I am going back to Munich. This time it will be a business trip as I am going to visit a tradeshow in Munich. I was working in Orlando and my plan was to finish up my projects there and eventually watch the second flight of SpaceX´s Falcon Heavy before departing. Unfortunately, SpaceX kept pushing the launch date further back than what I can manage schedule-wise. I rebooked my flight on American Airlines to leave a day earlier, Tuesday rather than Wednesday. The roundtrip ticket would take me out in Business class and back in Premium Economy. On my original itinerary, my flight from Orlando to Charlotte was in First Class for my Wednesday flight, but because of my last minute rebooking, there was only an Economy Class seat available going from MCO to CLT. I didn’t mind the short flight in Economy class. For a trip of about an hour, it’s not even worse to pay for First Class, as they won’t even serve any meals.
After arriving in CLT, I visited the American Airlines Admirals Club between concourse C and D. My international ticket granted me access to the Admirals Club without having to pay for a day pass.
About 30 minutes before the official start of boarding I left the Admirals Club and walked to my departure gate, which was only a short walk away. People were already waiting at the gate for boarding to begin. Me and a few people also boarding in Group 1 lined up near the gate to get aboard. Boarding started on time and the boarding passes of the first two people were scanned while at the same time the other gate agent received a message via radio to hold boarding. The gate agents stopped the two people from actually getting on the plane and boarding was halted.
We were all curious what´s going on and it took the agents a long time to give us the bad news that the departure time was rescheduled. They let us wait for almost an hour until they finally announced a departure time about an hour later because of mechanical issues with a door. I and a few other people left the gate area and I went back to the lounge to sit down and have a drink.
I walked back to the gate to be there in time for the new departure time, which was more likely boarding time rather than actual departing time. After waiting and waiting, another announcement: Departure time got pushed another hour. So back to the lounge for another drink. Then, back to the gate and see what’s going on. The same happened over and over again a few more times. Some of the passengers got frustrated and some raised their voices. Even tho I knew it wouldn’t help, but nobody really communicated what was going on and where we are in the process. In the meantime thunderstorm and lightning reached the airport and the repair crew working on the plane had to stop until the lightning passes.
I started checking for alternate flights and found a British Airways flight leaving later on tonight. I called the AA hotline and had them put me on standby for the flight while keeping my original reservation active, just in case they would finish earlier. At that point, I was really worried that the flight would get canceled. The gate agents, maintenance team and so on never really communicated to the passenger’s what’s going on. This was frustrating as nobody was certain what’s gonna happen.
Finally, over 5 hours later we started actually boarding. Yes, we walked onto the plane and I was able to stow my bags. Boarding continued and our steward in Business Class was super funny and cracked us up. He had some good jokes, which took some tension out of the whole situation. I called the AA hotline again to cancel my flight on British Airways and stay on my original itinerary. As boarding was completed, there was another PA that there is still a maintenance issue with the door and we had to wait for maintenance to come and check it out. At that moment you could feel how everyone reacted to this news and it wasn’t good. I called the American Airlines hotline again to reserve the spot on British Airways again, but it was already taken. So at that point, I was really worried that we wouldn’t go. The next issue was that the crew would time out. The maintenance team did everything they could to fix the problem asap and were successful but the crew timed out at that point. However, they were so great and decided to go anyway and not to abandon the flight, which would probably lead to cancelation of the flight. They talked to their supervisors to make sure they are good to go and taken care off. I really want to thank the whole crew that they had such great courage to stay aboard and operate the flight. It was really important for me to get to the show.
My seat 1H was all the way at the front and had a window at the right side of the plane. It’s one of American Airlines´older Business Class seats. For some reason, there was no overhead storage above both window seats 1A and 1H. That was weird and I never have seen that before. It wasn´t a big issue as there is more than enough storage space in Business Class. Business Class was also the highest cabin offered on this flight.
There was an amenity kit, noise-canceling headphones, pillow and blanket at every seat. The crew came through the aisles offering pre-departure drinks, which we all needed. I enjoyed a cup of champagne while we also got handed the in-flight dining menu.
The crew came back through the aisles to note our food choices and if we want to be woken for meal service and breakfast service. We pushed back from the gate and rolled out to the runway. Without a long delay, we were cleared for takeoff and soared to the skies. Everyone was happy that we were finally on our way. However, some of the passengers would miss their connection flights in Munich because of the departure delay of about six hours.
Flying Business Class on an American carrier is still pretty luxurious even so there are some gulf carriers who offer a way better hard product. The seat size was big enough and they would also fold down to a complete lie-flat seat. I am pretty tall and had no issues with space while I was laying in the seat all stretched out. The buttons to adjust the seat are one of the biggest downsides of this hard product. They are small touch buttons and you have to hit them right to operate the seat. If you want to go from upright to lie-flat you might have to re-press the button, because you eventually slip off them while the seat is transforming to the bed position. Another negative aspect of this particular business class is storage space. There is not a lot of storage space for your smaller stuff like a tablet, phone, charger and so on.
