Review: American Airlines First Class 777-300ER Los Angeles To London

Introduction
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Hilton Garden Inn Frankfurt Airport
US Airways Business Class A330 Frankfurt To Philadelphia


After a day running around Los Angeles with a Silvercar rental, it was off to London for the next portion of the journey. I was oddly excited about this segment, since I’m so used to taking flights from the East Coast to London, which are so short that you can’t really get any sleep.

American 136
Los Angeles (LAX) – London (LHR)
Thursday, January 8
Depart: 6:40PM
Arrive: 1:15PM
Duration: 10hr35min
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER
Seat: 2A (First Class)

We arrived at the airport right as boarding began, and turned left into the first class cabin. I won’t talk too much about the cabin itself, as I covered that extensively in the installment for the flight between London and New York.

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American first class cabin 777-300ER

I quickly settled into 2A, where all of the amenities for the flight were already waiting for me — Bose headphones, bottled water, the menu, the amenity kit, slippers, and even pajamas. On one hand that seemed efficient, on the other hand it quickly became clear why the service was so thorough upfront — the crew’s sole goal was to limit interaction with passengers.

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American first class 777-300ER, seat 2A

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American first class 777-300ER, seat 2A

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American international first class amenities

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American international first class amenity kit

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American first class bottled water

I quickly changed into pajamas, which were comfortable as always.

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American international first class pajamas

The cabin quickly got pretty amusing, both in terms of the crew and passengers.

The purser, Rick, made an appearance. I don’t think he could have been any more apathetic if he tried. He made Ben Stein sound excited by comparison.

“Water? Juice? Champagne?”

Alrighty then…

Equally amusing were the passengers. Besides the two of us, everyone else in the cabin seemed to be the Hollywood crowd yet on a budget.

“Ugh, why didn’t we book British Airways, this is horrible. Can we still change?”
“Because they were $10,000 more.”
“Oh…”

Rick came around to take meal orders, which he did simply by going around to each seat and saying “dinner?”

Even taking meal orders caused a bit of confrontation among passengers. One guy was apparently placing his meal order too loudly for another passenger, so the other guy said “can you keep it down, or are you placing meal orders for the whole cabin?”

Then we had a lady seated on the other side of the cabin who was a self proclaimed foodie.

“I’ll have the gnocchi please.”
“You mean the pasta?”
“No, I mean the gnocchi. It’s generally potato based, while pasta is generally flour based. I’m a foodie. I know this stuff.”

Hah!

The captain came on the PA to welcome everyone aboard and inform us of our flight time of 9hr20min, which was a bit faster than usual. Out the window, I saw one of the American Airlines Cadillacs on the tarmac, which are used for Concierge Key transfers.

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American’s Concierge Key Cadillac tarmac transfer

The flight got even more interesting shortly before pushback. Another flight attendant came up to first class, and we started talking. “The purser’s a real a$$hole, I’m sorry you have him up here,” she said. “He’s so senior he can outbid anyone.”

Said flight attendant came around to each seat in first class and said “welcome aboard, do you know how to operate the Flagship first class suite? I’m happy to explain it to you.”

After her doing that for a couple of minutes the purser came up to her and said “you need to go back to your cabin, I got first class.” Oh man, that was only the beginning.

We were a bit late departing, as we pushed back at 6:55PM. And then it was a very slow 20 minute taxi to runway 25R, where we were cleared for takeoff at 7:15PM.

We had a quick takeoff roll and smooth climb out, as seems to be the norm for flights out of Los Angeles.

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American’s airshow between Los Angeles and London

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American’s airshow between Los Angeles and London

The crew stayed seated until the seatbelt sign was turned off. About 30 minutes into the flight service finally began.

The dinner menu read as follows:

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And the wine/beverage list read as follows:

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I don’t want to exaggerate the service. It wasn’t actively horrible, but Rick was working both aisles, and he couldn’t have been more apathetic if he tried. He’d just kind of plop everything on the tray, pick it up, and bring the next course, with no real communication.

The service began with hot nuts and drinks. I ordered a gin & tonic.

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American first class hot nuts & drink

After that the table was set and food service began. The starter was cilantro cured salmon. It was edible, but just tasted really “wet,” if that makes any sense.

