Review: American Airlines 777 First Class

Filed Under: American

Now it’s time for a review of American’s infamous Dallas to Hong Kong flight…

Booking My American Airlines Flights

As I outlined in the introduction post, the outbound portion of this trip was a paid ticket. I had booked a roundtrip ticket from Miami to Beijing, with the outbound in paid business class and the return in paid economy, for about $1,600.

The outbound portion looked as follows, after I applied a systemwide upgrade to get first class on the Dallas to Hong Kong flight:

12/08 AA2524 Miami to Dallas departing 7:36PM arriving 9:52PM [Business]
12/09 AA125 Dallas to Hong Kong departing 10:40AM arriving 5:35PM (+1 day) [First]
12/10 KA906 Hong Kong to Beijing departing 7:00PM arriving 10:10PM [Business]

The Beijing to Miami return flight (which I’m upgrading to business class) will be flown early next year.

As a point of comparison, a saver level award ticket on this flight would ordinarily cost 110,000 miles one-way. However, saver level award space is very hard to come by. Sometimes this flight might be cheaper when redeeming miles if American is running a Web Special Award.

Before I Get Into The Review…

I don’t want to beat a dead horse, so let me start by pointing to my post where I talked about the embarrassingly bad service on this flight. That post is a must-read before reading this review.

With that out of the way, I won’t address the service in this review, since I think I’ve covered that sufficiently.

American First Class 777-300ER Review

After a good visit to the Flagship Lounge and a not-so-good visit to Flagship First Dining, it was time for the ultra long haul flight to Hong Kong. My flight was departing from gate D23, located right next to the lounge.

Boarding started at 9:50AM, a full 50 minutes before departure. Concierge Key members were invited to board first, followed by first class. This gate used biometric boarding, so you just had to look at a camera and were then invited onboard, with no need to even show your boarding pass.

American Airlines boarding gate at DFW

American Airlines 125
Dallas (DFW) – Hong Kong (HKG)
Monday, December 9
Depart: 10:40AM
Arrive: 5:35PM (+1 day)
Duration: 16hr55min
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER
Seat: 2J (First Class)

I boarded through the second door on the left, and was pointed to the far aisle and to the left, towards the first class cabin. American has a total of 16 seats and four rows between doors one and two — there are two rows of reverse herringbone seats in business class, and then there’s the first class cabin.

American’s 777-300ER first class consists of a total of eight seats, spread across two rows in a 1-2-1 configuration.

American Airlines 777-300ER first class cabin

The seats are no doubt more spacious than in business class, so when you’re sleeping and relaxing you’ll definitely appreciate the added personal space. However, I really feel like they could have done a lot more with these seats without them having to take up more “real estate.”

For example, the seats feel incredibly exposed, and when you’re sitting you in many ways have less privacy than in business class, where there’s at least a “shield” to the side of the seat. I’m not saying they had to install doors, or anything, but I wish they would have extended the privacy shields a bit more.

American Airlines first class cabin 777

American Airlines first class cabin 777-300ER

If you’re traveling with someone then the center seats are probably ideal. There’s a privacy partition that can be lowered, though if you’re traveling alone that stays raised, and then you have just as much privacy as in any of the other seats.

American Airlines 777 first class seats

I had selected seat 2J, the window seat in the second row on the right side. This is my preferred seat, since it’s furthest from the galley and bathrooms, and also there’s generally more foot traffic in the left aisle than the right aisle.

American Airlines 777 first class seats

The American first class seat swivels, so there’s a button you can push to turn your seat as much as 90 degrees. For example, when you want to relax and put up your feet up, you turn your chair about 10 degrees to the side, and it locks, so it lines up with the ottoman.

American Airlines 777 first class seats

The ottoman can also double as a buddy seat, should you want to dine with someone.

American Airlines first class seat footrest

To the back right of the seat was a small compartment that had two 110v outlets and the headphone jack, along with a mirror. Immediately underneath that was the entertainment controller.

American Airlines first class entertainment controls & power outlets

To the side of the seat was a little tablet that controlled the seat functions. You could even remove this from the holder, as it had a cord.

American Airlines first class seat controls

Also to the side of the seat was a USB outlet, as well as an area where you could place your phone or glasses. To the side of the seat was the button to release the tray table.

American Airlines first class seat console

The tray table was massive, almost unnecessarily so, given how heavy it was to move around.

American Airlines first class seat tray table

The only truly impressive feature of this seat (relative to other first class seats) is that you can swivel the seat 90 degrees so that you’re facing the window, and then there’s another tray that folds over. This is a really cool setup for working.

However, I feel like on ultra long haul flights it’s always encouraged to keep the windows down the entire flight, so the practical benefits of this are limited.

American Airlines first class seat in “office” mode

On the plus side, American has two individual air nozzles at each first class window seat, which I sure do like.

American Airlines first class individual air nozzles

So yeah, overall I find the seat to be significantly more spacious than the business class seat, though I still don’t find it to be very well designed. The seat has virtually no storage, and the seats also lack privacy. I’d take this seat over business class when using a systemwide upgrade, but that’s about it.

As far as the soft product goes, already waiting at my seat upon boarding were Bang & Olufsen headphones. American made the switch from Bose a while back, and while I know B&O is supposed to be higher quality, personally I didn’t like them quite as much as the Bose ones. They’re still excellent, especially when you consider that this is an area where other airlines skimp.

American Airlines Bang & Olufsen headphones

The menu and wine list for the flight were also already waiting at the seat.

American Airlines first class menu & wine list

Then there was the amenity kit, which was reasonably well stocked. The kit itself was from This Is Ground, and then the skincare products were from Allies Of Skin.

American Airlines first class amenity kit

American has Casper bedding in first class, which was excellent. They had a pillow, lumbar pillow, duvet, and day blanket.

