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.
The spa treatment at 11AM was lovely — I had a 20 minute massage.
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.
American Airlines boarding gate Sydney
Sydney (SYD) – Los Angeles (LAX)
Wednesday, January 13
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.
Waiting at my seat on boarding was an amenity kit, Bose headphones, slippers, and bedding.
There were two pillows, a mattress pad, and a blanket. While they’re not the best out there, they’re perfectly serviceable.
Shortly after settling in I was offered pajamas, which were black with a red lining around the neck.
The amenity kit was pretty basic, though keep in mind that nowadays American has Cole Haan amenity kits, which are much nicer.
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.
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.
Moments later I was offered the 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.
We pushed back at 12PM, with a view of a Cathay Pacific 777 and China Southern A380.
As we taxied out to the runway I turned on the airshow on my personal entertainment system.
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.
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.
Finally at 12:30PM we were cleared for takeoff on runway 34L.
The lineup of planes waiting for takeoff was pretty awesome, including a Xiamen Air 787, Qantas 747, Qantas A380, Singapore A380, etc.
Our takeoff roll was long, and our initial climb out was smooth.
It was a clear day, so we had gorgeous views of Sydney on departure.
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.
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.
The lunch menu read as follows:
The beverage list read as follows:
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.
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.
After that I was served smoked celeriac soup, which was also tasty, and nicely presented.
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.
After that I ordered the rock lobster, which was probably my favorite part of the meal.
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.
Ford had the chicken for his main course, which he enjoyed.
As is the norm in Australia, a side salad was served with the main course, rather than before it.
For dessert I ordered the warm sticky date pudding, which was sinfully delicious.
To finish off the meal I had a cappuccino, and was offered some chocolates to go along with it.
I was also given a bottle of 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.
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.
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.
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:
To start off the meal I was offered a glass of orange juice.
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.
The corn fritters were much better than I was expecting.
They were served with a side of fruit, yogurt, and toast.
To finish off the meal I was also offered a 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.
The sunrise at we descended into Los Angeles was one of the most breathtaking I’ve ever seen. Pictures can’t do it justice.
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.
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.