A Vastly Improved American Experience on the 777-300ER (Trip Report)

The last time I flew American in Business Class, it was on a tired old 767 with inadequate seats. So when American invited me to take a ride on the new 777-300ER with fully flat beds, I couldn’t wait to see the contrast. It was like night and day. American has put together a really nice product on that airplane, but some of the smaller details need to be refined for this to be a truly superior offering.

[Disclaimer: American provided my flights without charge]

American 777-300ER Outside

Only a couple weeks earlier, American put the 777-300ER on the LA-London route, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity for me to try it out. American arranged for the trip, sent someone along with me, and packed in a couple meetings on each end (as you saw in my recent post on the oneworld Global Support Centers).

Flagship Check In LA

I was told my name was on the list for Flagship Check-in even though it’s usually only for First Class, super duper Concierge Key elites, and people who pay for Five Star service. I’ve written about Flagship before so I’ll skip the details here except to say that I was escorted to security by the awesome gentleman in the hat above and was told to cut ahead of everyone else in the premium cabin line. Pretty swanky, but as more of a do-it-yourself person, this doesn’t appeal to me that much.

After seeing the oneworld Global Support Center, I was taken up to the Admirals Club and saw both the regular club (where food and drink cost money) and the Flagship side which has free food and drink for First Class passengers only. American does have nice lounges at LAX.

Soon after, it was time to get on the airplane. I was told to get on before everyone else so I could walk around the airplane to see the various cabins. My escort was given the all-clear saying that the cabin crew was onboard and ready for me, so we headed to the airplane.

This airplane was brand-spanking new. It was delivered less than a month earlier and had only been flying for two weeks. Nothing quite like that new airplane smell. But I stepped onboard to find a harried crew running around trying to get ready for the flight. They didn’t look all that happy that someone was being brought onboard before boarding and for good reason. As they described it to me later, there’s 20 minutes of prep work on that airplane and they get 10 minutes to do it. According to these flight attendants, they call the 777-300ER “the Beast” because of how difficult it is to work.

Galley

How so? Well the crew was told about me in advance. I don’t like when that happens, but it did mean that the crew decided to start unloading all the problems on me. It didn’t seem like it was done out of spite for the airline but more as a desperate plea for help to get things fixed.

For example, the Business Class galley is right next to the stand-up bar and the lavs. But the lavs are right in the way of the flight attendants and there seems to be a constant tight squeeze as passengers and flight attendants try to get around each other. The doors in the galley are also built strangely with some being on the wrong side of where they should be. These doors are also spring-loaded and when they close, they auto-latch the carts into position. So if you need to go in and out, it can take a lot of skill to balance everything. The flight attendants even went so far as to demonstrate to me the balancing act. Not well-planned at all. Somebody needs to fix these things.


June 24, 2013
American 136 Lv Los Angeles 750p Arr London/Heathrow 215p (on June 25)
Los Angeles (LAX): Gate 41, Runway 25R, Depart 1m Early
London/Heathrow (LHR): Gate 340, Runway 27R, Arrive 14m Early
N723AN, Boeing 777-323ER, Gray American Flag, ~99% Full
Seat 7A
Flight Time 9h53m

First Class Cabin 777-300ER American

But let’s get back to the customer experience. The First Class cabin is small with only 8 seats, but it looks pretty nice. I didn’t spend much time there before we went back to coach. The Main Cabin Extra section has the standard 9 seats across while the regular coach section has a tighter 10. I was told by my escort that the seats in Main Cabin Extra are the same width as in Main Cabin, but it certainly didn’t look that way.

Main Cabin Extra 777-300ER

The width wasn’t a problem for me in either area, and the seat pitch in coach seemed average if not a little snug. But with a big screen and a power outlet, there wasn’t much to complain about.

Coach 777-300ER

Then it was time for me to get to Business Class where I’d sit for both flights. This seat, similar to what US Airways has on its fleet already, is excellent.

