This post is part of a broader Aruba & NYC trip report from October 2015.
- Review: American Airlines 777-200 Economy Class (LHR-MIA)
- Review: Amex Centurion Lounge – Miami
- Review: American Airlines 737 Economy Class (MIA-AUA)
- Review: Marriott’s Aruba Surf Club
- Review: American Airlines Admirals Club Miami (Gate 30)
- Review: American Airlines 737 First Class (MIA-LGA)
- Review: Andaz 5th Avenue
- Review: American Airlines Flagship Lounge JFK
- Review: American Airlines 777-300ER Business Class (JFK-LHR)
If you’ve read the introduction to this trip report you’ll know that we booked our flights to Aruba with cash and in the Economy Class cabin in the hopes that my Systemwide Upgrades would see us flying in Business Class. Having booked the flights in January (a full 9 months before departure) I felt reasonably confident that the upgrades would come through. They didn’t.
I’m not entirely sure why the upgrades didn’t come through and I’m also not sure how I ended up just 4th on the airport upgrade list when I booked so far in advance…but that’s not worth going into here.
Joanna and I made use of the British Airways Galleries First lounge at Heathrow T3 (because it’s so much better than the American Airlines Flagship lounge at the same terminal) and I finally got around to trying something from their made-to-order menu – Eggs Benedict – which was not bad. There wasn’t that much time to enjoy the lounge this time because, for once, we hadn’t got to the airport way too early. So we were soon heading to the gate.
I got to the gate and was directed to the Priority Boarding line. Both gate agents were busy with passengers who, for some reason, hadn’t got their correct information entered into the system, specifically their addresses whilst they were staying in the US. It took quite a long time for this to be sorted out and it puzzled me as to why this hadn’t been done as normal at check-in (either on-line, or in person).
Finally, one of the passengers was allowed to head towards the plane. I had been the only person in line (Priority or otherwise) when I arrived, but during the delay, the regular boarding line had built up. I stepped forward to take my turn and was rudely told in a loud voice by the gate agent, “Wait until you’re called!”. I moved back to the front of the Priority line, as instructed, at which point she called a group of five people from the regular line to present their boarding passes and passports. And then, another group of three.
Okay, I get that the plane won’t leave without me, I get that in the great scheme of things it really doesn’t matter. She did, however, annoy me with her apparent power-wielding pettiness. I’m not an obnoxious passenger, I’m extremely polite to all airline staff and crew, so for her to feel she needed to embarrass or reprimand me in that fashion was unnecessary. Oh, and I wasn’t embarrassed, so that didn’t work for her. And she had no cause to reprimand me.
We got into the gate area around 45 minutes before scheduled departure and boarding was already half-done. All the premium cabins had been called, as had priority boarding, so we just boarded with everybody else.
It’s been years since I’ve flown in Economy Class on an American Airlines 777-200 but I still know to book the row 31 exit seats just in case upgrade don’t clear…so that’s where we were seated.
The seats are basically the same seats American Airlines has on most of it’s older planes – worn, thinly padded and in need of an upgrade.
The leg room, however, can’t be beaten:
Although the view is a bit dull 🙂
One of the issues with having an exit row seat is that there’s pretty much no storage anywhere around your seat. You’re not allowed to have anything at your feet for take-off or landing and an already-full small magazine holder is all that’s available for both seats:
This was an old-style American Airlines 777-200 which has yet to be retrofitted with the new cabin – so seating was still only 9-across in the Economy Class cabin with a seat width of 18 inches for most passengers.
The leg room in the non-exit rows didn’t look great….
….but it’s only likely to get worse when American Airlines starts to squash more seats into an already packed cabin.
Flight time was scheduled at 9 hours and we pushed back 5 minutes ahead of schedule.
Any hopes of an on-time departure were dashed as we taxied around Heathrow for 30 minutes before taking off nearly half an hour late.
45 minutes after take-off the crew came around with drinks and mini-pretzels:
As usual I went for a non-alcoholic option but, as far as I could tell non-premium alcoholic drinks were being served free of charge.
90 minutes into the flight lunch was served.
The choice was chicken or pasta and we ordered one of each between us. Presentation was reasonably standard Economy Class fare:
The chicken was edible but lukewarm….
…and Joanna’s pasta was lukewarm too:
Both the main courses were tolerable but hardly appetising.
The accompanying salad was an abomination. There were two or three shreds of lettuce, a strand or two of rocket/arugula (which has no place on a plate of food) and 3 pieces of cucumber. Not a tomato or olive in sight and the “creamy dressing” was horrible.
The cream cheese was of a variety that I remember from the 70’s …..it was just about ok in those days but not in 2015.
Dessert was a “cherry strudel” which was surprisingly weighty but tasted ok:
One positive as that they served soft drinks as a full can rather than a min-can (which lasts two gulps).
5 hours into the flight, the crew came around with a selection of hot and cold drinks and ice-cream…..
…which, to be fair, wasn’t bad at all.
