Aeromexico Connect, Economy Class – Embraer 170: Querétaro to Mexico City

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Date: 13. May 2017.
Departure:
14:30.
Arrival:
15:00.
Flight time:
30 minutes.
Seat:
16C, aisle.

INTRODUCTION
Querétaro Airport is about 35km from the old town and the journey there can take you anything between thirty minutes and two hours, depending on traffic. Fortunately for me, it’s Saturday morning and although there is quite some traffic around, it’s still rather harmless in comparison to weekdays.

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
The hotel orders an Uber to pick me up at the hotel at 11h15. As far as I know, there is no public transport out to the airport. The journey by Uber costs 250 pesos.

CHECK-IN
Querétaro airport has a dinky little terminal that is obviously way too small to handle all the traffic the airport gets. From what I can tell though, the terminal is currently in the process of expansion and renovation.

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The check-in agent informs me when I check in that there will be a delay to our flight of roughly 45 minutes, which has the wiry R. complaining about not wanting to sit inside the terminal when it’s such a lovely day out. I think he just wants a smoke. And so we decide to park ourselves in the shade outside the terminal until it’s time for us to go through security.

LOUNGE
There is a lounge but apparently it’s not open for passengers of any of the airlines operating into Querétaro unless they are Priority Pass members.

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BOARDING
Boarding starts with a delay of 45 minutes. The gate agent comes on the speaker to make an announcement about the flight, but the volume of the mike is so loud that nobody can understand a word of what he’s saying. Whatever. Luckily for me, there are no contact stands at Querétaro, so we’re going to have to walk across the apron in the sun.

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CABIN & SEAT
The cabin is in an Economy Class only layout and contrary to my expectations, the seat pitch is rather good and comfortable. I’m sitting on row 16, which is nice because it’s not very often I get to sit behind the wing and can watch the control surfaces moving.

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SERVICE & CREW
The crew seem friendly enough, although they refuse to speak anything other than Spanish. But they obviously take safety very seriously on this flight, which is the main thing.

THE MEAL
I really haven’t been too lucky with the meal services on Aeromexico and this flight is no exception. Despite the fact that the flight from Querétaro to Mexico City is only thirty minutes long, Aeromexico still do a full drinks service and also distribute packets of nuts. But alas, by the time we start out initial descent, they have only reached row 12 and I’m on row 16. And so the service is abruptly ended and the trolley stowed away before the rear of the aircraft is served. I don’t think I mind not being given anything to eat or drink, but I must say I do find it a bit strange, to say the least, that the crew can’t even be bothered to make an announcement to apologize.

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ARRIVAL
And so, very quickly we’re already coming in over the vastness of Mexico City, where the smog is lying thick above the ground as usual.

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GETTING TO TERMINAL 1
Aeromexico uses Terminal 2 in Mexico City. Despite the delay arriving in Mexico City, I still have layover of another six hours before my connection departs from Terminal 1. So I’ve booked myself into the Marriott Courtyard at the airport, which is connected via footbridge to Terminal 1. The nice thing about the Courtyard is that there is a complimentary shuttle from Terminal 2.

Aeromexico, Business Class – Boeing B 737-800: La Habana to Mexico City

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Date: 09 May 2017.
Departure: 15h10.
Arrival: 17:00.
Flight time: 2 hours 50 minutes.
Seat: 1A, window.

INTRODUCTION
Cuba was an interesting experience and in its heyday Havana must have been a very beautiful city. But I’m now ready to leave again and quite frankly, this is a place I think I shall not be returning to.

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
The flight to Mexico City will be departing at 15h10. So at around 12h30 we grab a taxi from the Iberostar Parque Central Hotel on the main square to take us to the airport. The journey takes pretty much thirty minutes to complete and costs CUC30, which seems to be a set price for the journey.

CHECK-IN
Aeromexico operates from Terminal 3 at Havana airport, although I’m not quite sure how many terminals there are exactly, given that there is only one terminal building designed and constructed in that strangely bizarre but freakishly stylish Soviet style from the early eighties.

