American Offering Improved Amenities On New Sydney Flight

In June we learned that American will launch flights between Los Angeles and Sydney as of December 17, 2015. This new daily Boeing 777-300ER flight will be part of a joint venture with Qantas, and sure is an exciting addition for American flyers, along with the new flight to Auckland, which launches next June.

American-777

American just flew a 777-300ER to Sydney to showcase their product in anticipation of the launch, hoping to get Australians excited about the new flight. We’ve learned a couple of interesting things from this media circuit.

First of all, it’s interesting to note that American will offer some enhanced amenities on their Sydney flight, due to the joint venture with Qantas. Via news.com.au:

With a brand new Boeing 777-300ER in tow, American Airlines executives joined partner Qantas to talk up their Australian offering — which is unlike anything else the US carrier operates.

As well as an improved economy class service, American Airlines is putting pyjamas into business class and finessing their coffee in an effort to impress savvy Aussie travellers.

Now, I suspect the first statement is mostly puffery, though it is interesting to note that American will offer pajamas in business class on their Sydney flight, which they otherwise only offer in first class.

American-First-Class-777-05

As far as “finessing their coffee” goes, perhaps American will begin offering espressos and cappuccinos in business class, as they’re presently only available in first class. Or perhaps they’ll just improve the quality of the filtered coffee (which I wish they’d do throughout the fleet, but…).

American-777-First-Class-41

Regardless, while I think people love to make fun of US carriers (largely for good reasons), I’d take American business class over Qantas business class any day. American’s business class on the 777-300ER features fully flat reverse herringbone seats, which is the best hard product out there.

American-777-300-1

Meanwhile Qantas offers standard forward facing business class seats, which are hardly industry leading.

Qantas-Business-Class-747-04

I also hugely value that American offers wifi on their 777-300ERs, which is an especially useful amenity on a longhaul flight. American’s CEO seems to agree, even if this statement doesn’t seem like the smartest thing to say in a joint venture, given Qantas’ lack of wifi:

Mr Parker said Wi-Fi was becoming a standard customer service on airlines, particularly those doing long-haul flights.

“You can’t expect a business traveller doing a 16-hour flight to go without internet,” he said.

Bottom line

I’m excited for American to launch their new flight to Sydney. While I think Qantas first class is better than American first class, and while I think Qantas also wins in economy, I’d take American’s business class hard product with wifi over Qantas business class any day.

Qantas-A380-First-Class-04
Qantas A380 first class

American-777-First-Class-01
American 777-300ER first class

I’m curious to hear what you guys think. While I think we can all agree that Qantas is better in first and economy, which airline would you choose in business class?

Comments

  1. I expect it to eventually end in a race to the bottom, similarly to UA and NH’s joint venture. Instead of UA improving their product, NH just downgrades it. After all, why should they be offering caviar and seven course meals when they are sharing the same revenue with an airline that admitted to the public that there is no material difference between their business and first product?

  2. What really matters is award availability on this route. As it stands with Qantas, there is little to none. I sure hope American will offer more availability. Having a nicer seat, tasty coffee & wifi is peachy but doesn’t matter if I can’t use my miles to experience all of it.

  3. With this and the new announced non stop to Aukland – no need to worry to much about upgrades – rumor has it (with some authority) AA will reduce from 8 to 4 SWU’s to their top travelers, EXPS, as well as requiring more miles for an award. Race to the bottom is on.

  4. None of my Aussie business peers are gonna fly AA. This route will have to be for US passengers who don’t know any better. Yes, reverse herringbone is more private than a Skybed, though both are very comfortable. And wifi is handy if you spend your entire life in the sky, though the occasional business traveler really doesn’t need to be online in every single 14-hour overnight period.

    But cheap wine, crappy food, and surly old crews who hide in the galley are not, in the minds of Australian producers and executives, going to beat fresh Australian menus, decent wines, and attentive servers who stroll the aisles with a smile taking drinks orders and handing out ice creams. The misery of connecting from Qantas to domestic AA is seared in the minds of every Aussie who ventures beyond Los Angeles, and AA will need more than an espresso machine to overcome it.

  5. There’s no such thing as drip coffee on Australia so it’s nice to hear AA is adjusting its offerings. Aussies love Americans and there’s no shortage of them on DL and UA flights. The QF Skybed is truly horrible and kills my back.

