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

Introduction: New Years In The Maldives, Summer In New Zealand
Review: Etihad Airways Lounge New York JFK
Review: Etihad First Class A380 New York To Abu Dhabi
Review: Etihad Airways Arrivals Lounge Abu Dhabi
Review: Etihad Business Class A340 Abu Dhabi To Male
Review: Returning To The Park Hyatt Maldives
This Is What A $570 Per Person New Year’s Eve Hotel Gala Is Like
Review: Etihad First Class A380 Abu Dhabi To Sydney
Review: Park Hyatt Sydney
Review: Qantas Business Class 737 Sydney To Auckland
Review: Hilton Auckland
Review: Air New Zealand Lounge Auckland
Review: Hilton Queenstown
Review: American First Class 777-300ER Sydney To Los Angeles


I took American’s new flight from Sydney to Los Angeles only weeks after it launched. I was especially excited about it, since American introduced new premium cabin amenities on these flights, to try and align service very closely with what Qantas offers.

I’ve flown American’s 777-300ER first class several times before, including from London to New York and Los Angeles to London. If you’re interested mostly in the hard product, check out those reviews.

Instead I’ll focus mostly on the soft product with this review, since it blew me away. I didn’t feel like I was flying a US airline.

The service actually began three days before departure, when I received the following email (in part) from Naum, who works for American “premium customer services” in Sydney:

I am writing from American Airlines Premium Customer Services in Sydney,  I see you are flying to Los Angeles  on Flight AA 72 on Wednesday, 13 January at 12 noon.  I wanted to reach out to you today to see if there is anything we may assist you with prior to your flight.

Your seat allocation of 2D is confirmed.

I would like to confirm your meal requests, the Beef and Seafood.

We look forward to welcoming you to the Qantas First Class Lounge while you await departure.

I figured I might as well try out the service, so I emailed the following:

Thanks very much for the email, I’m looking forward to my flight. I just have one quick question — I know when I’ve flown Qantas First Class out of SYD I’ve been able to schedule a spa treatment in advance. Is that also possible as an American First Class passenger given the joint venture, or is that benefit not extended?

He responded with the following:

I just called the Qantas lounge to enquire unfortunately they only book appointments for Qantas guests. Let me know what time you are thinking I can call first thing in the morning and reserve a time for you.

I shared my preferred spa time, and he responded with the following:

No problem at all, will see you tomorrow morning, I’ll be at the check in counters from 9am tomorrow will show you the way to the lounge.

Then finally the morning of the flight he proactively emailed the following:

I called the Qantas first class lounge I have placed yourself on standby for the massage, they’re quite full this morning. I’m hoping they fit you both in at 11am, the massages are 20 minutes so it will give you both enough time.

I was so impressed by his responsiveness and follow through, and sure enough he did manage to secure massages for us for 11AM.

The next morning we headed to the airport and really enjoyed the Qantas First Class Lounge, which I won’t be reviewing here, given that I’ve done so before.

The lounge has some great plane spotting opportunities, and about 90 minutes before departure I saw the American plane getting towed to the gate.

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American 777 Sydney Airport

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American 777 Sydney Airport

The spa treatment at 11AM was lovely — I had a 20 minute massage.

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Qantas first class lounge spa

As we left the spa room, Naum was waiting outside ready to escort us to the gate.

We got to the boarding gate right as boarding began, and he escorted us to the front of the line.

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American Airlines boarding gate Sydney

American 72
Sydney (SYD) – Los Angeles (LAX)
Wednesday, January 13
Depart: 12:00PM
Arrive: 6:50AM
Duration: 13hr50min
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER
Seat: 1A (First Class)

We boarded through door L2 (between the two business class cabins), and walked left into the first class cabin. I had selected seat 1A, and within moments of settling in was welcomed aboard by the purser.

As I’ve explained in previous reviews, American’s 777-300ER first class seats are nice, though I don’t actually find them to be significantly more spacious than the business class seats. Furthermore, they sort of lack privacy.

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American first class 777, seat 1A

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American first class 777, seat 1A

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American first class console

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American first class ottoman

Waiting at my seat on boarding was an amenity kit, Bose headphones, slippers, and bedding.

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American first class amenities

There were two pillows, a mattress pad, and a blanket. While they’re not the best out there, they’re perfectly serviceable.

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American first class pillow & blanket

Shortly after settling in I was offered pajamas, which were black with a red lining around the neck.

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American first class pajamas & slippers

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American first class pajamas

The amenity kit was pretty basic, though keep in mind that nowadays American has Cole Haan amenity kits, which are much nicer.

