Today (March 30, 2016): Trip report: American Airlines Boeing 777-300ER (77W) First Class overnight New York (JFK) to London (LHR).
On November 4th 2015, I flew in a Boeing 777-300ER (B77W) of American Airlines (AA) overnight from New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK) to London’s Heathrow Airport (LHR) in the First Class cabin (click here to read my trip report of a day flight on the same route). For this particular flight, I had booked a Business Class ticket and used one of my AAdvantage systemwide upgrades to get a seat into AA’s First Class cabin. AAdvantage is AA’s loyalty program, which I still consider to be the best in the world (read here why), despite the fact that it devaluated last week.
The B77W is currently AA’s largest wide-body plane. As of today, AA owns 27 of these planes and operates them on selected routes to and from the United States. While AA’s B77W has one of the best longhaul Business Class products in the world (and is your best choice for a transatlantic crossing), I was less impressed by their First Class product. It’s still a comfortable ride of course, but the difference with AA’s excellent Business Class is only very marginal: the suite has more space, the seat can be turned into an office desk, there is turndown service (with a duvet and an extra pillow), and you get an extra course (soup) with your meal. I could not find any other differences, so IMHO, AA’s First Class is not worth the thousands of extra dollars that it costs (unless you can use an upgrade of course). You can read my detailed trip report of a flight onboard AA’s B77W here (Los Angeles to London).
- Trip: JFK-LHR
- Airline: American Airlines
- Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER (77W)
- Flight Number: 100
- On time departure: no (7.30 pm instead of the planned 6.30 pm because of airport congestion)
- On time arrival: yes (6.30 am)
- Miles: 3450
- Flight time: 6 hours (a short flight because of favorable tailwinds)
- Seat: 1A
- Class: First (A)
In this review (more information & photos below my Youtube clip & slideshow):
- American Airlines Flagship Lounge at JFK Airport
- First Class cabin
- First Class seat (& what seat to choose)
- Other inflight experiences (crew, bar, lavatory, WiFi, views)
- Comparison with the AA B77W Business Class
- My verdict (score)
1. AMERICAN AIRLINES LOUNGE AT JFK AIRPORT
At New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, AA – JFK’s third largest carrier – operates from Terminal 8. The terminal is twice the size of Madison Square Garden and has an annual capacity of 12.8M passengers. It offers dozens of retail and food outlets, and also has two AA Admirals Clubs and a Flagship Lounge for premium class passengers. AA’s Flagship Lounges are supposed to the represent the best of the AA’s lounges. Besides at JFK, you can also find them in AA’s 3 other major airports hubs across the globe: Chicago, Los Angeles, and London Heathrow.
The AA Flagship Lounge at JFK is located one floor above the main concourse, and is accessed via a reception desk. The decor is not very inspiring and the place does not feel very spacious as it was very crowed when I was there in late afternoon (which coincides with the start of the peak moment for evening flights to Europe). One side of the rectangular shaped space has several seating areas (including a small business center), while the other side features a buffet and restaurant corner. The lounge has large floor-to-ceiling windows which offer nice views of the airport apron and the Manhattan skyline at the horizon. The food & beverage options were quite good, with soup, sandwiches, salads, snacks, cheese, and several hot dishes.
From the lounge, it was only a 5 minute walk to the gate where the B77W plane was ready for boarding.
2. FIRST CLASS CABIN
AA’s B77W has 8 seats in First Class, 52 in Business Class, 30 seats in Main Cabin Extra (that is how AA designates its premium Economy Class), and 220 seats in Economy Class.
After entering the plane through the massive boarding door, I was greeted by a flight attendant who guided me to the First Class cabin, which is located in the nose of the B77W, behind the cockpit. With just 8 seats, the First Class cabin feels airy, spacious and private. Seats are placed in two rows according to a 1-2-1 layout, all of them having direct aisle access. The 4 First Class seats on the sides are ideal for solo travelers (with a generous 3 windows per seat, offering great views), while the 4 seats in the middle are perfect for those traveling with a companion. But if you are a solo traveler and you end up in one the middle seats, there’s no problem as you can rise a divider for added privacy.
Click here for a seat map of AA’s Boeing 77W.
3. THE FIRST CLASS SEAT
The centerpiece of AA’s so-called ‘next generation Flagship First Class suite’ is of course the seat, and it’s a very comfortable and spacious one. But remarkably, the First Class suite itself is less private as compared to the Business Class seat since it lacks a shelling compartment.
The seat has several storage locations for your personal items: (1) a bottle holder next to the seat; (2) a shoe storage in a cabinet next to the ottoman; (3) a coat hook on the panel in front of you; and (4) a small storage compartment at the back of the working table, that has a mirror and contains a bottle of water and American’s trademark noise-canceling Bose headphones. The latter cabinet also contains the power port (universal AC power outlet and USB port) and, oddly enough, also the headphone jack, so you need to leave it open when you want to listen to music or watch a movie (a minor inconvenience though). The seat features a very large tray table in addition to the work surface so you can keep working while eating, which – given the nice, extended meal service – is a productive and nice touch. There’s also a tray next to the working table with convenient USB charging.