American Airlines first class Casper bedding

Then they also had a mattress pad from Casper. The mattress pad wasn’t just a sheet (unlike some other mattress “pads”), but rather did add a layer of padding.

American Airlines first class Casper bedding

About 20 minutes after settling in I was offered a pre-departure drink, with the choice of champagne, water, or orange juice. That’s a legit pour!

American Airlines first class pre-departure champagne

About 10 minutes later I was offered Casper pajamas, which were light and comfortable.

American Airlines first class pajamas

About 30 minutes after boarding meal orders were taken.

Then at 10:30AM the main cabin door was closed (first class was full, as it always is on American), and then five minutes later we began our pushback.

As we taxied out the purser made her welcome aboard announcement, informing us of the flight time of 16hr28min, and the cruising altitude of 28,000 feet (we did eventually get higher than that). After that the safety video was screened.

American Airlines 757 DFW

We had a quick taxi out past some of the other wide bodies, and by 10:50AM we were cleared for takeoff on runway 18L.

American Airlines 777 DFW

We had a long takeoff roll, as you’d expect for a fully loaded 777. The climb out was smooth and gradual, and views were fairly nice, though not all that inspiring.

View after takeoff from DFW

View after takeoff from DFW

Since it was midday on a Monday it was time to get some work done. American has Panasonic Wi-Fi on the 777-300ER. Pricing is based on duration, with no data caps, as follows:

  • Two hours costs $12
  • Four hours costs $17
  • A flight pass costs $19

That’s a reasonable price, and you can switch between devices.

American Airlines Wi-Fi 777-300ER

The Wi-Fi speeds were decent, though this doesn’t compare to Viasat or Gogo 2Ku, for example.

I also took a look at the entertainment selection. While the variety of movies and TV shows was good, I found the screen to be rather low quality, and to have horrible glare and brightness, even with window shades closed.

American Airlines entertainment selection

American Airlines entertainment selection

Service was very quick to get started after takeoff. 15 minutes after takeoff the purser took the tray table out of my seat without saying anything (shoot, I said I’d not comment on the service, so that’s the extent of what I’ll say).

The menu read as follows:

The drink list read as follows:

Before I talk about the food quality as such, I want to mention that I was shocked by the quantity of food being served — I mean that both in terms of the number of courses, and the size of each course.

Service was quick to get started after takeoff, and 30 minutes after takeoff I was brought a tablecloth as well as my first drink. I ordered a glass of champagne — they were serving Lanson Noble Cuvee Brut, which was quite good. I was served some salted almonds to go along with that, and was also given a glass of still water.

American Airlines first class lunch — drinks & nuts

I was then brought another small plate with some vegetable chips and olives.

American Airlines first class lunch — chips & olives

Then I was brought the canapé.

American Airlines first class lunch — table setting

The canapé was described as American white sturgeon caviar with traditional garnishes in a red endive, though the menu didn’t describe what was next to it, which seemed to be some sort of duck and orange, or something.

I guess it’s nice that they have caviar at all, but this hardly compares to the caviar presentation on some other airlines. 😉

American Airlines first class lunch — caviar

Next up I had one of the small plates, and selected the smoked salmon with lemon oil, arugula, and shaved parmesan. I’m not sure on what planet this is considered a “small plate,” as the salmon was a large main course portion, and most definitely not a small plate.

The salmon was super salty and kind of delicious…

American Airlines first class lunch — small plate

Next up was the soup, which was a crab and roasted corn chowder, which wasn’t great.

American Airlines first class lunch — soup

Then there was a salad, consisting of baby kale, romaine, and spinach salad, with trumpet mushroom and watermelon radish. I thought the salad was bland.

American Airlines first class lunch — salad

For the main course I ordered the chicken with black bean sauce. While the food up until this point was mostly pretty good, this dish was bad — the chicken was low quality, and the entire dish just tasted like it came out of a microwave dinner box.

American Airlines first class lunch — main course

While the traditional dessert on American is an ice cream sundae, I decided to mix it up, and ordered the seasonal pumpkin gooey cake with creme anglaise and ice cream. It was every bit as delicious as it looked — I mean, what’s not to love with the amount of sugar there?

American Airlines first class lunch — dessert

Overall the meal was reasonably good, I think? I mean, it was great by American Airlines standards, but also not really competitive to other international first class products. The quantity of food was huge. I loved the starter and dessert, while I found the soup, salad, and main, to not be that good.

After the meal I tried to get some rest. While it doesn’t bother me, there is one weird quirk about American’s first class seats — they don’t actually go fully flat! I had noticed this in the past, and I find it really weird. I don’t mind it because I rarely recline my seat all the way (I like to keep an incline of a few degrees, to account for the nose-up angle of the plane). But it’s still odd.

American Airlines 777 first class bed

American Airlines first class bed 777

At this point I requested American Airlines’ “premium turn-down service” (as it was described on the menu). No comment…

American Airlines first class turndown service

American Airlines first class turndown service

At this point I checked out the lavatory — there are two at the front of the cabin, though they’re shared with the cockpit, so there are times where you can’t visit them.

American Airlines first class lavatory

I went to sleep about 2.5 hours after takeoff. Before going to sleep I checked out the map for the flight, and found our rather unusual path. When heading to Asia I usually find either a “very” Polar path (where we’re flying right near the North Pole), or a route over Alaska. In this case we were flying North of Alaska.

Map enroute to Hong Kong

Map enroute to Hong Kong

I managed to get about 2.5 hours of sleep, which was fairly good given that it was the middle of the day. I woke up as we were still over Northern Canada.