Business Class Cabin

The seats on the sides are angled toward the window. The screen is big and swings out from the right side of the suite (though it doesn’t tilt up and down, unfortunately). On the left, there’s a little cubby where you can put things right beneath a ledge. Immediately on the left, there is a remote for the TV, a light, seat controls, and a variety of outlets and media connectors. Oddly enough, however, the place to connect the noise-canceling headset is inside a cabinet. I have no idea why anyone would ever do that. I actually had to ask where it was, because I couldn’t find it. And you either need to get up to plug it in or use the mirror that’s inside the compartment.

Business Class Seat 77W

By the time I got oriented, boarding was just about finished. We buttoned up and pushed back. Soon, we were in the air on our way to London and I took at look at the menu. Inside, there is an insert telling people to use the Arrivals Lounge upon arrival. One problem. It closes at 2p, before the LA flight arrives. Why the heck would they hand this out to everyone on this airplane when nobody would be able to use it? Strange.

But back to the seat. Being angled toward the window provided a fantastic view of the setting sun for hours. I don’t believe that it ever got completely dark on our flight but it was close. The peak of darkness was probably over Wyoming or Montana before the sun started unsetting on us.

Perpetual Sunset

I was pretty tired, but I decided to have a full dinner service. That didn’t really work out well. They brought out the first course, and the salad looked disgusting. The mood lighting made the leaves look brown. When I turned on my personal light, it fixed the problem quickly, but I was so tired that I just ended up drifting off.

Brown Lettuce

When I woke up, my main course was sitting on the tray. I tasted it and it was good, but I really wasn’t hungry enough, so I faded back into sleep. The next time I woke up, it was gone.

The flight had a little chop much of the way, but in a rare moment of smooth air, I put the bed flat, grabbed an eyeshade, put on the noise-canceling headset, and fell asleep for a few hours. That’s two flights in a row that I got some meaningful sleep, but in this case, the seat really made the difference.

When I woke up over the Atlantic a few hours out of London, I watched a movie and then had a good omelette for breakfast. We had the obligatory 15 minutes of circling before being allowed into Heathrow. I particularly enjoyed the awesome view of the BA 747 in the holding pattern.

British Airways 747 in Holding

After landing, I met up with a friend and did a mini-pub crawl. The next morning, it was time to head back home. I haven’t been to Heathrow’s Terminal 3 in awhile, but I like the relatively new courtyard area for drop off. American has its Flagship Check-in in a little office off the courtyard. I have a complaint about this.

Flagship Check In London

Apparently this was American’s first effort to do a Flagship-style check-in, and it is open to Business Class and Executive Platinum unlike the ones in the US. American says changing that in London would have angered too many people, but then it seems to me it should have a different name. It’s just confusing, especially since most people who depart from London will end up departing from a US airport to come back anyway.

Once checked in, I met with a PR and a sales person from American based in the UK and they told me more about their business. I asked them about the merger and they seemed fairly excited, though of course a little nervous. If I’m them, I’m feeling great about all the new flights that are coming into Europe. It should make the airline much more competitive.

After that, it was time to head through security. My bag was mostly empty since I was gone for one day, but they still found something to require searching and re-scanning again. It probably took me 10 minutes after I had gone through the metal detector before I was on my way.

Lounge at Heathrow

I went and checked out both the Admirals Club and the Flagship Lounge. The Admirals Club (above) actually seemed like a nicer space even though the Flagship Lounge is more exclusive. I sat in the Club until I realized it was only 25 minutes before my flight. Oh crap. I said goodbye to my escort, who was taking a different flight back to Dallas, and raced down the long concourse to the gate. I wasn’t the last one onboard, but it was getting toward the end. I was just glad to have made it.


June 26, 2013
American 137 Lv London/Heathrow 2p Arr Los Angeles 520p
London/Heathrow (LHR): Gate 34, Runway 27R, Depart 22m Late
Los Angeles (LAX): Gate 41, Runway 25L, Arrive 2m Early
N719AN, Boeing 777-323ER, Gray American Flag, ~99% Full in Business
Seat 9A
Flight Time 10h26m

I got on the airplane and realized it was the same crew working our flight as on the day before. They recognized me from the last flight and welcomed me onboard. We didn’t push back for 20+ minutes, and I assume that was just a Heathrow delay, but no announcement was made to tell us one way or the other. Once we did push back, we were airborne quickly.

