Review: American Airlines 777-300ER Business Class New York to Sao Paulo

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Introduction
American Airlines 777-300ER Business Class New York to Sao Paulo
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American Airlines 777-300ER Business Class Sao Paulo to New York


We flew from Los Angeles to New York on the 12PM flight, and had a roughly two hour layover before our flight to Sao Paulo. While the business class cabin on the New York to Sao Paulo flight was wide open when we booked back in August, unfortunately the upgrade didn’t clear in advance, and the day before departure business class was even completely sold out. So I was mentally preparing myself for my first longhaul flight in coach in nearly a decade.

Fortunately day of there were some cancellations, so we both cleared into business class at JFK. We spent our short layover at the American Flagship Lounge in New York, which we could use on account of our Executive Platinum status and same day international travel.

We headed to the gate at around 9:30PM, in anticipation of our 9:40PM boarding time.

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JFK Terminal 8

Our flight was leaving from gate four, and boarding began as we arrived.

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JFK Terminal 8

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JFK Gate 4 departure

American 951
New York (JFK) – Sao Paulo (GRU)
Thursday, November 21
Depart: 10:20PM
Arrive: 10:55AM (+1 day)
Duration: 9hr35min
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER
Seat: 9G (Business Class)

Since my upgrade cleared last minute I was assigned seat 9G, a seat in the “center” section of the cabin. American’s business class on the 777-300ER is in a reverse herringbone configuration, with only four seats per row. I flew American’s new 777-300ER business class from New York to London last March and wrote a thorough review, so if you’d like more cabin pictures I’d recommend checking out that trip report.

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American 777-300ER business class

Anyway, even though I technically had a seat in the center section, it’s still extremely private. It’s so private that you can’t really easily converse with your seatmate, given the privacy shields between seats.

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American 777-300ER business class, seat 9G

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American 777-300ER business class, seat 9G

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American 777-300ER business class, seat 9G

Below the seat on the left is a large storage compartment, where a pair of slippers were stored in the pouch.

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American 777-300ER business class, seat 9G storage

To the left of the seat are the entertainment controls, seat controls, reading light, and power port, all of which are intuitive.

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American 777-300ER business class, seat controls, entertainment controls, and power

Next to that is a compartment, where I found a pair of Bose headphones, a bottle of water, and the amenity kit. I’ve always appreciated that American offers Bose headphones in business class, as they’re one of the few airlines to offer them.

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American 777-300ER business class, storage compartment

American’s business class amenity kits are basic, though have all the necessities. I also love that they also offer slippers, which most airlines don’t.

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American 777-300ER business class amenity kit and slippers

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American 777-300ER business class noise canceling headphones

Also waiting at my seat was a pillow and blanket.

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American 777-300ER business class pillow and blanket

The cabin filled up pretty quickly, and about halfway through boarding the cabin completely lost power and was dark for a few minutes. Within a few minutes the power was back on, at which point the captain came on the PA to apologize. He also informed us that our flight time would be 9hr6min, and that he anticipated we’d arrive in Sao Paulo on schedule.

Shortly thereafter pre-departure beverages were offered, which were quickly followed by the menus for the flight.

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American 777-300ER business class pre-departure beverage and menu

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American 777-300ER business class cabin

At around 10:30PM we began our pushback, and shortly thereafter the safety video began to play.

The taxi was fairly quick by JFK standards, and at 10:50PM we were airborne. I browsed the entertainment selection during our taxi out. It was extensive, though I had some shows on my iPad that I watched instead.

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American 777-300ER business class entertainment selection

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American 777-300ER business class airshow

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American 777-300ER business class airshow

The seatbelt sign was turned off about 30 minutes into the flight, and at that point the flight attendants slowly began preparing for the meal service. At least I assume that’s what they were doing, though I didn’t see them for the first 75 minutes of the flight. At that point they came around to begin the meal service.

The dinner menu read as follows:

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And the wine list read as follows:

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Service began with drinks and hot nuts. I ordered a Diet Coke with lime.

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Hot nuts and Diet Coke with lime

Just under two hours into the flight I was served dinner, which was all on a single tray. It consisted of a cured salmon appetizer, salad with pecans and bleu cheese, and pan-seared halibut. The salmon and salad were good, though the halibut was room temperature by the time it was served. The halibut seemed like it would have tasted good if it were served properly, though it was totally dried out, so I just had a bite and sent it back.

