Reviews

Review: American Airlines Boeing 777 first class: Sydney-Los Angeles

Overall Rating

By Chris Chamberlin, February 3 2016
American Airlines Boeing 777 first class: Sydney-Los Angeles
Route

Sydney - Los Angeles

Aircraft Type

Boeing 777-300ER

Airline

American Airlines

Flight

AA72

Cabin Class

First

Seat

2A

Notes
The Good
  • Pre-flight visit to the Sydney Qantas First Lounge: one of the world's best
  • Caviar, lobster on the menu
The Bad
  • Some elements closer to business class than first class
  • Service lacks attention to detail
The Unexpected
  • Transform your suite into a sky-high office
Service
Meals
Seating
Overall

Introduction

Following the recent debut of American Airlines' Boeing 777-300ER flights between Sydney and Los Angeles, passengers now have more choice than ever up the very front when crossing the Pacific.

Fitted with first class ahead of business class and also economy, Australian Business Traveller takes a trip to the home of Hollywood to bring you this exclusive review.

Check-in

  • Frequent flyer program: American Airlines AAdvantage, Oneworld. Qantas Frequent Flyer members can also earn both points and status credits when travelling with AA.
  • Priority check-in: Dedicated first class check-in lane in row B. We arrived before the desks opened but were able to obtain our boarding pass from an adjacent kiosk for extra lounge time.
  • Checked baggage allowance: 3x32kg bags.
  • Carry-on baggage allowance: 1x115cm bag with no defined weight limit plus a briefcase, laptop bag or purse and other personal items such as duty-free purchases, books or umbrellas.
  • Express Path access (Australia departures): Yes, with assistance from check-in to lounge from AA's concierge service for first class passengers.
  • Fast track access (USA arrivals): No, unless with a short connection to an onward flight. Concierge staff simply escort you from the aircraft to passport control where the standard lines await.

Lounge

Thanks to AA's partnership with Qantas, American Airlines' first class passengers can relax in Sydney's Qantas First Lounge...

... and can enjoy a scrumptious breakfast at its Rockpool-inspired restaurant before stepping aboard.

One tasty option from the menu: sweet corn fritters with bacon, avocado, crème fraiche & tomato jam...

Arrive early and a 20-minute Aurora spa appointment may also be yours for the taking, but unlike when flying in Qantas first class where treatment times are secured by phone the day prior, bookings for AA passengers are only handled on the day of travel.

Seat

First class spans just two rows on AA's Boeing 777s with eight seats arranged in a 1-2-1 layout...

... with the 'A' and 'J' suites lining the windows and the 'D' and 'G' suites in the centre with a movable privacy divider between them.

You'll notice some particularly modern features built into AA's first class, starting with this side tray: the perfect size for a smartphone and with a handy USB port for easy charging...

... a compartment with a mirror and even more power options including two multi-country AC outlets, audio/video inputs for connecting your own device to the inflight entertainment system, another USB port and your headphone jack...

... and with space enough to close the door yet leave things connected, as there's room for the cables to pass below the door itself.

A separate touchscreen takes care of the seat position and the in-built massage features...

... while storage nooks are plentiful, if not each a little small. A literature pocket stands ready for magazines and tablets...

... another pocket suits your water bottle or slippers...

... while your shoes have a cubby of their own near the floor:

Setting it apart from most other first class suites, the chair can swivel to face a fold-out desk at the side:

No, that's not simply the dining table: it's a distinct workspace of its own, complete with views sure to rival your corner office on the ground.

If an inflight meeting or chat is on your agenda, the suite also boasts a 'companion seat' as you'd find in Qantas first class...

... and when it's time to turn in, you'll swivel back and transform the seat into a 198cm fully-flat bed, complete with a soft mattress to extend over the seat, plus a blanket, two pillows, pyjamas and slippers:

Disappointingly though, the crew don't make the bed for you as you'd expect in first class on practically any other airline: the goodies are simply dumped on your seat before boarding commences and it's up to you to sort it all out.