There is a small adjustable reading light next to the remote control for the entertainment system. This light is a great holder for the noise-canceling headphones. You can just hang them there and they would stay without sliding off if you don´t hit them hard or you get into rough turbulence. A difference between the seats of the A330-300 (flight to Munich) and the A330-200 (flight to Charlotte) is the hanger. The A330-300 has a hanger integrated into the side of the business class seat but the A330-200 doesn’t. It’s not a big issue as flight attendants are more than willing to hang your coat or jacket in a designated locker just for that.
I started to watch a movie and shortly thereafter the meal service started. The flight attendants prepped our fold-out tables and handed us our drinks we ordered previously and warm nuts. A while after that they came through the aisles again with the appetizer and choice of bread. Once you finished that, they grabbed your plates and handed out your selected entree. I kept eating while continuing to watch a movie.
After the finished entree, the flight attendants collected all the dishes and came back with a cart. You could select your dessert right on the spot and they would hand it out to you. What’s better than ice cream with butterscotch and whip cream? Yes, that was my dessert. Maybe not the healthiest but for sure delicious.
For some reason, I never have issues with the food aboard planes. I am also easy to please and not very picky. I really enjoyed the braised short ribs.
After finishing my meal I unpacked my pillow and blanket and got ready to go to sleep. My plan was to catch some sleep as I would go straight to the trade show once we arrive in Munich.
I slept somewhat good while waking up a few times. The seats are pretty comfortable and it´s actually possible to sleep in them. About 1,5 hours before landing we got served breakfast and after that, the cabin crew prepared the plane for landing.
The descent into Munich was smooth and it was a short taxi to our remote gate. Yes, I really hate what Munich did here. They spend a lot of money to “modernize” Terminal 1 by adding a bunch of remote gates where you have to take the bus after exiting the plane. The whole world is adding satellite terminals and automated people movers but in Germany, they add buses. My last few flights into and out of Munich were all from a remote gate when flying American Airlines. Seems all flights operated by American Airlines and Delta are using now remote gates.
Once the bus was full and made it to the main terminal building it was only a few minutes to get through immigration and customs. From there on I went straight to the tradeshow. This flight was definitely an adventure, not because of the flight itself but rather if we would even take off on the scheduled day of departure.
Once again, I want to thank the whole crew which stayed aboard the plane to take us all to Munich even though the timed out. This was a great gesture towards their customers and most people aboard this flight probably didn´t even realize this fact. Thanks again for this awesome time aboard with you guys.
Return Flight on American Airlines
It´s time to go back to the U.S. and back to work. My American Airlines flight was scheduled to leave on a Tuesday morning. I had to leave early to get to the airport on time and have some time for spare to visit the Airport Lounge World. The drive to the airport took me about one hour and after that, I had to drop off my rental car. This took only a few moments and I was off toward my terminal.
I approached the agent at the check-in counter and handed off my passport to be checked in. She asked me right away if I would eventually take a later flight, which would be a day later and American Airlines would give me about $570 USD in travel vouchers. I had to think for a second and would like to take them up on their offer. However, I have projects waiting for me which are already behind schedule.
My originally booked ticket was in Premium Economy on my return as this dropped the ticket price during the booking process a few thousand dollars. Just because I was curious, I asked the agent if she could check if a Business Class seat is available and what the cost would be. The upgrade at the airport was about $450 USD while it would be over $4000 during the time of booking.
I decided to buy the upgrade to Business Class as I had to get back to work. The great thing about departing from the EU is that the airline has to pay you €600 as you will be flying out the next day in this case.
Finally, American Airlines also prints my TSA Pre-check status on the boarding pass already in Munich. This is awesome if you have a connecting flight in the US, as otherwise, you would have to get a new boarding pass in the US to actually be able to use your pre-check status.
Read more: Travel Tip of the Week – Reprint your International Boarding Passes to use TSA Pre when you connect in the U.S.
After successfully checking in, I went through passport control and security. Security in Germany is way more intensive than in the States. There is nothing which you could compare to TSA Pre-check. There are separate lanes for premium cabin passengers and regular passengers. However, the procedure is the same for both. Because I have a lot of electronics with me, the security agents had me separate my bags even further for them to check it.
Once through security, I used the elevator right next to it, to get up a level to the Airport Lounge World to enjoy a quick and delicious breakfast buffet before heading over to my departure gate.
My plane was scheduled to board at 8:00 a.m. but for some reason, they started boarding already at 7:45 a.m. I finished breakfast and walked buy one of the departure monitors in the lounge to check departure time. The display showed that boarding already started for my flight. I grabbed my bags and walked over to my gate which is located inside an annex-building of Terminal 1. From this annex, buses will take you to the remote gates in Munich. After arriving at the annex, I had to go through a second passport and boarding pass control. Luckily I was sent down Lane 1, which didn´t require any additional screening.
