This Spring (April 2019), Philly and I were fortunate enough to visit Italy again, on a trip that included Middle Age Miles son Dylan and his then-fiancee (now wife!) Alli. For our transatlantic flight, we flew Business Class on an American Airlines (AA) A330-300 plane, from Philadelphia (PHL) to Rome (FCO). This is one of the legacy US Airways planes. It’s always a treat to fly Business Class on the overnight flights across the pond where we can arrive into Europe much more well-rested. This is certainly one of the luxuries of our points-and-miles hobby that we enjoy most!
We’ve found that our previous review of our AA 767-300 Business Class flights between Philadelphia and Prague has been one of our most-read posts on Middle Age Miles. So, we wanted to also review our A330-300 Business Class flights in hopes that just as many people could read up on what to expect before their flights.
Details of our transatlantic flight from PHL-to-FCO were:
- AA 718
- A330-300 (legacy US Airways plane)
- Depart PHL 6:30 pm on Thursday, 4/4/2019
- Arrive FCO 9:15 am on Friday, 4/5/2019
Our full itinerary for our transatlantic transit also included a DFW-to-PHL leg, with a layover of 5½ hours in PHL. This was long enough for us to go into downtown Philadelphia, have lunch, and stroll around downtown for another hour or so. We wouldn’t have chosen that flight schedule, all other things being equal. But we were able to book this routing using AA Saver-level awards, 57,500 AA miles + $5.60 each. Saver level Business Class space can be a rare find for transatlantic flights on AA metal, so we were delighted to be able to book these awards.
We booked these Saver level award tickets on 12/23/2018 – about 4½ months before the flight.
Business Cabin Configuration
Our AA A330-300’s Business Class cabin was configured with 7 rows of 1-2-1 seating. Here’s a diagram from SeatGuru, so you can see it visually:
As you can see from the diagram, all seats are angled, and all seats have direct aisle access. Window seats are angled toward the windows, and center seats are angled toward one another.
We had center seats in Row 3 for this flight, with Philly in the “C” seat and me in the “F” seat. These center seats aren’t the greatest for couples, as there are wide tables and a small divider separating the 2 seats. You’ll have to lean forward to see each other and converse, and it takes a bit of engineering if you both want to watch the same video on your own device (hint: use a headphone case on each side of the divider and sit your device on top of the cases). But, it’s workable for couples. And of course, having the extra space and privacy would be quite welcome if you are in a center seat traveling alone, with a stranger in the other center seat.
This image will give you a pretty good overall look at the Business Class cabin, looking backwards from Row 3:
The seats are known as “Envoy Suite” seats, which was the standard legacy US Airways widebody Business Class product. The seats are lie-flat, with enough legroom so that I could lie down and sleep comfortably at 6’1″.
SeatGuru gives the following specifications for these seats:
- Pitch: 48-49 inches
- Bed length: 76 inches
- Width: 20.5 inches
One downside of these seats is that storage space is quite limited.
Here’s a tour of the seat in pictures:
The A330-300 includes IFE screens that swung out to face the seat when in the unlocked position for viewing. For take-off, landing and other times when you’re not watching the screen, it locks into place in the seat console. In addition to the screens, AA supplied nice Bose headsets that are plugged in to the console located at your inside shoulder. As is standard on AA, flight attendants came around to collect the Bose headsets about 45 minutes prior to landing.
The IFE had AA’s usual good selection of dozens of movies, including recent ones, plus some TV show episodes, as well as flight maps and games. We didn’t examine the choices closely on this particular flight, but we doubt you’ll be disappointed by AA’s IFE movie selection. We generally prefer to watch content that we’ve pre-loaded onto our iPad, which is what we did during this particular flight.
Each seat came with an amenity kit, as you’d expect in Business Class. On this flight, amenity kits were AA’s new kits designed in collaboration with “This is Ground,” featuring products from “Allies of Skin” – two companies that I’d never heard of before AA began using them. You can see AA’s press release on these amenity kits, introduced in February 2019, here:
- AA Newsroom: American Airlines Leads the Way with New Luxury Amenity Kits (2/6/2019)
Here are pictures of a “This is Ground” amenity kit and its contents:
Flight Timeline & Flow of Service
We were scheduled for a 6:25 pm departure out of PHL on AA 718. As seems to be the rule with AA of late, we had a delay for what the crew vaguely described to us as “an issue.” Fortunately, we weren’t terribly delayed, and we took off at 6:51 pm. In the meantime, we received nice, friendly pre-departure service, which included our choice of drinks. This was certainly appreciated, as it’s not always the case on AA flights.
