I had booked my return from Manaus, Brazil just 36 hours out using Avios from Manaus to Miami. American and TAM fly the route and award seats were easy to come by for pretty much any flight. TAM has the better Business Class product but Executive Club charges 25,000 Avios and the inferior American Domestic First Class product clocks in at 37,500 Avios.
Since American Airlines flight times worked much better for me I decided on the economy flight. Flight time would just be under 5 hours and it’s just 12,500 for Brazil – Miami + $50. Quite a steal!
The Manaus taxi mafia was in full force when I checked out from my hotel at 10 PM – none of the taxi drivers was ready to switch on their taxi meter – instead proposing to double the price on their ‘fixed offer’. It took me a while to find a taxi that was ready to take me for the cash I had left.
The International check-in section of the Manaus Airport was deserted but the American check in counters were open. I wondered where all the crowds had gone. Check-in was bossy but quick and in English. Nobody questioned my two passport procedure – the check-in agent just wanted to see my US Passport and wasn’t concerned at all about the missing Brazilian visa – immigration was not concerned about the missing ESTA (for the US) in my German passport at all.
The International departure section at the airport is super small. There are no lounges and just one small kiosk that serves a few empanadas and drinks. There are a total of four(!) power outlets in the whole boarding area and the WiFi clocks in at 2 Mbit. Linktel, the local provider, allows roaming for Boingo so the Internet access was pretty good actually!
About 60 minutes before departure 20 people or so were sitting in the boarding area and that were all the people who would make it today for the overnight flight! Wow!
Boarding was on-time and strictly by priority – even if the 20 people could have boarded in 2 minutes without any order. Oh well someone loves bureaucracy very much!
The plane was a brand new A319 that looked like it had just left the factory in Toulouse. It was all leather, skinny seat backs and flat screens for every seat. The entertainment system worked from gate to gate and had all the usual suspects of movies and shows on it.
Every seat comes equipped with power outlet and a USB port. There even was a sandwich served after takeoff – I did not see that coming!
Also there were pillows and blankets on every seat!
With so few people onboard everyone had a chance to stretch out and lie down. The seats are especially good for this and you can’t feel any seat belt buckles. I fell asleep 10 minute after take off and woke when the pilot requested the cabin to be readied for landing in Miami about 10 minutes out. It was early but I had slept very well without really waking up. This was akin to many of the lie flat business seat I slept in.
We got into Miami about 20 minutes early. American has a gazillion of Brazil flights all arrive just before 5 AM – Brasilia, Belo Horizonte, Rio, Sao Paulo, Manaus – I saw pretty much every Brazilian city on the luggage belt display. Immigration and customs both had lots of questions about my Brazil trip (though nobody worried about the missing stamp in my US passport).
In conclusion it’s amazing to see the results of American Airlines investment program into new planes. This was likely one of the best International Economy experiences (I did like my Economy Air France Los Angeles flight) in a while. Great crew, great equipment, great effort to be on time, and the minimal load factor. It does not get much better than that!