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American first class amenity kit

I also love that American offers Bose headphones in both first & business class. That’s so impressive, as even some of the world’s best airlines have crappy headphones in first class.

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American Bose headphones

Once I was all settled in, the lovely purser came by to offer me a drink. I ordered champagne, which was served in a real glass, with almonds.

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American first class pre-departure champagne and almonds

Moments later I was offered the menu.

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American first class menu

During boarding the other first class flight attendant also came by to introduce herself.

The first class cabin ended up being full. I was in seat 1A, Ford was in seat 1J, and then there were six other passengers.

At 11:55AM the door closed, at which point the safety video began to play.

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Pushing back Sydney Airport

We pushed back at 12PM, with a view of a Cathay Pacific 777 and China Southern A380.

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Cathay Pacific 777 Sydney Airport

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China Southern A380 Sydney Airport

As we taxied out to the runway I turned on the airshow on my personal entertainment system.

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American Airlines airshow

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American Airlines airshow

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Taxiing Sydney Airport

There were some interesting planes as we taxied out to the runway, including an Air New Zealand 777, Vietnam Airlines 777, China Eastern A330, etc.

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Air New Zealand 777 Sydney Airport

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Vietnam Airlines 777 Sydney Airport

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China Eastern A330 Sydney Airport

As we were in the takeoff queue, Captain Tony welcomed us aboard, apologizing for the lack of announcements at the gate, but he explained they were busy getting everything ready. He informed us that our flight time was 12hr49min, and that the ride would be mostly smooth.

He couldn’t have come across as a much nicer guy, as he finished his announcement by saying “seeing your faces on our flights sure makes us happy, and we hope you enjoy the ride with us.” Perhaps most amazing is that he managed to say it in a way which sounded sincere!

There were also some planes landing on our departure runway, so we had quite a wait for takeoff.

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Plane ahead of us for takeoff Sydney Airport

Finally at 12:30PM we were cleared for takeoff on runway 34L.

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Departure runway Sydney Airport

The lineup of planes waiting for takeoff was pretty awesome, including a Xiamen Air 787, Qantas 747, Qantas A380, Singapore A380, etc.

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Takeoff queue Sydney Airport

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Xiamen Air 787 Sydney Airport

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Qantas 747 Sydney Airport

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Qantas A380 Sydney Airport

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Singapore A380 Sydney Airport

Our takeoff roll was long, and our initial climb out was smooth.

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View after takeoff from Sydney

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View on the climb out from Sydney

It was a clear day, so we had gorgeous views of Sydney on departure.

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View on the climb out from Sydney

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View on the climb out from Sydney

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Reaching cruising altitude

The seatbelt sign was never turned off during the flight, though about 20 minutes after takeoff the flight attendants began their service, starting with distributing hot towels.

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American first class hot towel

At this point I also connected to the inflight wifi, which cost just $19 for the entire flight without data caps. That’s an incredible deal, as it’s so nice to be productive while flying.

American-wifi

The lunch menu read as follows:

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The beverage list read as follows:

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Before I get too much into the meal service, I’d note that the menu concept is completely different from what American has on other flights. You can choose the sides with your main course, there are canapés, and there are even all kinds of small plates you can choose from throughout the flight. This very closely mirrors what Qantas offers in first class on the route. These are all fairly minor differences, but it makes such a big difference in terms of the overall perception of the service, in my opinion.

Service began with champagne, accompanied by olives and chips. While they were serving Deutz Brut, it’s worth noting that American now serves Grand Siecle in first class, which is a very nice champagne.

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American first class lunch — olives and chips

After that I was served a caviar tartlet with heirloom tomato gazpacho. I never thought the day would come where I’d see caviar on a US airline. Don’t get me wrong, it was only a small portion, but I was just so impressed by the effort being put into the service, which is so refreshing.

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American first class lunch — caviar tartlet with heirloom tomato gazpacho

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American first class lunch — caviar tartlet

After that I was served smoked celeriac soup, which was also tasty, and nicely presented.

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American first class lunch — smoked celeriac soup

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American first class lunch — smoked celeriac soup

American seems to have adopted Qantas’ bread on this route. While I far prefer the pretzel rolls American has on other routes, the Pepe Saya butter they serve with their sliced bread selection is excellent.

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American first class lunch — bread and butter

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American first class lunch — butter

After that I ordered the rock lobster, which was probably my favorite part of the meal.