Map enroute to Hong Kong

I wasn’t hungry, though checked out the snack bars that they had set up. The nicest snack setup is in business class, near door two. However, American has hugely cut back on their snacks since they introduced 777-300ER service several years ago, and now there were mostly just packaged snacks.

American Airlines business class snack bar

Meanwhile there was also a small bar in first class, though I find the whole setup awkward since it’s right in the galley, and the crew simply glares at you every time you dare to approach.

American Airlines first class snack bar

Eventually I decided to order a cappuccino. The cappuccino tasted way off, to the point that my theory is that they used cream or half & half as the base.

American Airlines first class cappuccino

I spent several hours working, and about nine hours before landing decided to order something from the midflight snack menu.

Map enroute to Hong Kong

There were two options — wagyu beef sliders or an antipasto plate. I ordered the latter, though it wasn’t very good — as you’d expect, the pita rounds were stale as could be.

American Airlines first class snack

Map enroute to Hong Kong

I ended up going back to sleep with about 6hr30min remaining to Hong Kong, and woke up about three hours before landing. I was happy to get more sleep!

Upon waking up I worked a bit more, and then about 90 minutes before landing the pre-arrival meal was served.

The menu read as follows:

First I was offered a glass of orange juice or a peaches and cream smoothie, and I chose the latter.

American Airlines first class smoothie

I chose the continental breakfast, consisting of fresh fruit, granola, and Chobani yogurt. It was all decent enough, and in particular the croissant was the best I’ve had on American.

American Airlines first class breakfast

At around 4:40PM Hong Kong time we began our descent, and 10 minutes later the captain announced that we’d be landing in 20 minutes. While it was dark for at least half the flight, it was a beautiful afternoon at this point.

Beautiful afternoon enroute to Hong Kong

View approaching Hong Kong

View approaching Hong Kong

We ended up touching down in Hong Kong at 5:10PM on runway 25R.

View approaching Hong Kong

From there we had a 10 minute taxi to our arrival gate, with a beautiful sunset in the distance as we taxied.

Taxiing Hong Kong International Airport

We ended up arriving about 15 minutes ahead of schedule, leaving me plenty of time for my otherwise fairly tight connection to Beijing.

American 777-300ER First Class Bottom Line

Let’s start with the positives.

On the plus side, it’s really easy to upgrade from business to first class on American (though finding saver award seats is a different story). First class seats are more spacious than business class seats, the Wi-Fi was reasonably priced, and the amenities were pretty good, in particular the bedding and pajamas.

The food was plentiful and largely pretty decent compared to usual American Airlines catering, though otherwise not really comparable to other first class products.

Where American first class really falls short is with the service, which was downright bad on this flight. You’ll find some good crews on American in first class, but it’s going to be a consistently inconsistent experience.

So yeah, this wasn’t my best international first class flight ever, that’s for sure…

If you’ve flown American’s international first class, what was your experience like?

  1. The menu itself is kind of sad. Especially the pre-arrival menu. A smoothie is now considered an appetizer? And the stuff that most other airlines would offer in first class as appetizers for breakfast – fruit, yogurt, granola, etc – isn’t offered for all, but is a separate meal? On a 16 hour flight? This really is an underwhelming product for first class. Heck, some airlines offer better menus for business class flights that are shorter…

  2. Question: Why, just Why do you keep/persist on flying/reviewing American Airlines when you already know in advance the service will be subpar????

  3. @ JamesHoganFan — My goal is to review as many airlines/products as possible, regardless of whether I think they’ll be good or not. I didn’t review TAAG Angola or Pakistan Airlines because I thought they’d be great, but rather I did so because I thought they would make interesting reviews. It has been nearly four years since I’ve reviewed American’s international first class, so I figured it was time again. It’s that simple.

    And I have to ask you a question — are you actually a James Hogan Fan? And if so, are we talking about the same James Hogan? And if so, are you actually James Hogan? 😉

  4. I had that exact menu in October 2017 from LAX to HKG. The only small difference was that the caviar canapé was in addition to the duck/mandarin orange canapé. You would hope that they would shake things up a bit in 24 months. Service was also very meh on my flight. But hey, it’s consistent!

  5. My goodness. A wine menu without stating the vintage of the bottles (yes, Lanson Champagne can be NV, but not the rest). And this is a first class menu.

    The Master Sommelier even put his name and face to the menu, does he approve omitting the vintage details?

    This is so sloppy from AA. Thanks Lucky, for the review, so we know what is the state of F in AA

  6. Like most Yelp reviews, I have issues where the reviewer makes a point, but does not explain why that’s the case. If the reviewer decided that “chicken is of low quality”, they need to explain whey it was perceived as such. Was it because it was all dark meat? Was the meat tough? If “the salad is bland”, does it need more dressing? Salt and pepper shakers were provided to help, and FAs often have more dressing in the galley.

    @John – the flagship suites are plenty wide, even for individuals with large waist.

    @Tom – there’s a steak on the menu.

  7. TLDR:
    Man takes single flight in which his individual carbon footprint is approaching an entire decade of living from an average Indian citizen.

    Man has no realistic plan to compensate the economic damages of other people directly harmed by climate change due to coastal flooding, diminished fishing yields, or droughts. Also, man has no plan to ameliorate the environmental damages such as mass-extinctions and obliteration of arctic sea ice.

    Man’s response to flight: “I didn’t like the way the flight attendants addressed me.”

  8. @eric. Wow aren’t you the educated intellectual! Thank you for educating me. I had to look up what TLDR meant. I’m such a better person for it.

    Sigh…..what peons we are to attempt to read a review or even want to sit in first class. Thank you for educating us Eric. Thank you!