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There are two counters open for check-in. Unfortunately, it only dawns on my friend, the wiry R., when we reach the head of the queue that he’s forgotten his passport in the safe in the hotel. And there are two hours left before departure. So he dashes off to grab a taxi and tells me he’ll see me later. Or maybe not.

In theory, I think it might have worked for him to make the flight if he’d checked in online in advance. But alas, the mighty airline Gods had other designs for the young man, and eventually check-in for the flight closes thirty minutes before departure without the wiry R.’s name on the passenger manifest.

LOUNGE
There is a lounge which goes by the name of the ‘Elegante VIP Lounge’ and I suspect they weren’t even trying to be funny when they came up with that name. In any case, Aeromexico does not have a contract in place with the lounge and so I have to stand around in the crowded terminal with the rest of the riff raff.

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BOARDING
The boarding process is interesting. The departure board states that the flight will be boarding from gate 13. Only that’s where I can see a KLM Airbus A 330 parked outside on the ramp, which, incidentally, should have been boarding from gate 11 according to the departure screen. The Aeromexico aircraft is parked in front of gate 08, although there is nothing to indicate that this is the right gate and the screen above the gate is showing a blank.

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CABIN & SEAT
I am seated on 1A, as on the inbound flight. I’m not quite sure if the cabin was cleaned at all or if it was just not cleaned very well. In any case, there is litter all over the place.

SERVICE & CREW
The crew on this flight seem distracted and not particularly interested. For some reason no less than three different crew members pass by offering me a landing card for Mexico. How many of these bloody things do they think I need anyway?

The flight attendant working the Business Class cabin is obviously suffering from a serious case of short-term memory loss because no matter how many times the non-Spanish passengers tell her that sorry, they don’t understand, she insists on addressing everyone in Spanish and then apologises for not realising they didn’t speak Spanish. It’s a bit like Bill Murray in Groundhog day…

Welcome drinks are served before departure, but there is no towel service on this flight.

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THE MEAL
The meal service takes a while to get started. I quickly go to the toilet and as I pass the galley I realise the service hasn’t started because the flight attendant is busy demolishing her own lunch with gusto. When eventually the service does start, the flight attendant takes out a tray from the trolley with small ramekins of nuts. But somehow she can’t be arsed to do a drinks run before the main meal service. So she places the tray back inside the trolley and starts distributing the trays with the meal instead.

Hey, guess what, it’s exactly the same crap they served on the previous flight. Although clearly there have been a few extravagant upgrades and the green salad now also includes two pieces of zucchini while the grease blob otherwise known as a croissant now also comes with a grilled tomato. The flight attendant is already about the saunter off when I call her back and tell her I think I’d rather have the ramekin with the nuts, thanks very much…

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ARRIVAL
The approach into Mexico is quite spectacular because it makes you realise just how large and sprawling the city is.

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I shall be spending the night at the Marriott Courtyard in Terminal 1. The hotel has a small office in the arrivals hall in Terminal 2. You can check-in there and they will organise a complimentary shuttle to the hotel for you.

Eventually the wiry R. manages to reach the hotel just before midnight, travelling on an Interjet flight from Havana which was scheduled for 19h45 but then had an hour’s delay.

CONCLUSION
I really can’t say I liked Aeromexico much. Sure, the wide seat is nice on a narrowbody. But the food is nothing short of plain disgusting and the crew on this second flight was obviously not feeling it.

Aeromexico, Business Class – Boeing B 737-800: Mexico City to La Habana

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Date: 07. May 2017.
Departure: 10:40.
Arrival: 13:50.
Flight time: 2 hours 10 minutes.
Seat: 1A, window.

INTRODUCTION
Mexico City airport has two terminals. Terminal 1 is the old grotty place that is used by all airlines with the exception of Aeromexico. Terminal 1 is old and there is hardly enough space for all the passengers, given that the major European carriers all operate to Mexico City using B 747s and even the A 380.

