Weekend at the Falls: American Business Class, Gol Domestic, and the Sheraton Iguazú Resort: American’s Business Class to Miami and on to DC

  1. American to Miami in First, then Business Class to Sao Paulo
  2. Gol Smiles VIP Lounge and Domestic Service to Foz de Iguassu
  3. Sheraton Iguazú Falls Resort & Spa
  4. The Wonder of the Falls
  5. Gol Domestic Back to Sao Paulo and the Admiral’s Club Sao Paulo
  6. American’s Business Class to Miami and on to DC

After about 5 hours in the lounge it was finally time to leave Brazil. We headed downstairs and on to our gate at the end of Wing D, and it simply reinforced the notion that there’s not much to do, see, or eat in the terminal. One of the interesting things about the walk is that the international and domestic gates are separated by a glass wall most of the walk to the end of the pier.

We arrived at the gate and boarding was already about two-thirds complete. Found our way to our seats, there was a plastic-wrapped package of pillow and blanket on the seat along with menu, and an amenity kit and bottle of water in the seat’s cubby hole.

Before storing my carryon in the overhead bin in I took out a pair of never-used Singapore Airlines first class Givenchy pajamas and went into the lavatory to change. Getting comfortable in pajamas makes a big difference in front of a long-ish flight, and I’m now sold on the idea for when flying business class.

As we got underway one of the flight attendant announcements struck me. American provides Bose headsets in business and first class, though I decline as I use my own noise cancelling headset. A flight attendant announced that if business and first class passengers intend to sleep then they should have their Bose headsets wrapped up and accessible to be collected one hour before landing so that flight attendants do not need to wake them in order to do the collection.

A reminder, in a way, that no matter what amount of hard product investment it’s going to be the service delivery that distinguishes an airline in the first class cabin at least.

As far as crews go, this one turned out to be excellent, at least for my needs. They kept me hydrated, even bringing me my own large bottle of water, of the size that they serve the cabin with, to supplement the regular sized bottle left at my seat. And they were very friendly. So it was perfect for me.

But I still couldn’t imagine an ANA, Singapore, or Lufthansa crew in first class waking first class passengers an hour before landing for their convenience of collecting headsets.

I hadn’t eaten much throughout the day so was strangely looking forward to dinner. I’ve got photos of two different entrees, I had the second of the two.

Here’s the pasta…

And the shrimp curry:

Followed by ice cream

The meals were much more ‘business class’ than the Richard Sandoval halibut on the outbound, which wasn’t catered for the return from Brazil.

I slept on and off for the next four hours, in between watching a couple of episodes of the current season of Mad Men. The flight was especially turbulent, one of the bumpiest rides I’ve experienced in the past few years, and that woke me a few times. Not American’s fault, and combined with sitting in the lounge for 5 hours after a coach flight from Iguassu Falls, I wasn’t nearly as comfortable in the non-lie flat seat as I was on the outbound. My lower back was bothering me and I was looking forward to arrival in Miami and a hot shower.

About an hour and fifteen minutes out from arrival breakfast was served. Decent enough but again not as good as the Richard Sandoval eggs served on the way down to Brazil (and that I had tried a week earlier in Dallas for their premium services event).

After breakfast I changed out of my Singapore PJs, and we were on the ground shortly after.

Once we landed everyone poised to make the mad dash for immigration, you always want to get ahead of the rest of your aircraft so that your wait is shorter. But business class was being held for first class to disembark, something that really impressed me with American on this flight and on the flight down to Brazil. I don’t remember the last time a U.S. .carrier ensured that first class got off the plane first. So even though they want to collect Bose headsets an hour before arrival, and threaten to wake up passengers to do so, they do seem to be emulating some of the service standards of the best-regarded carriers.

The trek to immigration at Miami was bizarre, since it’s one twist and turn after another followed by taking the airport train. Although you take the airport train to immigration, you’re dropped off… nowhere near immigration, and you have another long walk. Like Dulles airport where the new train drops you nowhere near the United gates, but where the terminal is supposed to be sometime in the future.

When we finally made it to immigration there was almost no line, through the queue quickly, no wait for bags as we hadn’t checked any we were quickly outside into the terminal.

Of course that meant having to go back through security, and since it’s Miami there was a significant queue. The wait was about 25 minutes, and only that short because we were in the priority line and because they opened up the crew screening lane for passengers.

The wait seemed all the longer because I desperately wanted a shower, and was afraid there’d be a wait, I didn’t want to miss the opportunity.

The onward flight to DC would be leaving from a gate in D in the mid-teens, so I headed over to the D15 Admiral’s Club, went upstairs and immediately on check-in asked for a shower room. There was one available right away, and a staff member came up front to walk me back.

The shower was invigorating, and had me poised to make the flight home. I went back into the lounge, ordered some sushi from the paid café menu which turned out to be a perfect breakfast (I had only picked at the eggs on the plane), and by the time I finished it was time to board my flight home to DC.

That was uneventful, I logged onto Gogo wireless internet as soon as we were airborne and caught up on e-mail for the better part of the flight. Breakfast was cereal, yogurt, and fruit but having just eaten sushi I gave it a miss. We arrived in DC on time, I walked straight out of the terminal where there was no line for a cab and I was home within 25 minutes of landing. An end to my long weekend at the Falls, and with plenty of time to relax and rest up for the rest of the day on Sunday, since I was unpacking by 12:30pm.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I have never seen or worn airline pajamas, but don’t you feel a bit silly or vulnerable walking around in a cabin full of strangers in PJ’s?

  2. How was the weather in Brazil & at the falls. We are planning to visit there in next May-June (2013). Would that be a good time to visit (weatherwise)

  3. @Anil Dalal weather was wonderful, perfectly pleasant, and clear. I got lucky. Not an expert on the weather but The Google is…

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