    By the way….Stfu. Go google that

  9. I used my airmiles to fly first class from Sydney, Australia to LAX. It was my first time to fly first class and also that long of an international flight so I had nothing to compare. I was able to choose my main course online about one month prior to departure. Everything was an experience for me: seats, electronics, food, drinks. The flight attendants were very attentive and always asking if I needed anything. I really felt very spoiled! I was a very contented passenger!

  10. Ben …. sometimes I seriously wonder if your obsession about privacy in your premier-cabin seats means you are in the wrong line of work. You are constantly preoccupied with an overwhelming need not to have others see you sleeping or eating, despite knowing that 250-350 others have been invited to dinner and they then stick around for breakfast.

    I once was on a flight with Sia. She sat down in F. Threw a blanket over her head. And she sat upright for the next 12 hours except when she needed to go to the lav.

    Maybe you can try that. Or fly private.

  11. @ Kevin — Ultimately the most precious commodity on an airplane is space and privacy. I fly plenty of products that lack privacy. However, if I’m reviewing what’s supposed to be the premier product of an airline, is it wrong to mention that? Do you not prefer seats that have the option of more personal space and/or privacy than those that don’t? It’s no different than commenting on anything else on a plane, from service, to food, to drinks, to entertainment. No one “needs” any of those, but they’re nice to have, and there are differing levels of quality out there.

  12. @ Eric — I’m curious what you were expecting to read when you clicked the post, based on seeing the title? You know, you can also choose to only read the stories that interest you, and it seems pretty clear this one had no chance of being up your alley…

  13. You say this:
    “I had selected seat 2J, the window seat in the second row on the right side. This is my preferred seat, since it’s furthest from the galley and bathrooms, and also there’s generally more foot traffic in the left aisle than the right aisle.”

    But don’t explain how the left side of the plane in a 4 vs. 4 seating setup has more foot traffic. This isn’t like CX F where the left aisle only has access to the two seats compared to the right side with 4. So I’m not understanding this rationale.

  14. @ ptahcha — Sorry, sometimes I assume the pictures speak for themselves.

    As far as the low quality chicken goes, it tasted like the chicken you’d find in a frozen dish in your local grocery store. I’m not even sure how to describe the taste — it was just bland and chewy and tasted like nothing.

    The salad was bland even before the dressing. They could have used some more flavorful veggies to go along with it, because nothing tasted like anything.

  15. @ Jhon J — The crew is constantly moving between first class/the cockpit area and other parts of the plane, and for whatever reason I find that they more often use the left aisle. I’m guessing that’s because the cockpit and one of the lavatories are more easily accessed from that aisle.

  16. I booked a web special award for 61K IAH-DFW-HKG.
    Am I allowed to add a segment? If I call in and ask to add CX HKG to TPE would they allow it?

  17. A good review, although omitting the service from the prose made it inconsistent with what one expects from OMAAT. The beauty of Ben’s reviews is that one can compare Carrier A with Carrier B and have reasonable confidence because Ben takes pains to maintain a standard. Apples compared to apples. Sadly he queered the pitch (calm yourseves, it’s a cricket term with no naughty implications) by writing, urgently, earlier, about the service, instead of waiting and writing a standard OMAAT review here. Longterm what pays off for Ben, who has bills to pay, is credibility and consistency. If I’m fed up with criticism of AA (yes I am) I know how to use a mouse and choose something else.

  18. I know you’re planning on sticking with AA as an MIA native, but I’d have to wondering reading this series, if maybe accepting less non stops and more layovers in ATL would be worth the experience improvement you’d get with DL…

  19. @Lucky

    I’m someone that used to pursue this sort of travel often, but learning about the shocking climate impacts caused me to reconsider.

    I should credit you for substantially increasing the climate discussions on this blog (primarily in the form of wasteful aircraft movements), but the discussion still hasn’t gotten to the core of, “is this whole system of flying around in premium classes trying to have exceptional experiences worth it or morally defensible while basically doing nothing about the substantial climate impacts?” And does it make any sense when better culinary/cultural/environmental experiences can be done on the ground for a tenth of the resources?

    Aviation will eat up about 25% of our global carbon budget to stay below 1.5C by 2050, and to say the least this carbon budget is being used up inequitably given that you apparently aren’t doing anything to pay back the people or environmental systems you’re damaging.

    You have a substantial aviation-related megaphone, why not highlight some of the technological advancements that could actually make aviation compatible with addressing climate change? There’s plenty of coverage of aircraft liveries, but what about:
    -Harbour Air’s newly test-flown entirely electric de Havilland DHC-2 beaver
    -Honeywell’s development of hybrid-electric systems for regional turboprops
    -Eviation Alice all electric regional aircraft with a 600 nm range (with nearly 100 orders from Cape Air)
    -Investigative reporting about how close Airbus or Boeing are to committing to develop a new hybrid-based single-aisle given that we’ve stretched the technologic limits of composite airframes and high-bypass turbofan engines to the breaking point (see the 737-MAX)

  20. I’ve never flown this product (and i am not intended to do it), i’m just curious about one thing. When the seat is facing the window the legroom looks incredibly reduced. What’s the seat pitch? It looks crampier than an economy seat. Is it just the photo? It doesn’t look comfortable at all.

  21. @ Marco — There is some space underneath the side console, so it’s still comfortable. You shouldn’t feel constrained at all, though you can’t stretch out your legs in the same way as if you’re facing towards the front of the plane.

  22. @Eric that’s a great post. I agree with you. That’s an elephant in the room with us. Some will disagree and I suggest you buckle up for that. I’m still not vegan and still flying premium. But one has a conscience and facts are facts. Purity tests, the futility fallacy and other nonsense abound in comment forums like this. But I knew nothing of the 3 developments you cited and they interest me. I’d like to see more of that content promoted from the Comments to the
    Authored part of OMAAT.

