¡Viva México! A review of Aeromexico’s business class on the 787-9 from Mexico City to Buenos Aires
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As a Delta loyalist, I’m no stranger to its partner airlines, both within the SkyTeam Alliance and outside it. One such airline is Aeromexico, both a SkyTeam member and a joint-venture partner of Delta’s.
Mexico’s largest carrier has modernized its fleet and tweaked its route network. Among the new aircraft it has bought, Aeromexico has taken delivery of 19 Boeing 787 Dreamliners — nine of the smaller -8 variety and 10 of the longer -9. Four more are on order.
Last year, thanks to an amazing deal, I got to fly the carrier’s 787-8 on a long flight between its hub in Mexico City (MEX) and Santiago, Chile (SCL). This year, I found another good deal for round-trip tickets between Toronto (YYZ) and Buenos Aires, Argentina (EZE). Not only did I get to earn a significant chunk of the miles that were required for my quest to requalify for Diamond Medallion status (spoiler alert: I made it!), but I also got to spend a weekend in one of my favorite cities on Earth.
This trip came about because of a great fare (for business class) that popped up for a few hours several months ago. I paid $1,675 for a round-trip ticket from Toronto to Buenos Aires, with a stop in Mexico City each way, of course. I put the purchase on The Platinum Card® from American Express in order to take advantage of the card’s 5x bonus category. I earned a total of 8,375 Membership Rewards points for the purchase, worth about $160, according to TPG’s current valuations.
However, the points earning was only the cherry on top. What I was really after was the Medallion Qualification Miles and Medallion Qualification Dollars that I’d earn for the flight. I still didn’t see any mileage credit for my flights eight days after I landed, so I called Delta’s Diamond Medallion line, and they were able to locate the ticket and manually begin the crediting process.
Sure enough, not even 48 hours later, I saw the miles hit my account. I ended up earning a total of 19,798 MQMs, 5,280 MQDs and 42,234 redeemable miles (13,198 base plus 29,036 bonus).
If you’d like to redeem miles for a trip with Aeromexico, the first places you should look are Delta’s SkyMiles program and Flying Blue, Air France-KLM’s frequent-flyer program. Both programs have variable redemption rates, so there’s no telling exactly how many miles you’ll have to shell out for a flight. But it is especially easy to accrue miles with Flying Blue, as it’s a transfer partner of all three major transferable points programs: American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards and Citi ThankYou.
It’s worth noting that in searches both through Delta and Flying Blue, I wasn’t able to find complete itineraries. I could only find individual segments between New York and other origin cities to Mexico City and then Mexico City to other cities, but not together.
Though my journey began in Toronto, the main event began as soon as I landed at Aeromexico’s main hub at Mexico City’s Benito Juárez International Airport. I had departed Toronto at half past one in the morning, but since I was booked in business class, the connecting flight booked into first class on one of the carrier’s 737-800s, so I was able to get some shuteye on the less-than-five-hour flight.
I landed before the sun was up and had plenty of time before my flight to Buenos Aires, so I exited security and spent some time getting the full check-in experience — if you could call it that. Aeromexico and its partner Delta depart from Terminal 2, and the Delta area wasn’t all that crowded, but as I got closer, I saw that Aeromexico’s check-in area was slammed with people.
I got in line (seemingly with every other person in the terminal) at the SkyPriority section, and the process took a very long time after that.
After about a 20-minute wait, I was able to check my bag, got my boarding pass for my flight to Buenos Aires, and made my way to security. There was technically a priority line for business-class passengers, but it was still closed when I was passing through in the early morning.
After security, I made my way into Terminal 2 at MEX and headed straight to Aeromexico’s Salon Premier. I had access on the account of my business-class ticket, but both of Aeromexico’s lounges at MEX are part of the Priority Pass program, meaning you have access if you have any one of a number of premium cards, including the Chase Sapphire Reserve or the Amex Platinum.
I’ve developed a love-hate relationship with this lounge throughout the many visits I’ve made in recent years. First, the negatives. I find the space to be very dark, and it’s always unbearably hot. And it’s been very full each time I’ve visited.
Despite all of this, I think it’s a pretty good spot to kill time before a flight. It’s not anywhere near the top of the pack when it comes to amenities, but I’ve always found the service to be pleasant, the Wi-Fi strong and the food selection delicious. While the space is dark (and hot), I do appreciate the high ceilings and the wood trim used throughout — and the red-trimmed furniture makes it feel modern overall.
