to Manchester UK Business Class Cabin Crew
The crew were friendly in business class but not overly attentive – they were pretty militant about it all keeping on schedule and following the agenda. When I jumped ahead to say “no breakfast”, I was told, she didn’t ask about that yet and would do so later. She pink highlighted my dinner choices and was off. After welcome aboard drinks, there was the hot towel distribution followed by pre-dinner drinks & nuts before dinner service started.
Dinner was served quickly and didn’t last for hours as other airlines I’ve flown has and this was actually welcome. I was a bit surprised by having to ask for a bottle of water once the lights went out for sleeping as other airlines automatically give you this. I was even more surprised that water wasn’t automatically at my seat in the water bottle slot. The American flight crew didn’t ask questions, didn’t try to ply me with unlimited wine or try to get to know me the way British Airways staff does. They got the job done and were only a call button away if needed.
Connecting at Manchester, UK to London
I called British Airways before I booked my ticket to ensure that the short connection time (under two hours) would suffice and was told it would be ok. I was skeptical so packed carry on (hand baggage) only not wanting to arrive without baggage. I also made sure there was another flight to London as alternative in case we were late and I missed the connection. Luckily, I had my onward British Airways boarding pass on my phone using the BA app in order to make the connection (you need to have your onward boarding pass in order to make the connection as you won’t see anyone from the airline to help). Look for the upcoming post on “How to Connect in Manchester”.
The business class flight from Philadelphia to Manchester UK on American Airlines was fine for my jaunt over the pond to London. The American Airlines flight to London via Manchester is a good alternative to the often higher priced direct British Airways fares for their Club World business class product. You do need a bit of patience and sense of humor with the connection and hand baggage policies but if you find a great price like I did to London, $856, or want to use miles/points, the AA PHL-MAN-LHR is a good option.