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American first class appetizer — cilantro cured salmon

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American first class appetizer — cilantro cured salmon

After that the sweet potato soup was served. Oddly the purser’s only communication with the meal service was to be careful, because the sweet potato soup is really, really spicy.” It wasn’t… at all…

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American first class soup — sweet potato soup

Next the salad was served. American couldn’t be cheaper on their international first class salads if they tried. Would a bit of protein on the salad kill them?

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American first class salad — spinach and frisee with strawberries and blue cheese

For the main course I ordered the pepper and olive tapenade crusted halibut. It was presented more like a fish stew than anything else, based on how much sauce there was. Holy crap. I had a bite and called it quits. Rick seemed nonplussed by the catering in general, and didn’t ever ask how anything was, etc.

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American first class main course — pepper and olive tapenade crusted halibut

My friend had the beef, which she didn’t find to be very good either.

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American first class main course — boursin crusted beef filet

For dessert I had the ice cream sundae with strawberry sauce and nuts.

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American first class dessert — ice cream sundae

I ordered a cappuccino to finish off the meal, which is usually served on a plate with a biscoff. In this case I was just served a mug.

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American first class (half) cappuccino

Which was less than half full… puzzling.

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American first class cappuccino

The meal service was done about two hours into the flight, at which point I kept working on my laptop. I do love that the American 777-300ERs have wifi, which makes a huge difference for me in terms of productivity.

At this point the purser took his rest, while the other flight attendant that I had spoken to before departure came up to “guard” the first class galley while the other two first class flight attendants were resting.

I have to say she was an absolute treasure. She was senior and clearly loved her job, and was actually actively upset about how the purser did his service. She had some choice words to say about him, including how apparently a lot of the LAX crews trade trips when they see him listed as the purser.

She showed me how the cappuccino machine worked, and said I could have as many as I wanted (including biscoffs). This time around I went with an espresso.

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American first class espresso

Since I was getting work done I decided to just stay up the whole flight and nap upon landing. For whatever reason I seem to be tired when I board the plane, but then wide awake after dinner. I worked for a few hours, and before I knew it we were 90 minutes out of London, at which point breakfast service began.

The breakfast menu read as follows:

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I wasn’t actually hungry, so skipped, but my friend had the fresh fruit bowl, which was served with granola and strawberry Greek yogurt.

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American first class breakfast — fresh fruit bowl

About 45 minutes before landing the captain came on the PA with updated arrival information, informing us of our anticipated arrival time of 12:50PM. At that point I changed out of pajamas and stowed all my carry-ons.

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American’s airshow between Los Angeles and London

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American’s airshow between Los Angeles and London

It was a gorgeous day as we descended, with just a little bit of cloud coverage which made the sky look super artsy.

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View on approach into London

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View on approach into London

Eventually we had a firm touchdown on runway 27L at around 12:50PM, and than about a 10 minute taxi to the gate from there.

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London Heathrow traffic

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London Heathrow traffic

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London Heathrow traffic

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London Heathrow traffic

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London Heathrow traffic

As luck would have it, we literally arrived at the furthest possible gate from immigration, so I’m pretty sure I managed to burn off all the hot nuts and ice cream sundae from that walk alone. 😉

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London Heathrow traffic

American first class bottom line

Seriously, I don’t know why American bothers with first class. The catering is borderline inedible, and the service couldn’t have been any more indifferent on this flight.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the 777-300ERs given the wifi and extensive entertainment selection, but those are equally good in first class as business class. I think American’s business class on the 777-300ER is the real selling point, given the excellent hard product, wifi, entertainment, and for the most part edible food. But there’s simply not much of a selling point of first class over business class.

For a discounted business class fare and an easy upgrade to first class it was a great value. But could I ever imagine paying for first class on American? No way!

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Comments

  1. Reading this whilst in Mint Class JFK – LAX – get the fact that it’s still a Jet Blue flight however the two crew members are the other end of the spectrum from Rick and the food although smaller portions actually very tasty.

  2. I have always been curious, is the espresso/cappuccino maker the automatic kind, where you just push a button for what kind of drink you want, or is it a manual one like they use at a coffee shop?

    Also I am not sure I completely agree with your request for protein on your salad. While I agree an international first class salad should be more than a pile of limp greens and an unripe cherry tomato like you often see served in domestic first class, the one you had here looks pretty decent. And I feel like even at a nice restaurant you would typically only see protein on a salad if it were being served as the main course, whereas usually an appetizer salad wouldn’t have protein — unless there is an example I’m forgetting? Maybe hard-boiled egg, but I would think that’s about it.