Since the day was just beginning in the US, my plan was to log on to the internet and work straight through. That didn’t happen. I got on ok for a few minutes, but by the time we hit the Irish Sea, it was down. Maybe 30 minutes or more later, it came back up but only with spotty and excruciatingly slow service. It didn’t return to a more normal, functional speed until we were more than halfway to Iceland.

Salmon

Food was served and the options were the same as when I flew back from Ireland a couple months ago. I opted for the salmon, and it was fine, if not a little dry. And of course, the ice cream sundae was excellent. But I ate quickly and kept working.

Wifi held up over Greenland and one of the flight attendants came back and asked if I had been able to get online. I told him yes, so he asked if I could help another passenger who was struggling. I went up and realized just how convoluted the T-Mobile sign up process is. This is T-Mobile Germany (so when you go to website, it thinks you’re in Germany and sometimes shows websites in German). To sign up, you have to create an account with T-Mobile. And the account has to be turned into a t-mobile.net email address. You don’t need to know that, but they say it anyway. So this passenger thought you just put your email address in. If you do that, it just errors you out. Let’s hope T-Mobile can fix that.

But more importantly, Panasonic needs to fix the connectivity problems. When we got to Canada, it went down again. I think it was down for about an hour to an hour and a half, but I didn’t track it exactly.

The View From the Business Class Seat

In the meantime, I decided to flip through the entertainment system and find something good to watch. There was plenty of content on there and it kept me busy until internet came back online. I decided to stop by the lav to freshen up a bit. American has put a lot into the premium cabin lavs with porcelain sinks and wood siding. But coach lavs aren’t like this, so if you’re at the back of the business class cabin, you may want to head forward if you want something nicer.

I got back to my seat, and war broke out.

The person across the aisle had lowered my window shade much of the way down while I was gone. Oh hell no. If you want your window shade down, get a window seat. But I was feeling friendly, so I left it partially down. My neighbor decided to build a blanket wall across his seat in protest. In the end, this was more of a cold war, and we continue on our merry way.

Landing at LAX

For the rest of the flight, I worked online and enjoyed the view. I can’t overstate the awesomeness of the seat angling toward the window. You just look ahead and get a panorama of the world passing by. What was strange was that I barely reclined my seat the entire flight. It was like sitting at a desk in my office, getting work done. The flight really was great.

After landing, I hopped off the plane and was redirected down, over, outside, up, down, and over again into the Bradley Terminal customs area. After that, I was ready to go home.

This will be my last trip report for awhile. I haven’t mentioned it here, but my wife is due with Cranky Baby #2 a mere two weeks from today. So I won’t be back in the air for a couple more months. (And now we’ll see how many of you actually read this entire, looooong report.)

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67 Comments on "A Vastly Improved American Experience on the 777-300ER (Trip Report)"

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CP
Guest

Congrats on baby #2! (I read the whole report.)

SEAN
Guest

Second!

You forgot rule #1, next time you fly, DON’T EAT THE FISH! LOL

Simon
Guest

Ooo, congratulations. And a bigger congratulations for going 8 months without mentioning it – I’ve tried that myself and it’s quite hard…

Joe
Guest

So you are the guy that leaves the shade up during an international flight. It wasn’t just the guy across from you that you were having a cold war with…trust me, the flight attendants in the galley were also wondering who the guy is that won’t lower his shade! Hey Brett, Congrats on your soon to be new arrival and thanks for the great trip report. I love the trip reports!

Jared Hanner
Member

Congrats!
Flying on that route in MCE in November and am very excited to try it out!

Ralfinho
Guest

Wow, is it really that long ago, that baby #1 arrived? Time just flies by.
Thanks for the nice trip report and all the best for you and your family.

Pilotaaron1
Guest

Congrats on the baby. And it’s nice to know I’m not the only one who leaves their shade up. I love watching the world go by and never get tired of it. I would have been in the middle of the cold war right with you.

MartyNearDFW
Guest

That’s awesome, Brett! Congratulations to the both of you… I mean four of you!

=M=

Tory
Member

Friendly suggestion: add a very short executive summary or conclusion to these posts with the summarized pros and cons (maybe quick bullet points?). And congrats on the new addition!