  23. @ Eric — Believe it or not, I 100% agree with you. I wish you had said this in the first place, rather than criticizing the fact that my review of a flight included a… review of the flight.

    You’re absolutely right, and this *is* something I now put a lot of thought into. I was hoping to have a post about what I’m doing to counteract this a couple of weeks ago (and it’s not as simple as carbon offsetting my flights). The post is written, but I’ve been going back and forth about one aspect of it. Specifically, to what extent I want to just share what I’m doing, vs. strongly encouraging others to do the same.

    I realize my flying over the years has been bad for the environment, and it’s something I’m conscious about. But I’m now taking action to counteract that. So I’m excited to share the details of that and do my part to address this issue, though I’m still slightly conflicted to what extent it’s okay for me to suggest others should do the same, given that I wasn’t this conscious about things a decade ago.

    I’m aiming to publish the post the first week of the New Year (I want to publish it then to maximize exposure). But I hear you and agree with you.

    That being said, I don’t plan on stopping to fly. After all, that’s one of the ways I make a living, and I also think we can be conscious and do the right thing without completely ceasing to do what we enjoy. I think it’s about balance.

    Anyway, all of this is simply to say that I hear you, I appreciate what you’re saying, and I agree with you. Stay tuned, as I’m excited to share what I’m doing.

  24. I flew MIA-GRU in F this week, and I honestly can’t complain. I had great service in the Flagship first lounge, a friendly crew onboard, and I certainly enjoyed the bedding.

    I’m not sure it’s “better” than a typical flight in Q suites, but when everything goes right, it’s a killer use of an SWU. I’m still chuckling about drinking Krug on AA’s dime.

  25. @AnyoneElse
    No, you are not the only one amused that First Class does not include free WiFi. The excuse is probably that it comes from another company. So does the catering and the toilet paper but they have figured out a way to get around that.
    And the seats don’t lie flat? Amazing what people will accept as long as it is priced higher than alternatives.

  26. I love people here who suggest he instead fly private- Clearly, he’s not in that league and I don’t know one churner blog who’s got the cash to make that a regular thing.

    Frankly, anyone who’s coming onto a plane and snapping a ton of images is going to get the attention of the crew immediately. They know you’re on the plane, but from the sounds of it, they simply don’t care. Perhaps it’s your eagle rating. Perhaps it’s that you go for the AA jugular on a regular basis… Not sure, really.

    One thing’s for sure: AA doesn’t see you as a threat.

  27. @Lucky
    Thanks, very glad to hear about some upcoming climate related content. I think that this is a niche that would fit well with your own interests as well as the brand of your blog relative to other travel bloggers.

    Whatever you write is certain to earn some heat, but it will also engender reader loyalty and visits from a growing population of people that are interested in this and want to push airlines and aircraft manufacturers into more research on major technical advances.

    Looking forward to it.

  28. I come to this blog, and many others I presume to read about premium cabins reviews and relevant aviation news. Please don’t turn this place into a platform for ridiculous virtue signaling and flygskam.

  29. Props to FlyingFish re: the wine. I’ve been surprised how many business (and in this case, first!) services include meh wine. To me it seems the best an airline can do is have the drink reflect something about the airline – for example Brussels Air with an extensive trappist ale selection (and, clearly, Spirit Air and their weird sugar/alcohol bomb things).

  30. I flew AA international first once, DFW to Sao Paulo, and will never waste miles on them again. I loved the hard product, and loved the seat. I didn’t love the cheap Spanish cava they served for their bubbly, nor the lousy Argentinian chardonnay. The food was just adequate and the service was insulting. I think they train their crew on Greyhound buses.

  31. Curious about the buddy seat use of the ottoman. From the photos, it looks like the video screen will be poking into the back of the person sitting there, even when fully closed. (I note that the screen is open in the photos.) And the tray table looks pretty close to where a buddy would be sitting. Presumably it can be shifted closer to the main seat, but that still leaves the question of access. All in all, it doesn’t look like a very comfortable place to sit and share a meal, or evendors jus to sit. Is this a question of camera angles? Did you try it out?

    All in all, it doesn’t look like the most comfortable design for a first class seat.

  32. @lucky

    Really enjoy your reviews. I think it’s fair to say AA is depressing, regardless of class. I first flew them to Alaska from London, via Dallas in F. It was one of the most awkward and strange experiences I’ve ever had flying… Basically, was treated as a chore rather than a guest. Never again.

    On climate change banshees screeching on here… Please don’t pay them heed. They’re climate trolls, and not only love to suck the fun out of any activity, but are obsessed with projecting their self loathing to bring down civilisation. They really need to understand what entropy is. You should not feel guilty about your line of work, there are fantastic engineers and scientists working on problems with the biggest emittors such as cars, meat and energy industries. The path towards it won’t be perfect, but solutions will come through.

  33. I dont like these privacy dividers because they keep a curious person like me from seeing what others around me are doing. I genuinely dont like them. No idea why you think this is something good.

  34. I find LAX crew in business and first to be friendlier than DFW crew. Just an observation. The DFW crew always seem “over it” while LAX seem to try harder.

  35. More climate change bullshit?

    I’ll buy into it as soon as it is explained how the last ice age occurred with no non-natural carbon sources.

    I come hear to read about travel issues. Not climate change.

  36. “I guess it’s nice that they have caviar at all, but this hardly compares to the caviar presentation on some other airlines”.

    Ben, for 1600$ for a long haul business class product and a complimentary swu you were “lucky” you got any caviar at all.

    Some people need to put their feet back on the ground. You clearly got a lot for what you paid for. More than twice, you compared this product to other carriers. Why didn’t you fly those?
    I wonder if you keep reviewing AA because you are Miami captive.. But this is getting very repetitive.