3 hours later (an hour before landing) the final “meal” was served:
The “folded pizza” was two pieces of flatbread with melted cheese (or cheese substitute) and wasn’t close to anything a New Yorker (let alone an Italian) would recognize as pizza:
Still, at least it was hot.
The lemon and blueberry sponge wasn’t too bad…it even had a well of lemon curd in the middle.
It’s a bit of an indictment of the food served in American Airline’s long-haul Economy Class cabin that the better bits were the off-the-shelf dessert items. Anything American (or their supplier) actually had to put together themselves ranged from poor to atrocious.
American Airlines’ 777-200 feel like they were around when dinosaurs roamed the earth so it’s no surprise that they don’t have WiFi onboard. The retrofit, when they get around to it, will include adding WiFi capability for the whole aircraft but, for now, you have to do without.
While the aircraft doesn’t have WiFi it does have an entertainment system….although in the case of the system at my seat it may as well have been as non-existent as the WiFi.
In the Economy Class cabin the TV screens are embedded in the seat back of the seat in front of you (somewhere near eye level) but, in the exit rows, the screens comes out of the armrests:
The screen dimensions were close to 6″ x 5″ and, in my case the picture was almost unwatchable.
The best picture I could get on my screen was this:
…at that was peak viewing. It got a lot worse when characters moved around or there was a dark scene and no amount of playing around with various settings made it any better.
Even if the picture hasn’t been so bad, listening to the dialogue wasn’t really an option thanks to a high-pitched noise that was being emitted through the headphones – perhaps I’d accidentally tuned in to the canine channel?
Putting the unwatchable picture quality and mind-jarring high-pitched noise to one side, the entertainment system was still terrible – the shows/movies weren’t even on demand. They were playing on a loop:
“next show in 10 minutes”?! Are we back in the 90’s?
Have I got far too delicate and out of touch with my extended run of upgrades into Business Class or is this still normal for Economy Class on long-haul journeys? Seriously, someone tell me what other airlines are like because I thought this stuff disappeared last decade.
Anyway, as I’ve said before, it’s been a while since I relied on an airline to provide my entertainment so I had brought my MacBook Air pre-loaded with shows and movies I wanted to watch. But that wasn’t the end of the challenges courtesy of American Airlines.
MacBooks, Laptops and other electronic devices all have one thing in common – they need power. And if you’re going to fly on one of American’s antiquated 777-200s you had better make sure every device you plan to use is powered up to the max….either that or make sure you still have a cable that plugs your device into a cigarette lighter socket:
It’s like I’d been transported back in time!
Worse still is the fact that it’s not just Economy Class that has to put up with this ridiculous out-of-date “technology” – Business and First Class has to deal with the same thing!
All-in-all, the whole connectivity/entertainment experience on the flight was nothing short of dreadful. How the biggest airline in the world can still offer garbage like this is beyond me.
This being Economy Class there was no amenity kit but there was a dark blanket and a small, somewhat pointless pillow (which I forgot to photograph).
The blanket was actually of a very good length but was very thin so, if you’re ever booked on an American Economy long-haul flight, don’t rely on it for warmth.
The service from the crew was nothing out of the ordinary. Nothing great but nothing too bad either. But they seemed a joyless group of people with smiles few and far between and service nothing more than practical and to the point. They were a million miles from the Finnair Economy Class crew I’d had on my London to Helsinki flight just a couple of days earlier.
A pretty terrible product from the world’s largest airline.
The seats were hard and not exactly comfortable for a 9+ hour flight. The technology provided was bad from whatever angle I look at it, the food was just about passable but worse than a lot of airlines and the crew were going through the motions.
American Airlines are making a big fuss about the new planes they’re bringing on-line…..
….but that’s just papering over the huge cracks elsewhere in their offering.
- The new planes aren’t here to replace the 777-200s which are an embarrassment and way overdue an overhaul.
- The food is something I’d expect from a developing country’s low-cost carrier.
- The crews need to be reminded that they’re in a customer facing role – right now their demeanour is more akin to that of a prison warden than a flight attendant.
The biggest issue with all of this is what the situation is going to be like when American Airlines does eventually finish refitting it’s 777-200s. We should be entitled to expect that everything will be better, but it won’t be. Sure there will be some upgrades:
- More comfortable seats
- An entertainment system that were designed for this century
But what American gives with one hand the take away with the other. The refitted 777-200s will have one more seat squeezed in to each row leaving each passenger with an inch less of seat-width. And that’s not going to be comfortable.
As much as I dislike British Airways they still have some things going for them:
- They only have 9 seats across their Economy Class cabin
- Their food cannot be any worse than American’s
- Their entertainment system is better – I think.
- Although their cabin crew are nowhere near as good/nice as the BA apologists would have you believe they’re still probably marginally more pleasant than their American Airlines counterparts.
So, if you’re a OneWorld flyer looking to fly from London to the US in Economy Class, I have this suggestion for you: Avoid American Airlines and give BA a try.
Featured image: Grant Wickes via Flickr