Long Weekend in San Juan, Puerto Rico Trip Report – Flights

1) Introduction
2) Flights: American Airlines Business Class JFK – SJU & American Airlines Economy Class SJU – JFK
3) Hotel: Courtyard Marriott Isla Verde
4) Activities & Dining

I’ll start by covering our outbound flights to San Juan, for which we redeemed 20,000 British Airways Avios per person for Business class seats. I actually already wrote an Award Trip Breakdown post on the flights here but to summarize, I had the option to use Avios at a rate of 10,000 Avios per person for economy or 20,000 Avios for business. I wanted to start off our long weekend in style so I opted to burn the extra Avios for business class. And that is where I think I made a mistake.

I chose business class primarily due to the fact I literally have millions of points/miles and with them constantly devaluing, it made sense to me to start burning through some of them. I could “afford” the extra cost in miles and I would be able to have a little more comfort in a bigger seat, be able to enjoy a meal during dinnertime (since the flight was 5:30pm to 9:30pm) and some free drinks.

I knew American flew older 757’s on these routes and our seats definitely showed the age of the aircraft. As you can see in the photos below, our business class seats were straight out of the 1970s (which might have been when this plane was put into service). It was literally just a slightly bigger seat with limited recline and no in-seat entertainment. Seriously when was the last time you saw a business class seat on a mainstream jet without a personal TV? Better yet the overhead TV in business class wasn’t functioning properly with lines running throughout the picture and the color just non-existent (Andrea actually though the movie was in black & white).



The hard feature of the flight (seat, entertainment) were a letdown but the soft product (food, service) was pretty good. With American Airlines, you can pre-order your dinner up to 30 days in advance of your flight if you are confirmed in business or first class. I chose the chicken dish which came with a cocktail shrimp appetizer, salad, and bread. Andrea had the pasta dish (sorry I forgot to take a photo of it) but both dishes were perfectly edible and filing for us as our dinner. For dessert, we had ice cream sundaes and another round of drinks. The purser in business class was excellent, constantly offering to bring new drinks and generally was very proactive in his service.



For the return flight back to NY, I’ve already mentioned the lack of award availability for the flights we desired since we wanted to spend all day Sunday at the beach. Since we were “paying” for this flight with American Airlines gift cards, we were limited to economy seats that cost $208.50 each, quite steep for a one-way since I have seen roundtrip flights from NY to Puerto Rico under $240. However, we are American Express Platinum card holders and each calendar year we are entitled to a $200 airline credit, so our flights only cost us $8.50 each out of pocket.

I’ll keep this part short since the return flight in economy was uneventful and everyone knows what an economy flight is like. Thankfully we had priority boarding (due to the Citi Executive card) as the overhead bins filled up quite rapidly. We were in row 29 and AA’s 757 have about 31 inches of seat pitch, making it kind of tight for a 6’3” guy like myself. Again, no seatback entertainment but I caught up on some work for the blog and the 3.5 hour flight passed smoothly enough. One mild surprise? The flight attendant gave us the whole can of soda (yes I know I’m stretching for something exciting on this flight).

So to summarize the flights, was business class a better experience than economy? No doubt. But was it worth the extra 10,000 Avios per person which conservatively is valued at $150-$200 dollars per person? That’s where its a bit tougher and I’m leaning towards no. Yes, the meal and drinks were a nice touch but I had ample time to eat before my flight and I wouldn’t have paid for any drinks in the airport. The seat was marginally better but definitely not worth it as it was the worst business class seat I’ve ever seen.

For this short flight I was probably better off saving 10,000 miles to sit in economy. This is especially true for those out there who are just beginning in this game of ours or have smaller mileage balances. Those 10,000 miles could get you a roundtrip NY to Boston flight as I described here. Or it could have covered my return flight home if there was award availability. For shorter flights (under 4 hours), I won’t be redeeming miles for business class unless I have an overly compelling reason to, such as to try a premium product or a shorter red eye where a better seat does go a long way.



One thought on “Long Weekend in San Juan, Puerto Rico Trip Report – Flights

  1. […] a newly renovated room and they responded they would do their best but could not guarantee it. Our flight landed around 9:30pm, and since the hotel is only a 5-7 minute drive from the airport, we were at the hotel around […]


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