  6. @Josh – yup, think you’ve covered it all there!

    To focus on one very minor thing (but quite telling I think), how ice-cream is deemed acceptable as the sole dessert choice for adult passengers in international business class is beyond me.

  7. @Josh: Spot on!!!! I would never fly a US airline internationally if I had an option to fly one from Europe, Asia, ME or Australia. I have no option on domestic flights in the US. 🙁

  8. @Brian — the 777-300ER starboard lavatory between the business class mini cabin and the main business class cabin is actually quite spacious.

  9. @Daftboy: Ice cream is a US airline thing. I also don’t understand why they serve one scope of ice cream with chocolate topping and nuts in every single flight. Delta has added some small sweets but that is about it. It is very clear that the strategy is to go cheap, easy, cheap and easy. I just flew Delta One from Paris to the US and the menu was pretty decent with French dishes, great French wines including dessert wine but guess what was the dessert option? Ice cream!!!! C’mon!!!! Coming from Paris and all you can load on your plane is ice cream? BTW, I asked if I could get a second round of the ice cream and I was told NO!!!! 🙁

  10. @RKToledo: Actually, nicer seats, tasty coffee, and wifi DO matter very much. Believe it or not, there are people who actually pay for premium cabin tickets. They’re the ones subsidizing this whole mileage game. AA is smart to offer its best product on this route because J and F cabins to the South Pacific are full of paying customers (hence why there’s so little award space).

    As for who’s better, AA wins on hard product, QF on soft. Pick whichever is most important to you. Alternatively, fly NZ or soon VA and get the best of both worlds. Heck, even AC offers all aisle access and (marginally) better food/service than AA.

  11. Don’t understand how handing out PJ’s is a service enhancement. Recently flew LA to LHR in First, the the enhanced service was having PJ’s on the same cart as newspapers. A far cry from Singapore or other international airlines

  12. And the difference between AA F and J is getting smaller and smaller. The cabin will be gone sooner rather than later.

  13. Have to agree with quite a few of the comments.

    The seat on American is more private and newer design, and no climbing over your seat mate. But everything else on Qantas leads AA. Check in staff & experience, lounge staff & experience, warm, polite FA’s. Great food & wine and dessert. The overall experience on Qantas even in the older seats is much much better.

  14. @ Santastico – Once on BA’s A380 Club World was enough to send me running to AA’s reverse herringbone seats. Maybe the dividers worked on your flights, the neighbors facing you were’t coughing into your face, and you didn’t need to contort your body to get in and out of those ridiculous ying-yang seats. I would rather fly in a comfortable seat with a modicum of privacy, eating Lean Cuisine type food, than subject myself to another flight with outdated business seating configurations even if the flight attendants are as happy as Smurfs.

  15. AA has long offered both ice cream sundaes and/or fruit & cheese plate. When the IFS service was “streamlined” effective November 1, 2014, AA more or less moved to LUS style international catering and introduced a third option of a cake/pie such as tiramisu or a fruit tart.

    Roughly a decade ago (March 2005) AA briefly moved from sundaes to more upscale desserts and FFs were outraged and sundaes returned two months later.

  16. Ben, You solicit comments at the end of each of your posts but rarely acknowledge them. It appears you’ve figured out how to monetize page views/comments as you transform your formerly informative blog into a dumbed down Rick Steves blog for airplanes, lounges and hotels. I’ve waited long enough to see if you revert to your old style of sharing your knowledge on converting miles & points to low-cost luxury travel.

    Good luck with your new format but I’m no longer a regular reader.

  17. Does QF offer pajamas in Biz Class? I think I agree with the general consensus on the hard products. I haven’t flown long haul on either the QF biz or AA biz. But, I did fly on QF from BNE to SYD on the 747 they used to fly from DFW and have flown CX biz class with the same seat as the AA. I will have a stronger opinion come February when I fly QF in biz on the 747 from SYD-SFO.

    At this point, I definitely would prefer AA. But, the enhanced amenities like better service, food, drink, coffee, pajamas, etc. just don’t matter to me in any way. I am a straight hard product guy. If the flight attendants generally disappear between meal service that’s fine by me, as it lets me sleep with fewer noises in the cabin.

    I do prefer the look of Qantas planes and I’m a sucker for a good Aussie accent. But, those would never trump a hard product. Not that you really ever have a choice to make on which to fly if trying to use miles. You take what you can get.

