Review: American Airlines Business Class Chicago to Helsinki

Introduction
Andrew’s experience flying American to Helsinki
American Airlines Flagship Lounge Chicago
American Airlines Business Class Chicago to Helsinki
Hotel Kämp, Helsinki
Exploring Helsinki
Touring Helsinki Airport
Finnair Lounge Helsinki
American Airlines Business Class Helsinki to Chicago


American 130
Chicago (ORD) – Helsinki (HEL)
Monday, July 15
Depart: 3:40PM
Arrive: 8:30AM
Duration: 8hr50min
Aircraft: Boeing 767-300
Seat: 4H (Business Class)

American’s business class on the 767-300 consists of 30 angled flat seats spread across five rows in a 2-2-2 configuration. We were in seats 4H & 4J, which are window seats in the middle of the cabin on the right side.

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Seats 4H & 4J

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Seats 4H & 4J

Boarding on the 767 tends to be pretty hectic due to the fact that everyone boards through the business class cabin, though the flight attendants were still excellent about doing the pre-departure service despite full aisles.

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Business class cabin

At each seat were a pillow and blanket, and I do really like the ones American offers.

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Pillow and blanket

Also at our seats were the amenity kits, which consisted of eye shades, socks, toothpaste and a toothbrush, a pen, earplugs, and lotion.

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Amenity kit contents

Within a few minutes of settling in one of the flight attendants introduced herself and offered us pre-departure beverages. Her name was Mary, and I believe the other two flight attendants working business class were Mari and Marie. Or something like that.

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Pre-departure water

As boarding finished up menus were distributed. The menus have recently been updated to reflect the new branding, much different than the old ones.

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Menu

Shortly before departure the captain came on the PA to advise us of our flight time of 8hr11min, which he anticipated would put us into Helsinki on-time. By the time the door closed business class was only about two thirds full, with about 10 empty seats.

We pushed back right on-time as the safety demo played and taxied to runway 32R, which took less than 10 minutes. Once there we were number one for takeoff and quickly cleared for departure. Our climb out was smooth and gradual, and about 25 minutes into the flight the seatbelt sign was turned off and service began.

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View on climb out

Service began with Samsung Galaxy tablets and Bose Quiet Comfort headphones being distributed. I’ve always been damn impressed that American offers Bose headphones in business class, while most airlines don’t even offer it in first class.

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Samsung Galaxy and Bose Quiet Comfort headphones

Shortly thereafter the meal service began. The dinner menu read as follows:

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And the wine list read as follows:

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The service began as usual with drinks and warm mixed nuts.

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Diet Coke with lime and mixed nuts

The starter consisted of shrimp with purple potato salad. While the shrimp were fine I wasn’t really feeling the potato salad. The salad on the other hand was excellent, something I find American consistently executes well.

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Shrimp Escabeche and salad

For the main course I ordered the seared tilapia fillet, which was moist and tasteful.

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Seared tilapia fillet

Meanwhile Andrew ordered the fillet of beef.

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Grilled fillet of beef

After that it was time for dessert…

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Ice cream sundae

The service throughout the meal was excellent, with constant refills. The entire meal service took about 90 minutes, at which point I convinced Andrew to change into Shanghai Tang pajamas. I’m surprised by how willing he was to do so. I’m mildly embarrassed to wear them on a Cathay Pacific flight where everyone’s wearing them, let alone on an American flight where nobody is wearing them. Go Andrew!

After dinner I decided to watch some TV shows on my iPad. After a couple of hours I tried to sleep, though don’t think I got any real sleep. I just can’t sleep well in angled flat business class, especially on a flight that leaves Chicago so early. American’s new business class on the 777-300ERs is phenomenal, and I can’t wait for the rest of the fleet to be reconfigured with a new product as well. So I instead watched TV shows on my iPad for the entire flight.

About 90 minutes prior to landing breakfast was served. The menu read as follows:

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The omelet with potatoes was quite good, as was the side of fruit. I had a glass of apple juice to go with it, and a croissant from the bread basket.

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Breakfast

About 30 minutes prior to landing we began our descent into Helsinki, and the Samsung Galaxy tablets were collected. It was really “green” on approach, and almost felt a bit like the approach into Tampa from the North.

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On approach into Helsinki

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On approach into Helsinki

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On approach into Helsinki

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On approach into Helsinki

We touched down right on-time and had a short taxi to the gate.

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Taxiing to the gate

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Taxiing to the gate

The terminal looked rather futuristic, and it was cool to see some airlines you don’t see a whole lot of at other airports.

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Taxiing to the gate

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Taxiing to the gate

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Taxiing to the gate

As I’ll cover more in the return portion of the report, Helsinki Airport is awesome. It has to be one of the easiest airports to transit or exit, which I guess is in part thanks to it being on the small side. It’s really nicely designed as well, with high ceilings and hardwood floors in many places.

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Airport on arrival

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Airport on arrival

Immigration queues were non-existent, and within about five minutes we were landside and in a taxi to our hotel.

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Airport on arrival

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Terminal exterior

Yes, I do wish American’s hard product on the 767 were fully flat, but it’s something that they’re working on changing over the coming years. Other than that the flight was great, including the food, entertainment, and service. The funny thing is that I used to always assume that foreign carriers are better than US carriers in business class, but after recently flying Lufthansa business class from Seattle to Frankfurt, I can’t think of one aspect of the Lufthansa experience that I found better than the American experience.

