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My Review: Flying Business Class on American Airlines 777-300ER

American Airlines Boeing 777-300ER at a cloudy JFK.

American Airlines Boeing 777-300ER at a cloudy JFK.

AMERICAN AIRLINES BUSINESS CLASS REVIEW BASICS:

Airline: American Airlines
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER (N719AN)
Departed: John F Kennedy International Airport (JFK)
Arrived: London Heathrow Airport (LHR)
Stops: Non-stop flight
Class: Business Class
Seat: 9A to and 8J back
Length: About 6 hours

Cheers: Amazing new Business Class product that goes head-to-head with international carriers.
Jeers: Still some grumpy employees who need to smile more.
Overall: American is not just talking the talk; they are walking the walk — they just need to walk a bit farther.

Over a good 18 hour period, I would spend 12 of it in this and another seat just like it. That is not a bad thing.

Over a good 18 hour period, I would spend 12 of it in this and another seat just like it. That is not a bad thing.

FULL AMERICAN AIRLINES BOEING 777-300ER REVIEW

“Did I get on the right plane?” was my first thought as I was able to pre-pre board American’s new Boeing 777-300ER to get some photos before my flight. I had previously seen others fly on American’s new plane, but one has to see the new product in person to really appreciate the change.

I was recently invited to take a flight from New York to London (and back — see that 12,000 mile journey in 40 hours journey here) to try American’s new gem first hand; their 777-300ER. [note: American covered my flights to and from London for this story, but all opinions are my own]

American has their Business Class in a 1-2-1 layout in the 777-300ER.

American has their Business Class in a 1-2-1 layout in the 777-300ER.

The Boeing 777-300ER is by no means a new aircraft. It was first delivered to Air France on April 29, 2004 and since then has been delivered to almost two dozen airlines around the world — but none based in the US.

This has now changed with American taking delivery of their first 777-300ER on December 11, 2012 and the airline is looking to use this aircraft to help move their image forward from an out of date legacy carrier to a being a true competitor on the world stage.

Seeing the old American livery outside the new 777 before departure was pretty rad.

Seeing the old American livery outside the new 777 before departure was pretty rad.

During boarding, it was easy finding my seat and get settled. American’s new Business Class window seat will instantly be approved by AvGeeks. The seat faces outward towards the window which makes spotting much easier than your more forward-facing seat. The angle isn’t enough to be off-putting during take off, cruise or landing and might not be fully noticed at first glance, so it should not be bothersome to non-AvGeeks.

This is an AvGeek's view.

This is an AvGeek’s view. Taxiing at JFF — which takes forever.

The Business Class product also has a plethora of nooks and crannies to store all your stuff. This is great that all your things will have a home, but it is also important to make sure to check all these storage locations after landing to make sure nothing was left behind.

One of the treats flying in a premium product is the pre-take off drinks. I was a bit disappointed that no champagne was offered during boarding on either leg. At least on the way over juice and water was served, but that sparkling wine just takes things up a notch. Although the bubbly is welcome any time of the day, my flight departed JFK at 7:10pm and LHR at 12:35pm — prime time for some champagne.

The plus: lots of places to store your stuff. The minus: lots of places to lose your stuff.

The plus: lots of places to store your stuff. The minus: lots of places to lose your stuff.

Take off for both flights were very different. On the way over to London I was glued to the window watching all the different airline liveries that I do not get to see often. On the way home, I sat down and pretty much fell asleep. A few hours later, I woke up to find my seat partly reclined and blankets on me. I must have woken up at some point and done that, but I do not remember.

I have to say that both are good ways to spend take off and the product makes it easy to stay awake or sleep.

The triple threat: eating, moving watching and blogging. Boo ya.

The triple threat: eating, movie watching and blogging. Boo ya.

An important part of an overall business product is the food and American did not disappoint. The first meal comprised of a starter smoked salmon with spring pea blinis and cream cheese. This was also served with a green salad and bread.

The entree choices were red Thai curry chicken, chip crusted halibut, brie and leek ravioli pasta or beef filet. I went for the beef which was crusted in Boursin cheese served with wilted spinach, balsamic grilled tomatoes and whipped potatoes.

To wrap things up was either a cheese plate or ice cream sundae. I think the idea of having some frozen cream at 30,000 feet to be a pretty amazing feat, so I went for the ice cream, which was huge.

Do not forget to check out the bar between the first and business cabins.

Do not forget to check out the bar between the first and business cabins.

Shortly after the meal, the flight attendants set up a premium bar area between the First and Business class cabins. There were many different choices of food that were all visually and tastefully impressive. It did not seem to be used much during our flight, which makes sense since it is only about six hours. I would imagine this option is more widely used during longer flights, not only for snacking, but also for meeting other passengers.

In flight entertainment system.

In flight entertainment system.