Every part of the seat, including the seat back, head and leg rest, are adjustable using the seat control touch screen device that you can find on the working table. The seat itself can also be swiveled to various position: the take-off position, a position which aligns with the ottoman (and in which the seat can be transformed into a fully lie-flat bed), and – I think this a quite unique – a position in which the seat faces the windows, transforming the suite in a very comfortable working office.
As mentioned above, the seat can be reclined 180°, forming – together with the large ottoman – a comfortable bed. A duvet is provided, which increases the sleeping comfort. The ottoman also has a separate seat belt, so it can serve as an extra seat in case you want to have dinner with a companion in your seat.
What are the best First Class seats on AA’s B77W? Click here for the seat map.
- Solo travelers should go fo the window seats, while companions should choose the middle seats.
What are the worst First Class seats on AA’s B77W? Click here for the seat map.
- I suggest to avoid the window seats in row 1 (1A and 1J), since the proximity to the galley may be bothersome, especially during a night flight.
As a First Class passenger, I received a black pajama, red slippers, a voucher for access to AA’s arrival lounge at London’s Heathrow Airport, and an elegant, grey coloured amenity bag, which contained essentials like an eye mask, earplugs, wash cloth, toothbrush, toothpaste, a pen, socks, and Red Flower body lotion, face cream and lip balm. The bedding – which was placed on the ottoman during boarding – was superb: a nice blanket, an excellent duvet and two thick pillows guaranteed a very comfortable sleep at 40,000 feet.
In comparison: Business Class passengers only get the blanket with one pillow, no pajamas nor slippers, and a limited-edition heritage amenity kit, which contains the same essentials as in the First Class bag.
Dinner service started soon after takeoff, and the courses were served one after the other with only a few minutes in between.
First, I was served an apéritif with an assortment of mixed nuts. For the starter, I ordered the beet and goat cheese ravioli, with mixed greens, balsamic glaze, and crushed pistachios. I then had the creamy carrot soup, with hilo ginger and fresh parsley, which I found to be the highlight of the dinner. Next, I was served a salad of mixed greens with artichokes, roasted tomatoes, feta cheese, and creamy Italian dressing. As main course, I had the seared halibut with gremolata, sautéed tomato fennel, lemon risotto, and broccolini. Dessert was a warm pecan tart, topped with vanilla ice cream. All by all a decent but far from exceptional dinner. In fact, I was surprised and disappointed that the menu – except for the soup – was 100% identical to the one during my AA Business Class trip last year. AA should really enhance the gastronomic experience it offers in its First Class cabin (the good news is that they are in the process of doing that).
60 minutes prior to landing, breakfast was served. One could order broccoli and red pepper strata, with smoked chicken sausage and roasted potatoes, but I just had a fresh fruit bowl, with granola and yoghurt.
A 17-inch touchscreen monitor is located in front of the seat, above the ottoman. It can be released by pressing a button located under the working table. The inflight entertainment itself can be controlled using the touch screen or a dedicated control unit. The Panasonic inflight entertainment itself features an impressive catalog of 120 movies, 150 TV shows, and more than 350 audio selections.
7. OTHER INFLIGHT EXPERIENCES
# CREW: the New York city based crew was very friendly and very charming. Two stewardesses took care of the First Class passengers. While there have been recent reports from professional bloggers that could not take photos/clips onboard AA, I did not encounter any problems at all (nor during my previous flights with AA), although I have to state that I always ask permission to take photos upfront (when boarding) and I feel this is always highly appreciated by the crew.
# BAR: after the main meal service, a walk-up bar stocked with snacks and refreshments was set up in the galley for First Class passengers. It was a very nice spread of a large assortment of snacks that was constantly replenished during the flight. It’s similar to the Business Class set up bar, although the latter has a more sleek look.
# LAVATORY: First Class passengers have access to two lavatories in the front of the plane, which feature porcelain sinks, wood siding, granite floor texture and luxurious toilet products. All lavatories were kept clean during the flight.
# INTERNET: WiFi was available for purchase once on board the aircraft: a 2 hour pass for $12, a 4 hour pass for $17, or a duration of flight pass for $19. I found the WiFi speed to be relatively ok, but felt that it should be complimentary for passengers in the premium cabins.
8. COMPARISON WITH THE AA B77W BUSINESS CLASS
AA’s Flagship First Class suite is very comfortable, but it did not feel extremely luxurious (as compared to other airlines such as Qatar Airways or Etihad Airways). In addition, AA’s Business Class (read my review here) is so good that the difference with First Class is only very marginal. This is what First will get you over Business:
- More space (3 windows instead of 2 if you are in a window seat)
- Possibility to turn the suite into an office desk
- Turndown service
- Duvet and an extra pillow
- Complimentary pajamas and slippers
- Increased menu selections
- An extra course (soup) with your meal
- A slightly larger entertainment screen
AA really needs to make its First Class experience more classy, since right now, its First Class cabin feels more like Business Class. I would advise them to team up with celebrity chefs to offer fine cuisine in the air, to offer complimentary WiFi, to enhance the ground experience, and to transform its First Class seats into real, enclosed suites.
9. MY VERDICT
- First Class seat : 8/10
- Food: 7/10
- Inflight entertainment : 9/10
- Service: 8/10
- First Class cabin: 7/10
- Overall experience: good : 7.6/10