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Dinner service — appetizer, salad, and main course

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Cured salmon appetizer

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Seasonal greens with fresh vegetables, sweet and spicy pecans, and bleu cheese

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Pan-seared halibut with truffled corn salsa, and truffled sweet potato puree

Meanwhile my friend had the beef, which he enjoyed.

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Herb-crusted beef fillet

For dessert I had an ice cream sundae with hot fudge and nuts.

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Ice cream sundae

So, about the service…

The crew wasn’t actively rude. But they were quite possibly the most indifferent crew I’ve ever had. They didn’t do anything wrong, they just didn’t do anything right. I don’t think I ever got a smile, a “you’re welcome” in response to my “thank yous,” and don’t think they once came through the cabin between meals. On one hand I can appreciate the entire meal being served on one tray, though ideally on a nine hour redeye it would be served less than two hours into the flight. I’m also not sure the crew once spoke to me in a full sentence, but rather always in fragments (“something to drink?” etc.). That being said I generally haven’t had good experience with American’s JFK based crews, and find the ones based in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Dallas to be much better.

I couldn’t help but laugh at the notice I saw in the galley about how to treat premium passengers. I guess this crew missed the memo. 😉

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American 777-300ER business class meal sheet

After the meal service the snack bar was set up in the galley. It’s an outrageously nice spread, though somewhat unnecessary on a nine hour flight. It’s nice to see American investing some money in their premium cabins outside of the hard product, though.

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American 777-300ER business class snack bar

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American 777-300ER business class snack bar

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American 777-300ER business class snack bar

Anyway, after dinner there were about six hours left to Sao Paulo, so I reclined the seat into the fully flat position and fell asleep within minutes. I woke up about 75 minutes out of Sao Paulo.

Reverse herringbone seats are simply the best business class seats out there, and as good as many first class seats in my opnion. They’re so spacious and comfortable that it’s one of the few products I can fall asleep in even when not tired. At the end of the day business class is all about the hard product, in my opinion, and this one is tough to beat.

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American 777-300ER business class airshow

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American 777-300ER business class airshow

I woke up to the cabin lights being turned on for the breakfast service. The menu read as follows:

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For breakfast I selected the egg dish, which was one of the best I’ve had on American.

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American breakfast

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American breakfast

About 30 minutes out the captain came on the PA to inform us we were initiating our descent shortly, and at 10:40AM we had an extremely firm touchdown in Sao Paulo. I was kind of sad I wasn’t seated at the window since I always love getting an aerial view of a new city, though ultimately I had seven more flights to/from Sao Paulo with window views.

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American 777-300ER upon landing

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American 777-300ER upon landing

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Sao Paulo Airport arrivals hall

Upon landing we quickly headed for immigration, where there was only a very short queue. We were through in a matter of minutes, at which point we jumped in a cab to the Grand Hyatt Sao Paulo.

While the service on this flight left a lot to be desired, it’s impossible to beat American’s hard product on the 777-300ER, and also the value of booking a discounted coach fare and upgrading to business class with one of the eight systemwide upgrades I get each year for earning Executive Platinum status. I can’t wait till a majority of American’s longhaul fleet features the new product.

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Comments

  1. I noticed that AA is becoming very difficult to clear upgrades in advance. My parents are both AA Platinum and usualy buy coach class and upgrade using miles + $ fee. In the last 3 times they flew AA they were only upgraded at the gate right before they started boarding business class passengers. I guess they are waiting almost until the doors close to see if someone will fork a last minute $10k for a GRU-JFK flight on business class.

  2. One thing they definitely need to do is spice up their menu a little bit. Their starter always seems to be a salmon dish. It would be nice if they offered something different, or at least a choice in appetizers.

  3. So, you did not get served a meal until after 12 AM? Being an east coaster I think I would have already been asleep by then. You were still on west coast time I assume. Still, 2 hours for first service seems long. Am I wrong about the time, or do you find this to be the case?

    Sam

  4. Is there some sort of a raffle where we get to be the travel friend?? Haha!

    For trips like these, I’ll take 10 raffle tickets at your leisure 😉

    What’s your take on the drink selection on AA? Domestically, they serve Tito’s vodka (instead of that crap Sky etc. that Delta serves) which gets them HUGE points from me. What’s your take on the premium cabin international selection?

