The “New” American to Europe: American Airlines Business Class New York to London

Introduction
American Airlines Business Class New York to London
Andaz Amsterdam
American Airlines Business Class London to New York


In the interest of full disclosure I was a guest of American Airlines on these flights, though all opinions expressed are my own.

American 100
New York (JFK) – London (LHR)

Monday, March 18
Depart: 7:10PM
Arrive: 6:20AM (+1 day)
Duration: 7hr10min
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER
Seat: 3A (Business Class)

About 20 minutes before boarding was scheduled to begin a few of us (including Gary and someone from Airline Weekly) got the chance to tour all cabins on the new plane, and I shared my impressions of all cabins in this post, so check that out for my detailed thoughts (and pictures) of first class, business class, Main Cabin Extra, and coach. So I’ll focus less on the cabin and more on the flight experience with this post, since it was an interesting flight to say the least.


Main business class cabin


Bulkhead business class seat


Business class seat


Business class seats


Business class seats

Several of the crew members on the outbound were downright rude (unlike on the return, which interestingly matched Gary’s experiences, even though he was on a different flight), even while we were getting a tour of the aircraft before boarding started. Time was tight and we were getting a tour just a few minutes before boarding was set to begin, and as I was walking up to my seat one of the crew members asked “which seat are you in, because you need to take your seat?” I acknowledged her and said I was in 3A, and continued to stand to the side waiting for some crew members to pass so I wasn’t in their way. Just a few seconds later she said “when I say you need to take your seats I mean now.” Meow!

Fortunately I was seated in the business class mini cabin, which consists of just two rows immediately behind first class and in front of the second door. It’s so private that it almost feels like first class.


Business class mini cabin

I was in the bulkhead, 3A, which had ample legroom and a sizable cutout in the bulkhead. It’s worth noting, however, that the seat only has one window, in case that’s a consideration for anyone.


My seat, 3A

I settled into my seat quickly, and immediately noticed the abundance of storage. There was a storage compartment at the side of the seat where the amenity kit was located, along with a mirror and a headphone hook.


Storage

Also below that was a huge storage compartment which could hold anything from shoes to a laptop.


More storage

Also at my seat were the standard business class pillow and blanket, which are plenty comfortable.


Pillow and blanket


Amenity kit contents

During boarding pre-departure beverages were served, and I selected an orange juice.


Pre-departure beverage

Menus, Fast Track cards for Heathrow, and Bose headphones were distributed.


Menu

As departure time rolled around the captain came on the PA to advise us of our flight time of 6hr36min. He explained that while we were ready to go we needed to be de-iced, and the Air Berlin plane parked next to us was being de-iced first, so we’d push back within about 20 minutes. 20 minutes quickly turned into an hour, at which point we finally pushed back and were de-iced.


View on de-icing


View on de-icing


View on de-icing

We taxied to the runway where there must have been a couple dozen planes ahead of us in the queue for takeoff at this point. After waiting in the queue for probably 45 minutes I noticed we were taxiing out of the sequence. A few minutes later the captain announced that the weather had deteriorated and that we had to takeoff within 25 minutes of de-icing, a window we had missed.

So we taxied back to the gate to wait out the storm, and it became apparent at this point that it would be several more hours. They opened the main cabin door and said people were free to leave, though also explained that if anyone decided not to take the flight it would be several days before they’d be rebooked and that their bags would still go to London. Over the next hour or so a few people deplaned voluntarily, and one lady deplaned involuntarily, as she was escorted off by four police officers. Since I was seated right by the main door I overheard her mouthing off at the flight attendants about how they should have effing anticipated the delay, and it was all their fault. They weren’t having any of it, so immediately called a supervisor and then the police. She refused to leave and put up a fight.

At this point they started passing out water bottles and granola bars, realizing how long the delay would be.


Granola bar


Water

The delay turned out to be quite fun. The three of us were actually all changed into our American PJs from previous flights (I swear it wasn’t planned), and spent much of the delay talking, so we certainly didn’t mind it. Besides, the later we’d leave the better sleep we’d get, since the flight would actually overlap hours that I’d otherwise be asleep.

The entertainment system was available on the ground, so I browsed the selection, which was much better than their old selection, with tons of movies and TV shows.


Entertainment selection

As the delay continued to drag on and we approached the four hour mark the crew served drinks and more granola bars.