  18. Ben, you flew Quantas in COACH? I’m impressed. I didn’t see the trip report listed, so I guess it was before the blog. I’d still like to know what you liked better about it than American’s coach.

    @RKToledo – Spot on. I guess it’s lovely that the product is upgraded, but the whole premise of reading blogs like this is to figure how to do this for cheap on points. Judging from premium seat availability that AA offers on other transpacific flights, saver availability will be just about zero.

  19. I really enjoy flying Qantas (though I’ve increasingly chosen CX Premium Economy for paid tickets to Aus to earn significantly more EQP than with QF Premium Economy, at a cheaper price than QF). But I will definitely choose AA over QF business class for the seat alone (using SWUs). I’m not at all a fan of QF biz seats.

    @Cory Yeah, Qantas offers pajamas in business. They’re thin and won’t last through a wash without shrinkage, but they’re fine.

  20. While the QF seat offers less privacy than AA, the soft product is miles ahead, including good quality pyjamas (I still use some QF ones after many washes).

    In terms of wifi, I think what is not mentioned is that many airlines (including Qantas) installed wifi on one or two test planes and asked for customer feedback and the overwhelming majority of customers, including Business Class passengers, DID NOT WANT wifi because they prefer to be not available for new emails on a flight. That is also my personal opinion. You can connect in the lounge and use the flight to work on offline things or simply relax.

  21. Drip coffee you say, Ben? As if! Australians do not drink it. AA will need to install expresso machines and train peeps to use it correctly. After all, badly made expresso is just as bad as those silly coffee pots sitting on a warmer for half a day, like in every 1980’s sitcom. Yuk!

  22. @Mike: Remember that FAs bid for assignments based on seniority, and I’m guessing this will be one of the more popular routes. You really some old AA dragon giving you a handy-J with the same enthusiasm they show for the meal service?

  23. Great news they are going to be offering a 3 class product and totally agree with you. I would take the a380 when flying in first. Your point about the business however is very true. I wonder if the menu is going to have some local Australia cuisine or mainly US offerings?
    Is it just me or does the pyjamas look like they are prison issue?

  24. I don’t think AA will eliminate F on the 77W. There is not enough room to replace the 2 rows of F with 3 rows of J – so I think those 2 F rows will remain.

    Both F and J are 1-2-1 so nothing to gain by eliminating F. It gives AA a carrot to offer for J upgrades. The food is the same, only a soup course is extra in F.

    The PJs are just matching QF J. AA doesn’t offer PJs in J on DFW-HKG – so I would not expect this to be a trend.

  25. I suppose it’s worth pointing out that QF offers a true (and well-regarded) Premium Economy product which AA does not.

  26. @David, give him a lttle more time. He’s in love, which causes people to lose focus for a while. Once the new relationship energy (aka NRE) dies down, I think we’ll get the old responsive Lucky back.
    @Glenn, “expresso?” Seriously?

  27. AA’s value proposition, holistically is great. I’m happy to take their current offering at the current price point for their domestic and transatlantic service.

    However, if you’re forking out in excess of $8,000 for a return trip across the Pacific, would you still choose them? Particularly, when you are able to get, for exactly the same price, the service of Qantas, albeit with a more “archaic” hard product.

    It is silly for AA to have tied itself to QF on this sector. There is a fair profit to be made by undercutting QF across the Pacific, while AA tries to build its brand on that route and rejuvenate it’s crew base through natural attrition (aka allowing the lemons to drop off).

    But instead, they’re entering the market on Qantas’ coat tails, fiddling around the edges of their product offering and offering no other real value proposition besides the herringbone seats (which at times are not cleaned or maintained as well as it should be).

    I want AA to succeed but I personally would not spend that kind of money on the Pacific sector knowing the other options out there.

  28. @Curt,

    Good luck scoring an SWU upgrade on this sector!

    In this past year (2015), I’ve noticed the availability of C inventory for long haul flights on AA is limited and appears only closer to the date of travel. The uncertainty makes for difficult planning. We’ve almost exclusively used SWU for domestic upgrades now, where A inventory availability is more reliable.

    That, coupled with the planned reduction in SWU being offered, one has to be prudent and develop an alternative strategy.

    Yes, it would be absolutely marvellous to use SWU on AA across the Pacific to bump up from a cheap coach fare to Business. But is it likely to happen? I don’t think so.

