A couple of days ago I flew from New York to Sao Paulo in business class on one of American’s brand new 777-300ERs. I had to sweat out the upgrade and only ended up clearing at the gate, which made the upgrade all the more rewarding (since I was fully expecting to have my first international flight in coach in more than a decade). While I’ll have a full trip report when I return home, I figured I’d share my initial thoughts.

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The seat

American has reverse herringbone seats in business class on their 777-300ERs, which is the best business class hard product in the world. Hands down. End of story. I slept amazingly well for five hours of the flight, which is about as good as it gets for me on a roughly nine hour flight.

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The amenities

American’s amenity kits aren’t fancy or co-branded with Tumi or Rimowa (for example), but they do the trick and have all the basics. On the plus side they also have slippers, which I appreciate.

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American’s bedding is also fine but not amazing. I find the blanket to be fairly comfortable, while I wish the pillow were a bit thicker.

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The food

The food was good. The only problem is that dinner was served at room temperature, which I can’t really understand since everything was served on one tray. But my main course (fish) was literally room temperature when it was served.

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The breakfast was actually the highlight of the meal, and one of the better pre-made egg dishes I’ve had on a plane (nothing can compete with freshly scrambled eggs on Cathay Pacific or Lufthansa, though).

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The service

I couldn’t help but chuckle at this notice posted in the galley:

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The crew wasn’t actively rude. But they were quite possibly the most indifferent crew I’ve ever had. They didn’t do anything wrong, they just didn’t do anything right. Don’t think I ever got a smile, a “you’re welcome” in response to my “thank yous,” and don’t think they once came through the cabin between meals. For that matter, it was 90 minutes into the flight before I had a drink.

I’m also not sure the crew once spoke to me in a full sentence, but rather always in fragments (“something to drink?” etc.).

The quality of the service didn’t really phase me till I took my return flight from Sao Paulo to Detroit on Delta, which I’ll share the details of shortly.

Bottom line

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — business class is all about the hard product. American has reverse herringbone seats on their 777-300ERs, which are the best business class seats in the world. It’s interesting to contrast this to my return flight on Delta in BusinessElite, since almost everything was better on Delta… except the seat.

The food on American was perfectly edible, and given their generous upgrade policies it’s tough to compete with the value proposition of flying with them as a top tier elite, though. For that matter, as far as I know American is the only airline offering a reverse herringbone configuration between the US and South America, so may offer the best business class product, period.

  1. November 24th, 2013 at 12:16 pm

    Joey said,

    Does AA use iPads in business class to extend its range of inflight entertainment? I saw one by your meal tray.

  2. November 24th, 2013 at 12:18 pm

    lucky said,

    @ Joey — Nope, I just chose to bring my own entertainment. The selection on the 777-300ER is actually really extensive.

  3. November 24th, 2013 at 12:21 pm

    WanderingEntrepreneur said,

    Interesting initial thoughts because I couldn’t agree more with the comparison with Delta. I love Delta as an airline, and their service is usually excellent. Food on intl biz class could be a lot better, and the seat is good (not great), but American just seems to always miss the ball on its premium cabin service

  4. November 24th, 2013 at 12:36 pm

    DiscoPapa said,

    While I enjoy the DL 767 flatbed seat, I definitely prefer the 747/new 330 seat – which I believe would meet or exceed the AA seat you describe. Anxious to see your thoughts on the DL flight!

  5. November 24th, 2013 at 12:43 pm

    Colleen said,

    Interesting that they need to remind FAs to use names, and to practice FEBO. And the “all-on-one-tray” approach is surprising.

    Today’s new word: faze.

    Nice report.

  6. November 24th, 2013 at 12:49 pm

    choi said,

    If and only when I have to fly US based airlines for international routes, its bc of hard products and never for fancy food or exceptional service.

  7. November 24th, 2013 at 2:44 pm

    Gary said,

    @DiscoPapa “While I enjoy the DL 767 flatbed seat, I definitely prefer the 747/new 330 seat – which I believe would meet or exceed the AA seat you describe.”