Granola bar and drink

At around midnight they finally closed the aircraft door again, I think because the crew was getting close to timing out. Once the door closed the flight attendants by the door started packing up their stuff and saying “if the door opens again we’re done for the night.” Fortunately it didn’t.

Finally at around 12:30AM the captain announced that we had been cleared to de-ice, and we began our taxi to runway 4L for departure. At 1AM local time we were finally airborne.

Once we were airborne and passed through 10,000 feet I immediately connected to the onboard wifi. I can’t even begin to say how quickly international inflight wifi has grown on me, and it couldn’t help but put a smile on my face. Best of all it was free as an introductory offer, as you can see below. The speed was pretty decent as well, faster than what I got on both Emirates and Turkish recently.


Free wifi!

Once we leveled off the service began, starting with drinks and hot nuts.


Diet Coke with lime and hot nuts

The dinner menu read as follows:

And the drinks list read as follows:

The first tray had the appetizer and salad. The appetizer consisted of smoked salmon on blinins, which I thought was an interesting twist on their usual appetizer. The salad was also one of the best I’ve had on American, given that it was more than just lettuce. They also had pretzel bread in the bread basket, which is my favorite.


Smoked salmon with spring pea blinins and cream cheese

For the main course I had the chip crusted halibut. Not only was it nicely plated, but it was one of the most flavorful fish dishes I’ve had on American, and that’s despite the fact that it didn’t come with a sauce ramekin, unlike most of their entrees.


Chip crusted halibut

For dessert I had the ice cream sundae, which you really can’t go wrong with. I’ll take that any day over Lufthansa’s first class desserts, like the cold elderflower soup. 😉


Ice cream sundae

While the flight attendant working my aisle wasn’t especially charming, service was quick, which may in part be thanks to my seat in the mini cabin.

After dinner I was tired and decided to maximize my sleep for the rest of the flight given that I had five hours to go to London.


My seat in bed position


My seat in bed position

The biggest compliment I can give the seat is that I fell asleep within minutes and woke up less than 20 minutes out of London. It was the most sleep I’ve ever gotten on a flight from the east coast to Europe.


Position upon waking up

And while I didn’t partake in it, here’s what the breakfast menu looked like:

Our descent into London was smooth and it was a fairly nice day (at least by UK standards).


View on approach


View on approach

We had an extremely smooth touchdown at 11:20AM local time, exactly five hours behind schedule.


Terminal three traffic


Terminal three traffic


Our arrival gate

Conclusion

Obviously this flight faced quite a few challenges. The weather is outside of American’s control, so I just viewed the extra six hours as a fun adventure. The service on this flight was frankly disappointing, and a couple of the flight attendants were downright rude. But every airline has their good and bad apples, and conversely my crew on the return was excellent.

The food on this flight was quite good. To be honest I think airlines like Austrian and Turkish lead the pack for business class catering, and after a handful of airlines there’s a big gap. But I do find American’s business class catering to be generally good, and I felt the dinner on this flight was one of the better ones I’ve had.

But let’s talk about the seat for a second. This isn’t even specific to American. Cathay Pacific has exactly the same seat in business class on all their longhaul aircraft. Both Delta and US Airways also have very similar seats on their 747s and A330s, respectively.

When I flew this product for the first time on Cathay Pacific last year I said the following:

Cathay Pacific’s new business class product is a huge winner, and makes even me rethink the value of first class. US Airways has a similar product on their Airbus 330 aircraft, and American will soon be rolling out a similar product on their 777-300ER aircraft. This is no doubt the business class product of the future.

And I still believe that to be the case. These reverse herringbone seats are in my opinion by far the most comfortable business class seats out there, and I’ve done just about all the types of products out there, from herringbone on Air Canada and Virgin Atlantic, to staggered on Austrian and Brussels, to fully flat on Turkish, etc.

In fact I’d argue that the seat is just about on par with British Airways first class, which offers a very similar design. While the British Airways seat has slightly more privacy it lacks storage, so I’m not sure there’s a clear winner there.

I can’t wait to see the 777-300ERs rolled out on more routes and the 777-200s to be reconfigured with the new product as well.

Enjoy this review? Check out hundreds of other reports on airlines, hotels, and airport lounges worldwide!

