Flight Review: American Airlines Business Class – Airbus A330 Munich (MUC) to Philadelphia (PHL)

Another Christmas Trip to Germany is over and returning back to the United States. I booked this itinerary just a little bit before departure in December of 2018. Thanks to my System Wide Upgrades I was able to score Business Class seats on my flights from and to the US by just purchasing Economy Class fares. Read more about this in my review of the flight from Philadelphia to Amsterdam.

Read More: American Airlines Business Class – Boeing 767-300 San Francisco (SFO) to Amsterdam, Netherlands (AMS)

After dropping off my rental car, I went to the Check-In counter of American Airlines in Terminal 1B. I was the only one at that time checking in and it was fast. As usual, I had to give the agent my address in the United States, which is required for every traveler flying to the US. After that, I received my boarding pass but without a remark about TSA PreCheck. I know there is no PreCheck in Germany but they could have printed it at least on the boarding pass of my connecting flight from Philadelphia to Los Angeles. If you don’t have it, you will run into huge issues with the TSA as their system is so flawed. More about it later…

Security in Germany is way more strict than in the US. You have to take out your DSLR and turn it on, show them a picture, if you have another lens with you, like in my case a big telephoto lens, you have to open both sides so they can see through. Laptops, tablets and other bigger electronics have to come out and separated for the x-ray.

The agent at the security was friendly and very great by explaining what he does. After a little bit, I was through security and had my bags packed up again. After that, I enjoyed a great “Bavarian Breakfast” at the Airport Lounge World.

Read More: Airport Lounge World at Airport Munich Terminal 1

I left the lounge thirty minutes before boarding would commence. I knew I had to get through another security check thanks to the “SSSS” on my boarding pass. Supposedly I was randomly selected. But if you are always selected randomly, is it still random? This checkpoint was a bit easier. In addition to the first general checkpoint, everyone has to go through, I had to also remove my shoes. However, I didn’t have to take out my camera and lenses. Also, I was the only person at the checkpoint, which made it super simple and quick.

This additional screening is done in a new annex of the terminal building which houses gates C20 to C30. While approaching the checkpoint there were signs for Delta and American Airlines. Seems this terminal is specifically used for flights to the US.

A few downsides of this annex. Once you are through security there are no shops or restaurants to get anything to eat and second you have to take a bus to a remote stand. I got there just a few minutes before boarding started. Because of flying business, I was in Group 1, which would board right after Concierge Key members, but what does it matter, you get shoved in a bus and will be basically the last one to leave the bus. They don’t have separate buses for Business Class and Economy. The bus waits until its full and then is off to the remote jetway. This is just a way of efficiently using the available buses.

Luckily the remote stand has its own jetway and you don’t have to carry up your luggage a set of stairs. The designers of the remote stands messed up here. To get to the jetway you can use either one of two stairs or the escalator. So overall three ways are feeding into the narrow jetway and there is not much space on top of the escalator. So the jetway fills up quickly and space upstairs is all used up so you can’t step off the escalator anymore as you approach the top. This can be dangerous as people just get shoved into each other. Luckily a lot of people used the stairs and were held up there, otherwise, it would have ended in a minor disaster, again. I had the same experience in Munich’s Terminal 1 while arriving from an international non-Schengen flight. The same issue, you can walk down a set of stairs or take the escalator down to get to passport control. However, the foyer in front of passport control can only take so many people and the escalator keeps feeding people into the crowd where no space is available anymore. There was even a small accident when that happened and people fell. But passengers are partially at fault as well. Many of them don’t step aside once the reached the end of the escalator and just stand in line, instead of filling up the available room.

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We moved slowly forwards to the cabin door and got greeted by one of the flight attendants to direct us to where to go to find our seats. I already looked up the seat map on the American Airlines map and knew where I had to go, but this is a nice service especially for people not flying so much. The cabin was already pretty full and this made it a bit harder to take unobstructed photos of the cabin. Business class aboard this plane features Reverse Herringbone seating like on many of American Airlines bigger planes.