The in-flight entertainment (IFE) system comprises of a large touch screen and many different options. Unlike many other touch-screen IFE systems, American’s seemed to respond accurately to touches versus having to push hard or multiple times. It was intuitive and easy to use and provided enough options to keep a frequent flier entertained.

The huge plus of the system was the ability to work on a laptop (mine is not too big), while watching movies. Heck, I was even able to eat my food on my tray, have my laptop going on the shelf to my left and still watch my movie — the perfect multi-tasking trifecta.

It is nice to always look over and see where your flight is located. Unless you are sleeping.

It is nice to always look over and see where your flight is located. Unless you are sleeping.

You might even consider the fact that there are screens on the cabin ceiling showing the flight’s current location as the perfect quad-fecta. Normally you have to change your IFE to see your current flight status. The down side of these monitors was they remain quite bright during the sleep cycle and were a bit annoying while sleeping.

The lighting on American’s 777-300ER was reminiscent of the new Boeing 787 which a slow change of different light settings to help passengers transition to a new time zone.

The Business Class is in a 1:2:1 layout.

The First Class is in a 1:2:1 layout.

American is currently offering free Wi-Fi on their 777-300ER’s which is a nice option, but it helps keeping your expectations low. I was able to get download speeds of almost 1 Mbps and upload speeds of 0.04 Mbps.

If you do not know what those numbers mean, they mean you can only do basic internet operations — if you are lucky. It is hard to complain when it is free, but when they start charging, passengers will likely have expectations of higher speeds.

A nice view to wake up to.

A nice view to wake up to.

There is no question that American is moving forward with a great product on their Boeing 777-300ER, but probably the aspect which is the most important and possibly the weakest right now is customer service.

Obviously this is not everyone I interacted with — there were surely a few gems (mostly on my domestic flight to and from Seattle). But from the ticket agents in to the lounge staff in London to those on-board  I just have not run into so many apathetic people.

I am an advocate for airline employees and understand that working for an airline is not the easiest job in the world right now. However, to be brutally honest here, the customer does not care. They expect a certain level of customer service.

What would a review be with out that classic photo of the GE90 out the window? Incomplete, that is what.

What would a review be with out that classic photo of the GE90 out the window? Incomplete, that is what.

It is much easier to buy a shiny new plane and put in a great product than it is to make a company-wide effort to improve customer service. After speaking to multiple people on and off record, I feel that American is looking to make this change, but it will take time. The new merger with US Airways gives opportunities for both airlines to come out of the merger with a stronger sense of service.

Thank you Boeing 777-300ER for my fun adventure. My plane sitting at JFK.

Thank you Boeing 777-300ER for my fun adventure. My plane sitting at JFK.

There are not many international airlines that I think can beat American Airlines new Business Class product on the Boeing 777-300ER. However, passengers might be willing to try the “new American,” but many might not be willing to return with the current level of service.

Not much happens quickly in the airline business, so I want to give the airline a bit more time before placing final judgement on their overall product (seats, meal, IFE and service). For now, I am quite optimistic.

SEE WAY MORE AMERICAN AIRLINES BOEING 777-300ER PHOTOS.

This story written by… David Parker Brown, Editor & Founder. David started AirlineReporter.com in the summer of 2008, but has had a passion for aviation since he was a kid. Born and raised in the Seattle area (where he is currently based) has surely had an influence and he couldn’t imagine living anywhere else in the world.@AirlineReporter | Flickr | YouTube

16 comments to My Review: Flying Business Class on American Airlines 777-300ER

  • Simon Allardice (@simonallardice)

    Nice review David, looks like a really great product! I do so hope the customer service improves….am I right in thinking, that this leaves United as the only US carrier not to have a direct aisles business class option? I think so.

  • Hou Kong

    Not many international airlines that can beat their product? I think they ‘stole’, ‘copied’ their ideas from the Cathay Pacific Business Class. Cathay, Singapore, along with Asiana’s Quadra Smartum just to name a few. But their new aircraft is certainly a milestone for AA’s history.

  • GJGalik

    After just flying a total of 30 hrs r/t to Shanghai in American coach – I’d rate that experience the worst of my life. Inhumane seat pitch, and flight attendants that wouldn’t pass water for a 13 hr flight, to a seat pocket filled with loose snack mix. Their B777s aging and the interiors show it. The AVOD had a big black line across screen and looked like it was ready to blow any minute. Me just one pax with this experience…incredible. Airlines should realize my interest in scaling up to C class rests on how I’m treated overall prior!

  • Flyer24

    Great review David. This week I flew on AA flight 50 to London from DFW and was also impressed with the new accommodations in business class. Since all business class fares are about the same, I usually fly the airline with the best overall experience which is normally not a U.S. carrier. I believe that American has a very competitive product here, and I, like you, believe they still need work on the customer service end in flight. It’s better, but not great and certainly not as good as some international airlines.