Comments

  1. Thanks for the report, Lucky, looks like AA has a winner, I agree having tried CX new J in Asia, it’s a great seat.

    I’m looking at a trip next year SFO-BHX (Birmingham) either booking UA F and hoping to get LH last minute via FRA or MUC, or maybe try new AA first or biz thru LAX to LHR and bus to Birmingham.

    How likely is it AA will keep current new config of 777-300 on the LAX-LHR route for next year?

    Also, I’ve never done a switch from a booked award on UA metal to LH F last minute, can it be done online or do you have to call in? And have you noticed F availability on LH SFO-FRA or MUC drying up recently even looking only two weeks out?

    Thanks a lot!

  2. I’ve been on American’s business class to London and I have to agree with your assessment. The food has definitely improved and the seats are comfortable. I too wouldn’t have minded an extra hour or two to sleep!

  3. Looks like AA made the right choice to go with CX’s customized design using the Cirrus seats. The version that Delta and US Airways has is the same that EVA Air is having installed on their 777-300ER fleet as well. It seems that their version is a tiny bit different with slightly less storage. Speaking of which, Lucky any plans to try out China Airlines and or Eva Air? The former has a first class product and it seems the latter has a decent business class product too.

  4. @ Dan — Ultimately it’s anyone’s guess, though I’d say there’s a very good chance they’ll keep the 77W on the LAX route once the service starts.

    Lufthansa is indeed getting much stingier with releasing first class award space even closer to departure. Space out of SFO is especially tough, possibly the toughest of anywhere in North America. You have a much better chance of finding Lufthansa first class if you’re willing to connect elsewhere in the US.

  5. I generally think trip reports are the garbage content of the points and miles world but I really enjoy yours.

  6. @ wctl — I’m working on trying Eva’s new business class, though not sure about China Airlines. Would like to do China Southern and Air China’s new first class first, since they have great products from the looks of it.

  7. @ Chris — I haven’t flown them yet, though I think those that Japan Airlines have are probably the second best option after reverse herringbone. The downside of those seats is that they don’t have quite as much personal space and don’t all have direct aisle access.

  8. Sorry if this has been asked before, but have you heard anything on the timeline for reconfiguring the 777-200s to the new biz class?

  9. What was the rude crew member thinking? You were clearly a blogger/media personality getting an tour of the plane pre-boarding. I really question her thought process. If a flight attendant can’t be polite to a blogger who is obviously going to write about the flight, maybe AA needs to evaluate whether she is in the right job.

  10. Why does AA invest in new planes, new technology, new seats but still insists to not learn from Cathay, Singapore or Emirates on how to treat customers well. If you read other bloggers that also tried the AA new 777 to London and Sao Paulo most of them share the same impression: flight attendants were rude, service in first and business class was done in a hurry so they could get over it and food and wine selection was not up to what one would expect for a business or first class ticket that can cost over $10K. I guess they could have a partnership with Cathay (since they are both One World) and have some of their flight attendants to spend some time in Hong Kong to learn how to treat customers well.

  11. I spoke with some FA’s on the old 777s on my recent LAX-LHR flight and they all said the same thing: They HATED the 77s. Too narrow aisles, bad configuration, etc.

    The issue, of course, is that if their clients love the plane, maybe they should just grim and bear it and treat them well.

  12. My only question is did your laptop survive that rather precarious looking perch? Mine would have been on the floor for sure.

  13. From my recollection, AA has not announced the seats of its (far in the) future refurb of the 777(-200) fleet. One hopes that they would use these seats, but AA has a history of eating is interior dollars for minimal immediate savings (see massive investment in already obsolete slanted lie flat seats in 2006).

    From what I gather AA ended up with these seats because it started getting unplanned-for 77W as a result of the severe delays on its order of 789s, and had to make a seating decision very fast. Thankfully they opted not to go slanted and of the available of the shelf options the CX version of the Cirrus seat seat won out. AA *not* being able to design is own seat like in 2006 was a blessing. Unfortunately this lucky confluence of events will not be in place when they refit (if they do it) the 777s and the 763s.

  14. @ hillrider — American has confirmed to me that these are the same seats they’ll have on the 777-200s.

  15. Ugh. Granola bars and Kellogs cereal. You get that at a Motel 6. Seems a little tacky for Business Class.

  16. The new JL business seats do all have direct aisle access. I’ve traveled in them so I should know.

  17. Ben,

    Great report, as I was reading this I was thinking, how does this compare to BA FIRST, then I saw your thoughts at the bottom of your post. So, all things considered would you recommend this over BA FIRST and Club World. What are the pros and cons of each?

