Review: American Economy Class A321 Los Angeles To New York
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Review: American Flagship Lounge Dallas DFW Airport
Review: British Airways First Class 777 Austin To London
Review: Westin Palace Madrid Hotel
Day Trip To Toledo
Review: Iberia Business Class Lounge Madrid
Review: Sala VIP Amnios Lounge Madrid
Review: Iberia Economy Class A321 Madrid To London
Review: American Business Class 777-300ER London To Los Angeles
When I cleared security at Terminal 3 there was an American agent just past the checkpoint yelling “if you’re on the AA109, please proceed to gate 31 immediately.” It was around 11AM at this point, so I figured they were on final boarding, or something. It’s otherwise not normal for an agent to be stationed at the checkpoint to direct people to a specific gate. After all, that’s what departures monitors are for.
I skipped the lounge and headed towards gate 31, which was quite a hike. Upon getting to gate 31 I found the gate to not even be open yet. As a matter of fact, passengers were just finishing up deplaning from the inbound flight, which had come from Dallas. It would have been a 5-10 minute walk to get back to the lounge, so I decided to simply sit on the floor near the gate so I could get some work done, rather than trekking back and forth, especially as the flight still showed as being on-time. One of the few redeeming qualities of Heathrow (other than it being great for physical activity) is that it has fast and free wifi.
About 20 minutes later the gate opened, at which point there must have been a queue a couple of hundred people deep to enter it. So I stayed seated just next to the gate area, and once the line died down I headed into the “holding pen.”
When you enter the gate they check your passport and also scan your boarding pass, so you’re considered “onboard” once you’re in the gate area. And it was crowded.
Finally at around 11:40AM boarding began, starting with first class, and then shortly thereafter business class. I was looking forward to finally boarding the 777-300ER and getting caught up on some work, thanks to the onboard wifi.
As I got on the plane a guy with a maintenance jacket walked right in front of me. I said to him “uh oh, I don’t like seeing that jacket shortly before departure.” He commented “oh no, nothing is wrong, this plane is actually less than a week old.” And it did indeed have the new plane smell!
London (LHR) – Los Angeles (LAX)
Tuesday, November 3
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER
Seat: 3J (Business Class)
I boarded through door 2L, where I was pointed left towards the mini business class cabin.
The 777-300ER has 16 seats in front of the main entry door — there are eight first class seats and then immediately behind it another eight business class seats.
Then behind the main entry door are 44 more business class seats, spread across 11 rows.
My favorite place to sit in business class is one of the window seats in row three, as it’s nice and private. All you have in front of the seat is the first class cabin, though there are no galleys or lavatories there.
American’s 777-300ERs feature reverse herringbone seats in business class, which is hands down my favorite business class hard product. The seat’s design is flawless. I’ve reviewed American’s 777-300ER business class several times before, so I won’t focus too much on the seat in this review.
Already waiting at my seat were Bose headphones. It’s awesome that American offers these, as many of the top international carriers have much worse quality headphones in first class, let alone business class.
Also waiting at my seat was one of the heritage amenity kits.
There were also a pillow and blanket. While not as good as the Westin Heavenly Bedding which can be found on Delta, it was nice nonetheless.
Within a few minutes of settling in, one of the friendly flight attendants working my aisle came by to offer me a pre-departure beverage. I selected some water.
A few minutes later the flight attendant came by with the menus for the flight, which were recently redesigned.
For a US carrier the boarding process was fairly quick, and a bit after noon the ground manager came aboard to thank us for “boarding the plane in 28 minutes, which must be record time.” That gave me a good chuckle, as just about every non-US carrier can board an A380 in last time than that.
The door closed at around 12:15PM, at which point the captain came on the PA to add his welcome aboard, informing us of our flight time of 10hr42min, and that we’d be cruising at 30,000 feet.
During pushback the safety video began to play. As we taxied to the runway the flight attendants came through to take meal orders for lunch. On this flight they started taking meal orders in the last row, meaning I was the last to get my choice. I still got what I wanted, which was the salmon (the only option they were out of was the chicken).
The taxi to our departure runway was scenic, as we first passed the other planes at Terminal 3, and then eventually taxied past Terminal 5.
Just 15 minutes after pushing back we were cleared for takeoff. Interestingly we had a midfield takeoff, and a United 767 lined up on the runway right behind us, as presumably they were next in line. It’s not often you see a plane waiting for takeoff behind another plane on the actual runway.
Our takeoff roll was long and smooth, and naturally my eyes were glued out the window for the entire climb out.
The weather was typical for London (or Seattle) in November, though it was considerably nicer once we got above the clouds.
I took the opportunity to browse the inflgiht entertainment selection, which was fairly extensive. It’s not often I use the IFE system on flights, but the inflight wifi hadn’t yet kicked in, and I had exhausted the selection on my iPad.
About 20 minutes after takeoff the flight attendants got up to commence their service, at which point the
fishnet curtain between first & business class was extended. I’ve always found it annoying that US airlines don’t use “real” curtains for “security” reasons.
