Trip Report: LAX - LHR
American Airlines 136
Scheduled Departure 7:50PM
Scheduled Arrival 2:15PM
Seat 13A, Business Class, Boeing 777-300ER
I recently traveled to Rovaniemi (RVN), a town in Finland that claims to be "the official home of Santa Claus" and also a great place to see the Northern Lights. On this trip I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to fly on one of American Airlines' new flagship aircraft: the Boeing 777-300ER. There were a few options to reach London on the trans-Atlantic portion of my itinerary including departures from LAX, DFW, and JFK. I eventually booked the longest of these to maximize my time on-board, try out the new features, and even get some shut-eye. LAX - LHR has a flight time of just under 10 hours. My complete itinerary was SFO -> LAX -> LHR -> HEL -> RVN, so I was also able to visit the great lounges at each airport along the way.
As an Executive Platinum with American AAdvantage - achieved by flying 100,000 miles on AA or any oneworld carrier within a calendar year - I receive eight electronic certificates known as eVIPs or SWUs (systemwide upgrades). These are incredibly valuable because they allow me to upgrade any paid ticket on AA flights to the next class of service in one direction, including multiple segments if there are any connections.
I attempted to apply the eVIP to my itinerary when booking but was only able to waitlist. Fortunately, I was still able to book myself in AA's Main Cabin Extra section, which is not quite the same premium economy product you'll find on British Airways or Virgin Atlantic. It still has same type of economy class seat, though the seat pitch is increased to 36", there is one less seat per row, and passengers enjoy a mini-cabin between business class and economy class. Be sure to book early, as there are only 30 seats in Main Cabin Extra.
Three days before departure, my upgrade cleared! The only remaining window seat was 13A, but since upgrade also cleared from SFO - LAX, so I was in a premium cabin all the way to London.
American Airlines Flagship Lounge at LAX
Access to American Airlines' Flagship Lounges at LAX, ORD, JFK, and LHR are available to customers traveling in first class on a three-cabin plane on international and transcontinental routes. You can also gain access if you are on an international itinerary traveling in first class on another oneworld carrier or have oneworld Emerald status. Since I receive Emerald status by being an AA Executive Platinum member, I have access to all oneworld first class lounges when flying internationally in any class of service and may bring a guest, though trips between the U.S. and most North American destinations are excluded.
I first explored the main Admirals Club and found it to be incredibly spacious, well equipped, bright, and comfortable. While the complimentary food selection is limited to light snacks, there is a bar with a variety of complimentary beers/wines/spirits and a menu offering premium food and top shelf liquor for purchase.
When entering the Flagship Lounge, an AA agent noted my boarding pass and welcomed me as a guest. The first thing I noticed was the massive wall of glass with stellar views of the tarmac. To the left is the business center with a printer, copier, and Internet terminals, lots of roomy seating areas, and music stations with headphones to relax before a flight. In the rear of the lounge are the restrooms and excellent shower facilities. And on the right side of the lounge there is additional seating, a dining area, and a full buffet and self-service bar. As you would expect, there are excellent top shelf drink offerings plus more extensive hot and cold food items than I saw in the Admirals Club. I decided to make their recommended drink, a pomegranate martini, and it was delicious!
Overview of the 777-300ER
I already had the pleasure of experiencing the business and first class seats being installed on American Airlines' new 777-300ERs a month earlier when visiting the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) Conference in San Diego. It is one of the world's largest travel conferences, gathering over 7,000 travel buyers and suppliers to network, negotiate corporate travel contracts, and try out the new onboard products (my favorite part).
It's clear that the interior of this new aircraft borrowed some features found on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, including awesome mood lighting and incredibly spacious overhead bins. When entering through the massive boarding door, you immediately notice the Business/First Class bar. Turning left will lead to First Class and a small Business Class "mini-cabin." Turning right leads to the main Business Class Cabin, Main Cabin Extra, and Economy Class. As I was in 13A, I turned right and found my Business Class seat.