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American first class lunch — Western Australia rock lobster

For the main course I ordered the surf & turf with a side of ricotta and summer pea risotto. While the steak was a bit too well done for my liking, it was still lean yet flavorful.

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American first class lunch — Australian surf & turf

Ford had the chicken for his main course, which he enjoyed.

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American first class lunch — roast spatchcooked chicken

As is the norm in Australia, a side salad was served with the main course, rather than before it.

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American first class lunch — side salad

For dessert I ordered the warm sticky date pudding, which was sinfully delicious.

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American first class lunch — warm sticky date pudding

To finish off the meal I had a cappuccino, and was offered some chocolates to go along with it.

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American first class lunch — cappuccino

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American first class lunch — chocolates to finish off the meal

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American first class lunch — chocolates to finish off the meal

I was also given a bottle of water.

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American first class bottled water

The entire meal service took just under two hours, and I can’t emphasize enough how good the crew was. They were attentive throughout the meal service, constantly addressed me by name, etc.

I baited the crew a bit, and said “you must hate how much more work this service is.” After all, the sad reality is that many flight attendants at US airlines want to provide minimal service. I’ve heard so many American flight attendants complain about the 777-300ER because it’s more work for them.

How did this purser respond when I said that? “You’ve gotta be kidding, we’re so proud of the service on this new flight, we love it.” And it really showed in the way the crew worked.

Up in the first class galley they had a nice display with fresh fruit, chocolate, packaged snacks, etc. This is in addition to the bigger walk-up bar in business class.

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American first class galley snacks

After lunch I decided to sleep for a bit, so the crew made my bed for me. I slept for a solid four hours, which I was very happy with.

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American first class bed

When I woke up I worked on my laptop for a bit, and after a couple of hours ordered the steak sandwich from the small plates menu. While it wasn’t quite as good as the Qantas signature steak sandwich, it was still very good.

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American first class snack — riverine steak sandwich

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American first class snack — riverine steak sandwich

I continued working for the next few hours, and before I knew it we were 90 minutes out of Los Angeles, at which point the breakfast service began. The menu read as follows:

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To start off the meal I was offered a glass of orange juice.

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American first class breakfast — orange juice to start

I ordered the corn fritters as my main. I don’t think I’ve ever had them before, but I saw they had avocado and salmon, which are two of my favorite things.

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American first class breakfast — corn fritters

The corn fritters were much better than I was expecting.

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American first class breakfast — corn fritters

They were served with a side of fruit, yogurt, and toast.

To finish off the meal I was also offered a mango smoothie.

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American first class breakfast — mango smoothie

I got a bit more work done after breakfast, and then about 30 minutes before landing we began our descent, and the captain once again provided us with updated arrival information.

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Airshow enroute to Los Angeles

The sunrise at we descended into Los Angeles was one of the most breathtaking I’ve ever seen. Pictures can’t do it justice.

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Sunrise over Los Angeles

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Sunrise approaching LAX

We touched down in Los Angeles on runway 24R at 6:20AM, and from there had a 10 minute taxi to our arrival gate at Terminal 4, where we arrived at 6:30AM.

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Taxiing LAX

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Taxiing LAX

Much to my surprise, there was a representative from American waiting to escort us through immigration, as she explained this was a new feature for the Sydney flight, assuming they have the manpower to do it.

It wasn’t actually helpful since we have Global Entry so there’s no value she could add, but it was a nice gesture nonetheless.

American first class bottom line

I was so impressed by American’s new flight between Sydney and Los Angeles. The service and food were the best I’ve had on American, and it’s great that American is planning on extending this improved service concept to other routes.

Call me crazy, but all else being equal I’d take American over Qantas between Sydney and Los Angeles. Personally I don’t love Qantas (aside from their lounges), though I also know they have a very loyal following. Why would I take American? Because they have reasonably priced wifi, while Qantas doesn’t offer wifi at all on their transpacific planes. To me wifi is more valuable than a marginally better hard and soft product, but I know everyone prioritizes amenities like this differently.

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Comments

  1. Wow. Color me impressed.

    Lucky, do you happen to know what the timetable is for expanding the service to other routes? I’m flying LHR-LAX in F in November, and I certainly would like to experience the new service!

  2. I wonder if AA has found a way to keep the snarly “I only have this job because the union protects me” FAs off this route. That’s one of the biggest problems I have with AA. One crew can be amazing, the next can have a bad apple (or a bunch) and be terrible. I’ve found DL to be much more consistently good.

    The worst FAs inevitably have the most seniority, so they can outbid everyone else, get into the smaller FC cabin, and then do as little as possible.