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Comments

  1. Lucky, you always take pictures on takeoff and landing. Do you use a regular camera for that? Has any flight attendant ever complained about that?

  2. Not sure if LH still does the awful shrimp with some sort of strawberry sauce. If it had just been the shrimp, fine, but no need to get exotic at 30k feet.

    Wow, Finland looks beautiful.

  3. Are they switching the 767 to the new business class seats? If so, I wonder if that will reduce the amount of seats in business class? I miss flying business and first in AA, I am glad I took advantage of it while I worked there. Compared to trip reports on other US airlines business/first product I still prefer AA’s, though I agree with you on the seat comfort while on the angle flat position.

  4. Are those portions small, or are those glasses just really big?

    “The funny thing is that I used to always assume that foreign carriers are better than US carriers in business class, but after recently flying Lufthansa business class from Seattle to Frankfurt, I can’t think of one aspect of the Lufthansa experience that I found better than the American experience.”

    How does it compare to Business on Singapore, Cathay, Brussels, Turkish, and Austrian? Looking forward to your review of Swiss’ long haul business.

  5. Thank you for finally posting photos of the menu that are actually large enough to read without having to ‘click to enlarge’. We older folks can’t always see the small photos. 🙂

    Eric

  6. @ Eric O — I’m not sure if they actually plan on reconfiguring the 767s since they’ll be retired eventually, though they’re definitely planning on reconfiguring the 777s and will have a new product on their new delivery 787s.

  7. @ wwk5d — Though the portions were fairly big. Yes, they do have big glasses, though the plating isn’t huge either.

    I’d say any flat bed business class product is better than this. But if we’re going to look at their hard product on the 777-300ER, I’d choose that over virtually any other business class product without the same seat.

  8. Wow! All the platitudes in this report about AA makes me glad it is a fair and balanced approach from you. I am sure no money is being supplied to you from AA at all. You use to be a little harsh on AA until they gave you something.

  9. Nice to see that the beverage list is customized with a Finnish beer. (I’m actually surprised to see that on the outbound; they sometimes have Fuller’s London Pride ex-LHR, but I don’t think I’ve seen it eastbound.)

  10. I was in Helsinki, last year, nice city and even though on small side enough to do for a few days. The only issue I had was lack of rail transport from airport to the city. Most European Capitals have some kind of train, Metro. In Helsinki it is only City Bus or Taxi. Taxi is about 40E and city Bus even though much cheaper stops many times during the route from airport to center. takes 45+ minutes.

  11. AA offers good service and I hope that it keeps improving. Angle flat works OK for me, I just find that their planes are way too old.

    The meal looks quite delicious for business class. I bet you this was a welcome change after that horrendous looking EVA air meal.

  12. Lucky, the food looks good and indeed very nice in presentation. I usually don’t have luck to see crew arranged so beautifully for my plates. Do you think maybe they knew you came to write about them so they tried to impress you?

  13. @ Shannon — To be honest there are some crews that “have it” and some that don’t. For what it’s worth I find Chicago crews to generally be excellent on international routes. Meanwhile I don’t find Dallas and New York flight attendants working the international trips to be quite as good on the whole.

  14. Ho hum. So the same AA 767 J as every other AA 767 J “report” you have. Nothing has changed (except the menu particulars), so what is the point?

    Going to review any UA products soon?

  15. It would be worth paying a blog fee for a pic of Andrew in the Shanghai Tang pajamas… 😉

    Nice report!(No champagne? If it’s not Krug or Dom, I guess it’s just not worth it!)

  16. @Sean,

    The city bus rarely stops before the end stop (maybe twice) and it takes about 30 minutes. Last time I took it, albeit late in the evening, I clocked it at 26 minutes.

  17. Perhaps a dumb question, but do the airlines collect the noise canceling headset? Also what is the galaxy tab for? Accessing the Internet or movies?

  18. @ Lemongrab — Because I review all my longhaul flights. I’ve written about Lufthansa first class over a dozen times and will continue to do so, because each flight is at least a little unique.

  19. @ David — Yes, they sure do at the end of the flight. The 767 doesn’t have built in personal entertainment, so the Samsung Galaxy tabs have movies, TV shows, music, etc.

  20. Great stuff Lucky, I enjoy reading all your posts. I was curious as to what you do for a living to afford so much time and money to dedicate to traveling the world in such style. Thanks for all the posts they are really enjoying to read.

  21. @ Bobby — Blogging and travel consulting (helping people use their miles) is what I do for a living. 🙂

  22. If a photo of me in those Shanghai Tang PJ’s were to go public, I’m pretty sure it would ruin my dating life. Being a tax lawyer, I’m already at a disadvantage in that area.

  23. Was breakfast served with tomato soup? Is that the “scallion and sour cream potato timbale”? Because I have no idea what a timbale is supposed to look like.

  24. Do you have a feel for how many American 767-300ERs have refreshed Business Class to date ?

    I am flying Flt. 48 DFW-CDG on March 1, 2015, seat 3-A, with 2-2-2 layout.

    Do you think American will really go through with “serious money” upgrades to the 29 chosen 767-300ERs?

  25. @ P Gainey — I think they will, but it’s probably too early to know which routes will have the new product next year, given they’ve just started the refresh.

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