Food Wars: Domestic American Business vs US Airways First

A couple of weeks ago I flew Business class on American Airlines from Toronto to Los Angeles. It was the first time I’d flown anything other than Economy class on American as I rarely travel with them, and I was very curious to compare it to US Airways’ First Class experience since that’s the airline I have status with and am familiar with.

It’s important to make the distinction between how each airline names their upper class cabin. On two-cabin flights on American, the upper class cabin is called Business Class, while on US Airways it’s called First Class. These are the two that I’m comparing in this post.

Just for fun I’ll mention that to make things super confusing, American and United do have 3-class planes with a First, Business, and Economy, while United decided to screw with everyone and call their middle international cabin BusinessFirst. To top it off, US Airways’ international flights are also two-cabin planes, but they decided to call the forward cabin Business (Envoy). Clear as mud!

AMERICAN AIRLINES DOMESTIC BUSINESS (2-cabin)

I regrettably did not take pictures of the food I was served on American since I knew it’s been covered many times before (just Google it). I did, however, take pictures of the menu and I can describe my experience.

Dinner Menu for my YYZ-LAX flight.

The food started with warm mixed-nuts to go with my drink. The appetizers came out soon after, and consisted of prosciutto and a salad with tomatoes  mozzarella cheese, and greens. I don’t do pork so I skipped the prosciutto, but the mixed-nuts and salad were both good. We were also offered two different kinds of bread: wheat and onion.

As you can see on the menu, the dinner options were a beef fillet or cheese tortellini. I love beef, so I went with the fillet. I thought it was impressive they even offered a fillet on a domestic flight, but wasn’t expecting it to be that great. It definitely wasn’t restaurant quality, but it certainly did the job. I finished every last bite along with the potato puree (mashed potatoes) and green beans that it came with. The bread, on the other hand, was the driest piece of bread I’ve ever had. Every bite needed a sip of water to wash it down.

Dessert Menu

Dessert presented more choices. I could choose between cheese and crackers, a fruit plate, or an ice cream sundae. The ice cream was a very different offering from what I was used to from US Airways, so I went with that. Vanilla Ice cream with my choice of toppings (I went with the hot fudge, whipped cream, and pecans). It was delicious, and was a perfect way to end a very good domestic meal.

We were then offered fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies about 45 minutes before landing. They smelled delicious, but I’d just woken up from a nap and was still full from the great dinner so I passed, but I’m sure they were as good as they smelled.

My glass was never empty throughout the entire meal. The flight attendants were very proactive, very friendly, and there were two of them attending to the Business Class cabin. They also came around with the bread a second time after we were served the entrees. It was great service all-around, and was better than the best food and service I’d ever had on US Airways.

US AIRWAYS FIRST (2-cabin)

I also had some mileage runs to do on US Airways to maintain my Gold status, which has been good enough to get me upgraded about 75% of the time and also has given me Star Alliance Gold status. I was taking a morning flight from Los Angeles to Philadelphia, and an evening flight from Charlotte back to Los Angeles, and that meant I got to have meal service on both flights. This time I made sure to take pictures.

Biscoff Cookie

We were first given our drinks, then handed a package of a couple of Biscoff cookies. They’re pretty good. If you’ve never had one, they’re like cookie versions of graham crackers. I’m not a coffee or tea drinker, but I’d imagine these cookies would go well with those hot drinks.

My LAX-PHL breakfast

The breakfast on my LAX-PHL flight was pretty simple. There are no menus on domestic flights, and I didn’t even have any choices on this flight – there was only one type of entree  It consisted of a cheese omelet with sausage, potatoes, and a bowl of fruits and a biscuit on the side. I found this interesting because I was reading the US Airways website before the trip, and it noted they were adjusting meals to provide more vegetarian options among other improvements. Seeing as how I don’t do pork, I left the sausage and ate only the half of the omelet that hadn’t touched it (I’m picky like that). The omelet and potatoes were pretty good, and all of the fruit was very fresh. The biscuit was nothing special – I’d say it tastes similar to one from KFC, except KFC’s are fresher.

On my flight from CLT-LAX I was pretty hungry, so I was looking forward to the meal. Again, no menus, but we were given a choice this time. I was asked “what would you like, the Beef or Pasta.” With such a detailed description of the entrees, I knew I had to pick the Beef option. The entire meal came out on one tray just like breakfast, and it included bread, a salad with balsamic dressing, some other dish I’m not really sure about, and my beef with potatoes and green beans. The salad was good – no surprises. The bread was standard airplane bread. The beef was like a roast beef, and I got two slices of it. It was very tender and surprisingly good. The potatoes were the same as the ones from breakfast, and the green beans were what you’d expect. I didn’t try the other dish, half because I don’t like trying dishes of which the contents are a mystery, and half out of protest for not being told what it was. I think it was coleslaw though.

Dessert!

After I gobbled up the dinner I was offered a slice of cheesecake for dessert. It was pretty good, but a little too chocolaty for my taste. You can’t see from this picture but the top is loaded with a bunch of chocolate chips. Chocolate lovers will likely enjoy it.

Service was the usual for US Airways – one flight attendant for a first class of 16 people. I wasn’t asked about a refill until long after my drink was finished, but once I did finish eating, the tray was cleared very quickly. The flight attendant seemed to disappear for long periods of time, and I’ve come to expect this from my previous experiences. I didn’t need anything, but in my opinion good service would entail the flight attendant at least asking. I was also disappointed that the meals were absolutely nothing like they described on their website.

CONCLUSION

If I haven’t painted a clear enough picture, in my opinion American Airlines’ domestic Business Class is far superior to US Airways’ First class in every way, at least on my last few flights. It’s no wonder why many of the top points bloggers maintain status with American as they likely came to this realization well before I did. Suffice it to say, this coming year will likely be the last year I hold status with US Airways.

My decision is based not just on the service and food I mentioned above, but many other factors as well. The American Airlines seat reclined much further than the US Airways seat, and American flights are much easier to get from Southern California where I live. Since US Airways’ hubs are in Phoenix, Philadelphia, and Charlotte it’s nearly impossible for me to get non-stop flights to my final destination, whereas this would be much easier on United or American. Also, the AA Twitter team is probably the best of any travel company, and they have power to get things done if needed. US Airways’ Twitter team isn’t bad and they do respond to inquiries, but are not nearly as active.

US Airways isn’t all bad, though. I actually find economy to be more comfortable on US than AA. I also think the lower tiers of the frequent flyer program for US are head and shoulders above AA’s, whereas the top tier of AA is head and shoulders above US Airways’.

Like I’ve mentioned so many times before, you’ll have to decide for yourself whether or not earning status with a particular airline makes sense. The only reason I have status with US is because I was on a work project in Phoenix that required me to fly back and forth every week for 4 months. It made sense for me in that situation (as opposed to flying Southwest), and was extremely useful for upgrades like I mentioned. It no longer makes sense for me now that my travel habits have changed, so I’m going to start considering my other options next year.

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