Published in November 2015 issue

Clase Premiere: New York (JFK) – Mexico City (MEX)

This summer, I had to take a trip out of New York to Mexico City for a quick meeting. The options out of JFK to Mexico’s Capital are few, with only three carriers offering daily flights throughout the day. However, after seeing a certain 787 scheduled at a very convenient time, my travel choice became an easy one.

By Enrique Perella

Mexico’s flag carrier, Aeromexico (AM), became the second carrier in the Americas—after LAN (LA)— to take delivery of the Boeing 787 (Airways, December 2014). Following an initial order for nine Boeing 787- 8 and 10 787-9 Dreamliners, AM took delivery of its first unit on August 16, 2013, flying it straight from Paine Field (PAE), to the airline’s home base in Mexico City.

“The arrival of Aeromexico’s first Boeing 787 Dreamliner represents a milestone in Mexican aviation history,” said Andres Conesa, CEO of Aeromexico, as the aircraft arrived in MEX. “Our customers will surely benefit from the worldclass service that distinguishes Aeromexico, which we now bring on board the most modern aircraft ever built.”

These sharp-looking airliners are configured with 32 Clase Premier (Business Class) seats that turn into 180-degree full-flat beds, as well as 211 seats with increased legroom in the economy class cabin. Boasting a luxurious 34-inch seat pitch (two inches more than the world’s average in economy class cabins), long-haul travel in coach definitely becomes a much more pleasant experience.

BOOKING

As a founding partner of the SkyTeam alliance, AM offers a user-friendly website that makes booking rather easy and in-line with the alliance’s requirements. The MEX-JFK-MEX service, code-shared with AM’s partner Delta (DL), is served five times a day (four on AM metal and one on DL), and the Mexican carrier often sends its best equipment to this destination as its premium passengers often demand timely and impeccable service. Low cost carrier (LCC) Interjet (4O) is also present with two daily flights with A320 equipment.

Booking my ticket took less than seven minutes. As I purposely chose to test the airline’s two newest airliners—the Boeing 737-800 with Split Scimitar Winglets and its Sky Interior, and the 787-8 Dreamliner—the price for the ticket was $1,500. The website recognized my DL SkyMiles account and quickly appointed my Sky Priority status.

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JFK TERMINAL 1

JFK’s main international terminal—where, among others, airlines such as Air France (AF), Alitalia (AZ), Saudia (SA), Korean Air (KE), Japan Airlines (JL), and Turkish Airlines (TK) depart from—is quite stunning. Three hours before scheduled departure time (SDT), I arrived at check-in, where a polite Mexican agent handed me my boarding pass and an invitation to the AF Lounge, instructing me to follow the expedited line through security.

Once airside, I entered the spectacular lounge, where two elegant agents greeted me. The two-story salon is airy and modern. Both floors had full buffets, with breakfast and lunch being simultaneously served, a large Nespresso machine and numerous light and alcoholic beverages. Free Wi-Fi, a printing and fax service, as well as showers and numerous newspapers were offered.

BOARDING

At 13:00, I reached gate 4, where Dreamliner N964AM—Aeromexico’s second 787-8, delivered in October, 2013—awaited. Boarding initiated at 13:10 as Clase Premier passengers were called to board. Walking down the jet bridge, I reached the L2 door of the two-year-old aircraft and turned right to reach my 5A window seat.

Configured in a 2-2-2 layout, Aeromexico’s Premier cabin offers a 60-inch seat with 20 inches of width. A large screen is placed in front of every full-flat bed seat.

FLIGHT AM415

At 13:49, exactly one minute before SDT, the door was closed and the seatbelt sign was turned on. Pushback occurred seven minutes later, when the two GEnx engines came to life. The vibrations felt among the cabin exceeded those of the Boeing 777’s famous GE-90s.

Right on time, while an eloquent safety video was being shown, our Dreamliner began taxiing to the runway. Aeromexico is, in fact, joining the bandwagon of humorous video safety briefings, with a beautiful Flight Attendant (FA) putting on an entertaining performance. An announcement from the Captain followed, informing us that our flight would last four hours and five minutes at 40,000 feet. Then, fifteen minutes past 14:00, our aircraft rolled down the runway and, with its signature wing flex feature, silently became airborne.