This visit, I actually noticed a service element that went beyond the expected: I sat down and expected to go to the buffet areas to get myself some water and food, but almost immediately a member of the lounge staff came around asking me if he could get me any water or food.
I asked for some of the famous (to me, at least) chilaquiles, which were delicious — if a little heavy on the sour cream.
There’s a small upstairs space, which is furnished with the same furniture and has similar food and drinks.
After several hours in the lounge, it was getting close to my boarding time, so I headed to my gate to ensure that I would be one of the first on board.
I arrived at a fairly empty gate, so I got in line and waited patiently for our boarding process to start, which ended up being just over 10 minutes after the scheduled boarding time.
Cabin and Seat
Aeromexico’s 787-9s feature Collins Aerospace Super Diamond seats in business class, which means they’re laid out in a 1-2-1 configuration, far superior to the 2-2-2 configuration found on the carrier’s -8s.
Clase Premier (the airline’s name for its business-class product) is divided into two cabins, with the larger forward cabin having 30 seats and the small minicabin behind it having just six. I chose Seat 7A, a window seat in the second-to-last row of the larger forward cabin.
The seat itself measured 21 inches wide and was trimmed with navy blue fabric. Beside the almost indistinguishable red stitching on each seat, there was not much to speak of in terms of the design of the cabin.
Some airlines, like WestJet, for example, work with the aircraft manufacturers to create unique design touches in the cabin, but Aeromexico left it fairly plain. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it really doesn’t do anything to set the carrier apart, and doesn’t at all allude to the rich cultural heritage of Mexico.
Though the airline decided to skip unique trim elements, it did pick one very interesting feature: a full onboard bar between the two business-class cabins. During the flight, the bar was stocked with various snacks, glasses, a few bottles of liquor, beers and sodas, and since it was a daytime flight, passengers did actually hang out there and had beers and other drinks. A flight attendant was back there every time I visited, making drinks for passengers and chatting.
Perhaps most interestingly, there was a coffee machine that made a number of different coffee drinks, though I didn’t try it out since I’m not a coffee drinker (I know, I’m weird).
Back to my seat, it was a pretty standard Super Diamond seat, which is a very good thing.
All the typical storage units were there, which I put my AirPods, wallet and passport in. Also within the larger storage unit was the headphone jack, a USB port and universal AC port, as well as the remote for the IFE system. I really love being able to keep cords out of sight but charge my phone and computer while using them at my seat.
Since I was at a window seat, the footwell was generous, though the placement of the tray did make it a little more difficult to raise my knees while sleeping or lounging.
In lie-flat mode, the bed measured 78 inches long, and the armrest next to the seat lowered to get a little extra surface area to sleep on.
Since I was traveling alone, a window seat was perfect for me, but if I were traveling with someone else, I’d likely pick a pair of seats in the center of the cabin.
Overall, while the cabin wasn’t particularly flashy, it was a massive improvement over the airline’s 787-8s, and it’s competitive with the rest of the industry — at least in terms of the hard product.
Amenities and IFE
Waiting at my seat for me upon boarding were a duvet, pillow and pair of headphones, and they all came together in the same plastic wrapping, which I thought was a lot better than other airlines that wrap every little piece in its own plastic. The airline-provided headphones — as you’d expect — were mediocre, but since I left my over-ear headphones at home, they were all I had, and they did the trick. I did like the bedding, though there was no mattress pad provided.
Amenity kits were handed out while the rest of the passengers were boarding. The kits came from the same company, Boggi Milano, that I had on my Aeromexico flight last year, but they were updated to an all-leather design. However, I couldn’t unzip mine, no matter how hard I tried. I flagged down a passing flight attendant, who also couldn’t open it, so I was given a new kit. That one opened just fine.
Inside the kit were socks, a comb, dental kit, (very useful) pen, lip balm, earplugs, an eye mask, body lotion and hand sanitizer.
The inflight-entertainment screen itself measured 18 inches and was sharp and responsive, though it was fixed, so it got harder to see as I reclined the seat further.
From a numbers perspective, the IFE system was pretty respectable, with almost 200 movies and over 50 TV shows, but I didn’t find the selection itself all that compelling — and that may very well be due to the fact that I fly so often that I have seen most of the movies I wanted to watch on airplane IFEs.