  3. Just interested to know why the salads need protein (even though the greens itself contain protein). Seems to be a common theme of your complaints over your last couple of trip reports.

  4. The FA may have been a treasure, but it was very unprofessional of her to badmouth a co-worker that much to a passenger. Whether or not that was true, whether it is deserved or not…that’s not the type of behavior people should do in any industry.

    Overall, an underwhelming menu for first class, especially one from the West Coast to Europe. There are non-US airlines that offer that same menu in their business classes.

  5. That is the only thing I tip my hat off to Delta. They know there is no way they can compete with international airlines on first class so they don’t even bother offering one. On the other hand AA and United still think their first class product mean anything and they keep finding corporations that are willing to pay that much money for their executives to fly their first class. Nobody better than you that flies real first class all the time to see that what AA and United offer is a complete joke. I was once upgraded at the gate to an AA first class from GRU-JFK. I felt bad for the other passengers that were paying to be there. To summarize they served an Argetine red wine that you can buy a bottle for $12 at any liquor store and after the same sundae you got (yes, that is present in all AA business and first class flights) they served Ferrero Rocher chocolates. Nothing wrong with them since I love those chocolates but you can buy them at any CVS or Walgreens for $2 a box of 4.

  6. @ Alex — Fair enough, that’s a good point. They don’t need protein per se, but it would be nice if they had something more on them.

  7. @ Bgriff — It’s the automatic kind. It’s not like BA or some other airlines where they actually “make” it onboard.

  8. On the other hand AA and United still think their first class product mean anything and they keep finding corporations that are willing to pay that much money for their executives to fly their first class.

    Do they pay that much? I’m thinking it must be like a hotel corporate rate, the Expedia price on a given night might be $540 but the corporate rate is $207. Does AA’s corporate rate include upgrades from biz to F for executives VP and higher for a $XXX extra, or some such?

  9. @John: I am pretty sure there are some sort of corporate discounts behind the scenes where at the end of the year the airline gives a rebate back to companies based on how much money they spent with the airline or something similar. However, as an employee of a business unit of a multinational company I don’t see those discounts when I book a ticket to travel for business. The travel system we use shows the same ticket price as if I were to book at the airline website.

  10. There is no need for Lucky to write to AA. I am fairly confident someone there reads all his posts related to American Airlines.

    That said, although the purser went out of his way to be unremarkable, he didnt do anything actively wrong. The union agreement almost assuredly would make it impossible for them to take any action based on this information. You bid on seniority, the purser has it and until he does something really wrong its unlikely AA can do anything about it.

  11. The idea that the union would prevent management from re-training or re-assigning this lousy purser is nonsense. The reality is that all American carriers focus less on training and consistency than other carriers do – union or not.

  12. You only prove that middle east airlines are way better, maybe not all of them but at least Emirates!

  13. Your two AA First reviews have certainly dampened my excitement regarding our upcoming AA F LAX-LHR-LAX award trip. Hopefully FCQ gets better treatment on RoyalForceOne. 🙂

  14. Say what you want, but I disagree with those slamming United GlobalFirst and comparing it to this poor example of AA international First.

    I fly LAX-LHR and occasionally SFO-LHR a half dozen times a year, usually on UA but occasionally on AA or BA. Sorry, but UA GF wins hands down, though the new F on BA’s A380 is a bit nicer.

    I most recently flew UA GF LAX-LHR in Dec 2014 en route to JNB, and I had wonderful service and a very nice meal by airplane standards. (For comparison, I flew back on EK F CPT-DXB-LAX, with the CPT-DXB F FAs being fairly unfriendly and the DXB-LAX F FAs being very friendly, with better food but not that much better than on my UA GF flight! Still, that DXB-LAX EK F flight may have been the best flight overall I’ve ever had.)

    In Oct 2014 I flew LAX-LHR on UA GF and returned LHR-LAX on BA F on the new A380. FAs were friendly and helpful on both. The seats on both were nice and comfortable, with a slight edge to BA since they were newer. But the food on BA F was atrocious! I’ve decided to stick with UA GF over BA F since then.

