I flew business class on the only Dreamliner route between the US and Mexico — here's what it was like

David Slotnick/Business Insider
  • While most flights within North America are operated by narrow-body aircraft – except for major flagship routes like New York to Los Angeles or New York to Miami – there’s one flight a day between New York and Mexico City flown by a modern 787 Dreamliner.
  • Aeromexico – which operates a joint venture with Delta – has one flight a day with the new, luxurious plane.
  • The airline says it uses the Dreamliner to offer a premium experience on the important route, and to increase capacity.
  • I flew in business class on the route to see what it was like.

Joint ventures are a popular way for airlines to work together beyond the typical practices enabled by airline alliances and codeshares.

These partnerships allow separate carriers, which would otherwise compete on certain routes, to coordinate schedules, pricing, and equipment. The airlines in the venture can grab a corner of the market, and together offer stronger competition against third-party competitors. Unlike other partnerships like alliances, joint ventures are immune from anti-trust regulations.

In addition to trans-oceanic joint ventures – like American Airlines, British Airways, and Iberia over the Atlantic – plenty of these agreements exist between airlines from neighbouring countries.

Looking towards the south, Delta and AeroMexico have been operating a joint venture since 2017, strengthening the pre-existing relationship the airlines already had as founding members of the SkyTeam alliance.

With dozens of flights each day between the US and Mexico on both carriers, the partnership means that it’s possible for passengers to book an itinerary throughout both airlines’ route networks, opening a wide range of destinations and connections.

The on-board experience

Despite booking between the two airlines being seamless, your actual experience can vary dramatically – much more so than on American Airlines compared to British Airways across the Atlantic, another joint venture.

For example, AeroMexico serves full meals on most of its flights between the US and Mexico, while Delta only offers snacks and purchasable options in coach.

If you fly the busy New York-Mexico City route, the other big difference you may spot is the type of aircraft you fly.

Delta’s operations to Mexico, and most of AeroMexico to the US, are operated by narrow-body aircraft like the Boeing 737 aircraft, the venerable short- and medium-haul workhorse.

However, Aeromexico elects to operate one flight a day between New York City and Mexico City with a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, the modern, long-haul, wide-body plane usually used for intercontinental flights.

Aeromexico has a total of 17 Dreamliners in its fleet, according to Airfleets.net – both 787-8s and larger 787-9s.

While it uses most of those Dreamliners on flights to Europe, Asia, and to farther-away destinations in South America, it reserves one for the daily New York flight.

Although the 787-9 – with its range of more than 9,000 miles, might be a bit overkill for the approximately 2,100 mile flight between the two cities, Aeromexico says it has compelling reasons to use the plane.

“We wanted to offer a premium experience to our passengers, in one of our most demanding routes, and also to provide a seat capacity increase” said Emilio Diaz, a spokesman for Aeromexico.

Recently, I had the opportunity to fly Aeromexico’s 787-9 from JFK to Mexico City, the first segment in a trip to Santiago, Chile. My wife and I took advantage of an incredible business class sale last fall, which let us snag seats in the front cabin for around the normal price of coach on that route. We continued from Santiago to Easter Island, but the connection in Mexico City offered a great opportunity to see what Aeromexico’s JFK Dreamliner service was like.

AeroMexico flies out of JFK Terminal 4, which predominately services Delta. Check-in was easy, with a dedicated SkyPriority area for business class passengers and SkyTeam elites. There happened to be a large group in front of us, but we were able to drop our bags after just a few minutes.

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Aeromexico doesn’t have its own lounge at JFK, so business class passengers can use Delta’s Sky Club. I usually fly Delta so I’ve been in this Sky Club a number of times — it can get crowded, but there’s usually plenty of seating. This time, for some reason, it was absolutely overflowing. Eventually we found seats, and had a quick snack before heading to the gate just in time for boarding to start.

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We were on board fairly quickly. AeroMexico’s 787-9 features seats made by B/E Aerospace laid out in a desirable 1-2-1 reverse herringbone configuration, so every passenger has direct aisle access, without having to step over anyone. This is especially useful since the seats are all lie-flat and turn into fully-flat beds.

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Middle seats are angled in towards each other. This gets you the best of both worlds — if you’re travelling with someone you know, you can easily talk to each other, but if you’re solo, the seats are far enough away from each other (or, when you’re lying down, the heads are far enough away from each other) that it still feels relatively private. Of course, the window seats are the most private.

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Each seat had a plastic-wrapped pillow and blanket waiting on it, as well as a pair of headphones on the storage area. Most business class flights also feature an amenity kit — however, the JFK–MEX route is too short and consequently has a few service items cut from the traditional international business class offerings.

David Slotnick/Business Insider

It’s always a little awkward to hold on to all that stuff while you wait to take off, but the reverse-herringbone business class seats had plenty of storage room — I stuffed mine into the roomy foot cubby (when you recline your seat, your feet go onto the ottoman).

David Slotnick/Business Insider

Each seat also had a large flat screen in-flight entertainment monitor.

David Slotnick/Business Insider

We were offered a choice of drinks when we sat down as boarding continued — we went for the sparkling wine…

David Slotnick/Business Insider

…And given menus for the flight. Because it was daytime, we had the regular meal service.

David Slotnick/Business Insider

There was also a sizeable drinks list.

David Slotnick/Business Insider

One great feature was that each seat had personal air nozzles. While this is common on US airlines and most other North American carriers, it isn’t always a given on foreign airlines, particularly those based in Asia or Europe.

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After a short taxi and take-off, we were in the air. Business class meal service began rather quickly after take-off with a light cheese course, and a full drink cart.

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For lunch, I had the chicken. It was tasty — definitely a step above what you’d get in domestic first class, and more akin to what a US or European airline would serve on a trans-Atlantic business class flight.

David Slotnick/Business Insider

For dessert, there was a choice of cheesecake or ice cream. I went for the latter, which was served in a personal-sized Häagen Dazs container.

David Slotnick/Business Insider

After lunch (right before dessert came), I checked in on our flight’s status on the in-flight entertainment. We were a little bit less than halfway there, so I reclined my seat…

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…And put on a movie. I dozed off, and woke up shortly before landing. Once we reached the terminal, the business class cabin disembarked, followed by economy. We made our way through immigration and customs, before heading to an airport hotel for a short overnight layover.

David Slotnick/Business Insider

The next morning, we continued on to Santiago. That flight, clocking in at around eight hours, is operated by a 787 as well — usually the 787-8, but an equipment swap landed us with the same type of plane — a 787-9 — that flew us from New York.

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Ultimately, the flight was a similar experience, just longer. It also had a pre-landing snack, and, since it was a true long-haul flight, we got an amenity kit.

David Slotnick/Business Insider

The opportunity to fly on the spacious, comfortable 787 Dreamliner for the 4-5 hour flight to Mexico City is a treat. The flight may not be too long, but it’s long enough to appreciate the wider body, less claustrophobic feeling, and optimised environmental and lighting controls of the Dreamliner.

While business class was excellent, even economy class on a Dreamliner beats what you’d normally find on a flight within North America.

If you’re booking a flight between New York and Mexico City, make sure to take note of the aircraft type on the booking page. Only one daily flight is operated by the Dreamliner, so you may find yourself on a 737 instead.

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