The crew on this sector was quite friendly and extremely efficient, which I really appreciate. Let’s be honest, business class dining on a US carrier isn’t really much of an “experience,” so the best you can hope for is to be served a nice enough meal at a fast pace, in my opinion.
The lunch menu read as follows:
And the wine/beverage list read as follows:
Service began with hot towels.
That was followed minutes later by warm nuts and drinks. I just had a still water to drink. It’s interesting that the flight attendant working my aisle memorized the first names of everyone around me. So she’d address everyone by name at every single interaction. Which I was sort of impressed by. At the same time, while I’m a fan of being addressed by first name, I imagine not everyone appreciates the crew being so informal.
About 10 minutes after drinks were served, the crew was back through the cabin with a salad and starter.
The caprese salad was good, though a bit on the bland side.
Meanwhile the actual salad would’ve been hard pressed to be sadder (it reminded me a bit of the “seasonal salad” I got on a LOT Polish flight out of Warsaw in winter).
I selected pretzel bread from the breadbasket, which has to be one of my favorite aspects of American’s catering.
Appetizers were cleared fairly quickly, and then main courses were brought out on individual trays as passengers were ready for them.
I’m always expecting to be disappointed when I order fish on a plane, but this dish was actually very good. The fish itself was moist, and the accompaniments were nice.
For dessert I ordered a sundae with hot fudge and nuts. It was, as usual, excellent. I also had coffee with milk.
Service throughout the meal was friendly and extremely efficient. The entire meal was done 1hr15min after takeoff.
After the meal, water bottles were distributed, and I set up my “portable office.” American offers wifi on their 777-300ERs, and a 24 hour pass costs just ~$20 with no data limits, which is extremely reasonable.
I spent the next several hours catching up on work. Before I knew it we were over Iceland, and then soon over Canada.
One of the impressive aspects of American’s 777-300ER (at least for a US airline) is that they have a walk-up bar between the two business class cabins. They have quite a few snacks available, though I couldn’t help but notice that the spread had been cut back significantly since the 777-300ER was first introduced.
The below is what the spread looked like when it was set up, which is only a small fraction of what they used to offer.
As I took a picture of the bar setup the flight attendant who was working the other aisle came up to me and said “are you taking pictures?”
Ruh-roh, I figured I was in trouble, given that some American flight attendants flip out if you take a picture of anything on a plane. The American photography policy is as follows, which can be interpreted in a few different ways:
Use of still and video cameras, film or digital, is permitted only for recording personal events. Photography or video recording of airline personnel, equipment, or procedures is strictly prohibited.
The good news is that this wasn’t why she was asking about my picture taking. When I said “yes,” she said “great, because it’s a cool setup, isn’t it? But you should have seen it when it was first introduced, as we had a lot more to offer.” Whew!
After working for about five hours I figured I’d take a break and watch a movie. “Pitch Perfect 2” was available on the inflight entertainment system, so I figured I’d watch it, given how much I liked the first movie. It didn’t disappoint.
After the movie I decided to nap briefly, and was awoken about 90 minutes out as the pre-arrival service menu.
The light meal menu read as follows:
I ordered the salmon salad, which was quite good as well.
I certainly have no complaints about food on this flight!
At around 2:45PM PT the captain came on the PA to inform us that we’d be initiating our descent shortly, and should touch down at around 3:20PM.
About 10 minutes after that he said that due to weather in the area we were being put in a holding pattern. Weather in SoCal, that’s a thing?!?!
On the plus side, the views from above were beautiful. We kept flying south for a while, and then the captain informed us we’d head back towards LA, though would have to do one more holding pattern around Catalina Island before being cleared to land.
Finally we turned back towards LA.
We approached towards the west.
We touched down on runway 25L at 3:40PM.
And the weather was indeed strange, as there were some ginormous clouds over the airport.
Our touchdown on runway 25L was smooth, and then we had to hold short of runway 25R for a moment as some planes were taking off. Fortunately we had a nice view of Tom Bradley International Terminal while waiting, including of my beloved Emirates A380.
Soon enough we were cleraed to cross the runway, and from there it was just a couple of minutes taxi to Terminal 4.
Because of our arrival gate we had to be towed to our final parking position, so the engines were turned off in the alley, and then it was a five minute process for us to get hooked up to the tow and be brought to the gate.
I actually didn’t realize that American uses the customs & immigration facilities at Tom Bradley International, so we had to take a bus there, which was a short ride.
On the plus side, that translated to some nice views of our gorgeous 777-300ER.
Unfortunately it also meant riding a bus.
American 777-300ER business class bottom line
As far as I’m concerned reverse herringbone seats are the single best business class hard product out there. For me, wifi is the single most valuable amenity on a daytime flight. Combine the two, and I think American’s 777-300ER business class is fantastic. The service and food were quite good on this flight as well.
As much as we complain about US airlines, I’ll take a reverse herringbone seat with wifi over just about any other business class product, no matter how much better the food, service, and amenities are on another airline. In other words, in business class I’d take American over British Airways to London, and I’d take American over Qantas to Sydney, all else otherwise being equal.
Anyone agree with me, and value reverse herringbone seats and wifi over all else?