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.
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]
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777-300ER on December 11, 2012 and the airline is looking to use this aircraft to help move their image forward from an out of date legacy carrier to a being a true competitor on the world stage.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
|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