  • Reader41

    Enjoy your reviews. Keep them coming. Sadly, American will continue to be the poor man’s way to fly International. They, along with the other US airlines, will lag behind the many airlines which provide superior product and services (Emirates, Cathay, Singapore, Qatar, et al). Yes, to even compete, American will need a frontal lobotomy in terms of customer service. Until the next bankruptcy …

  • 3mm Flyer Bill

    Great review. Makes me want to fly AA again. Please keep these review coming. AA customer service always seems to need some work…not that UA is any better.

  • Philabos

    I think you hit the nail on the head with your “apathetic” comment.
    I flew a BA 777-236 from London to Newark two weeks ago in Y. Cheerful, friendly crew, wine served with a very good lunch. Plane bright and clean, great entertainment system. Check-in and security at Heathrow a breeze. It is amazing how security people can actually be smiling and helpful instead of bellowing at everyone. Extremely comfortable seats. Earlier trips in business on VA and Y on SAS equally delightful.
    Last trip on AA 5 years ago DFW-Osaka – misery never to be repeated. Apparently their service hasn’t improved.
    As you stated, no point in nice hardware if they are bored with their customers.

  • will 01230

    I am flying from JFK to London (American Airlines 777-300er) with my wife for our anniversary. We are flying business class, and from what I have seen in photos, looks like we may be quite separated if we sit in middle, 2-seat row. I know business travelers enjoy privacy, but I’d like to enjoy my wife’s company on the flight. Can anyone who’s flown on this aircraft comment on this?

    • Hey Will,

      The two center seats would be your best bet as they face each other, but still not so close… http://www.flickr.com/photos/airlinereporter/8593667947/in/set-72157633102414310

      David

      • Lidia

        Hi David,
        Thanks for the suggestion. I’m flying with my husband and nowhere online, on any forum or blog or website (except for you here), is there any mention or suggestion for spouses flying the 777-300. I appreciate your feedback. From looking at your photo, it seems impossible that my husband and I would be sitting close to each other, it seems as if we couldn’t even see each other, especially if we’re sitting back in our seats. It seems as if spouses don’t fly business class together (?) because there is zero accommodation for people sitting together and being able to enjoy each other’s company and interacting easily (and because it seems no one is talking about this online). Initially we selected window-middle seat to have our heads closer to each other, but we’ll take your advice and both sit in the middle. Thanks!

  • Peter

    I think there’s a mistake here.

    In the photo with the caption, “The Business Class is in a 1:2:1 layout,” I believe that is the new AA first class, not the reverse-herringbone business class.

  • Stan

    It’s extremely difficult for a company whose main business is the narrow-body domestic flights (with little service) to have a completely different type of service level in their international long-hauls. Therefore I just don’t see AA (or any major US carriers) getting anywhere close to Singapore, Cathay Pacific, or Emirates in foreseeable future.

    Same reason Singapore gave all A320 routes to Silk Air, I guess. By only operating wide-bodies to premium destinations, they are able to keep their pride, branding and service at consistently high level.

    Don’t get me wrong, I like the friendly (and usually funny) flight attendants in domestic routes. They make the 3-hour flight in a small 737 feel shorter. But for international long-haul business travel, you expect something different (like the impeccable service and professionalism).

  • Jason W

    Wow the plane is indeed great in biz class. But the service! Hit or miss as always with American. Unfortunately my rountrip to London on the 777 ER was a miss.

    On the way from New York, one glass of wine before the meal, no wine service during dinner, and no offers for any beverages at all, even during dessert. I finally asked. That’s not the way it should be. FA forgot to offer me bread or salad dressing and even forgot the BUTTER and even haughtily insinuated I was hiding it somewhere as she looked around my seat. Really? Not friendly and not top notch.

    Same thing on the way back–forgotten serivce items and no automatic wine refills. When I asked for one they were very nice about bringing it–but again not the way it should be, especially on this plane.

    The 777 300 er is amazing. Come on American. I have had far better domestic service than I had on this dissapointing roundtrip.

  • jm

    I fly internationally in business once a month. Fortunately, I don’t deal with American as my previous business class experiences were dismal. Main reason for my disappointment was the service. I found the flight attendants dismissive, surly and unaccommodating. Of note, most are “more mature” and have obviously logged substantial hours…..possibly, too many. If you can’t play the part(with a smile) than give it up to someone who will. There’s no point in paying a premium when the service is not ingratiating and your carrier options are numerous.

    A final note to American’s flight attendants….. business class clients are not all are whitered white men in khaki’s and blue suit jackets. Wake up to the modern world or you’ll loose relevance. That is, if you haven’t already. Good luck American.

  • WolfA.de Vallette

    Whereas First & Business class are always top of the line, AAL should enforce more of a dress code and code of behavior in tourist class. Obese passengers should pay for and occupy two seats, overhead bins should be for the seat underneath, oversize luggage should not e allowed to be carried into the cabin.

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