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

Introduction
Review: American Economy Class A321 Los Angeles To New York
Review: American Business Class 767 New York To Madrid
Review: American Flagship Lounge Dallas DFW Airport
Review: British Airways First Class 777 Austin To London
Review: Westin Palace Madrid Hotel
Exploring Madrid
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.

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Terminal 3 departure gate London Heathrow

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!

American 109
London (LHR) – Los Angeles (LAX)
Tuesday, November 3
Depart: 11:35AM
Arrive: 2:50PM
Duration: 11hr15min
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.

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American 777-300ER business class, seat 3J

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American 777-300ER business class, seat 3J

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American 777-300ER business class & entertainment controls

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View from seat 3J, American 777-300ER

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.

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American business class Bose headphones

Also waiting at my seat was one of the heritage amenity kits.

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American business class amenity kit

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.

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American business class pillow & blanket

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.

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American business class pre-departure water

A few minutes later the flight attendant came by with the menus for the flight, which were recently redesigned.

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American business class menu

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.

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American A330 London Heathrow

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).

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Pushing back London Heathrow

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.

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Taxiing London Heathrow

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747s Heathrow Airport

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Taxiing to departure runway Heathrow Airport

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.

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Lining up on runway Heathrow Airport

Our takeoff roll was long and smooth, and naturally my eyes were glued out the window for the entire climb out.

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Rolling down the runway

The weather was typical for London (or Seattle) in November, though it was considerably nicer once we got above the clouds.

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View after takeoff from London Heathrow

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View after takeoff from London Heathrow

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Climbing out

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.

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Airshow enroute to Los Angeles

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Airshow enroute to Los Angeles

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Airshow enroute to Los Angeles

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Airshow enroute to Los Angeles

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.

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Curtain between business and first class

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:

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And the wine/beverage list read as follows:

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Service began with hot towels.

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American business class hot towel

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.

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American business class lunch — warm mixed nuts

About 10 minutes after drinks were served, the crew was back through the cabin with a salad and starter.

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American business class lunch — salad & starter

The caprese salad was good, though a bit on the bland side.

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American business class lunch — caprese salad starter

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).

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American business class lunch — mixed greens

I selected pretzel bread from the breadbasket, which has to be one of my favorite aspects of American’s catering.

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American business class lunch — pretzel bread

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.

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American business class lunch — Asian style salmon

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.

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American business class lunch — ice cream sundae and coffee

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.

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Airshow enroute to Los Angeles

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.

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American 777-300ER business class bar

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.

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American 777-300ER business class bar

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American 777-300ER business class bar

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:

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I ordered the salmon salad, which was quite good as well.

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American business class pre-arrival snack — salmon salad

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?!?!

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Gorgeous afternoon over SoCal

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.

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Gorgeous afternoon over SoCal

Finally we turned back towards LA.

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View on approach into Los Angeles

We approached towards the west.

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View on approach into Los Angeles

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View on approach into Los Angeles

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View on final approach into Los Angeles

We touched down on runway 25L at 3:40PM.

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Shortly before touchdown in Los Angeles

And the weather was indeed strange, as there were some ginormous clouds over the airport.

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View upon landing at LAX

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.

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Tom Bradley International Terminal LAX

Soon enough we were cleraed to cross the runway, and from there it was just a couple of minutes taxi to Terminal 4.

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Crossing runway 25R LAX

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.

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Terminal 4 LAX

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American arrival gate LAX

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.

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American 777-300ER LAX

On the plus side, that translated to some nice views of our gorgeous 777-300ER.

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American 777-300ER LAX

Unfortunately it also meant riding a bus.

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Bus to customs & immigration

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Bus to customs & immigration

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?

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Comments

  1. I agree with you about reverse herringbone seating. If it is still in service, they had/have it on DL ATL-NRT on the top deck of the 747s that are being phased out. Best DL flight I ever had and there have been a good number.

    Also, I must make mention of the fact that posted a picture of your pre-flight glass of water. That’s pretty special in and of itself.

  2. @Dan, agreed that the water pic was special. Very special.

    @Lucky, one of my biggest complaints with US carriers is how they serve mid-shelf (read: low quality) alcohol on J flights costing thousands of dollars. Even on miles, I feel cheated when I have a flat bed but nothing single malt.

    Anyone else agree?