There's also very little privacy when sleeping as the suite opens to the aisle, sans the closing doors found on Emirates, Etihad and Singapore Airlines...

... although in a move we appreciate, the usually-transparent mesh curtain between business class and first class features an opaque panel at eye level, deployed when passengers in First are sleeping and removed during waking hours.

Without it, travellers seated in the front row of business class can gawk straight into the first class suites, so we're glad AA could find a workable compromise between inflight security and passenger comfort and privacy.

Meal

Following pre-departure drinks, appetisers of sweet potato crisps and petite olives are served shortly after take-off, plus another drink of your choosing.

We'd hoped to see a wine list at this point – expected of first class and increasingly so in business class too – yet were disappointed to find one unavailable.

What's more, the crew didn't know the wines well, or indeed at all. Our query on the Champagne was met with "it's one with a strange name", before a bottle of Deutz 2006 Brut Millésimé appeared from the galley to answer the question.

Moving on, lunch is served beginning with heirloom tomato gazpacho and a Malossol Osetra caviar tartlet, which was tasty, well-balanced against the garnishes and a nice surprise to find on-board.

Already having eaten a hearty breakfast in the Qantas First Lounge, we opted out of the next course – a smoked celeriac soup with leaves – and went straight for the Western Australian rock lobster with summer citrus, mango salsa and a yuzu and raspberry vinaigrette:

You'll also spot Pepe Saya butter: found too in Qantas business class and first class

The lobster tasted fresh and is a definite class above American's more homely lobster mac and cheese dish that also appears on inflight menus from time to time.

Following is a choice of four main plates: an Australian surf and turf, a roasted spatchcocked chicken scallion, a Tasmanian salmon dish and a Thai yellow curry, from which we chose the traditional land-and-sea option with nice prawns and a green peppercorn sauce for the beef...

... which proved succulent if not a little too rare for my taste as no cooking preference was taken and it arrived medium rare.

Dessert marks the next course with options of an Australian pavlova, a warmed sticky date pudding or American's traditional ice cream sundae with your choice of toppings.

AA's sundaes always go down a treat, and when we couldn't decide on our customisations the crew helpfully offered to prepare one with everything (ice cream, chocolate fudge, butterscotch, whipped cream, sprinkled nuts and maraschino cherries). Trust us: this is the way to go!

If you're stll hungry after all of that or cravings arise mid-flight, head to the galley for fresh fruits, chips, caramel popcorn, chocolates or a cheese plate...

... or look for the asterisk next to items on the menu – such as the mezze plate and the Riverine steak sandwich – which indicates what you can order at any time during the flight.

After sneaking in some much-needed shut-eye, we woke around three hours before arriving in LA when the crew offered to prepare breakfast early, but were happy to hold off until an hour before landing.

A refreshing mango smoothie gets the morning meal started with two 'typically airplane' dishes to choose from – a traditional American breakfast or a lighter continental breakfast – or, more impressive corn fritters with avocado, smoked salmon and crème fraîche:

While very similar to our breakfast the previous morning, we just couldn't turn down the chance to have something other than the typical omelettes, sausages and cereals that stake their claim to practically every other airline menu.

Joined by Greek-style yoghurt, a latte (ordered as a 'cappuccino'), a small fruit salad and a choice of breads, we'd not want anything else after so many other courses in a relatively short space of time.

However, breakfast is delivered on a tray which makes the experience feel very 'business class' rather than 'Flagship First', and both meals saw only half the table draped with linen and cutlery left wrapped up for you to set.

With first class ideally replicating a fine restaurant in the sky, you wouldn't expect a waiter on the ground to pass you cutlery instead of setting the table for the coming meal, and realistically, nor should you in first class.

Entertainment & Service

Roughly 250 movies, 180 TV shows and 350 audio tracks can be browsed and enjoyed via AA's inflight entertainment system...