About 3 months earlier, I departed from the same area on a flight o Philadelphia. Back then, I got “lucky” enough to have the special “SSSS” printed on my boarding pass. This meant going down Lane 2 for additional screening, which included scanning of my bags again.
Read more: Flight Review – American Airlines Business Class – Airbus A330 Munich (MUC) to Philadelphia (PHL)
As I arrived at the gate, Group 5 was already boarding but thanks to my Group 1 status on the boarding pass, I can board at any time through the priority lane. I walked straight up to the gate agent and had my boarding pass scanned. I hopped aboard the bus waiting outside the gate and we got shuttled over to the remote gate. This time the escalator was deactivated heading up to the jetbridge. As I mentioned in my last review flying out of Munich, passengers don´t have a lot of room at the top of the escalator. Two stairs and one escalator feeding into the jetbridge. Once the area in front of the jetbridge is full, people can’t get off the escalator anymore and you know what will happen after that.
At the plane, I was greeted by a flight attendant and he showed me which aisle to take to get to my seat. I walked all the way to the front of the plane to the first row of seats to store my bags and settle in.
The flight attendants walked through the aisles with a choice of water, orange juice or champagne as the pre-departure drink. Shortly after they came through with the dining menu. This plane was a little bit different than the inbound flight. Both are Airbus A330s but this is the -200 version. Aboard this plane, there is actually an overhead bin above the first seat on either side of the plane, not like on the inbound plane, which was an Airbus A330-300.
American Airlines business class hard product was the same as previously, with the same unfortunate downsides like storage space and the rather inconvenient buttons to operate the seat. But this is a first world problem. It´s still way better than flying at the back of the plane constraint to small seats.
The flight attendants came through the aisles again to take the drink and food orders. Shortly after that, they handed out the customs forms you have to fill out. Thanks to my GlobalEntry membership, I can fill out the customs form straight at the kiosk in the immigration hall. Once boarding was completed we pushed back on time without any delay and off we went toward Charlotte.
Once we reached cruising altitude the crew started the in-flight service. The appetizer was not at all my taste but on the other side, the beef was great. As mentioned I am normally easy to please if it comes to food. The crew did a great job serving the meals and cleaning up the leftovers. Of course, I had ice cream with butterscotch and whip cream as dessert.
A snack bar was set up at the galley at the end of the Business Class Cabin. Everything on here is free to grab if you were still hungry or wanted something to dring. Of course the flight attendants came regullary through the cabin to check if anyone wanted something to drink.
About 1.5 hours before landing, the crew started the arrival (lunch) in-flight service. My choice was the Cuban Sandwich. After they finished the service, the flight attendants prepared the cabin for landing. They collected all remaining service items and trash while also checking seatbelts and seat position.
It was a smooth flight all the way through until we started our descent into Charlotte. We encountered a few smaller bumps but nothing major as we approached the runway. This time the plane landed about 20 minutes ahead of schedule. It won’t make up for the 6 hours lost on the outbound flight into Munich. When I saw we were early I was worried that there wouldn’t be a gate available for us to park. That’s what usually happens if a plane arrives too early at an airport. The gate was no issue. After a short taxi, the plane was parked at the gate. The captain turned off the “fasten seatbelt sign” and we all got up to grab our bags out of the overhead bin and to get off the plane to get through immigration. I guess we expected too much. We were just parked a few minutes before a PA was made that Immigration wouldn’t open until 1 p.m. We were at the gate at about 12:36 and our planned arrival time was 12:50 p.m. This would be still 10 minutes ahead of the operation hours of immigration at Charlotte. I don’t know how you can schedule a plane to arrive and don’t have immigration ready. Supposedly we were the first international flight arriving in CLT. Overall it wasn’t a big issue, as the waiting time was relatively short. I am just surprised something like this can happen.
Once we got the O.k. to get off the plane, I headed swiftly to immigration. It’s a bit of a walk, but I made it through there without any big waiting times. Once through immigration, we had to pick up our bags, which were already waiting in front of the baggage claim for us. I grabbed my suitcase and dropped it off again a few feet down the way after exiting the customs checkpoint. From there I continued on to the regular security checkpoint. Thanks to the TSA Pre label on my boarding pass, I was able to get in line at the pre-check counter right away. Once again through security, I walked to the Admirals Club. The club is located close to the security checkpoint and is the same one I used on my outbound flight just last week.
Peter has a passion for Traveling, Photography, and Geocaching. These are the best ingredients for amazing adventures all over the globe. “Traveling is fun, no matter if you stay in a luxury hotel or travel like a backpacker.” Peter shares his experiences on his Blog www.gatetoadventures.com
Some of Peter’s photos are published on corporate websites, in-flight magazines, travel guides, and much more.