  3. The wine list appeared to be starting off well, then quickly went downhill. The $40 Champagne is far better than what I’ve previously had in AA TATL, even in FC. Then the $25 Chardonnay and $19 SB are hard to complain about for a J flight on a US carrier .

    But the $12 Cab, while probably quite a value for the price, isn’t all that impressive. And the $8 Cotes de Rhone would be more suited to Economy….

    I’m curious why you didn’t pre-book your meal in advance, since as an odd numbered flight, it’s SOP to start serving from the back?

  4. Heh…28 minutes is fast for a US airline, but I maintain the record was set by a flight I had from DFW to NRT when our original 772 was taken out for maintenance. By the time they found another plane, the crew was about to time out. We were told either board fast enough that they could close the door in 15 minutes or we’d be stuck overnight. I’ve never seen a 777 board that fast in my life. We made it with a good two minutes to spare.

    And totally agree that the 77Ws are the best in the fleet. If only they didn’t have to kill the wifi while in Chinese airspace en route to HK.

  5. Because of my traditional Russian/Danish upbringing, I would have been appalled if the flight attendant had addressed me by my given name without my permission. Otherwise, the flight seems to have been quite relaxing & pleasant. But I really wish the US based carriers would stop using those plastic cups for pre-departure drinks!

  6. “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”

    Yeah, you might pick it over what British or Quantas offer…but I have a feeling you’d choose Emirates’ A380 business class over this. Not that their routes with American overlap much, but still.

  7. @Jake P

    I agree with you completely! My ideal flight must include:
    1) a comfy seat/lie flat bed
    2) individual air vents
    3) polite, softly-spoken flight attendants
    4) a respectable vodka
    5) a delightfully peaty single malt whiskey.

    Regrettably, I am forced to fly on carriers that can, at most, manage only two of these items. Saudia usually manages zero.

  8. @ Jake P:

    I’d be happy with a decent bourbon like Woodford Reserve, though single malts are nice, I suppose. It’s a bummer that Glenlivet minis are no more on airlines like AA or AS.

    FWIW, most airlines do serve Courvoisier, which is a decent enough cognac.

    @ Robert Hanson:

    I propose that airlines just use cheap wine in expensive bottles. 😉

    https://www.gsb.stanford.edu/insights/baba-shiv-how-wines-price-tag-affect-its-taste
    http://www.forbes.com/sites/katiebell/2012/07/09/is-there-really-a-taste-difference-between-cheap-and-expensive-wines/
    http://www.vox.com/2015/5/20/8625785/expensive-wine-taste-cheap
    http://moneynation.com/heres-drink-cheap-wine-vs-expensive-wine/

    I think that expensive wines tend to be more for snob factor/signalling conspicuous consumption to F passengers than something you can really taste when you’re in a partially pressurized cabin.

    These might be of interest:

    http://onemileatatime.boardingarea.com/2015/07/08/wine-review-cathay-pacific-first-class-frankfurt-to-hong-kong/

    http://onemileatatime.boardingarea.com/2015/07/07/wine-review-american-first-class-dallas-to-madrid/

    Note that the expensive CX F Burgundy didn’t hold up well up in the air compared to an AA F cheaper Malbec…

    I sort of agree, I enjoyed this wine on a plane in VX F:

    http://www.mirassou.com/wines/california-pinot-noir

    It’s $9 at my local grocery store, but fruit forward styles work for me in the air (at ground level I tend to like more structured stuff like white Burgundies and classic claret styles from Bordeaux). I also think that there’s a real wealth of stuff you can get for $10-20 that’s pretty darned good. Much more than there was 20 years ago, I think.

  9. @Imperator

    Which airline do you fly that serves you “a delightfully peaty single malt whiskey”? Most airlines in F are serving whiskeys like Glenlivet or Macallan, probably for good reason: a lot of people I’ve tried to expose to the really peaty stuff like Laphroaig or Ardbeg don’t like it, at all (it’s just not a taste profile everyone likes), and airlines to some extent have to cater to lowest common denominator. I recall Highland Park 12 or Talisker on some flights, but that’s about as peaty as the airlines go when you’re not in the Lufthansa FCL or something similar, in my experience.

  10. Lucky, I’m going to be on that same flight except it will be the reverse (LAX to LHR) next September. I managed to snag it as part of a trip to Iceland. I had a choice between biz and 1st class and decided what the heck, I’ll spend some extra miles and fly in 1st. I am assuming you’ve flown this aircraft on American in 1st Class before, what are the differences, if any? Thanks much.

