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Last week I wrote about my American Airlines Business Class flight between London and Los Angeles which took place during the hours of daylight so this post will take a look at what American Airlines is currently offering passengers on the overnight flight in the opposite direction.
LAX Check In
I’m fortunate enough to have oneworld Emerald elite status which gives me access to American’s “Flagship Check-In” at Los Angeles International Airport. The entrance to the Flagship Check-in area is at the far end of Terminal 4 (past all the other check-in desks) and is currently in the middle of a construction zone.
Fortunately, the construction is limited to the outside of the building and all is normal within the check-in area itself.
In the 48 hours leading up to my departure, I had followed American’s advice and used the VeriFly app to upload details of my negative COVID-19 test (needed to enter the UK) together with details of my UK “travel authorization” document. By the time my departure day had come around, all those details had been checked (by whoever AA/VeriFly employs to carry out the necessary checks) so, at check-in, all I had to do was show the agent the pass that the VeriFly app generates (which confirms that I have all the documents needed to fly and enter the UK) and I was cleared to receive my boarding pass.
I wasn’t sure just how useful the VeriFly app was going to be but, on this occasion, it definitely helped to make sure check-in was easy – there was no need for the airline agent to check all my paperwork so the process was quick and painless.
Right now isn’t the best time to be looking for a good oneworld lounge at LAX. My favorite lounge at LAX (the Qantas First Class lounge) is still closed and American Airlines isn’t currently offering a Flagship Lounge experience at LAX as the area taken up by the Flagship Lounge is currently being used as part of an extended Admirals Club.
Still, lounge issues such as these are the dictionary definition of a first-world problem and the expanded Admirals Club was good enough for me (I’ll try to write a review of what the lounge is offering in the next few days).
The flight was scheduled to depart Los Angeles at 18:25 and boarding started at 17:45. Ordinarily, that would constitute a delayed boarding but even though this aircraft was carrying considerably more passengers than my inbound flight, the load was still small enough to ensure that all passengers were in their seats with plenty of time to spare.
The American Airlines 777-300ER Business Class Cabin
I’m not going to go over the pros and cons of the American Airlines 777-300ER Business Class cabin in this post as you’ll find all that information in the post I wrote last week (here) but, for the sake of completeness, here are a few images of what the aircraft offers.
It’s a very good Business Class cabin – one of the best that you’ll find offered on transatlantic routes.
The Flight Experience
A pillow & blanket were waiting for me on my seat…
…and a menu, two hand wipes, and an amenity kit were already on the seat shelf.
This is what the contents of the amenity kit look like:
15 mins after I boarded, the flight attendants passed out bottles of water to everyone in the Business Class cabin …
…and meal and drinks orders taken were taken before we pushed back (approximately on time). As seems to be standard in the time of COVID, no pre-departure beverages were offered.
We took off at 18:40…
…and, 15 minutes later as the aircraft leveled out, the flight attendants started preparing the table for meal service. There’s no on-demand dining on American Airlines. You dine when you’re told to dine (more or less).
25 minutes after take-off, the wine that I had requested (a Chardonnay) and a pack of smoked almonds were served.
15 minutes after that (40 minutes after take-off), dinner was served…all in individually covered plates and bowls and with all courses on one tray.
I had pre-ordered my main course in the days leading up to the flight (I chose the crab cakes)…
…and I had chosen well because the crab cakes were actually pretty good (by airline standards).
In fact, all the main items on the tray turned out to be enjoyable (I didn’t try the roll) and the only negative aspect of the meal was the Chardonnay which wasn’t particularly good….at least not at altitude.
20 minutes later (an hour after take-off), the cabin crew came through the cabin to clear away the remnants of dinner (from those of us who had finished eating) in a very timely manner – that was excellent as I hate having a tray full of leftovers and scraps sitting in front of me.
With dinner done, I decided to try to get some sleep and during the night, two things occurred to me.
Firstly, the Business Class seats on the American Airlines 777-300ER may need to be re-padded (is that even possible?) as my seat felt considerably harder than I remember these seats being.
Secondly, if you’re in the main Business Class cabin (there’s also a mini-cabin of just 8 seats towards the front of the aircraft) it would be a good idea to avoid being anywhere near the galley if you’d like to get some sleep. The crew left the curtains between the cabin and the galley open on multiple occasions and that allowed light to pour into an otherwise dark cabin.
Before I settled down to try and get some rest, I wasn’t asked if I wanted to be woken for breakfast….so I wasn’t. Eventually, I woke up with 45 minutes of the flight remaining, and, fortunately, I encountered a friendly flight attendant who was happy to let me have the only option available – a continental breakfast.
The fruit was fresh, not too cold, and not rock solid and that’s about as good as it gets with continental breakfasts served on transatlantic airlines so I was a happy, if still slightly sleepy, traveler.
We landed 15 minutes ahead of schedule and I spent the next 20 minutes wondering how horrendous the immigration lines at Heathrow were going to be (there have been reports of people having to wait in line for hours). As it turned out, my worrying was for nothing. There was no line worth mentioning at T5 immigration (there were between 8 and10 people ahead of me) and I was in the arrivals hall 25 minutes after landing despite having to stop to pick up my checked bag.
Note: When I traveled this same route in April, I arrived at Heathrow Terminal 2 where the lines at immigration were long and where UK border force officials were checking every traveler’s COVID test result and UK Passenger Locator Form before allowing them to access the immigration eGates. There was none of this in evidence at T5 in May.
Most of my overnight flights are uneventful and this one was no different.
I had very few interactions with the flight attendants but the ones that I encountered seemed friendly and polite and I even noticed a few of them helping passengers with their bags.
The food was good (by airline standards) and despite the fact that I’m pretty sure the seats have become harder, I got a fair amount of sleep on the flight so I really don’t have any grounds to complain.
Sure, COVID has made a few things a little different on board – I’m looking forward to being offered proper glassware and not having meals covered in saran wrap and served on a plastic tray when this is all over – but the fact is that the most important aspects of a Business Class experience are the cabin and the seats and on both of those counts the American Airlines 777-300ER Business Class cabin scores highly.