... served up via a 17-inch widescreen monitor and Bose QuietComfort headphones, but which are collected by the crew about 45 minutes before landing – hinting that first class passengers can't be trusted to return them at the end of the flight.

Unlike AA's domestic A321T first class service, there isn't a standard 3.5mm plug to connect your own headphones either, which gives you nothing to watch for the better part of an hour and isn't the best way to conclude a 14-hour flight.

The content selections catered to a wide range of interests with Spectre our pick of the bunch, which was still showing in Australian cinemas at the time of our flight: and unlike many other airlines you won't need to watch (or fast-forward through) several minutes of ads before each movie and TV show: just click and your programme starts straight away.

What's missing is a brightness control for the screen with many movies hard to see unless the shutters on the nearby aircraft windows were closed:

(For the first photo, two of the three shutters were closed. Here they all remain open).

Service on today's flight was genuinely friendly with the crew always keeping our drinks topped up before the glass was emptied, allowing us to work without interruption when the laptop was open and delivering a well-stocked amenity kit before take-off:

On the downside, however, it took the crew 15 minutes to respond to the call bell the one time it was pressed and jackets were forgotten about at the end of the flight, so we retrieved our own from the closet before leaving the aircraft.

Combined with the lack of a wine list and the 'do it yourself' approach to setting the table and arranging the bedding, it leaves a lot of little things that could be easily improved to enhance the overall passenger experience.

Until that happens, American Airlines first class remains a very pleasant way to fly across the Pacific, if not a step or two below what you'd expect of Qantas on the same route or indeed the first class of other major airlines flying to Australia.

Also read: United Boeing 787 'BusinessFirst' review: Melbourne-LA

Chris Chamberlin travelled to Los Angeles as a guest of American Airlines.

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive Traveller and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a great latte, a theatre ticket and a glass of wine!

sgb

sgb

Emirates Airlines - Skywards

30 Nov 2015

Total posts 745

Sounds like the finer points you get get on Emirates First need to be instilled on AA. That service description sounds sloppy at the least for the money being paid.

sgb

sgb

Emirates Airlines - Skywards

30 Nov 2015

Total posts 745

Nothing should be do it yourself on First Class International flights.

PK

PK

03 May 2012

Total posts 113

Chris I think you have been very kind in describing so many missing elements. It seems that the things that are not being done well or at all are the major things that other carriers use to convince people to make the jump to First in an era of flat beds in Business. If you're not going to have an Apartment eg Etihad, then your service differentiation has to be up to scratch to convince people to shell out the extra wedge/points.  

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2933

Hi PK, thank you for your comments. Are there any elements in particular that you would like to have seen covered that weren't already?

PK

PK

03 May 2012

Total posts 113

Oh, I think you have misunderstood me. All I was saying was that you posted a fairly kind review given all the elements you have identified as missing from the usual First class experience. 

eminere

eminere

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1131

Of course he would have to, otherwise it's bye-bye to those free first class flight invitations.

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2933

I think our assessment of AA First is more than fair, eminere, as it seems do the majority of users who have commented here.

If you've flown SYD-LAX in AA First (or even LAX-SYD) and have your own comments to share on the journey you experienced, you're most welcome to post them here.

Alternately, if you have any further and specific concerns with AusBT editorial, you can always email our editor David Flynn directly ([email protected]).

(And for the record, airlines get the reviews they do based on merit: no promises are ever given regarding content, and whether an airline will 'like' any coverage they receive isn't something we consider or are concerned by: if a product deserves a positive review, it'll get one, and if it doesn't, it won't - it's as simple as that, and the airlines know it.)

Chris_PER

Chris_PER

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

19 Feb 2014

Total posts 451

They cant even get the model of their aircraft on the front cover of the magazine right ;)

superflyer

superflyer

18 Apr 2015

Total posts 68

It's a worry when one of the What's Hot is another airlines lounge!