  3. @ hsw25 — Unfortunately they haven’t yet shared a timeline for when the service will be expanded. If I find out more I’ll be sure to post.

  4. hard product is still just plain bad compared to other airlines offering F these days. and the spirits selection looks dreadful compared to everyone but perhaps China Southern; dewars white label and jack daniels…yuck. titos, bacardi, etc. but weaknesses aside, it’s nice to see how far american has come on some of the softer touches and catering. cool review.

  5. Ben, was this a revenue flight upgrade with SWU or an award flight? I would like to know since I would like to know which is the preferred method to book this flight?
    Great article. So impressed about this review.

  6. Nice review!

    Ben: I’ll be flying this flight in the other direction in September. You mentioned receiving an email before departure to see if you had any needs etc – is the same kind of service offered for an outbound flight?

    And, on another note – is the Qantas signature steak sandwich (which I’ve been reading so much about!) available when flying J on QF?

  7. At last, an American carrier who makes some effort to appear that it gives a shit when customers are paying gobs of money for a premium product.

  8. LAXHKG will also see this improved service when it launches, but there is no timeline for other routes, if they receive it all.

  9. I was under the impression that all 77W flights are getting the enhanced service, but wanted to roll it out on the LAX-SYD flights first. Just to clarify, only on long haul international flights on the 77W will you see this service. My only complaint about the Suits on the 77W in F is the space, not much place to place the bedding and other items.

  10. I had the reverse flight from LAX to SYD on AA 73 in early Feb. and my impression of the hard and soft products surprised me too. But in the end, it was the soft product (a great crew led by Bertie) that sold me. It was a great start for my Aussie and Europe trip.

  11. I don’t fly AA often (mostly on award tickets), but I noticed that AA FAs don’t have a good attitude towards premium passengers. Recently I flew US-China back and forth in AA business, with my family. AA FAs (from US) were quite senior and their service was a disaster (one of such FAs did serve my wife’s isle). On the other hand, my isle on both flights was served by Chinese FAs, who were quite attentive. At the end, when FAs tried to collect their Bose headphone, there was a small delay with finding my wife’s headphones, and I would see on that senior FA’s face that a minute longer and she would accuse us in stealing it.

    On the other hand, we recently flew in coach on Delta to Carribean, and even in coach, Delta FAs were amazing – attentive, cheering and helpful. One of them were also senior lady, but her attitude towards passengers was amazing.

  12. Lucky,

    I was confused by one thing and I have a question about something else:

    The confusion: Naum’s email confirms that your seat selection is 2D and yet you say that you selected 1A and that Ford was in 1J. Did you change your seat selection or did Naum get it wrong?

    The question: There’s a comment above from bob trial which mentioned the spirits selection. I understand that AA has added Woodford Reserve. Is that correct and is it available in business class?

    Thanks

  13. @ Brian — I decided to change seat assignments a day before departure. We initially reserved seats together in the center section, but last minute decided we both preferred windows.

    And if I’m not mistaken they do have Woodford Reserve in both first & business, though I’m not a bourbon drinker. Someone correct me if I’m wrong.

  14. @ Tony — Agreed, I believe that’s correct, though long term only the 777-300ERs will have first class seats anyway, so there aren’t other planes it could be expanded to.

  15. I’ll take the cheaper headphones on other airlines any day over being harangued to hand over their “fancy” headphones 45 minutes before landing while I’m trying to finish my movie. I find it insulting that they’re so afraid of me stealing them or else just plain lazy that they’ll have to work an extra five to ten minutes after the plane lands.

  16. @ Susan — The steak sandwich sure is available in business as well. As far as the pre-flight service goes, I’m not sure. I suspect it might just be ex-Sydney, as they seem to have hired a team for that specifically. Wouldn’t count on it in LA, but you never know.

  17. I had the same flight (and exactly same seat, 1A) from SYD to LAX on AA 72 – June 8th, I was blown away by their hard and soft products. I thought they did offer better than what Qantas offered on the San Francisco-Sydney flight. I would do it again!

  18. Dewars and Jack. For a $12,000 ticket they can’t offer any better booze than what they’re serving in economy?

  19. Do you see United and Delta overhauling service on this route to compete?

    There are not many international city pairings I don’t believe where all of the US Big Three compete head to head…but I wonder what those examples suggest…?

  20. I’d always take a qantas flight over an American flight. Far too many racists on American Airlines

  21. It still looks economy compared to the likes of LH EK EY.
    “Excuse me, but can someone tell me where the showers are”

    Meanwhile the hideously toxic unionized crew laugh in her face.