All premium passengers have direct aisle access thanks to 1-2-1 seat configurations in First Class (8 seats) and Business Class (52 seats). Economy Class (220 seats) is divided into two cabins with a 3-4-3 configuration, although there are some rows near the galleys with a 2-4-2 configuration that may be more appealing to couples. Main Cabin Extra (30 seats), as I mentioned before, has its own mini-cabin with extra legroom and a more spacious 3-3-3 configuration.
Business Class Seat
Before boarding this plane, I had high expectations for this seat, and those expectations were EXCEEDED. This is the best international business class seat on any U.S. carrier without a doubt. Thanks to the herringbone layout, all business class seats have direct aisle access and a significant amount of privacy. There are two large storage areas for personal items (one to the left of the seat, near the floor, and one to the right of the seat, in a cubby that closes) and a smaller storage compartment for headphones.
There's also a large mirror, noise-cancelling headphones and in-ear earphones, a footstool, and the typical blanket, pillow, and amenity kit already waiting on the seat. A pair of slippers in the amenity kit is especially great for those trips to the restroom.
The controls on the seat are almost at eye level and allow for virtually any position, including a fully flat bed mode. As expected, the seat comfort is excellent and the blanket was large and soft. But the pillow was small, lumpy, and disappointing.
After getting comfortable in my seat, I started playing with the AVOD system (Audio Visual On Demand). The screen is very large, bright, and extremely responsive. There were hundreds of movies, TV shows, music selections, and games to choose from, and the controls were well designed. In addition, there was a handheld controller available that had a mini screen that displayed info about the entertainment selection, flight info (such as time remaining) and other useful stuff. There is a place to connect audio and video to the screen (via component connectors) in addition to a USB charging port and international power outlet for larger devices.
One of the technology highlights is satellite-based WiFi. Unlike traditional, ground-based WiFi services like GoGo (which are only useful when flying over land), satellite service can be used almost anywhere in the world. Pricing on AA flights is $12 for 2 hours, $17 for 4 hours, or $19 for the entire flight. In addition, T-Mobile customers can use their existing accounts to connect to the WiFi at 18 cents per minute, which is great if you need to hop on to check your email. This would be a great way to remain productive and stave off boredom during a daytime flight. I personally didn't use the service, but the connection page was very speedy and appeared to function normally.
Meals and Service
American Airlines takes meal requests from front to back, so if you want more choices, be sure to sit near the front of the cabin. By the time the flight attendants reached the rear of the cabin, I overhead the only choice available was a seafood dish. Fortunately I was able to get a steak. You can, however, request your business/first class meal choice at aa.com when viewing your itinerary at least 24 hours in advance.
After performing the hot towel service, warm nuts along with a choice of beverage were brought out. The appetizer and salad were brought out shortly after with another beverage choice. Since I'm a big fan of champagne, I stuck with this for the entirety of my meal. The salad and appetizer were beautifully presented and tasted great.
The accompaniments with my main course were great, but the steak (as with most steaks served onboard) wasn't amazing. Fortunately, it came with a decent sauce that allowed me to mask the actual flavor (or lack thereof) of the beef. For dessert, I chose the cheese plate. Included with were crackers, lots of grapes, and a delicious fig. Overall, the meal service was good and service was friendly and reasonably prompt (as compared to other international Business Class flights).
Like the 787-8 Dreamliner I flew on with United a few months prior, the lavatory on the 777-300ER has a very modern design with touchless controls. One of the lavatories between the two business class cabins is incredibly large, providing space to change into fresh clothes without even touching the walls.
Business and First Class Bar
Exclusive to this plane among American Airlines' fleet is a bar positioned between the two business class cabins. It is available only to First and Business Class passengers and quite similar to the Club Kitchen available on many long haul British Airways flights with a wide variety of food and beverage choices. There is fantastic LED lighting all around the bar area, which certainly increases the appeal of the items on display. The flight attendants were especially excited about this new feature and put out a wonderful presentation of food including desserts, cheese plates, and other items to snack on.
This was one of the best flights I've ever taken on any U.S.-based carrier. The ambiance, fantastic seat, good service, and overall experience were very good. There are a lot of players in the long haul business class market, and AA has created a product that is highly competitive with many international carriers. In the future, I will certainly go out of my way to fly AA's new 777-300ER.