  37. @Flieger because some people don’t really like that curious people can look at them all the time throughout a long-haul flight.

  38. The last time I flew 1st class on AA was a MIA/LHR. It was terrible. It was an old plane. No TV at your seat….No way to plug in a USB. Thank God it was a short flight for a longhaul. (sorta) mad much longer because of the plane. It was a milage seat..Now when I go I grunt and cringe and pay the horrendous BA taxes and go on BA. Worth it.

  39. @Regina I honestly think that it is great Ben reviewed this flight.
    1- Yes, he got a cheap fare combined with an upgrade, but that doesn’t mean that AA F is always attainable at such a low price (limited saver awards).
    2- It makes absolute sense that a US-centric blog has an up-to-date review of the only F product offered by an American carrier.
    3- I have seen multiple times EU-US flights priced similarly on BA F and AA F. Before this series of posts I would have never thought that there could be a worse TATL F product than BA’s. I was wrong. Additionally, you can sometimes get cheaper LH and LX fares ex-some markets with a bit of flexibility.

    Bottom line: This was a very useful review, not only for US-based readers, but also for those who consider going to or through the US on AA F.

  40. @ Eric,
    There are other impacts for not traveling oversea too: traveling is the best activities because you enjoy and you learn at the same time. You learn the difference in cultures, languages, food, and understand different cultures, believes, religious, and develop “tolerances” are important. It makes one a better person and a ground to understand the world better. Not having tolerances or learn to coexist with people who are/look/think difference from yourself is one for the factor/root cause for national conflicts and war!! By promoting against traveling oversea, it only gonna lead to people becoming narrower minded.
    Another point is maybe carbon footprint in India is low per person but there is no guarantee that it would stay that way 20 years from now. Standard of living may get better (like China) and more people drive cars and this planet would not be able to handle that. Reproduce/population control is then linked highly to environmental issue and the planet can’t handle the rate of growth we have especially from India.
    I realize we need to care about this planet but should focus on technology to reduce carbon footprint, rather than disproportional attacking air-travel/oversea travel. There is no infrastructure for public/mass transportation in most place in America for example.

  41. Ben,
    I’m sure in your travels you’ve come across every type of service experience you can have. In my experiences with AA intl FC, I’ve been very lucky and pleased with the service. That said I go in not expecting Michelin star culinary experiences. Instead I take advantage of excellent food in the flagship first dining area or Quantas FC lounge being based out of LAX. At that point I’m looking for spaciousness. FC will always Trump biz class. And AA is one of the few remaining legacy carriers to offer it. That’s a win for me, and based on those expectations I’m seldom disappointed.

  42. Wow. There isn’t anything first class about this flight at all. Except maybe the 90 degrees swivelling chair. That’s pretty cool.

  43. The reservation details of my upcoming trip on Aeroflot mentions a Carbon Offset program and that the total roundtrip from JFK to SVO per passenger is 986.23 kg CO2
    whatever that means.

  44. Long time executive platinum here. Personally I don’t think this flight was all that bad. I don’t expect much from AA, and in this case it looks like the flight would meet my expectations.

  45. @ben holz. There is an untold part of the story here. The first class experience goes beyond what you get Inflight. I agree that Inflight food can be a hit or miss… But where is the flagship dinning part of this story. The flagship first product as a whole is a solid product… And priced accordingly.

  46. I have come to expect AA service to range from indifferent to downright rude and have yet to be disappointed. Longtime AAdvantage member with over 5MM miles and several years as ExecPlat. Back a few years ago used to be consistently upgraded to First from my Business ticket and once they got rid of the slanted seats, have always much preferred the Business class on the 777 to the First class seats. I find it much more comfortable in the fully flat position than either the older FC seats or the newer ones. Am burning miles now in retirement, but often choose other airlines when I can — just tired of the generally crappy attitude of the cabin crews. They just don’t care.

  47. Climate change is real but people need to stop bugging those of us who travel a lot. Project your frustration with the huge industries in countries like India, China, etc, who pollute SO much and make so much more damage than flying.

  48. I was on a Flagship First flight from LHR to MIA a couple of years ago. The flight attendant was great. Fantastic actually. She had no training specifically for a differentiated class of service, but she just really enjoyed what she was doing. She was quite genuine and it showed. The food was quite nice, the bedding was great, and the seat very comfortable. But yes, zero storage and no privacy. However – it’s worth pointing out that the first class cabin is very small so you are with just a few other folks in there.

    Good review Ben. Thanks!

  49. @Regina:

    If you want to see the reviews of the Flagship Lounge and Dining, read the other chapters of this trip review. They are listed right below the title photo in the article, in the list entitled “Read More From This Trip.”.

  50. Stop reviewing AA. We all know how its going to end up. Enjoy your status and concentrate on the new stuff.

  51. How much fuel and CO2 emissions does a 200lb guy with luggage and food and bev for the passenger use/emit? The bulk of the problem probably comes from inefficient aircraft and the aircraft weight itself. Unless the airline would add another flight I am not sure I would blame a flier for the issues too much.

    I would feel guilty flying private when a commercial flight is available.

  52. @Eric

    The climate has been changing since the earth was created. Coastal areas have been flooding since that time as they are coastal areas and being near water has that risk. If you want to talk about damages, why not talk about certain groups who contribute to severe overpopulation given their size of their territory. I think Indians and Chinese belong in this category, with China producing a disproportionately high amount of emissions compared to the U.S. and Europe which is already very clean.

  53. @Jimmy
    Airlines wouldn’t be flying these things around if we weren’t buying tickets.

    Every incremental reduction in emissions is beneficial. I absolutely support improvements in power and industrial processes wherever they occur. Sadly, the only effective means available to do so across international borders, my State Department (United States), is currently neither interested in nor fit for the task.