    In June and July, I flew LAX-LHR on UA GF, but with one LHR-LAX return on AA F (I couldnt get the UA return). Sorry folks, my AA F experience wasn’t that much better than our author’s. The Fas and purser weren’t bad, but the UA FAs were far more friendly and helpful…and I’ll take the UA GF seat over the AA F suite any day. I also far prefer the UA IFE–UA and CX have the best IMO (and even better than EK in terms of movie selection).

    In Feb and March, I flew LAX-LHR on UA GF but had to take the AA F on LHR-LAX. Same less than stellar AA experience, with very nice UA GF experiences.

    Everyone loves to pile on UA, but on my LAX-LHR flights I’ve been far more pleased with UA GF over BA F and AA F overall. I also prefer UA GF over DL BE and Virgin Atlantic by a wide margin, though they are comparable to UA BF and AA Biz when I’ve taken them.

  15. I really enjoy your trip reports. This one reminded me that I must write to BA about the horrible food service in F class on my recent 777 flight to MIA. I only had a snack in the T5 Concorde lounge as I was expecting a great dinner on the place. Needless to say, I should have eaten more substantially in the lounge and skipped the inedible food on the BA flight. The food you posted would have been a welcome treat (although it did look pitiful) compared to my BA flight. It seems that F class food on most airlines is getting worse and worse. The service on my BA flight was equivalent to your experience. I fly BA on the A380 next week in F from LAX, so it will be interesting to compare.

  16. I also don’t know why airlines with a decent J class and an average F class bother with F (QR for example).

    I’ve also never understood why airlines base crew on serniority rather than merit. Why is a bitter old crew rewarded over a younger more professional crew who are much better at their job?!

  17. @Bill – interesting viewpoint. I’m not sure the last time Ben or many of his readers have flown GlobalFirst, and I think it’s easy for people to lump UA GF and AA F together as also-rans based on reputation alone. I was really pleasantly surprised when I flew UA BF (on a longhaul flight without a GF cabin) in January and I’ve sat in the GF seats before (on a domestic IAD-LAX leg) and liked them a good deal. What I’d like to hear, though, is an apples-to-apples comparison of GlobalFirst vs. BusinessFirst on a 3-cabin international flight. How does the food, drink, service differentiate itself in GF?

  18. That isn’t the best selection of whiskeys. You can get those all in coach. Funny report, especially the part about someone asking why they didn’t fly BA. I wonder if anyone e has ever walked on a plane and saw a FA and turned around to change their flight? Haha

  19. “The starter was cilantro cured salmon. It was edible, but just tasted really “wet,” if that makes any sense.”

    It makes perfect sense. Most likely what happened is Rick, bitter and hating life after all these years of dealing with jackass passengers, thought you were acting like an entitled douche so he spit on it. Oh and those hot nuts? Don’t be surprised if old jaded Rick was resting some other nuts on the dish before they came out to your seat if you know what I mean.

  20. You must write to AA, regardless if they read all your posts or not. I’m sure they get plenty of negative complaints from passengers, but if you write them to explain how much the other FA made your experience a positive one and how incredibly negative your experience would have been, they should be willing to listen. If it falls on deaf ears, then there’s your answer-AA doesn’t have an interest in improving.

    Great trip report-I really enjoy reading your work.

  21. I was on this flight last week in Business. I agree that there is really no difference between Business and First based on this report. Wifi is fantastic.

  22. Re: The cilantro cured salmon, have you ever thought about whether you might be one of those people who can’t stand cilantro? I’m definitely one of them (it’s literally one of the only foods I absolutely will not eat), and I thought the food I was eating that had cilantro in it was just weird and bad (like they had dropped soap in it) until I realized I just couldn’t do cilantro.

  23. After many years of airline travel, I have come to the view that the only thing even halfway reliable is hard product (and basically that’s extended to just the seat on the aircraft, and unless the fleet is consistent, even that isn’t 100% reliable). Everything else is just too variable, even on SQ, CX, etc, etc (that often are touted as having consistent levels of service but from experience I can attest is never so reliable). Every airline has a Rick, more than a few have many Rick’s. Airlines simply don’t quality check their staff sufficiently (particularly those who have been with the airline a while) to prevent bad service and if you’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars for a First experience, encountering Ricks really leaves you feeling robbed.