  11. I am evenly split between the reverse herringbone seating or the staggered seating like they have on the Emirates A380 and so glad QANTAS are refitting their A330’s with the staggered seating which I use out of Brisbane. Looking forward to the new Finnair A350 next June between Helsinki and Singapore but not their “business class” A321 flights in Europe.

  12. @eponymous coward

    You are quite correct. Back in the late 80’s I flew on a Northwest flight from Prestwick (Glasgow) to Boston. I was in first class on a domestically configured DC10. The flight had all the charm found on the Detroit to Flint run. Except….

    There was a special tasting of single malts! And one was from a distillery in the Hebrides (Bruichladdich?). The flight attendant showed me the bottle; there was a solid layer of peat floating on the top. It was magical. @Jake P reminded me of that flight and that wonderful whiskey. So it was just wishful thinking on my part to have included a nice peaty whiskey as a component of an ideal flight.

  13. @John

    Like I said, the really peaty stuff is not a taste profile everyone likes (one of my friends says about Laphroaig “it’s like scotch that had dead bodies in it”). Which is fine by me, that leaves more for me and the Prince of Wales. À chacun son goût.

    @Imperator

    SQ serves Highland Park on some routes, which is one of my favorites. Nicely balanced with peat, smoke, heather, sherry, and probably the outer limit of what you can get away with in “lowest common denominator” stuff.

  14. Great review Lucky, and perfectly timed as we recently booked 4 RT saver awards on this route. Alas, I found the food offerings to be disappointing, not even as good as the mediocre UA offerings. But then again, it’s all about the seat. The boarding area looks horrific, even for LHR. That’s reason enough to fly BA if you have a choice on this route, as the Galleries and T-5 satellite lounges are quite serviceable.

  15. Flew American business for the first time on one of the 767s between O’Hare and LHR recently and possibly the worst flight I’ve flown. Seat in business was worse than a BA Premium Economy seat and food was lousy. We had pretty much the same menu as above – it’s bland and the novelty of the ice cream sundae is lost on me. Half melted ice cream with artificially flavoured sauce in business class? No thanks. Service wasn’t much warmer than the ice cream too.

    Why not take BA or ANZ on this route?

  16. I too don’t understand the fuss made over an ice cream sundae. It’s an ice cream sundae. How do you critique a scoop of ice cream in a glass with some toppings as excellent? It requires practically no skill to put together. Sure it’s a nice comfort food but there are potentially a lot of other things on a business or first class menu that I’d call “excellent” before an ice cream sundae.

  17. Thanks for another great review!

    I am actually shocked that the pre-arrival meal has been significantly cut back to just an entree and a pre-packaged cookie. It used to have a real dessert component of a fresh fruit bowl and/or a freshly baked cookie. For a ten plus hours flight, I expect better. I honestly think American premium catering has continued to decline after Parker took over.

    Thankfully the main meal at least looked decent.

    Thanks,
    Carfield

  18. I’d be seriously upset if I was addressed by my first name by a flight attendant. Very odd service. The only occasion I have come across anything similar was on Qantas LHR-DXB in F where the male steward asked if it would be okay to call me Sebastian. I politely declined and said I’d prefer to addressed as Dr X or Sir. He didn’t seem to mind.

  19. I’m rather disappointed that this is the 1000000000000th review of AA business class and the trip to Iceland, which is over a year old, hasn’t gotten its due review.

  20. While comfortable, AA business class lags far behind its international rivals. Dewars white label is a poor selection for scotch, ice cream sundae is tasty but hardly luxurious, and the service is “efficient” at best. I do applaud them for the improvements in the hard product, but this is generally expected with the major international airlines these days. It’s the soft product that sets apart the good from the great. Small example – I vastly prefer JAL’s business class despite the staggered front facing seating, precisely for their exceptional service, elegant cuisine and beverage (Hakushu, Yamazaki 12 yr single malts).

  21. ~first world problems! geez you all sound like a bunch of whinny spoiled brats. I can appreciate first/business class, especially on longer flights, but it’s because of the comfort of being able to stretch out and sleep so as to be well rested upon arrival. build a bridge, really ~ another human being addressing you by your given name…appalling? wow. and plastic cups instead of glass..? glass can be broken and cause a hazard, did you ever stop to think that maybe it was a safety call? the drink goes down the same way no matter the container.

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