Jorg
Guest

Great report, but much more importantly: congratulations with CrankyBabyTwo!

Hovig
Guest

As you know I’m a pediatric resident (now in my last year of residency) and your blog has been my stress relief through medical school and residency. So I’m ridiculously excited for your family as you welcome #2! Congratulations!! I am sad the trip reports are on hold (rightfully so). However, if you decide you could use a guest reporter who you send on these trips to evaluate the offerings, I absolutely offer my services! Free!! :) I’m a great writer (I have to chart on oodles of patients everyday) and love flying! Enjoy your family and congrats again.

Ben G
Guest

Congrats on the little one Brett!

Great report, i loved matching up what you wrote here with what you tweeted on the trip home.

Sanjeev M
Guest

Congrats on the baby!

Nice trip report and hope they resolve the soft product. Although it does seem the F/As were fairly attentive on these flights.

DesertGhost
Guest

Happy baby! It looks like American needs to consult with its flight attendants when designing its cabins.

MeanMeosh
Guest
First of all, congrats on the new addition!! One question for you. Those flight timings seem a bit odd, with a 5:20 P.M. PDT departure and a 2:15 P.M. local time arrival. What’s up with that? That strikes me as a “worst of both worlds” if you’re a business traveler, as it’s an early enough departure that you lose a half a day of work leaving, and a late enough arrival time that you lose the entire day in London, too. Then again, it looks like a lot of flights to LHR from LAX feature late morning-early afternoon arrival times,… Read more »
Coach flyer
Guest

You’re kidding – right?

You get rock star treatment from AA and you opine that it was a nice trip? No kidding! What an investigative reporter you are!

Next time, forego the company ass kissing and fly anonymously in coach. Let’s see how you like THAT!

james
Guest

I have a friend who is an automotive analyst. He isn’t expected to purchase every car and truck he reviews. However that doesn’t preclude him from writing a fair and non-biased reports. And, companies continue to loan him vehicles regardless if his reviews are high praise of heavy laden with constructive criticism.

s.allardice
Member

Congrats on baby number 2 Brett.

mharris127
Guest

Same here. Congrats on the second rug rat, hope it is a cute little girl. Maybe in ten years you will be able to travel with your wife and kids, I can’t even imagine how difficult it is to travel with babies in tow.

Sheila
Guest

Congrats on #2 baby. Thanks for the nice review. Would love to see one on Economy since that’s the only class we can ‘sometimes’ afford these days.

okeeffe
Member

Nice trip report, CF. Congrats to you and your saintly wife! ( I am just assuming she must be saint!)
As for the window shade, I like to leave it up, but I used to feel guilty about it. I got over feeling guilty.
G.

jabelson
Member

Congrats on the forthcoming Cranky #2 (actually, it won’t be #2 who will be cranky…it will be your wife)

I can’t imagine anyone subscribing to your blog and not reading the entire report

jaybru
Member
For someone who’s experiences may have caused them to be “…missing significant subtleties (although the commenter seemed to have bit of a problem spelling “subtleties” (previous post), I must say reading your trip report was a wonderful experience. Yes, the window shade matter. Drives me crazy. And, when a window row seat lacks a window, well…! Anyway, these reports give me a wonderful insight into how the “other half, or whomever, lives!” And perhaps, to keep me from becoming too depressed on what I’ve been missing, how about listing the fare I would have paid for that seat, say, on… Read more »
Roneill000
Member

The biz class seats seem all but identical, except for the color, to those on my recent flights on CX ORD-HKG and HKG-JFK. Oh, and on the westbound flight over the arctic I opened my window shade for awhile to look at the vast expanse of snow or ice. But I dutifully lowered it again after all of five minutes as all that white plus a low sun really lit up the cabin at a time that would have been dark back at ORD.

Realist
Guest
Brett, You are so biased that you have zero credibility when ?reporting? on anything relating to AA; it?s actually laughable. You clearly have an agenda to portray AA negatively, and of course it will all miraculously change in 4Q13 after your hero Parker assumes control. Your motives are so transparent that it?s totally implausible that you aren?t being compensated (either directly or through quid pro quo) by US Airways or an intermediary. Also, it seems as though you have spent too much time around flight crews as you have turned into quite the whiner. Did the mood lighting make your… Read more »
David
Guest

Realist – you have the right to express an opinion, but at least try to do it politely and in a reasoned manner. CF blogs for free – he has no obligation to write for you. There is no need to resort to sarcasm or cheap attacks.