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AA 717

MUC to PHL

The seat already had a pillow and blanket ready and wrapped up in plastic. While boarding, flight attendants came through the aisles and offered pre-departure drinks. Choices were from Orange Juice, Water or Sparkling Wine. After that, they handed out the menus for today’s flight and asked if you wanted to use a Bose noise-canceling headphone. On this flight, there was no amenity kit waiting on my seat. I thought maybe they hand it out later but after half-way into the flight, I asked my flight attendant about it and she told me that there was one supposed to be on my seat. She brought me a new one after I told her that there never was one.

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I was surprised as there was about a quarter of the business class seats empty. I haven’t seen that in years, but I didn’t mind at all. We started pushing back from the remote gate and taxing to our takeoff runway. There we had to wait for an Emirates A380 to land. Luckily, I was sitting on the right side of the plane and had a great view of the Emirates A380 approaching. Shortly thereafter we pulled out on the runway and took off. Goodbye Munich and Germany. I hope to see you again soon.

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Shortly after takeoff, the crew started with the inflight service. Meanwhile, I was watching a movie on the seatback entertainment system. We got our drinks and a hot towel while waiting for our foot choice. About 2 hours into the flight, Business Class got their food served. The food combination of starter, entree, and dessert was great on this flight. I decided on the slow-cooked beef with red wine sauce and Spätzle-noodles. Oh, how I love Spätzle, a German specialty.

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The dessert option was either caramelized orange cake, gourmet cheese plate or a traditional ice cream sundae. Who can resist an ice cream sundae with butterscotch or hot fudge? My flight attendant also told me that they will put out light snacks later on in the galley at the end of the Business Class cabin. They had small sandwiches, chips, and other small snacks ready to grab.

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I kept on watching movies I have missed in theatres. About an hour before touchdown there was another light meal served and the Bose headsets were collected. If needed the crew distributed regular earbuds to keep on watching during the final minutes of the flight.

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The touchdown was smooth and we taxied to the gate. I took the last picture of our Airbus which carried us across the Atlantic Ocean to Philadelphia. It was quite a walk to get from gate A24 to customs and immigration. As usual, I try to be fast and one of the first, even tho I have Global Entry. I used the Global Entry kiosk, filled out the questions and had to get through a secondary check at the immigration booth right next door which was quick and easy and no wait time at all. However, it was quite a long wait until the luggage showed finally up at the baggage carousel. A couple other flights landed as well and thanks to the Government Shutdown, the line for customs became longer and longer and stretched all the way through the baggage claim hall. I set up in line and asked the American Airlines baggage agent right next to the line if there is a dedicated line open for Global Entry guests. She gave me good news and told me to just walk along the long waiting line and make a left at the front of the line to get into the Global Entry lane. Global Entry was in that case very very helpful as otherwise, I would be sitting in a long and slow moving lane to get through customs.

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TSA PreCheck Dilemma

After that, I just had to drop my bags again and get through security again to get to my connecting gate. But here started the next problem. My boarding pass for my connecting flight didn’t show TSA PreCheck and therefore I got denied access to the lane. I was hoping they would finally have upgraded their system and cross-reference my account with TSA PreCheck. Unfortunately, TSA is not that sophisticated and they told me I am not PreCheck. I even tried the American Airlines app to retrieve my digital boarding pass, but the app would only show me that the boarding pass can’t be retrieved and I have to see an agent at the airport. Asking a TSA agent where the next check-in counter is, is not a good idea, as he sends me on a wild goose chase to the wrong side of the terminal. A guy working the information booth was super helpful to point me in the right direction to an American Airlines counter and there was no line at all. I was able to walk straight up and have a new boarding pass printed with TSA PreCheck on it. Then I just had to get back to the security checkpoint and I was hoping the same TSA agents would be still working the boarding pass and ID control, just to show them that I am PreCheck. Unfortunately, another guy was working the station now. After that, it was a breeze to get through the security checkpoint. I didn’t even have to turn on my camera or open my lens to have the agent look through it. PreCheck and Global Entry are two great things every frequent flier should have. If you sign up for Global Entry, you get TSA PreCheck automatically with it but not the other way around.

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