    I agree somewhat with ww5kd that the other cabin crew member airing her grievances to a passenger about Rick was not very professional (although I infer that Lucky asked, rather than she just blurted it out without invitation), but certainly a far lesser fault than Rick’s behaviour (Rick obviously no longer likes his job, so he is hurting himself and his customers by not moving on).

    My view is pay for the best seat out there in your budget range (factoring in likelihood of aircraft change to lower standard seat, in that evaluation), and hope that the Gods smile on you in your travel day and you get service and other soft product to match (rather than approaching it the other way around, where you are more likely to be let down). And eat on the ground where possible so that feeding in the air is only a supplement that you can readily take or leave. You rely on ground and cabin crew to your detriment (because it can be so variable), so best to work from what is a given first and foremost (which is the seat/suite onboard) in order to avoid a nasty case of buyer’s remorse.

  24. Hi Ben, thanks for the report. So which terminal does this flight leave from lax, t4 or Bradley? Can we use oneworld lounge in Bradley even if it leaves from t4?

  25. Lucky… Nice to see you switching to G&T. Sounds like Rick wasn’t willing to pop a bottle of bubbly for you, or what he had on hand wasn’t worth drinking…that’s IF he could fill up the glass to a respectable level.

  26. Great trip report, laughed out loud at my desk reading, especially the bit about the other passengers comments. I agree that the service does make the difference and a sour or indifferent crew takes away from the experience significantly. On my recent trip from NRT-ORD via LHR with BA, the outstanding service from the cabin crew really made the difference, but in the future I will pass on Club World until they improve the seats. It was miserable trying to extricate myself from my window seat on a 13 hr flight, and the food wasn’t anything better than what they had in World Traveller Plus. Good champagne and great service made a difference, but will most likely try CX or JL next time, especially after experiencing the Sakura lounge in NRT.

  27. Your keen eye for observing produced this very enjoyable read.

    Since AA does not mandate crew to serve a pre-departure drink, it is difficult to fault the purser for just asking to choose in a nonchalant fashion. Rick does appear to be competing for the FA from hell title. In France they are nicknamed Monique type, reading a celebrity magazine in the galley.

    The diluted flavor sensation of the salmon could be that the curing method included pickling that was not allowed enough time to flavor the protein. Not to contradict the flight resident foodie expert, gnocchi is pasta stuffed with potato.

    Very thoughtful of the senior FA to engage you in a service recovery effort by providing an explanation to your concerns about lack of service. She had access to the manifesto that identifies you as a high level FF and prioritized showing exemplary service and goodwill.

  28. AA really should be ashamed of themselves. Offer all the crappy service you want in Y, completely understood. But if their goal is to actually sell people $8-10k tickets on what I assume is a pretty popular and lucrative route LAX->LHR they need to change everything about what they offer. Yes, that includes good (not just edible) food, wine that you can’t buy at Trader Joes for $8, whiskey that doesnt come in plastic bottles, staff that actually appreciates your business keeping them employed. I’m angry just reading your trip report.

    I feel like Delta J would be a better option for this route than AA F.

  29. “Very thoughtful of the senior FA to engage you in a service recovery effort by providing an explanation to your concerns about lack of service.”

    Badmouthing the purser wasn’t thoughtful, it was downright unprofessional and bitchy. Taking over the service while he isn’t looking I can get behind, but you don’t call a fellow employee an asshole right to the customer’s face.

  30. I was thinking about using my Alaska miles for a first class ticket on AA to Europe….after this review, I think I’ll stick with BA….even with the higher miles cost and additional fuel surcharges.

  31. My last and final ride in A A first class.
    I was on a QANTA/ A A ticket. $14k, just arrived from 12 hour flight from Sydney.
    A A was doing the Lax to JFK service.
    They refused to hang up my suit jacket, and served a burrito for lunch.
    staff were surley and rude. The cabin was cramped and I felt like I was leaving the Flying to Greyhound.

    No more USA carriers for me.

  32. @ Ivan — It’s certainly not horrible for a paid first class fare, but personally I wouldn’t pay it for American first class.

  33. “First class bottled water”…….lol. A little pretentious don’t you think? It’s a friggin bottle of water….#smh

  34. If you had the option of an Aadvantage award LAX-LHR on AA or BA (with BA costing around $400 more due to surcharges), which would you take?