  5. @ Sam — Yep, that’s very long. On my subsequent flight on American I was served the meal within 30 minutes of takeoff (and also had a much better crew).

  6. @ FlyingTigerSC — Their Diet Coke is top of the line, in my opinion. 😉

    To be honest I don’t really drink much. When I do it’s usually just champagne on international carriers with a good selection. I find American’s champagne to be almost undrinkable, so that’s the extent of my knowledge on that front.

  7. Lucky: have you noticed any difference in the AA menus (both food and wine) for a business class flight from and to South America when compared to flights to and from Europe or Asia? I always feel that AA does a poor job when catering flights to and from South America with way cheaper wine selection as well food served. Maybe there is not much competition so they feel they don’t need to make it any better. I will never forget once I. Flew AA first class from GRU to JFK and was served a $12 dollar Argentine wine and chocolates that you buy at Walgreens for $2.

  8. @ Santastico — Interesting. I haven’t noticed a difference in terms of food quality, but I do generally find service to be lackluster to South America. I suspect that’s because most flights to South America are out of MIA and JFK, which I find to be the worst crew bases. Most flights to Asia are out of ORD and DFW, which I find to be much better crew bases.

  9. Here we go. A quick look on wine-searcher and here are the wines on the menu of this flight (average prices in the US):
    Gosset Brut Excellence: $28
    Silverado Miller Ranch: $15
    Chateau Ste Michelle: $13
    Spellbound Sirah: $11
    Septima Malbec: $7.50

    Ben&Jerry’s ice cream for dessert?

    Now tell me if these are wines you expect when paying almost $10k for a seat on the business class of this flight? Again, I feel AA flights to/from South America are overpriced for what they offer.

  10. Based on personal experience, AA tries to “regionalize” the wine selection based on the route, so you do end up with Argentinean or Chilean wines for South America flights, and French and Californian wines for Europe and Asia flights.

  11. @ptahcha: only South American wine in the list was the Malbec. All the rest in from the US besides the champagne from France

  12. Shocking to see the dinner all served at once but perhaps it was in the interest of time since you got it served after midnight.

    Were you worried your upgrade might not clear? When was the last international flight you did in economy? (Canada does not count!) 😉

  13. I’m surprised how much AA has improved their Business Class product (seat and food, at least). Clearly, their soft product (service) needs work.

    Have all their flights out of JFK been converted to this new reverse herringbone configuration?

  14. @ Andy — Unfortunately only select flights to London and Sao Paulo feature the new product. Other destinations don’t have it, unfortunately.

  15. I remember reading when AA first took delivery of the 777-300ER, that eventually the new cabins will be rolled out on the rest of the fleet. Is there any more solid inormation/schedule as to when these new cabins will be retrofited onto the 777-200s?

  16. @ Phillip — Apparently they’ll start the process over the summer, though I expect it’ll be at least 18 months after that before it’s completed.

  17. great job on your posts, very detailed information. I have 2 questions for you. I will be flying LAX-GRU on first class with only carry-on luggage. I arrive at 2:35pm and my other flight doesnt leave until almost 10pm so I wanted to know if: a) I can get to the AA Admirals Club after deplaning but before passing through customs/immigration (i’ve read from others that its possible) and 2) do you have experience accessing the Admirals Club using an inbound ticket?

  18. I am coming from LA. I booked a direct flight from LAX to GRU that arrives at 2:35pm. After that I will continue from GRU to Fortaleza on TAM (separate ticket but I will not have any checked luggage). I read that the AA lounge has showers which I would like to use but I dont know if I can enter the lounge using the inbound ticket or if I can even get to it after I pass through immigration given that my next flight out is domestic and as I understand the AA lounge is in the international section.

  19. @ Andres — You can’t use it as an arrivals lounge unless you’re connecting on another OneWorld carrier. That being said, TAM joins OneWorld at the end of the month, so if you’re flying after then you could use the lounge, assuming you can access the terminal (which I’m not sure of). You’d need to clear customs first since you’re connecting to a domestic flight.

  20. I’m flying DFW-GRU In business next month on American (this plane), and I wanted to know if the forward cabin(rows 3 and 4) were quiter than the rest of the business cabin? (I think you said you flew in the forward cabin in your JFK-LHR review)

  21. @ Sasha — Yep, I love how private the forward business class cabin is. Most passengers board through door two, so you have very little traffic during boarding. I’d highly recommend the mini-cabin.

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