Even before the merger with US Airways brought in new management, American Airlines knew it had a premium cabin problem.
By 2012, it was clear American had the worst business class cabin in the U.S. industry. The airline's 2006-era seats, which are today still around on many 777-200s, were obsolete almost from the day they were installed. You cannot turn American's last-generation seats into a bed, and they offer no privacy. Seasoned travelers avoid them.
When American added its first new Boeing 777-300ER in late 2012, the airline was determined not to repeat its error. Instead of installing the worst seats in the industry, American searched for the best. Essentially, it copied Cathay Pacific, which has one of most luxurious, roomiest business class cabins in the sky.
American has only installed these business class suites on 17 aircraft, all 777-300ERs, and they generally fly the longest most profitable routes, such as Dallas-Hong Kong, Los Angeles-London and, starting in December, Los Angeles-Sydney.
American now has mishmash of different business class seats on its 787s, 767s and 777s, most of which now turn into flatbeds. But by most accounts, the 777-300ER seat is the best of the bunch. [By now, all of American's planes probably should have flatbeds, but the airline's seating manufacturer was not able to deliver them as promised, so the retrofit project has been delayed.]
I recently flew on American's 777-300ER from London Heathrow to Los Angeles. I paid my own way - I don't take free flights or complementary upgrades - so I thought I would share some impressions here.
In short, it was a pleasant experience.
We boarded on time in London. The cabin was clean and spacious, with seats arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration. That's a lot better than the older seating configuration on American's Boeing 777-200s. Those planes are 2-3-2 in business class.
Seat controls were intuitive and there was plenty of power.
The 777-300ERs have WiFi, though I didn't use it. The plane also has a primitive instant messaging system. My wife and I played with it, but I think we were the only people to ever use it. It's not user friendly.
The flight attendants came by with menus and took food orders. This was a standard airline menu. Have you ever been on a U.S. airline in business class and not seen versions of these choices - chicken, beef, fish and pasta? How about some lamb? That would be nice.
Pre-lunch nuts were served warm. I know many of you prefer champagne or wine, but I'm strictly a beer man.
The starter and salad were fine. Not great, but edible.
I went with the pasta. The sauce was a little heavy.
For dessert, options were cheese ...
.... or a sundae.
The in-flight entertainment system is not as intuitive as your iPad, but it gets the job done. There are plenty of TV shows and movies to keep you occupied.
American sprung for the faux wood in the bathroom. The sink is nice, too.
Even in business class starts to feel confining after several hours. I like to go for a walk every now and then.
Perhaps the most impressive part is the walk-up bar. You won't find booze - you'll have to ask for that - but you can help yourself to water and sodas. On other airlines, it can be difficult to find an extra water bottle, so this is a nice touch.
Near the drinks, flight attendants put out fruit ...
...And sweet and savory snacks.
Before landing, they served an Asian beef noodle salad. It was excellent.
We parked at LAX Terminal 4 and unfortunately had to take a shuttle bus to a different terminal to clear customs and immigration. That's not the best setup, but at least it allows for good pictures.