I ended up watching a few episodes of a documentary show about archaeological digs in Egypt with my meals, and slept for a surprisingly long time otherwise.
I also spent a little bit of time tracing our journey throughout the Americas with the inflight map. As I browsed through the intuitive interface of the IFE, I noticed that Aeromexico had a dedicated kid’s mode as well as two channels of live TV, so you should be able to keep yourself occupied if you’re less picky about what you want to watch than I am.
Aeromexico offers inflight Wi-Fi on its 789s, and I had three choices on my flight: a free texting package similar to its partner Delta’s; a 180 MB package for $19.95; and an unlimited, full-flight package for $39.95. I went for the full-flight package, since it was a pretty long flight, and it held a connection for the duration and was definitely usable. I was able to do work and stay in touch with colleagues on email and Slack.
Food and Beverage
Dine on Demand
Service in the cabin began a few minutes after I sat down, with flight attendants coming around and offering glasses of water, Champagne or orange juice. I went for the bubbly, but the pour was so light that I had to ask for another one, which the flight attendant brought back with a smile.
We took off at 10:51 a.m., and meal service started shortly after that at 11:12 a.m., with another round of drinks. I had another glass of Champagne while I waited for the meals to start coming out, which they did just several minutes later at 11:20 a.m.
In the menu, the “refreshment” course was listed first, which consisted of a fruit plate, a turkey sandwich and yogurt. This made sense to me, as it was only around noon and a light lunch seemed appropriate. However, when I was served a cheese plate and a Caprese salad, I realized that we were being served the lunch course, which was listed later in the menu.
Next up was the main course, for which there were four options: braised beef risotto with vegetables, yellowedge grouper with roasted vegetables and kabocha sauce, chicken saltimbocca with roasted corn and polenta, and pumpkin ravioli with cream sauce and vegetables. All were served with bread and a side salad.
Since I hadn’t expected to make this choice at this time, I was still struggling to make a decision when the flight attendant got to my seat, but I landed on the chicken, which ended up being a great decision. The chicken itself was tasty, the sauce was zesty, and I even enjoyed the polenta, which I don’t typically like. The corn and asparagus were both cooked well and a nice complement to the overall meal. The best part about it was that I didn’t feel weighed down and heavy after it, which often happens with airplane meals.
For dessert, there was tiramisu or ice cream. I simply cannot resist tiramisu, so that was an easy choice. It was pretty delicious, too, and definitely satisfied my sweet tooth.
The second meal, which I thought was going to be the first meal, was served about an hour and 45 minutes before landing. Like I mentioned before, it was a turkey sandwich. And, well, it was a turkey sandwich. I’d been impressed by the first meal, so this one definitely felt like a letdown, though it was a good portion and I liked that it was served with jalapeños to add a little more flavor. And the fruit it was served with tasted fresh.
I left a little confused as to what I should think about the food on this flight: I really enjoyed my first meal, but the second one didn’t seem at all business class to me. It was a substantial sandwich, but Delta also serves sandwiches in economy on its transcontinental flights between New York and Los Angeles and San Francisco.
With a little more effort in terms of the food and beverage offering, I have no doubt Aeromexico could be up there with some of the best in the world, especially considering the unparalleled food traditions of its home country.
I had a generally positive service experience on this flight, though the meal service was peculiar. I appreciate a relatively brisk meal, but during the first meal of this flight, the flight attendants didn’t even bother waiting until I was done with the current course to put the next one on my tray. At first, I thought it was just because I was almost to the end of my appetizers, but when I received my dessert as I was not even halfway through the entree, I definitely felt rushed.
Other than the pacing of the meal service, though, I had great interactions with the crew on this flight. Everyone was friendly, accommodating and patient with me — and didn’t laugh at me — when I spoke to them in Spanish.
I think with a little more polish, issues like the pacing of meal services could be avoided, and then it would be hard to fault the crew for anything.
Aeromexico offers a competitive business-class product, especially on the flights connecting North and South America. This is now my second experience with the carrier’s long-haul business class, and while it wasn’t perfect, I very much enjoyed my flight. I’d go out of my way to guarantee the 787-9 over the 787-8, too, as the seat really is a lot better. I hope that in the new year Aeromexico will once again offer great deals on premium fares like it has done for the last two years. That way, I’ll be sure to get back to my favorite continent and get well on my way to requalifying for Delta status while I’m at it.
All photos by the author.
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