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2933

To be fair though, being able to visit the Qantas First Lounge pre-flight is quite a big drawcard, and it makes sense for AA to take advantage of this great facility rather than building their own lounges for one flight a day. :)

russell

russell

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Nov 2011

Total posts 327

Concerning when the best thing about AA's First Class is the sundae. My oh my they have a long way to go.

DrSK

DrSK

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

08 Jul 2014

Total posts 51

A very balanced and diplomatic review, Chris.

It is my impression that the 'hard' product is very solid, but 'soft' elements  - which are easier to adjust, one would imagine - leave something to be desired. In other words, with a bit of effort, AA could achieve a product that is broadly comparable to that offered by QF, but as others have noted, they have a fair way to go.

That sundae looks slightly less grotesque than that which you endured while reviewing UA's domestic 737 First service, but only marginally . . .

The only clear advantage AA provides on this route seems to be WiFi. Did you use this, and if so, how did you find it? Additionally, was the seat comfortable as a bed? Although the bedding is superb in QF F, I don't find the 'bed' overly comfortable - how did this compare?

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2933

Hi Stefan, re: the Wi-Fi, I did use it and will be running a separate review, but like most inflight WiFis it worked well enough without being as fast as you'd expect on the ground. US$19 for unlimited time and data for the flight.

RobL

RobL

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

19 Jul 2012

Total posts 35

Chris - an odd observation I admit, but:

In the photo of the lobster main course the surface of the wine is at a steep angle - akin to turbulence - but the surface of the water appears flat.

Is it:

a) an optical illusion

b) the result of turbulence (but the two liquids not moving in unison)

c) quickly swirled the wine and a photo, or

d) a quirk?

TheRealBabushka

TheRealBabushka

21 Apr 2012

Total posts 3034

Wow! Good catch! Very observant!

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2933

It's b) – the photo was taken during turbulence and of the 15 or so I took to try and get a clear and crisp shot while we were bouncing around, that was the best of the lot. Better to have the wine on an angle than a blurry dish. :)

RobL

RobL

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

19 Jul 2012

Total posts 35

Thanks Chris

The dedication you guys put in to get us the best shots - 15 takes whilst abstaining from the lobster. More will power than me.

A great shot by regular standards - so quite an achievement with turbulence.

TheRealBabushka

TheRealBabushka

21 Apr 2012

Total posts 3034

Sounds about right...

Diplomatic is indeed apt.

Although some other blogger might have a hissy fit and describe the expereince as "premium economy"...

You know who you are :p

sgb

sgb

Emirates Airlines - Skywards

30 Nov 2015

Total posts 745

The First Class seating picture looks so gaudy in red white and blue lighting, you kinda expect the Cabin Crew to pop out from behind the Business Bulkhead to the tune of the Star Spangled Banner with crepe paper pom poms in their hands. As for the AA sundaes, that list of ingredients was enough to churn any stomach even though they forgot the freckled sprinkles.

smit0847

smit0847

30 Aug 2013

Total posts 448

I dont see a future in AA continuing to offer long-haul F. Their J hard product is now excellent and with such little differentiation in the soft product between J and F there's really no incentive to spend the extra money on F over J.

sgb

sgb

Emirates Airlines - Skywards

30 Nov 2015

Total posts 745

Someone's gotta mention the AA amenity kit, (may as well be me), it is well equiped for I would think Business class, but certainly not First Class, compare it with what Emirates dole out. It seems one notch above that little black and white Gingham number Qantas PE were boasting about recently.

TheRealBabushka

TheRealBabushka

21 Apr 2012

Total posts 3034

sgb,

You certainly do love Emirates! ;)

sgb

sgb

Emirates Airlines - Skywards

30 Nov 2015

Total posts 745

Emirates A380 9A is mine...

moa999

moa999

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 1375

I think 'pleasant' was your best statement.