Terminal 2 is a much nicer getup and reserved exclusively for use by Aeromexico. The design of the building is really cool, with very high ceilings and a lot of space for passengers to move around. The NH Collection Hotel is located on the sixth floor of Terminal 2 and from the rooms you have some excellent views of the arriving and departing traffic. Terminals 1 and 2 are connected by the Aertrain, which runs on some days but not on others.

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CHECK-IN
In Terminal 2 Aeromexico has a dedicated set of counters for SkyTeam priority passengers and there are many counters open. Check-in is swift and there is even a dedicated lane for security for priority passengers. There is no immigration as such, however, as you board the aircraft the gate agent will collect the embarkation card you completed before entering Mexico. And if you no longer have the card, expect to pay a hefty fine.

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LOUNGE
The lounge is located right above the security checkpoint. It’s a fairly small place for the amount of passengers it serves and there are only few places left to sit when I get there. What I like about the lounge is that there are waiters on duty that will bring you drinks and from which you can order food. The wifi also works very well inside the lounge.

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BOARDING
Boarding in Mexico City is by zones and priority passengers are invited to queue in zone 1, which is boarded first. As I head down the ramp into the airbridge I even manage to take a picture of my chariot today!

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CABIN & SEAT
The aircraft operating the flight today must be fairly new. For one, as I step aboard I notice it has the new sky interior with the type of luggage bins that folds down to open. I don’t know how much more capacity these bins have, but the cabin certainly looks and feels a lot more spacious and roomy, which I have always found the B 737’s weak point when compared to the wider A 320 family. I know the A 320 cabin is only 19 cm wider than that of the B 737, but I think you do notice the difference.

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The seat is very comfortable and looks very similar to the ones Garuda and Malaysian have on their B 737s. There are four seats abreast in Business Class and there are four rows in the premium cabin, although only eight of 16 seats are occupied on today’s flight. Other than that, the seat has power ports and video screens. Earphones are distributed at the beginning of the flight.

SERVICE & CREW
There is one young lady working the Business Class cabin, who seems rather serious to begin with. However, later on during the flight her interaction with the passengers is friendly and very helpful.

The service starts on the ground with a welcome drink. There is a choice of water or orange juice. They also distribute these small earplugs for the IFE.

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THE MEAL
Uhm, yeah. About that. The meal is really quite disgusting. I’m not even sure if it was intended to be a late breakfast or brunch, or something else. Or a randomly put together tray of inedible stuff. It consists of a warm croissant served with melted cheese and a ‘meat item…’ and mustard. In addition, there is a large green salad with a balsamic dressing and a pre-packaged tub of milk rice. Still, at least the warm nuts they serve before the meal are okay.

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And it’s really bad. The croissant is so greasy you can see the oil oozing out of it when you press gently on the top of it and the milk rice has the most artificial flavour I’ve ever come across and which, upon further inspection, turns out to be cinnamon. You could have fooled me I’m telling you!

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ARRIVAL
The approach into Cuba is rather nice, as you fly along the coast until you hit the airport. Immigration in Cuba however is not so nice. When I arrive the place is crawling with people and the queues are only moving very slowly.

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When eventually I reach the head of the queue, that’s when the problems start. First of all, the immigration officers find it strange that my nationality is not identical with my place of residence. Once that’s dealt with they have a problem matching the photo they take of me with the one they scan off my passport. So eventually, it takes me close to two hours to enter the country.

British Airways, Club Class – Airbus A 320: Rome to Heathrow

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Date: 06. May 2017.
Departure: 08:00.
Arrival: 09:30
Flight time: 2 hours 30 minutes.
Seat: 1F, window.

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INTRODUCTION
My journey begins at 06h00 in the morning as I step outside the hotel to make my way to the airport for the flight to London. The wiry R. is already expecting me, bright eyed and bushy tailed as he takes another lazy draw from his cigarette.