  54. Flying long-haul F on AA has no surprises: somewhat larger seats, slightly better wines, and a few nice touches like American caviar (or would you prefer one from Bulgaria?) Rest is all the same including school cafeteria-style dishes and Chobani yogurt served in AA clubs and on every morning flights in J and F. I did that DFW-HKG flight many times in J. Why bother burning SWUs to upgrade to F?

  55. @Eric this is travel/airline/hotel blog, not Greenpeace blog. There are already plenty of stuff for you to read if you are into environmentalism. Go read CleanTechnica TreeHugger etc etc. No whining on totally irrelevant, totally different site about not writing wjat you want to read.
    I (and most normal people) don’t go to Greenpeace web page and whine that they don’t write up about quality of airlines or hotels.

    @Lucky I’ve been following your site for half a decade, and I come here for airline/hotel reviews. The moment you start turn this into another Greenpeace wannabe blog, I’m definitely stopping reading this site. Stick to your topic, and don’t divulge. There are already a gazillion sites for Greenpeace wannabies to read!

  56. “There are other impacts for not traveling oversea too: traveling is the best activities because you enjoy and you learn at the same time. You learn the difference in cultures, languages, food, and understand different cultures, believes, religious, and develop “tolerances” are important. It makes one a better person and a ground to understand the world better.”

    You don’t really get that from traveling to another country for a few days. You only really experience that from living somewhere else for an extended period of time.

    Who knew there would be so many climate deniers triggered by someone bringing up the issue of pollution caused by flying?

  57. @ Flieger
    “I dont like these privacy dividers because they keep a curious person like me from seeing what others around me are doing”

    And you’ve just neatly explained why the rest of us *love* privacy dividers…

    As I’m not an exhibitionist, I prefer to have my own privacy and I’m happy to pay more to get it. And, as an introvert, being in the middle of a group of strangers is not at all relaxing — quite the opposite. You really should try to understand that not everyone experiences the world in the same way as you. Different people have different preferences.

    Instead, you should be pleased with the new generation of seats featuring passenger-operated doors. People like me can close ourselves off into our own private worlds, while people like you can leave the door wide open so that you’re on display for everyone.

    As an aside, I’m always amazed that these same extroverts don’t complain that hotels are made up of individual private rooms, rather than being giant luxurious communal dormitories. Hoteliers discovered in the nineteenth century that, given the choice, people even prefer not to share bathrooms. Why would planes be any different?

  58. @YULtide, @Lucky: the “buddy seat” doesn’t work. Tried it once with a friend, no way you can sit there, the TV frame conflicts with it. The seatbelt shows that they did intend it to function that way; I think it’s a strange carry over from the old seats, where it actually did work.

    I find the use of regular glasses for the pre-flight champage annoying; why not use proper ones? it’s a step up from plastic in J, but then… it should be better.

    @Lucky: the partition between the middle seats is actually not quite high enough for privacy, as most people’s eyes are well above that partitione. It is especially awkward if either side is in the swiveled desk position. Another major privacy problem in this cabin in my opinion.

    Finally, it may normally be easy to upgrade, but last month on DFW-HKG I was #13 (!!) on the upgrade list from J to F, with one seat open. Go figure.

  59. @lucky I love your reviews on AA. I am disappointed you skipped commenting the service this time. Your previous AA review was phenomenal.

    Awhile ago I was trying to book flights from Asia to USA and found AA prices much lower than those of other airlines, even the Chinese ones.

    Couldn’t understand it until reading your posts.

  60. @Eric, the marginal impact of Lucky’s participation on these flights is close to zero. The flights are scheduled and would be flying anyway – the premium cabins often have unsold inventory (especially first class). Taking the estimated carbon footprint of a flight and allocating based on space utilized or some other means may be “fair” but does not represent reality as the flight be traveling anyway.

    The aviation industry (as well as every other energy intensive sector) will change over time as technology develops that can support a safe, productive, cost efficient product. The U.S. can’t mandate environmental policy in China, India and the rest of the developing world who are not interested (at this point) in making major changes.

    Stating that every single point of reduction is “beneficial” is complete nonsense, as you are not taking into account the positive impact of the activity today where there are no reasonable alternatives – even tourism has a material positive impact to countless areas.

  61. Lucky-

    Why not point out and maybe emphasize the lousy service you’ve had once again? As a loyal reader I don’t care if it’s redundant or not. Your blog gets a lot of attention and perhaps it’d help aa AND their customers. Just a thought.

  62. @Will
    I actually agree with your argument that an award/upgrade into saver space has minimal climate impacts. My purpose here isn’t to say that Lucky is a bad person because he flew in first class (particularly on an upgrade), it’s to bring attention to the very large climate impacts of flying as a whole. If someone is concerned about their own flying related footprint, I’d argue that the most important thing to do is minimize the revenue they contribute to airlines (to account for award points, ask yourself how the airline considers the points on their balance sheet, usually 1.2-1.5 cents/mile). $1,500 spent on a last minute economy fare that goes 600 miles is probably just as bad as a $1,500 intercontinental business mistake fare from the perspective of airlines deciding to buy more planes and fly them more often.

    Regarding your second point, it’s ridiculous to sit idly by and trust airlines to have the climate’s best interests at heart. If that were true, why is BA still flying a ton of 747’s around when a 787-9 has almost a third less fuel burn per passenger-km? Instead, denying them a portion of revenue now and furthermore communicating your climate motivations will do far more to motivate airlines (and the aircraft manufacturers and startups) to develop advanced new technologies. Especially if you’re an elite statue member, I’d urge you to contact your airline about this, even if it’s just to say that you’ve managed to reduce your flying by 10-20%.