Very surprised at the old school av inputs. Would have though HDMI in would be a must, or for real future proofing a usb-c.

ausnetman

ausnetman

QF

12 May 2015

Total posts 6

Nice review Chris.  Travelling to LAX in June in F on AA so this was appreciated.  A couple of queries:

  • Can you check in at the QF First counter in Sydney (I booked it as a QF code share so it has a QF flight number)?
  • Did you try the on-board Wi-Fi?  This is one of the reasons I chose this flight so I can get some work done at least in the first few hours whilst it is still a work day in Australia.

Lifestobelived

Lifestobelived

27 Mar 2014

Total posts 40

I recently flew AA72 over in J and AA73 back in J and one thing i noticed, i didn't use wifi on the way over but it was certainly announced and made aware of, but I don't recall hearing or seeing and indication that it was available on the flight back...   It was a 77W on the way back and I would've assumed that they were all fitted the same, but found that a bit strange...

smit0847

smit0847

30 Aug 2013

Total posts 448

Why would you check in at a Qantas counter for an AA flight?

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2933

Hi Shaun,

Re: the Wi-Fi (just commented the same above), I did use it and will be running a separate review, and like most inflight WiFis it worked well enough without being as fast as you'd expect on the ground. US$19 for unlimited time and data for the flight.

Re: check-in, Qantas staff man the desks but it's a separate check-in area in row B, so while some staff at the actual Qantas desks may also have a login for AA's system, your best bet is going to the dedicated AA desks. For more lounge time, travel carry-on only and check-in online or use the self-serve kiosks near row B to get your boarding pass early as we did.

AWA2602

AWA2602

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

29 Jul 2013

Total posts 209

The decent hard product aside, why would you spend First Class dollars on an experience that is below par for Business Class?  Every time I board an AA flight, whether I'm in First or Business, my first impression is always "Uggghhh!" and that impression lingers or just gets solidly reinforced for the rest of the flight. Everything about the cabin service is so sloppy and unprofessional; the cabin crew always seem more intent on doing as little as possible; they're always so shabbily presented; take very little pride in what they're doing; and have very little F&B knowledge.  AA (and all other American carriers) have a very, very long way to go in terms of lifting their in-flight service to a standard comparable to the big Asian and Middle Easterm carriers.

sgb

sgb

Emirates Airlines - Skywards

30 Nov 2015

Total posts 745

My sentiments exactly.

TheRealBabushka

TheRealBabushka

21 Apr 2012

Total posts 3034

Although I rather like AA, I have to agree.

It was all quite worth it with the old Aadvantage. But once the gloss of the changes wear off and you are faced with the stark reality that you only earn, as an EXP, 11 award miles per USD spent, it really is a kick in the guts. We have no idea how earning on partner airlines would look like (to be revealed second half of 2016), but if that is the way things are changing for AA flights, then it does not look good.

They offered a competitive advantage with the old Aadvantage, despite the quality of their service. They've now killed the golden goose without having bucked up enough to be competitive in the market. There is only so much CAPEX (buying new planes and retrofitting) you can do to improve returns. It will not be sustainable if you do not spruce up your soft product or provide a compelling quantifiable alternative (a good FF programme).

krisdude

krisdude

Air New Zealand - Airpoints

21 Jan 2016

Total posts 159

I agree with AWA2605 comments.

The 4 mega US carriers while have to lift their standards for their premium products, especially on the Asia, Asia Pacific, Middle East and South Pacific routes.

For the last 20 years US carriers have been reducing costs to stay financially viable but with the advent of Emirates, Etihad, etc becoming more global and the growing number of high end Asian travellers wanting a high standard of service in premium cabin products, plus budget carriers like Scoot, AirAsiaX offering their own versions of  'Business' class products, the days of 'feed and forget them' mentally by US carriers is not going apply in the Asia/Pacific region. It  may work in the Americas and to/from Europe with this type of service, but customer expections have changed in this part of the world.

