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American Airlines is currently flying a single daily flight between Los Angeles and London and a few weeks ago I got to see what things were like in the Business Class cabin on the daytime flight out of London and the overnight flight out of Los Angeles. For anyone considering flying internationally in American’s Business Class cabin, what follows may give you a good idea of what to expect on the daytime flight.
It’s been years since I last managed to book an American Airlines transatlantic Business Class award so when I saw that award availability was wide open (I guess even pandemics can have a silver lining), I decided to burn some miles for this trip. Better yet, I even managed to save 2,500 miles in each direction courtesy of a Web Special that American Airlines was offering.
American Airlines is currently flying out of Heathrow T5 and the airline has been given temporary check-in desks alongside BA’s First Class check-in desks towards the south end of the terminal (area J). There was no one else in line for check-in when I arrived so the whole process of having my documents checked just took a few moments and I had plenty of time to chat which the friendly agents who seemed happy to have an actual passenger with whom to interact.
As things stand, American’s Los Angeles flight departs at 17:15 but Heathrow is still closing the First Wing security line at 14:15 so anyone making their way to LA with American should keep this in mind when deciding how early to get to the airport.
On this occasion, I was in time to use the First Wing security line and as I was only one of three people using the facility, I was through to the lounge in just a few minutes.
London Lounge Access
The British Airways First Lounge is the only British Airways lounge currently open at Heathrow Terminal 5 and so until that situation changes, it’s open to all travelers passing through T5 whose fare or airline status gives them lounge access as one of their benefits.
I’ve written a separate post detailing what the BA First Lounge is like right now so place read that for more information.
There were fewer than 20 passengers on my flight between London and Los Angeles and the premium cabins were almost empty so as soon as a gate agent saw me and realized that I was flying in Business Class, I was invited to have my documents checked and to sit in the area between gate agents and the stairs to the jetbridge as we waited for clearance for boarding to start.
Despite the incredibly low number of people traveling, boarding was delayed because of a late-arriving crew member but given that the aircraft was almost empty of passengers, this didn’t really have any effect on our departure time.
The American Airlines 777-300ER
When American Airlines first started operating Boeing 777-300ERs across the Atlantic it elevated the airlines Business Class hard product from the gutter to the very top. Now, almost a decade later, the aircraft’s Business Class seat is still one of my favorite places to pass the time on a long transatlantic flight.
The cabin is set out in a 1-2-1 layout…
…and the single seats on either side of the cabin are perfect for solo travelers.
Each seat gives its occupant a lot of personal space…
…and with storage areas at chest height,…
….under the seat’s side table,…
…and at floor level…
…there is an incredible amount of space for a passenger to store items that they’d like to keep close by during the flight.
The seats are set out in a reverse herringbone layout…
…and can be reclined into a wide variety of angles that ensure that everyone can find a comfortable position in which to relax.
Most importantly, the seat can be reclined fully into a true lie-flat position which in conjunction with the seat’s ottoman, makes for a nice bed.
To the side of the seat is where American has placed all the controls that a passenger can need…
…and this is where you’ll find the IFE remote control, the power outlet, the two USB sockets, the seat controls, and a reading light.
Above the seat in the cabin ceiling is where you’ll find two air nozzles (key to making sure that the air around your seat is at a temperature you’re comfortable with and not a sweatbox) and two more lights that are useful for keeping things illuminated when the crew switches off all the other cabin lights (something you’ll often find them doing regardless of the time of day or the route being flown!).
Overall, I love this seat.
With plenty of storage space, a passenger is never more than an arm’s length away from whatever item they need to have close by. With a good-size shelf either by the window or between the seats (in the center section), there’s somewhere for a passenger to place a tablet or laptop during a meal if they prefer to watch whatever entertainment they have with them rather than whatever is playing on the inflight screen. Most importantly, the seat itself is a very comfortable place to spend a flight.