    That’s because the Delta seat — flying transpacific and to TLV — and the American seat Lucky flew are both variations on the Sicma Aero Cirrus reverse herringbone seats, and legions better than Delta’s 767 flat seat.

  8. November 24th, 2013 at 3:13 pm

    alex said,

    a full entertainment library with new releases and you chose to bring your own episodes of “shahs of sunset” instead? bravo sir.

  9. November 24th, 2013 at 3:50 pm

    Bgriff said,

    From your Instagram pic it looked like your first Delta flight might have been in the cramped “middle” seat with the small footwell — hopefully you’re trying other seats on your many Delta flights since the side seats are much more comfortable, though admittedly still not as good as the excellent new AA seat.

  10. November 24th, 2013 at 4:40 pm

    Eric said,

    How long were you in Detroit? I could have given you the grand tour. There’s more to my city than one might expect!

  11. November 24th, 2013 at 5:06 pm

    Carl said,

    It seems more often than not you have bad service on your AA flights. Why do you bother to give them your business?

  12. November 24th, 2013 at 5:47 pm

    Justin said,

    Lucky, have you tried the business class seats on ANA (longhaul 787 or 777 in a 1-2-1 configuration)? I’m sure a few other airlines have this configuration also, but with the privacy some of those seats have, it’s a pretty close race for “best business class seat in the world” :]

  13. November 25th, 2013 at 6:15 am

    Angel said,

    @lucky I think the crews don’t like the 777-300ER at all. At least that’s what I’ve heard before from other travelers and from one of my FAs coming back from LHR last week. They don’t like to work that plane. Period. One interesting detail: in the menu, they say that espresso and cappuccinos are available to business class passengers. When I asked for one, the FA said we don’t have them. I pointed to the menu and her answer was: Yeah, I don’t know why they put that there since we don’t have the coffee machines in our galleys (Business). They only have them in First and AA only loads 6 pods (coffees). Is this true?
    Excellent plane + demotivated crew = fail.

  14. November 25th, 2013 at 6:21 am

    lucky said,

    @ Carl — For one, I think they have the best frequent flyer program for their top tier elites. But beyond that I do actually for the most part find their crews to be friendly. Yes, they’re hit or miss, but for the most part I have good experiences with their crews, especially domestically. The bad ones are definitely the outliers.

  15. November 25th, 2013 at 9:17 am

    Stephan said,

    You can only dress up a pig so much…let’s face it service is a lost art on North American carriers and US/AA and CO/UA lead the way!

  16. November 25th, 2013 at 10:38 am

    Kelly said,

    Lucky – a practical question: Is ‘reverse herringbone’ where the seats point towards the windows on the outer seats, and toward the middle on the center seats?

    I find it odd on airlines that have any herringbone seats pointed away from the windows. One of the purposes of sitting as a window seat is to look out said window. Having to contort one’s body to do so doesn’t make sense to me, but I suppose to each their own.

  17. November 25th, 2013 at 10:55 am

    Nick said,

    @Lucky – it may not be herringbone, but don’t forget that the best US to South America flight experience out there might be the 3x weekly Korean Air LAX-GRU flights. I’ve never taken them – but availability is always wide open for SkyMiles redemption and I would assume the service standards are the same as they would be transpacific?

  18. November 25th, 2013 at 2:12 pm

    lucky said,

    @ Kelly — With reverse herringbone seats the window seats face the aisle and the center seats face the center of the aircraft. Agreed, would be nice if they did face the windows.

  19. November 25th, 2013 at 2:13 pm

    lucky said,

    @ Nick — The service might be marginally better, but to me the reverse herringbone seat is MUCH better than the standard flat bed seat that Korean Air offers, so I’d definitely still choose American.

  20. November 25th, 2013 at 5:39 pm

    David said,

    Shahs on Sunset? Judging you…… ;)

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