    That says it all!

  22. @ CM — We changed our seats about a day out, deciding we preferred window seats. 🙂

  23. Glad AA offer the same Pepe Saya butter that QF have in F and J. Small thing but it is truly amazing butter and far from cheap.

  24. Lucky, how were you able to find seats for 72.5k? Everything I am seeing is 80k for biz and 110+ for first from SYD-LAX, even for today and tomorrow?
    I get the points back after redemption part, but I am not seeing that price anywhere.

    Thanks

  25. @ Matt — American devalued their award chart on March 22, and I traveled before then, when they still had the old award costs.

  26. Another great report…thank you! I did want to also let you know that I did see both you and Ford during this trip (at the Park Hyatt having lunch/dinner). I really wanted to say hello but do value your privacy (and my kids didn’t want me to embarrass them ;-)). Anyway, I always enjoy your reports and wish you continued success on your blog. I know I have benefitted so much from what you do.

  27. I did this flight 6 weeks ago…was very impressed with the service….The WiFi…was the best…The comfort and service was excellent…I really enjoy all your reviews and look forward to reading them.

  28. Ha Ha…that’s the same amenity kit they give out in Business Class when the plane continues on from LAX to MIA!

  29. I like that AA flies the plane onto MIA. It’s really a nice flight on new equipment!!!

  30. Love your reviews and glad that you had a good experience on American. However, when are they going to get rid of those threadbare hot towels? The photo you showed looks like a used dishcloth. It looks disgusting, especially when you compare it to the towels used by the Asian airlines. I know this seems picky, but it’s noticeable. And people who fly those routes regularly talk about it.

  31. I just flew DF-HKG first class and had the same service. Way better than previous service and on par with Cathay and Quantas first service. FA’s were very nice and helpful as well

    One negative change for AA business is that they have really devalued the mid flight snack bar. Only a cheese plate desert and prepacked snacks now instead of the decent spread before.

  32. seems exceptional for an American Airlines flight
    If they keep their service like that, than I do see the reason why AA kept its first class

  33. I’m a bit surprised … I’d rate Qantas as having significantly better hard product and slightly better soft product as well. That said … I would fly AA again too … Just for the wifi. If you want 14 hours of torture with crap hard and soft product and horrendous service between Melbourne and LAX just fly Uniteds biz class in their 787.

  34. Ken Chase is asleep at the switch on the wine descriptions. The Alvear 1927 Pedro Ximenez is not Touriga Nacional, it’s…Pedro Ximenez. Embarrassing.

  35. Wifi aside, why don’t you love Qantas? I flew QF First a year or two ago and as far as I can tell the suites are better looking, more spacious, and with much nicer bedding than the AA 77W. Not to mention the fact that the food was delicious and the wine/spirits selection was SPECTACULAR on QF. And the fact that when the crew noticed me exploring they invited me to visit the cockpit after the flight, where I spend 10 minutes in hysterics as the Aussie pilots cracked jokes non-stop and lived up to every Australian stereotype I could think of. Great times!

    Anyway I remember you mentioning in past QF reviews that you weren’t that stoked about the service/experience, so am just curious why 🙂 thanks for the great review, hoping the new AA service concept is on the LAX-LHR route in August when I fly!

  36. I am sitting here and wondering how you managed to make me want to try AA again after 10 years. I used to avoid AA like the plague. However, they may just be a manageable airline to fly based on this post (for overseas flights – domestic is still junk I’m sure).

  37. Thanks for the review.

    Love the idea of being able to select the sides to g with the main. So many times there is a main that sounds nice, but comes with sides I don’t enjoy.

    I just flew a 757 TATL (SNN-PHL) It had the Cole Haan amenity kits, which I didn’t think were any big improvement. And whoever chose that hideous teal/aqua color should be fired. But it was the most up to date thing on the flight. My own fault for flying a 757 TATL Its like time traveling to 1985. 🙂

  38. To me Naum is a figment of imagination. I flew first class SYD-LAX in early July. No greeting at airport. Went to an annex where they had one line for first class, business class and high frequent flyers. Took over 30 minutes to check in which made me too late to qualify for a booking in the QF spa. There was no help pre-booking a place.

    Checked the seat plan day before and only two seats booked in first class. When boarded it was full. Interesting thing was the other seats were filled by people under 30. How could they afford it? Found out it was staff. So if there were only two paid people in first class, where was Naum?

    Trying it again next week. Let’s see how it goes. Will Naum re-appear?

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