  35. On what planet would that breakfast be considered international First Class?

    Smuckers jelly in a plastic container, butter in the plastic wrapper, back to the old salt and pepper shakkers, and Yoplait yogurt in the plastic container? That looks just plain silly and those USAir folks must have seriously hated AA’s upgraded Intl service as none of this would have been present last year.

  36. @ Rob — Hmmm, if I had the option I’d probably do American, since I really value wifi. That being said, if it were a super special trip or I traveled less frequently, I might do BA for the better onboard experience.

  37. @ John — Sorry, didn’t mean for it to sound like that. I caption all my pictures for the airline and class of service it is, so the words following that aren’t necessarily related to the actual product.

  38. Why didn’t you post pics of Rick like you did with that other AA FA who didn’t act in accordance with your blogging standards?

  39. Loved the honesty and the authenticity of the review.

    I generally never write comments, but I wanted to say that please continue to post both positive and negative parts of your traveling experience. Some of the previous users say you are complaining too much, being negative and this and that. it’s a trip review, and not an advertisement. Substantiated and specific complaints/comments are very necessary. it’s like going to TripAdvisor and many of the hotel reviews there are just a small paragraph where everything’s great. It’s not a useful review without some critique. It’s very legitimate observation and suggestions how to improve the service. It would be oh-so-easy to write a review saying everything’s perfect and amazing and beautiful. I have read too much of these sugar-coated reviews on magazines such as Business Traveller where everything great. It’s not. It takes a critic’s eye to really spot the inconsistencies. Yes – a protein on the salad would make a good salad great. Keep up the good work. Don’t sugar-coat anything. Be honest and true to yourself.

  40. Gnocchi is definitely made from potato, not pasta stuffed with potato, as one person commented.

  41. Rick sounds level-headed………..you on the other hand sound like a spoilt three-year-old who needs entertaining 24/7. Crew members are not there to amuse us—in fact I prefer to be left alone and allowed to work as in my office. Please know you are not speaking for the busy professional out there traveling on business. The last thing we want or need is to be entertained by cabin staff. Please do everyone a favor and swallow an ambien and go to sleep.

  42. Within the last month I have completed an F LAX-LHR and a J LHR-LAX. I can completely agree with this assessment of the service from AA. My F flight was due to a same day upgrade for $460 per seat from J, and while the seat is great, the soft product is damn near sad. Thanks for the honest report…..

  43. i am trying to set up a ticket for 2 from savannah to austrailia then austrailia to bkk then bkk to sav
    spending about 1 to 2 weeks in austrailia and 1 to 2 months in thailand.
    i am having trouble finding space for 2 when it seems to be available for 1. Is it reasonable to set up one ticket and then keep hunting for the 2nd ticket?
    Is the american airlines award tool the best one to search the awards? Should i use the multi city option or try to set up each leg independently ? I have a lot of flexibility on dates.
    I had 3 flight dates picked out then trying to choose flights the tool told me one of them was unavailable and i couldnt get a valid flight to select.
    Does the flight availability change that fast?
    what is the best tool to find flight availability for 2 people and how do you lock it in?

  44. Dewars white label in First has always stunned me, other airlines are in the Blue Label hemisphere.

  45. I continue to be perplexed by AA’s 777-300ER first class product. When i saw that they kept those silly space-wasting swivel chair recliners from the old 777’s, my heart dropped, what a wasted opportunity. The suites could accommodate a much wider bed, who the h€ll goes on a 12 hour flight thinking what they really need is a chair that swivels? To do what, sit at a desk? I can work in bed, thank you. If AA had simply filled the space with something extra-large and new, the service and the identical-to-business class menu offerings would probably be non issues. Oh, and the wide open view into the galley for 12 hours, curtain open, lights on.. it’s a 2 row cabin, you may as well be IN the galley. So relaxing.
    I’m never happier to turn right on a plane than on this one, no FC envy whatsoever, I actually prefer BC to FC in this case.
    This was AA’s design, it can’t be blamed on USAir mgmt (though most things these days can be..) i wonder if they realize what a dud it is? The 777ER fleet isnt huge, i’m hoping they rethink this FC soon before there is no FC.

  46. Half cup of coffee was likely Union Rick’s attempt to supply you with as little caffeine as possible because you sleeping means less work for him.

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