AirTran Airways Business Class Review
I've flown with AirTran Airways a number of times, in both coach and business class. I will review my experiences with business class, as there are many coach reviews, and few business class reviews. Overall, I do recommend business class as long as you know what to expect.
My experiences with business class has been mostly pleasant. Each time was an upgrade as I checked in on-line. The process is easy, and walks you through the steps with ease. Changing seats interface is a bit clumsy, though. You also get to declare how many bags one is going to check, I think with business class you get a 2 bag allowance with no fees. Checking in 24 hours online in advance gives the best chance of seat preference.
Business class gets priority baggage check and security queue. This alone is a great perk for those who's time is valuable, and the airport is busy. Service is prompt, and usually professional and courteous for business class travelers. I did have a few incidents where the attendant was a bit rude upon check-in, where they must've thought I was in the wrong line or something ("Sir, this line is for business class..."), although they did become courteous once they confirmed my status.
The security queue is usually out of the individual airline's hands, but having priority through the queue is nice especially when there's time constraints.
Boarding is a bit odd, business class travelers do get priority boarding, although it hardly matters it seems. The attendants seem to rattle off each boarding zone after a few seconds which makes the zones seem redundant, and the boarding line just becomes a big herd. Though in all honesty, it's best for business class travelers to board close to last (especially if one has an aisle seat), since the cabin gets crowded as passengers pass through. Once seated, the flight attendant usually will offer a pre-flight drink. It is good that business class overhead storage is reserved, most of the time.
The seats are comfortable, and roomy (in comparison to coach). There isn't too much difference in the quality between the two main planes of Airtran -- The Boeing 717 and the 737. I do think the 737 is generally nicer. It is a great step-up from coach in quality and comfort. Generally the cabin is clean (in comparison to coach), earlier flights are cleaner while later flights tend to have more trash and crumbs scattered about. The big perks here are leg room and elbow room. The underseat bag storage is a bit cramped, and business passengers in the first row have to keep bags in the overhead -- there's no other storage, which can be inconvenient. However, there's a lot more leg room in that row. The cabin can be a bit loud, though it's fairly easy to just drone out the noise, although it does make speaking to the flight attendants a bit more difficult than needed. There's XM radio, although I've never used it. There is a lavatory in the front, which is primarily for business class, as the flight attendants generally announce that the rear lavatories is for coach. However, the front one can be utilized by coach if the rear is occupied.
In-flight service really depends on the flight attendants, though you can expect a few complementary drinks and a couple snacks. The GO magazine has a list of the drinks available in back, I'd recommend using it to help facilitate service if one is unfamiliar with what's available. Asking the flight attendant can be hit or miss. Generally, the flight attendants are courteous, and friendly, to everyone in the cabin. I have been on flights were the flight attendants were selective in service, rude to some passengers, while going out of the way for other passengers. Some flight attendants were short-tempered, others had seemingly eternal patience. I was, however, put off by a couple flight attendants that were rude towards my pregnant wife once (who had to use the bathroom plenty of times in-flight), and towards my young daughter (who was well-behaved, I'm thinking that flight attendant just didn't like children in business class). Overall though, the service is decent, as expected.
It's also a nice perk to exit the plane first to head to baggage claim or one's next gate.
My gripes with AirTran isn't with business class per se', which is what this review is about, but about general service, which I will state briefly. I have issues with how they handle luggage, since each time at least one checked luggage item gets minor, usually repairable, damage (a small rip or tear usually, with nothing lost though). The gate attendants tend to be a bit rude, sometimes understandably though. I don't like that gate changes tend to go unannounced at certain airports. I really don't like the aggressive AirTran credit card hawkers, some of them are really unprofessional.
I do recommend business class as an upgrade option, it's worth its price for the piece of mind when traveling on time constraints for the baggage check and security queue alone in many instances (like at Washington Reagan National Airport). The extra comfort is decent, as is the complemtary snack and beverage. Depending on how one plays their cards, one can get this service fairly cheap too (like still significantly cheaper than full fare coach).