Even OZ and Kiwi passengers are even becoming more discerning in what they expect in cabin experience across all cabin classes.

sgb

sgb

Emirates Airlines - Skywards

30 Nov 2015

Total posts 745

I loathe US domestic air travel on any US airline, have even used Amtrack on occassion to avoid it. US carriers Internationally arn't much better. From Curbside check in, Security, Lounge, Boarding, actual flight,  food and drinks, and luggage collection, it's all to be avoided where possible. I find cabin attendants all ancient or all juniors and all pretty friendless, there's no in between. I've had horrible situations at security and  total mess ups with food requirements. My last trip with United confirmed all my meal requirements from Seattle to Melbourne, to find they were apparently not requested all the way through to Melbourne.

kimshep

kimshep

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Oct 2014

Total posts 492

I would agree - in general - with many of the generalisations stated above, about domestic US service levels.

However, in fairness to American Airlines, this is a new longhaul route on a relatively new frame (B777-300ER) for them. It has been operational into SYD for what, 5 weeks. It is acknowledged that the hard product is pretty much up to scratch - and I am sure that it won't take too long for the 'nuances' of the soft product to be worked out.

I am reminded of the QF introduction of F on the A380-800 where the seat / environment was criticzed and derided as being 'way-too-plain' and 'bare-bones' (compared to then EK and SQ F offerings ... and yet now, it is recognised as one of the best F services in the sky.

American Airlines' management are not fools and I am sure that once the soft service is bedded down, these elements will improve. Just look at the rise in service levels on the AA A321 transcontinental flights, compared to what they were.

eminere

eminere

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1131

"Thanks to AA's partnership with Qantas, American Airlines' first class passengers can relax in Sydney's Qantas First Lounge"

Not really, it's thanks to oneworld lounge rules.

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2933

... and those Oneworld lounge rules apply because both Qantas and AA are partners by way of the alliance.

eminere

eminere

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1131

Yes, by way of the (oneworld) alliance. Not "thanks to AA's partnership with Qantas".

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2933

Your comments have been noted and now repeated, eminere, and we'll again remind that both Qantas and American Airlines are alliance partners.

Please also be reminded of AusBT's published comment policy, noting that "comments which become overly hung up with criticising the way an AusBT article has been written or presented" are up for deletion.

As we've already indicated above and as always, any editorial concerns can be addressed directly to our editor by email, but any further comments that go off-topic and conflict with our published policies will be removed, as outlined in those same policies.

eminere

eminere

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1131

[Deleted by admin - continuing off-topic after warning was clearly given.]

xyeahtony

xyeahtony

24 Feb 2016

Total posts 3

The FAs will make your bed, you just have to ask them. AA isn't trying to be like Emirates so the comparisons here are kind of silly.

I saw a comment comparing this to "a par below business" class which i find hilarious. Which business class are we referring to here? i don't see Qantas offering any business class suites like this. Everyone is probably speaking of their old experiences on the old AA, neglecting the fact AA has made improvements on this route to align with QF. 

This is a brand new route (less than 3 months) and they rotate flight crews, so while sure it sucks (for some people), the FA not memorizing the finer details of the wine menu is not upsetting to me. American carriers will never be like the ME3, and they don't have to be. They're still the most profitable and largest airlines on the planet.

Sure the service on SQ or CX or EK is better, but you can't exactly fly those airlines SYD-LAX can you? so its a mute comparison. Compare apples to apples. Call it an unpopular opinion but i prefer this suite to the seats on QF. For one, the desk function is nice. Secondly if you travel with a companion, you can pick the two middle F seats and face each other while dining, a nice treat. 

And once again, baggage allowance for premium passengers on AA is 32kg not 23kg. 

susanramsey9

susanramsey9

American Airlines - AAdvantage

15 May 2016

Total posts 1

Excellent review! I am traveling LAX to SYD in AA First Class this September (my first time flying International First Class), and am living vicariously through reviews in the meantime.

msport2012

msport2012

Delta Air Lines - SkyMiles

14 Apr 2013

Total posts 310

I am as well. Just got a confirmed upgrade using AAdvantage Miles from J to F. Really super excited for the expereience :-)


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