  29. @TheRealBabushka

    The thing is though, most of the people who actually pay for business class see the flight as a means to an end. For most of them, the marginal differences in soft product aren’t really a concern, and honestly they will just fly whatever their corporate travel agency tells them to fly. For the remaining few that do care, they mostly care about the seats. For them, the difference between AA’s seat and QF’s seat is going to matter way more than the difference between the service.

  30. I have just flown AA first international and it was appalling, as well as first New York to LA on the A321. Whilst the hard product was good the service and attitude of the f/a’s was just amazing to me, and who monitors the grooming standards?, I’m only hoping the folksy anything goes manner of what will be VERY senior crew operating to Sydney will improve. I will ONLY be flying Qantas thank you, keep your ice cream sundaes and your cheap sparkling. It’s no surprise that there hasn’t been one US carrier that is regarded as first class and Skytrax- well good luck finding them mentioned in ANY positive light. Can someone please also explain to me the aprons with the f/a’s family and pets appearing on them ? Please leave them in your lockers at LAX

  31. @chasgoose,

    Yes I agree with you. There are lemmings out there. And it makes it harder for the uninformed when a flight might be QF coded but in fact operated by AA. I guess if these people are happy to be exploited then good for the airlines!

  32. I am not flying business or first, but I am on the Dec 19 flight to LAX and then onto MIA. Looking forward to it and my next flight on AA in June to LAX and onto ORD.

  33. @David (Nov 13, 2:11pm). Mate it is simple, if you don’t like Ben’s post, don’t read them. Quit your moaning bitch.

  34. @Luxon;
    I don’t think @David is moaning. I think that he is offering Ben some constructive opinion that Ben can choose to ignore. Having a constructive comment should not lead to name calling.
    I happen to agree with David. For those of us that have been following (and supporting with link clicking) Ben for many years things are not the same and we are sad to see the quality of communication drop.
    No moaning. No drama. Just stating a fact. Many of us have stopped being regular readers and if this does not bother Ben then he has no reason to respond. I am sure we will find the information we need and provide our financial support somewhere else.

  35. @arcanum yeah it’s not ideal but I’m just looking for some handwork to release the tension before catching some shuteye so not too picky.

  36. I know all the travel bloggers rave about CX’s Cirrus business seats being the best hard product, but I didn’t find them very comfortable for sleeping, especially since they don’t provide a mattress pad.

    Different strokes for different folks, I guess — I flew CX HKG -> SYD and then QF SYD -> LAX (A380) on one trip. I found the Skybed more comfortable, although I had a middle seat and didn’t have to deal with the non-aisle access problem.

  37. @mbh~
    I assume you are an American, and therefore have zero rights to chide anyone regarding spelling of the English language!

  38. It’s too bad Aussies are more biased towards flying QF and avoiding AA without trying the product. Flying experiences in Aus vs the USA are completely different, you can’t expect the same. It’s just unrealistic to serve plated meals on 1.5 hour flights like QF does in the USA. Also there are more flyers/air traffic in the USA hence why the lounges are more crowded and why there is no budget to put out an entire buffet spread of food like QF does in their clubs. But, if you compare something similar say like AA’s transcontinental service (JFK-SFO/LAX) on the A321T, that beats a QF experience on their A330s (and formerly 767s) with superior lie flat seats (although QF is finally getting lie flat seats). But at least AA still offers wifi.

    The Fact Qantas’s wifi experience failed has something to with the fact they charged $20 for 25mb of data. AA Charges $19 for an entire flight and there are no data caps. So it’s not that nobody wants to use wifi in the air, its just that the wifi qantas was offering was complete crap.

    Qantas has better food than AA sure, but i’m not going to sacrifice a better seat just so i can eat better. Better seat, wifi are the winners for me. AA is a changing airline and are trying to improve the service, so Aussies shouldn’t discriminate based on some crappy domestic experience they had a couple years ago.

  39. @Tony I think most of the Australians commenting on this post indicate that they have had the misfortune of flying AA at some point in time and they speak from experience. I recently came off a J QF flight SYD-LAX and transferred on to AA’s much touted A321 transcon service. Chalk and cheese. The service I had on QF was out of this world. Second only to NH in my experience, superior to CX or EK F even. Catering was grown up, fresh, healthy, contemporary. Great wines poured by staff who know what’s in the bottle and make informed recommendations. Likewise the entertainment was contemporary and grown up with plenty of non-saccherine options as well as the usual blockbusters and US sitcoms. And I was served a mean espresso after dinner and a decent flat white with breakfast. (These things matter to Australians and Kiwis!). I nabbed the coveted 5J on a 747, so hard product was superior to the reverse herringbone which actually leaves me a bit unimpressed having had a few sleepless nights in those seats on CX – I feel very exposed to the aisle.