Once we took off, service began immediately when we hit 10,000 feet and the flight crew could move around in the plane. Although the crew was active, it took a while to get dinner, as you’ll see from this timeline (all times are given using our departure time zone, US Eastern time, and all times are when I personally received the service sitting in Row 3):
- 7:25 pm – Drinks & nuts served
- 7:55 pm – Dinner served
- 8:15 pm – Dinner dishes and tray taken away
- 8:25 pm – Dessert served
After that, Philly and I watched TV shows on our iPad for a while. I went to sleep at 9:30 pm and slept for 2½ hours until 12:00 am. Afterwards, I stayed awake for the rest of the flight.
Breakfast was served at 1:35 am Eastern time / 7:35 am Central European Summer Time (CEST). This was roughly 1½ hours before landing. We arrived into FCO on-time for our scheduled 9:15 am CEST arrival.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get pictures of our actual meals on this flight, but the service was the standard AA transatlantic Business Class flow – a first small plate/salad course, followed by a main course, followed by dessert. All courses are served on an individual tray, which is placed on your pull-out tray table.
I did, though, get pictures of the menus for our flights:
On this flight, Philly ordered the shrimp cannelloni, and I had the braised short rib. In our opinion, the food was surprisingly good for a plane flight. Philly thoroughly enjoyed the shrimp cannelloni and said it was good enough to be served at a restaurant on the ground. I also thought the braised short rib was pretty good and remarkably tender for food served on a plane. We were definitely satisfied with our main courses.
Of course, though, dessert was the highlight of the meal. We love ice cream sundaes on airplanes – mine’s the one with the butterscotch topping and whipped cream; Philly’s has hot fudge topping and chopped nuts. Yum!
As for breakfast, Philly is always underwhelmed with the breakfast choices, and this was no exception. We ended up ordering one “Fresh Fruit Bowl” to share – she ate the fruit and I ate the granola and yogurt. It was nice to have a bite to end the flight and begin the new day – but as usual, we weren’t fully satisfied with the selection.
During the flight, there were snacks out in the galley, but we didn’t partake this time. We were fairly full from dinner/dessert, plus we slept for a fair bit of the time in between dinner and breakfast.
WiFi was available during this flight. The service was the satellite-based Panasonic WiFi that AA has installed on all of its widebody and international planes. Pricing for AA Panasonic WiFi is standard:
- $12 for two hours
- $17 for four hours
- $19 for the entire flight
From overhearing other conversations, it sounded like some people had trouble connecting to the WiFi during the early part of our flight. I connected later, after dinner & dessert, and I had no problems. Speed was sufficient to get some work done on Middle Age Miles plus deal with email.
Immigration at FCO
Although not truly part of the flight, I felt like it was worth a note about immigration upon arrival at FCO, because it took a long time, even as a Business Class passenger. When we arrived, the arrivals hall was almost completely full, and it got even more crowded after we entered as more international flights came in.
The arrivals hall was not well-marked, and there weren’t any people helping to guide arriving passengers into organized lines. Lines snaked around, and some passengers cut the line by jumping into the next side of the line rather than snaking around. It was a frustrating experience, although fortunately it was an early Spring morning and not a hot Summer day.
It took us a full 50 minutes to clear immigration. One piece of good news was that we cleared quickly once we reached the booth containing an immigration agent. Fortunately, our airport transfer driver (from Welcome Pickups) was able to contact me while we were in line, and he waited for us, so we were able to get easily on our way after we retrived our luggage.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our review of our flights in AA Business Class on the A330-300 from PHL to FCO. We certainly hope that all of your flights are smooth and on-time this summer!
Do you have any thoughts or tips to add with respect to AA Business Class in the A330-300? Please share with us and other Middle Age Miles readers in the Comments!
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