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IN-FLIGHT SERVICE

Half an hour into the flight, a FA, dressed in AM’s conservative white-and-blue uniform, approached with a small cart and the menu for the meal service. I chose a glass of Mexican Red Wine, which came with a small plate of assorted nuts and another holding two cheese triangles. The cheese and red wine paired up exquisitely.

Fifteen minutes later, the main course arrived. Out of a choice of a Monterrey Jack Breast of Chicken with Spanish Rice, and Orecchiette Pasta with Broccoli, I decided to go for the latter, since the Spanish Rice came with seafood— which I normally don’t fancy on long trips away from home.

Surprisingly, the pasta was cooked well, being moist and not overcooked, and the broccoli were nice and crunchy. The tray came with a shrimp and ceviche appetizer, a greens salad with red vinaigrette, and a choice of five different types of bread.

For a four-hour flight to Mexico, the quality of the food was quite splendid; a surprising fact since, two years previously, I had been underwhelmed by the poor quality of the airline’s catering.

COMFORT & IN-FLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT (IFE)

Aeromexico’s Dreamliners are fitted with the Panasonic Elite HD system, boasting a 16-inch touch screen that can also be managed through a console-like remote. One of the nicest features of this IFE is the chat room, where one can send requests to any passenger in the aircraft to enter into a conversation. Movies, TV shows, games, music, Aeromexico and SkyTeam features, and moving maps are offered. The positioning of the screen in relation to the eye level is quite faultless.

The B/E Aerospace Diamond Business Class seat has several comfortable positions for working and enjoying the IFE. However, at just 20-inches of width, the full-flat position happens to be too narrow for my shoulders, which could definitely be a cause for concern for relatively larger passengers on longer flights. Moreover, the position of the seat controls is located exactly where elbows rest, on occasion involuntarily triggering some functions such as recline or leg extension. Lastly, the in-flight magazines, safety cards, and duty free booklets are located right next to the hips, causing them to fold and become an inconvenience when arms try to rest next to the side panel of the seat. The design of these seats was very poorly executed by the Florida-based manufacturer.

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CABIN AMBIANCE

Flying through the Gulf of Mexico, our 787 silently soared across the skies at 570 miles per hour. All windows were automatically dimmed and lights were turned completely off. I was not impressed by the fact that no mood lighting settings had been chosen to ambient the cabin, since several configurations were always available during different stages of the flight. The cabin was almost pitch dark at 15:00 local time, sending to waste the spectacular effects that Boeing’s lightning technology offers its passengers.

The Dreamliner’s cabin altitude is one of the most noticeable features savvy frequent flyers can notice. A fuselage made largely of composite materials allows the cabin to be pressurized to an equivalent altitude of 6,000ft (1,800 m), as opposed to the 8,000ft (2,100 m) of conventional aircraft, which are made mostly of aluminum based materials.

As the flight progressed, the FAs continuously checked whether passengers needed beverages. Quite rapidly, we reached Mexican airspace, where we began our descent into one of the world’s most populated cities.

ARRIVAL AND CONCLUSION

Arriving into Mexico City is always an interesting experience. The sprawling city can be appreciated as early as 15 minutes before landing, with thousands of square miles of diminutive houses and urban development. The weather, during summertime, is often stormy and turbulent. Nevertheless, the Dreamliner pierced the dense and moist clouds seamlessly.

Right on time, we touched down and taxied to the gate. In less than 20 minutes, I was landside waiting for my friends to fetch me and drive into the city.

Aeromexico offers an outstanding product. Its narrow- and wide-body aircraft are beyond excellent, and its on board service is up to the standards of a world-class airline. The flight was dead-on punctual and, for the pricing, I would chose it over Delta should the question arise.

The only flaw I could find was the poor design of the Business Class seats. For the airline’s longhaul flights to Asia and Europe, they would make sleeping and working rather tiresome. The rest, however, showed how excellent Aeromexico can really be.