    Then the jolt to the AA transcon. Breakfast in the lounge? Only if you handover some cash. Shower? The ambiance of a hospital shower…which hadn’t been cleaned. Boarding? A sh*tfight. Greeting at the aircraft door? Bahahahaha!!!! As if! Crew had their backs turned to boarding passengers. PA announcements? Hokey and unprofessional. Service? “You wan’ xyz? [barked]” Smiles? Pffft. Food? Choice of unhealthy savoury mush or even more unhealthy sweat diabetes on a plate. I ordered the savoury, had two bites. Left the rest. Care factor when uneaten meal cleared away? Zero. Seat? Yes, decent hard product, but a bit superflous on a 5 hour day flight, though seeing as they insist on window shades closed, and the entertainment was so bereft of anything interesting, I did end up sleeping for some of the flight and was appreciative of a fat seat.

    Sorry, but the assertions that soft product doesn’t matter I think really miss the mark unless one has been so desensitised to bad service and

  40. I’m booking a flight tomorrow to take me from SYD to NYC for late January, and rather than take QF11 all the way, I’ll be taking QF7 to DFW and then connecting with a domestic AA flight.

    My intention is to fly F, and I’d rather get halfway across the US in QF int F, and in return, cop the AA dom F (which was like QF dom J last year) for the last 3 hours or so.

    I’m entirely basing my view of AA on what I’ve found in domestic US air travel, but I’m not willing to chance what I know will be a trip I will enjoy “across the pond” with QF, by taking a punt on a product from a carrier I endure, rather than enjoy.

  41. AA have a team of people based at QF Sydney offices working on the in flight service required for the new Syd/Lax service; including Neil Perry food people, so more than just PJ and improved coffee me thinks!

    Would I chance AA, probably not, have experienced their domestic service and one AA Long Haul, LHR/DFW; good seat, average crew, cheap bubbly, wine and poor food. WiFi available but who wants it would rather escape from the office relax read a good book or watch a movie and sip on a nice red.

    Flew back to Mel on Friday from HKG on QF; great lounge, awesome new seats on the A330, friendly crew and great food and wine, even beats CX.

  42. QANTAS – is an acronym – I have also heard it described as the only English word starting with the letter “q” that is not followed by the letter “u”.

    Qantas stands for QUEENSLAND AND NORTHERN TERRORTORY AIR SERVICE

    which harks back to the day when it was a start up airline in 1920, operating out of Longreach Qld, flying very small planes around the outback.

  43. @Alain Millett: Originally, yes, it was an acronym. A few years ago though they changed it from QANTAS to Qantas, which is now the correct spelling.

  44. My comment was about no U in the brand.

    Regardless of upper case, lower case, backlite neon, arabic or Hebrew script

    Still no U.

    Wtf?

  45. @Alain Millett:

    1. I wasn’t really sure what your comment was about since it had nothing at all to do with the story.

    2. As a proper name, Qantas isn’t really an English word.

    3. U or not, it’s spelled “Qantas” not “QANTAS” now.

  46. I’ve flown Qantas (economy) many times between the US and Australia – both the 747 and A380. I have always chosen Qantas because I like to start my vacation at the very moment I board the flight, and having the Australian flight attendants reminds me that I’m going “home” (albeit on vacation).

    I was planning on flying Qantas to Australia again this year for a two week vacation, until I discovered that my Qantas FF miles weren’t getting me anywhere, but I was able to top up my AA miles to get myself a first class ticket on the 777-300er outbound, and business (QF) on the return trip. I’m kind of bummed that it’s not the other way around, since you rave about the American business class, but I’m not really complaining – it will be my first time flying internationally in anything other than economy. Frankly, I’m more interested in the bed than the food, but having wifi on the AA flight will be cool.

  47. Ben do you think that American will begin to offer pajamas in business class on other long-haul flights as well, or do you suspect Los Angeles to Sydney will be the only route to offer this perk

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