American Airlines Bulkhead Economy Class Review Bottom Line
My American Airlines bulkhead economy class review will show American Airlines’ economy is just ok. I was not thrilled to fly this route in a bulkhead (I am not a big fan of non-window seats), but the extra legroom did provide a chance to stretch and easy access to bathrooms. Absolutely nothing of the flight stood out, it was a regular economy flight. I will note, however, that some of the economy class flight attendants were very kind. I encountered two who were very helpful when the wifi cut out.
The Good: Main Cabin Extra does make a difference, more so on a long haul flight.
The Bad: Recline is basically non-existent. Food was mediocre, at best. Wi-Fi was borderline inoperable.
The Noteworthy: Some of the economy class crew were really kind, others were just rude. Some things never change at American Airlines.
Note: I took all of these flights in the years leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since travel and work slowed down substantially in the last few months, I took time to catch up writing these reviews. Hope y’all enjoy it!
Arrival at PHL, Cancelled Flight, New Booking
As you can see from the heading, my time at Philadelphia Airport was hectic, to say the least. I arrived 2 hours before my scheduled flight to Charlotte, where I would connect to Madrid. As I waited at the PHL Centurion lounge, which was very crowded, I got a notification that my flight had been canceled. I had been proactively booked the direct flight from PHL to Madrid. I was assigned an aisle seat in the middle of the aircraft, which I was able to promptly change to the last Main Cabin Extra seat available. Sadly, it was a bulkhead seat in the middle section of the aircraft.
Gate, Oversell, and Boarding
After killing 5 hours at the airport, I headed to my gate hoping that a seat in Premium Economy or at least a window seat would open. When I went to speak with the gate agent, he said the flight was oversold by 6 people, with P/E oversold by 3. Yikes. I don’t want to be the person who gets bumped down from P/E to Y. I spoke with a flight attendant while we both waited for the aircraft to be ready, and she mentioned that the previous day’s flight to Madrid and Barcelona had been canceled (due to weather). That is why every single flight out of PHL was oversold. I was rather surprised I was booked on the direct flight, and thankful because I had an event the next day in Toulouse.
About 40 minutes prior to scheduled departure, I boarded the flight to Madrid. Boarding was a cluster, with people in Group 4 trying to board with the Concierge Keys. Many of them were able to. It baffles my mind when people do that and gate agents don’t enforce the rules. Imagine spending $50,000 a year on American, and then having people basically run you over to board before you. I’m not CK, but I know I would be upset.
Cabin and Seat
American’s A330 economy cabin is divided into 2 sections. I was seated in the rear section bulkhead. The cabin was very clean, and the legroom was ample. At my seat were a pillow and a packaged blanket. The IFE screen is attached to the bulkhead, and the only way to control it is via touch. I was next to two of the bathrooms in the economy cabin. I was expecting to be annoyed by this, but it was fine. People congregated near the bathroom, but it was relatively quiet.
Departure and Take Off
Boarding proceeded slower than I expected. Eventually, every seat in the cabin was taken. At the scheduled time of departure, the captain came on the PA and announced that we would be 20 minutes delayed due to congestion, but he still expected us to arrive on time to Madrid.
When we finally took off, it was a steep initial climb, and then a very gradual climb to cruising altitude. As anticipated by the captain earlier, the climb was a bit bumpy, but the rest of the flight was smooth.
American Airlines offers two meals in economy on flights to Europe. The first meal is a hot meal, and there was a selection between barbecue chicken and cheese ravioli. I opted for the chicken, which (in retrospect) was a huge mistake.
The meal began with flight attendants passing through the cabin with pretzels and drinks. They then followed with the main meal trolley about 25 minutes later. The meal was accompanied by a small salad, bread, cheese, crackers, and a packaged brownie dessert. It also came with a water bottle intended to be used after the meal. As you can see, the meal tray barely fit in the tiny tray table. The food itself was mediocre, with the chicken flavorless and the barbecue sauce too overpowering. The couscous was as bland as boiled rice.
Mid-flight, I went to the aft galley to request anything to eat or drink, I was hungry and thirsty. The kind flight attendant got me a brownie from one of the unused meals and offered me unlimited refills on orange juice.
For breakfast, people were woken up about 75 minutes before landing. The cabin crew came by and offered people a selection of coffee or juice and dropped off a package that contained a fig bar, granola, and yogurt. I don’t like yogurt, so I ate dry granola and a fig bar. American’s coffee is absolute trash, by the way. I ordered a cup, and I drank it out of necessity. It is worse than gas station coffee.
Ameican’s Bulkhead Economy class seats hardly recline, which made sleep almost impossible. I tried very hard to sleep for at least a few hours but only managed to get three 30 minute stints at sleeping. The silver lining was the extra legroom made a huge difference. The cabin was relatively bright while I was awake, with some random lights kept on, and the bathroom lights every time someone opened the doors.
Notes on Service, Wifi, IFE
American’s crew is consistently a mixed bag. On this flight, I saw a flight attendant on the other aisle be flat out rude to people. During the dinner service, he asked passengers “what you want?” I never saw him smile. Compare that to the woman who served my aisle, who asked everyone if they wanted to eat, and then offered a small description of what the food was.
The wifi on this flight was inoperable, I hardly got to download emails. I was unable to reply to a single one. This is unacceptable, especially considering I needed to send various important emails. I planned on having functional wifi, but American was unable to deliver. The IFE was good, with live TV, but for a period of 3 hours, it was out. The selection of TV shows does not rotate frequently enough, which is an easy fix.
Landing and Arrival
As we prepared for landing, the flight attendants took their seats about 45 seconds before we touched down. We taxied to the gate relatively quickly, and I was finally out of the airplane. Madrid Airport is majestic, one of the most amazing architectures at an airport.
The best way to describe the flight is ok. It was mediocre, at best, but that’s something you would honestly expect from a US carrier. Nothing was outwardly terrible, but there are so many ways the airline can improve. Take Delta, they are investing in their economy product to make it better. American can at least improve their coffee to make it better than gas stations. I hope the airline does imitate Delta and makes economy decently bearable.