CHECK-IN
Ten minutes later the shuttle bus ejects us on the pavement, under the large roof of Terminal 3. British Airways’ check-in counters are on row 230, which is on the side of the terminal adjacent to Terminal 2. The check-in agent checks us in for both this flight and the onward connection and gives us directions for the lounge. Rather conveniently, the fast track for security is right in front of the British Airways counters.

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LOUNGE
Signage is definitely not the airport’s forte. I’m a linguist and the wiry R. is an engineer. But even so, between the two of us we still manage to not locate the lounge. So here goes. For all those who will come after us, be brave: behind immigration, walk through the duty free shop and you will find yourself in the terminal’s shopping mall. Walk on, all the way through the mall and at the end turn left. That is where you will spot a sign for the British Airways and Alitalia lounges. Take the escalators one floor up and you should land right in front of the entrance to the lounge.

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The British Airways lounge at Rome airport is fairly big. I’m assuming it’s probably available to the other OneWorld partners as well who operate here. Just one piece of advice though: keep away form the coffee machine. The stuff it produces is vile.

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BOARDING
The flight is departing from gate E18. By the time we get there, priority passengers are already stepping aboard the plane. And by the time I step aboard there is no longer any space in the overhead bins, which is a bit unfortunate, given that I’m sitting on row 1. Fortunately, the gentlemen seated on the row behind me is a nice, friendly American. As soon as he notices I’m having problems stowing my two bags, he starts moving his own stuff around and even puts one bag under the seat in front of him to make room for me.

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CABIN & SEAT
The cabin looks very smart and the first impression is good. However, the combination of the dark blue leather seats and the dark grey panelling on the bulkhead also make the cabin seem a bit dark and gloomy.

The seat is in the usual European getup with the middle seat kept empty and a tray placed between the aisle and window seats for some additional storage space. There are no ac power ports.

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SERVICE, CREW & SOCIOLINGUISTICS
The crew on this flight is very professional and their service is polished and very polite, which is something that always impresses me about the British Airways crews because they are quite consistent about it.

Sorry if I go off on a tangent here, okay, but after all languages are my business. It’s just that it seems to me that there is some inflation going on in the English language with regard to expressions of politeness and the cabin service manager is a good example of this. No matter if he’s collecting the hot towels or passing you the tray with the food, he keeps saying ‘thank you so much’. Obviously there’s nothing wrong with that in general, but it does make me wonder what he says to express his gratitude when you do him a really big favour? My point is that this over use of the phrase ‘so much’ in an expression of gratitude is becoming an increasingly popular practice, especially among speakers of American English. Sorry, end of geeky linguist rant…

Oh yes, they serve you scented hot towels once boarding is completed. There are no pre-departure drinks or anything like that though, despite the flight time of over two hours.

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THE MEAL
At the start of 2017 British Airways launched a new catering concept on its European network. In Economy Class this means buy on board food, courtesy of Marks and Spencer.

In Business class there have been some changes too. First of all, there are now two options for the meal and accordingly, menus are distributed ahead of the meal service. In this particular case the choice is between a vegetarian omelette and the traditional full English breakfast. The tray is served with a tub of strawberry yoghurt, and there is a large selection of breads and croissants to choose from the breadbasket. Apparently, preserves have fallen by the wayside though and there is only butter but no jam on the tray. On a positive note, the hot meal is now served on a proper plate and not in a foil container as it used to be.

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ARRIVAL
The worst thing that can happen to you when you’re flying into London is that you’re flight arrives way too early for its slot, in which case you are sent into a holding patter until it is time for you to turn onto the approach. I end up going off to Noddy land just as we enter the holding, so I’m not quite sure how many orbits we complete but I think it must be close to half an hour.

As ever, Heathrow is very busy and on the approach I count twelve aircraft queuing up for departure on the other side of the apron for runway 09R.

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CONCLUSION
All in all this was a nice flight with BA that was pretty much up to their usual standards as far as I can tell. I thought the new service was fine. Apart from that, it never seizes to amaze me how British Airways manages to fill more than twenty seats in Business Class, even on an early Saturday morning.