    Cheers!

  18. That breakfast menu cracks me up. Express breakfast they just remove the yogurt/cereal? How long does it take the crew to prepare and the passenger to eat those? lol

  19. @ DJ — I think BA first class still has the slight edge. The food is marginally better, the wine/booze definitely better, and service should also be better. I do find the seat slightly more comfortable as well in terms of width, though the storage in the American seat is better. So I’d say that BA first is still a bit better all around, but not by much.

  20. Personally, storage space is one of the things that I find makes a huge difference. Part of what makes AA’s F product so nice (besides the huge amount of space) is that you can keep a carry-on bag under the ottoman to have immediate access while seated. I still don’t understand why BA’s F is so poor in this area. Regarding the new AA J seats, having flown them on CX, there is *some* storage but not as much as there should be, and I wouldn’t call it an “abundance.” It’s also worth noting that there is some under-seat space (not usable for take-off and landing) at the window seats but not the center seats.

  21. Regarding the new JL J seats, I haven’t experienced them yet, but from their web page, they look quite good, with all-aisle access, plenty of privacy, and what appears to be a retractible partition between seats (as on BA J) to allow for people traveling together. See the JL web site about the new seats at http://www.jal.co.jp/en/newsky/ss7/business/seat/

  22. @Lucky — when is the rest of the trip report coming? You did promise it would be with us by (last) week’s end!

  23. @ Dave Op — You’re talking about their old first class seat, right? I’d say the new business class seat is more private and has a much better entertainment selection than the old first class seat, but the old first class seat still has a lot more personal space.

  24. Thanks for the great review. I agree 100% that the seats are amazing, having tried the comparable offering on CX. For the business traveler, the most important thing is to get some sleep before going to meetings upon arrival in London, and I think this product is really the right choice. I will give AA a second look on future travel.

  25. I love the amount of detail you go into in your reviews, right from the granola bars to the pictures of your approach… these reviews are just brilliant :D.

  26. AA is one of those airlines I don’t touch even with a 100 feet pole. FAs are more often than not rude and/or don’t give a crap. They just across as hating their job; they couldnt be bothered with their passengers. Makes Air Koryo look like a premium airline. Of course there is always that one ( or two) that makes the difference between a lousy flight and a pleasant enjoyable one. But overall, IMO, just not worth the kind of $ for their premium product. Yah seats similar to CX. But unquestionably CX soft product is better by a long shot. So what if you have new seats and a new paint job if your service sucks; you are nothing more than a fourth rate transport pretending to be a “big” league. BA for me for transatlantic.

  27. How did you like the mini-J cabin vs. the larger cabin in the back? I have read that some have complained about a ventilation unit being loud above the mini-cabin. Did you experience that?

  28. @ Peter — Didn’t experience any noise related to the ventilation unit. Far preferred the mini cabin for the added privacy and more exclusive feeling of the cabin.

  29. P.S. I certainly would have – after the flight though, otherwise, that rude FA might simply consider me as a terrorist threat and call Homeland Security instead of regular police!

  30. is the 777200 the regular 777 that we all know so well? With the flat but not horizontal business seat?
    I really hope that it’s true as I love the 777 and as sick of trying to book the right flights, to get the right planes…
    Really looking forward to the new AA airbus transcon, hope I get the upgrade next week!

  31. @ dana — Yep, the 777-200 is the most common longhaul plane they have and has the angled flat seats in business class. They should start the retrofits on it soon.

  32. Hi
    Great review I’m currently looking at flights JFK-LHR and looking for a comfortable seat for someone who is 6’4. I was looking at PE and Business class. But I’m leaning toward the AA 777-300 ER Business seat (even if the rest of us are in economy or PE). Just curious on your thoughts between AA,BA. and VA? Which do you think would offering the most overall room? Also any recommendations on a specific seat bulkhead,window or aisle? Thanks in advance for any input.

  33. You know I really like this blog but the 6 hour delay sounds anything but fun. As a person who has had only very few opportunities to escape the cattle, delays are the worst. A six hour delay means I’m sitting on a seat with my knees crushed against the seat front while a little kid kicks my back from the seat behind. And we wouldn’t be given anything to eat. I mean for crying out loud I’m surprised American anything to eat to Economy. But I enjoy your blog!

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