As I’ll mention in another post that will cover my overnight flight, the seats may need to have a little more padding added to them now that they’re nearly a decade old (in lie-flat mode I felt the bed was a little hard) but in all other aspects, they’re an excellent Business Class seat that I wish more airlines would use.
In terms of extra COVID preparedness, there really wasn’t that much to see when it came to the amenities on offer. A crew member handed me two sanitizing towels as I boarded but other than that there wasn’t much to report.
The pillow and large blanket were wrapped up in plastic, but that’s normal and not a new thing:
And the amenity kit was wrapped up in plastic…but that’s not new either:
Speaking of amenity kits…
American recently announced new amenity kits for its premium cabins but this flight didn’t have them. Instead, this is the amenity kit that was offered:
An eye mask, earplugs, a pen, a small bottle of mouthwash, a toothbrush, toothpaste, lip balm, moisturizer, and a packet of tissues are what you’ll find inside. Nothing special, but still perfectly acceptable.
Shortly after takeoff, the crew passed out bottles of water…
…and 20 minutes later drinks and packets of smoked almonds were served.
The crew tried to serve the main meal almost straight after the drinks had been handed out but after a bit of resistance, I managed to get it delayed by 20 minutes (I really wish American Airlines would introduce a dine-on-demand service).
A quick look through the menu shows that there isn’t a particularly big difference between what American Airlines is servicing now and what it was serving pre-pandemic. The side salad is currently missing, no bread basket is being offered and there’s only one dessert on offer but, other than that, it’s business as usual (content-wise).
The meal came served all at once and on a single tray. Pre-pandemic, courses were served separately. I chose the flat iron steak as my main course.
The shrimp were surprisingly good, the steak was tender and ok but nothing special, but the dessert was disappointing. It tasted full of additives and coloring and reminded me of school food in the 80s…and not in a fun nostalgic way!
The second meal of the flight was served 90 minutes before we landed and more out of interest than anything else, I ordered the mini pies (steak & ale and chicken & mushroom).
The pies were fine. They were no gourmet taste sensation and they also weren’t inedible but given the choice again, I would probably choose the Mediterranean salad.
Overall the meals were ok and they got the job done (prevented me from going hungry) but they weren’t a standout part of the flight…but then they rarely are on American Airlines. That’s not a complaint (I know what to expect when I book with AA), that’s just a statement of fact.
I should also point out that American usually puts out a wide selection of snacks in the area between the galley and the main Business Class cabin and while on this flight I never got around to checking what was on offer, I’m led to believe that the airline is currently putting out a much-reduced offering.
All of American’s widebody aircraft come fitted with overwater wi-fi and as I haven’t flown with American for some considerable time, it came as a bit of a shock to find out that a wi-fi pass that cost $19.99 not that long ago, now costs $35.
I’ve had more than my fair share of poor connectivity issues with American’s wi-fi so, with the cost set at 75% more than I remember it being (I think that was December 2019), I decided that I wouldn’t bother trying it out.
I’m not going to say very much about the service on board because there were so few people in the Business Class cabin that my experience is unlikely to be matched by anyone else in the coming weeks and months.
Overall, the service on this flight was good (the flight attendants were great at checking to see if I needed anything) and they were all very friendly, but it’s easy to be efficient and friendly on an 11-hour flight when you have next to no one to look after. The problem with American has always been that the crews are so hit and miss that it’s impossible to predict just how good or bad service on any given flight will be.
Until the airline finds a way to address this issue, writing a review in which the crew is described as amazing or appalling will mean very little as the exact opposite may be true on the very next flight.
The American Airlines 777-300ER Business Class cabin is still one of my favorite transatlantic Business Class cabins to fly in. I love the seat and I like the amount of storage and personal space on offer and that hasn’t changed in nearly a decade.
As far as everything else on this flight goes, it was mostly par for the course and the pandemic hasn’t really changed all that much. Yes, the meal service was a little different and yes, the food options are a little more limited but considering what an airline like BA was offering back in November (on this exact route), there wasn’t much to complain about here.