I settle down for the flight from Manchester to Philadelphia with a singer from Memphis and a glass of sparking Italian wine.
I’ve got Al Green on the headphones (the bishop isn’t actually travelling with me) and the Prosecco has just been poured by a welcoming stewardess from US Airways. We are still on the Tarmac in north-west England but I already feel like I am five miles high.
I am travelling up front in Business Class to run the rule over the experience that unfolds when you turn left as you enter the aircraft. Within about three seconds, I am pretty much won over. The words “Would you like a drink, Mr McComb?” seal the deal.
My final destination is America’s Deep South, which requires a change in the City of Brotherly Love. The first leg of the journey, over the Atlantic, takes about eight hours, which is normally “grin and bear it” time as take-off looms. But today in Business, life is a breeze.
It is the space that makes the difference with US Airways, the leg space in particular, and the space between you and fellow passengers, courtesy of the cabin design and the privacy dividers.
The seats, with lumber supports, recline to 170-degrees, which is as a good as flat if you want to sleep. There are pillows and blankets, and I’d also recommend a pair of noise-cancelling headphones for premium peace and quiet. I swear by my Sennheiser MM 450-X cups that dampen cabin noise.
Thoughts of nodding off are far from my mind at the minute, though. Once we are airborne, it is not long before there is another round of drink orders and some nibbles. Rehydration is the name of the game and water is regularly replenished, too. There is a handy holder in the side of the seat for your bottle of water.
As we are heading Stateside, it seems only right to choose the Californian white wine – a spicy William Hill Chardonnay Central Coast. “Don’t worry if you don’t like it, Mr McComb. I can bring you something else to try…” Cheers.
Before lunch is served, there is time for a recce of the in-flight kit.
The TV screen is a major step up from those provided at the back of the plane but it’s the side storage area (housing the remote control handset, sockets and the angled reading light) that makes the difference for me. And it’s terribly convenient for stowing your wine.
Oh, the joys of crossing your legs and stretching without accidentally whacking a tray and spilling your in-flight drink over a stranger.
The switch to adjust the capacious seat soon becomes my best pal. It’s amazing how fussy you can get about finding the correct seat position when the technology to achieve it is at your fingertips.
Lunch kicks off with a starter of herbed chicken with tzatzikik sauce, and arugula and cream cheese stuffed baby pepper. The dish is accompanied by a bowl of mixed greens, sun-dried tomatoes, pine nuts and a creamy basil dressing.
For the main course – tenderloin of beef with Korean bulgogi sauce – I switch to the berried and herbaceous Californian Lyeth Merlot North Coast. The steak is served with wasabi mashed potatoes (very moreish) and mixed vegetables.
Other choices for main courses include chicken breast with creamy Brie cheese (toasted gnocchi, tomato and artichoke sauce); Parmesan-crusted roast cod (mushroom risotto, grilled vegetables, tomato and basil cream sauce); and Asian egg noodles with a sweet chilli sauce.
I follow the beef with a cheese plate. Passengers with a sweet-tooth opt for cannoli. Qunita do Portal Fine Tawny Port is offered with dessert.
An hour and a half before landing, there is time for a snack: fresh mixed greens with a turkey and stuffed pepper skewer, lime and yoghurt dressing. A croque monsieur is served as an alternative to the entrée salad.
Hot towels are handed out before meals to help freshen up.
Before you know it, we start the descent towards Philadelphia and, in all honesty, I barely feel like I have been travelling.
There is, of course, a price to pay for this sort of luxury travel. For example, return tickets for February 2015 for the route I took – Manchester, UK, to Birmingham, Alabama – are coming back at $7,161 – about £4,750 – at the time of writing.
- Richard McComb was a guest of US Airways, which is merging with American Airlines.
- American Airlines flies to Birmingham, Alabama, from Heathrow (via Miami, Dallas, Philadelphia and Charlotte) from £499 return pp (inc taxes). American Airlines also flies to Birmingham, Alabama, from Manchester, Edinburgh (summer seasonal only) and Glasgow (summer seasonal) via Philadelphia from £694 return pp (inc taxes). For more information, and to book go to www.aa.co.uk or call 08444997300.
- The ongoing merger between American Airlines and US Airways provides customers with access to nearly 6,700 daily flights to more than 330 destinations in 54 countries worldwide.
- The loyalty programmes – the American Airlines AAdvantage and US Airways Dividend Miles – are now reciprocal, allowing miles to be earned and redeemed on either programme for travel and flight upgrades. American Airlines is a founding member of the oneworld® alliance. Connect with American on Twitter @AmericanAir