The most recent review published on The Higher Flyer evaluates international business class onboard American Airlines’s now-retired fleet of Boeing 767s. There’s nothing particularly exciting nor noteworthy about the experience, but with lie-flat seats, direct aisle access for all passengers, and upgraded dining options on offer, your expectations for a product marketed as “Flagship Business” are likely going to be met but not exceeded. It delivers all that you could want in decidedly-average fashion, but because the fares are prohibitively expensive, it’s nearly impossible for me to recommend it. When compared to significantly cheaper, if not better, alternatives, it’s the textbook definition of a terrible deal… although some might disagree with that assessment. There’s an inherent ambiguousness to higher flying reflected here, and that poses an interesting question: what makes a “good value” good?
A recently-refurbished plane remains retro thanks to an underwhelming premium product
Across its expansive fleet, American Airlines features eight different kinds of business class seats. Naturally, as you might expect, some are better than others. On one end of the spectrum you have excellent reverse herringbones found on its Boeing 777s and 787-9s. On the opposite end, on its Boeing 767s, you have staggered seats that would’ve been state-of-the-art 15 years ago. Of the these two extremes, they share unlikely commonalities: AA installed them on its planes only as recently as a few years ago, and it typically charges comparable, astronomically-priced fares for both. If the airline brings the goods — so tasty dining options and warm, amicable service (among other things) to complement a comfortable chair that reclines 180 degrees — then it can get away with this pricing model. If it doesn’t, well, such a poor value isn’t “higher flyer” and it probably isn’t worth your time. By those metrics, the business class experience on AA’s 767s is, while more pleasant than economy, probably one to avoid.
How far is too far to walk?
It feels weird to be writing a review — even if it is just a mini-review — of walking through an airport. There’s hardly anything noteworthy (let alone higher flyer) about these experiences, but Madrid-Barajas’s Adolfo Suárez is a special case. Its Terminal 4, which serves as the home base for the Spanish flag carrier Iberia, is big, beautiful, and kinda controversial. The building’s aesthetic is top-notch, but the sprawl of it can be overwhelming. If you’re flying out of Madrid, well, you’re going to want to prepare for it more than you otherwise would… hence the reason for The Higher Flyer to publish a guide!