    Technologies are not gifts from the gods, they are things that we have to go out and build. If the typical airplane of 2050 is basically a 737-MAX with slightly higher bypass turbofans and slightly more carbon fiber, the planet is pretty well screwed.

  63. @Ben,

    Was the Purser the only flight attendant working 1st on your flight? You said the Purser opened your tray table without asking. Just wondering why the Purser was on your side of the cabin if you were on aircraft right.

  64. I am exactly like Ben in not liking the bed completely flat. It just feels weird to me. I usually sey the head a few degrees up.

  65. @Eric
    Your comments and tone suggest otherwise

    Of course any consumer can voice their opinion either verbally or by making purchasing decisions; if climate change is important to you, then by all means choose a certain airline, or route where more efficient aircraft are in use, or choose a different mode of transportation (although sailing around the world is not overly practical for most).

    I agree believe airlines may not be overly motivated to make major operational changes in the near-term if it may increase their costs / reduce profits, unless their is some other factor (government intervention). I can’t speak to BA’s strategy, but they seem to have over 50 747s, which likely have a low financial (balance sheet, not operating) and have not reached end of their useful lives; so, likely not financially prudent to stop using. They also can’t snap their fingers and obtain immediate access to 50 787s.

    Finally, air transport is ~2% of global emissions. Sure it all adds up, but even major changes would barely move the needle (especially in a world of population growth, urbanization and globalization).

  66. @Will
    Look, I don’t think that Lucky is a bad guy; for a point-blogger, he’s pretty ethical. But to the extent that this blog normalizes and glorifies intercontinental premium class travel that the audience is often paying with actual cash revenue… it’s problematic.

    Aviation is a huge deal because it’s one of the fastest growing economic activities in the world; if we set a carbon budget to stay under 1.5C in 2050, aviation that grows according to the IATA’s median estimate and gets more efficient at the same rate is has for the past ~30 years will take up 25% of the carbon budget and in the year 2050 itself will account for about half the world’s emissions. We have clear technical strategies to decarbonize the electric grid, and we have a moral duty to search for the same in aviation.

    BA is still flying 747-400s (and AA is flying a 777-300 configured with a huge first class cabin that they can’t even find revenue passengers for) because they actually don’t have an internal warm and fuzzy climate loving core conscience. They pay zero of the destructive externalities imposed by their activities. In fact, they’re generally heavily subsidized by governments. For instance, a retail gallon of gas in Texas costs an automotive driver about 42 cents in national and state taxes, but the US federal excise tax for jet fuel (a measly 4 cents/gallon anyway) is waived for international flying and the state of Texas doesn’t impose taxes any taxes on commercial jet fuel. Please explain to the median citizen of Texas (or the US) that flies once a year why they should be subsidizing international first class travel in this fashion…

    I agree that sailing around the world isn’t overly practical (although it was admirable for Greta to do, IMO, given her position as a climate-leader), but a substantial amount of leisure trips could be modified to a closer location, done in a less-premium cabin (certainly first class is rather unnecessary). Even a substantial amount of business class travel could be consolidated, done over teleconference, etc. Let’s be frank that getting a rebate on OPM (other people’s money) is a major motivator for many mid-level business travelers. After considering the climate implications, my business travel has taken the biggest hit.

  67. “Different people have different preferences”
    @The nice paul lectures someone to respect other pax individual choices when it comes to travel. And yet he does the opposite in his posts. Hypocrite much?

    What are you banging on about, er?

  68. @Eric
    Not following your math – if the airline industry is 2% of carbon emissions, assuming continued growth (~7% the last 10 years and projected at 4% in 2020) plus shift to significantly more efficient planes (where in 30 years would expect retirement of significant portion / nearly all old models), how will airline industry account for half of emissions in 2050 (which is in 30 years – not sure if there is a typo here).

    Do not disagree point on fuel taxes. U.S. tax policy is full of corporate loopholes backed by special interests. There is no good reason to artificially keep costs low for airlines.

  69. @ Pauline
    It’s a tricky one. I’m arguing that all pax should have choices. But that can’t include a passenger whose choice is for no-one else to have a choice.

    See the problem?

  70. My husband and I fly AA pretty much exclusively since we live in Chicago. We fly a lot and would NEVER fly them on a long haul route like Hong Kong. GIve me JAL any day of the week. Their food is TERRIBLE and can only imagine the horrible service. All AA cares about is their shareholders and NOTHING about their passengers. We are planning New Zealand for our 25th anniversary and if they are still working with Qatar Airways at that point, I’d rather fly twice the distance for better service.

  71. Nice to know that @Eric was able to pursue this type of travel (presumably as part of business) and was OK with it then – when it met his needs to make money. Conscience did not bother him back then. Having time on your hands seems to prick one’s conscience. Maybe he could tell us how many flights he took before ‘the error of his ways’ was made aware to him. Doe he own a car or motorised boat now?
    Lucky – keep on doing your thing and I will continue to follow along.

  72. @Will
    The long story short on the math is that it’s because flying is growing exponentially but the fuel efficiency improvements are slowing (what’s realistically in the pipeline under the current fossil-fuel model beyond stretched versions of the 787 and A350?). All of this while a pathway to 1.5 or 2C of warming means that our emissions mid-century must be a small fraction of their current level. That’s why I estimate aviation as about a quarter of the global emissions problem between here and 2050.

    The past is the past and I can’t change it. Believe me, my resource capacity and time to fly around in premium cabins is actually substantially increased from my prior ability, nonetheless I’ve reduced after considering these issues (that airlines are doing our best to get us not to think about at all). Purity tests are a logical fallacy, but I’ll indulge: yes, I’ve made substantial impacts to reduce my climate impact in all aspects of my life. Aviation is actually low-hanging and substantial fruit.

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