Nick Barnard
Member

CF isn’t a reporter he’s a commentator.

I won’t say any more beyon that and I’ll just second what David said.

121Pilot
Guest
Realist, If you don’t like his writing or the blog I’d suggest you simply not read it. Cranky has always been very upfront about who pays for what when and if you engaged your brain before typing you’d realize that if Cranky had an anti AA bias they sure as heck wouldn’t be giving him free flights etc. Cranky, Awesome trip report. Very fair, well written and enjoyable. I get what the time away from your family means and I for one appreciate that you do it for the sake of a free blog. I hope AA and others take… Read more »
pddee
Member

I much enjoy your reports and often wish that I had the ability/time to tag along with you. I’d like to see some of the other airlines (United, are you listening?) match your trip on AA and then have you do a comparative story as to how things match-up. Congratulations to you and the lady carrying your next offspring. Well done. And thanks for the nice writing.

Patrick

David SF eastbay
Member

noise-canceling headset you have to use a mirror to plug it in or stand up, how dumb is that.

I think it would bug me to sit an an angle while going forward, guess you have to try it and see.

Soon a family of four traveling, that means spit seating on narrowbodies and no pretending to be asleep so mommy takes care of the baby…..lol

johnny
Member

Congrats, Cranky!

Bill from DC
Guest

congrats to you and mrs cranky as well!

lhggasman
Member

Congrats on Cranky #2!

dft
Member

Brett–I, too, read your entire trip report (as well as the one on Korean) and was especially interested in it, since my wife and I flew in Envoy class CLT-LHR in June on USAirways. Living in Charlotte, we are often on USAirways, but this was our first experience together on an international flight, and I must say I was very impressed–service, seats, food, etc. From your description, it sounds like American can learn a few things from their new owner. Nice report and congrats on Cranky #2!

yo
Guest

Yeah Baby 2 (Electric Boogaloo)!

Red
Member

Cranky Congrats on Cranky #2. Is it just me or did American give a decent sized knife on plane (Cant tell from the picture of the food) unlike most other Airlines

hsano
Member

Brett,

Congratulations to you, your wife, and big brother-to-be! And yes, I read all your posts end-to-end, even to the end of the Comments section.

Haj

SAN Greg
Guest

Congrats on Cranky Jr. #2! Even though I feel you have bias toward anything Parker does I enjoy reading your blog and have supported you by purchasing your book (hey, it’s something!). I am strongly against the merger personally, but respect the views of yours and others. Looking forward to your return soon (some airline is bound to earn a Cranky Jackass award inside of 2 months!).

SAN Greg
Guest

PS – I, too, am one of those who like to open the shade and check out the barren tundra below. But all things good in moderation – I do it occasionally and only part way up. Sorry light haters!

Axelsarkiss
Member

Congratulations on Little Cranky II.

And, uh, if you’re looking for someone to take all those trips that come knocking on your door…

Eric in ICT
Guest

Great report as always, Brett. Trip reports are still my favorite feature you do. Always will be! I read the whole thing and congrats to you and Mrs. Cranky on your impending arrival. The world needs more airline dorks!

Andrew mondt
Member

Congrats on the new addition to your fleet! It looks like AA needs to do some tweaking to the aircraft based on flight attendant feedback. However AA shouldn’t be getting that feedback via your blog. The crew knew you were some kind of VIP. They should have had their “game face” on and not vented.

larrymansfield
Member

Congrats on cranky #2 will miss you for a few months

Vishal Mehra
Guest

First things first, Congratulations for the new baby.

I was surprised to see you categorize economy class screen as big. To be honest I expected a bigger screen. and I say that having flown Emirates in the last month to europe on their 773s. Even their handset was touch enabled and served as a fantastic second screen.

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[…] basically the same as what American is installing in Business Class on its international fleet. (See my trip report to London in those seats.) It has been modified to fit on the A321 so the finishes are a bit different (and there’s a […]