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Onboard American Airlines' First Boeing 777-300ER: Getting High

March 22, 2013 at 12:22 PM | by | ()

There's something new in the air. Smell it? That's the scent of a refreshed American Airlines and their shiniest new toy: the Boeing 777-300ER. AA is the first US airline with the plane and we just stepped off one of its first flights. So let's talk about it.

The Jaunted Series on American's Shiny New Toy

1. The New Hotness
2. Getting High
3. The Final Word

We must've looked over at the tiny display screen on the remote control twenty times during the course of our flight from New York-JFK to London-Heathrow. It sat, snugly locked into its own nook, just above our left shoulder and in the corner of our peripheral vision.

No matter how low the mood lighting went or how engrossed in the old Bond flick "Diamonds Are Forever" we got, eventually we'd have a glance over at the little glowing words "American Airlines." It was a reassurance—this Boeing 777-300ER in which we found ourselves so comfortably situated for 6-ish hours over the Atlantic Ocean is really, truly an American Airlines plane.

Why the doubt? Well, simply put, strolling onboard at JFK and first seeing the walk-up bar and then the cabins in their fresh materials and increased space...it just doesn't look like the American Airlines we know. And that's exactly the point.

This is the flagship of the "New American," an airline working towards an understanding that the modern passenger wants things like long-haul in-flight WiFi, personal power outlets, food choices beyond "meat or pasta," a quiet cabin, and—damnit—a smile from a flight attendant every so often. The 777-300ER is the flagship for all this and more, and it's doing a heckuva job convincing travelers they deserve all this, one planeload of 310 people at a time.

So what does one do in a brand new American Airlines plane for a little more than 6 hours? Lots of stuff. Once we got high (as in, in the air), we set out to experience as much as possible.

Flight AA100 JFK-LHR on a 777-300ER, hour-by-hour

We say "hour 0" because the on-the-ground boarding time is just as important. This when first impressions form, and while Business Class fiddled with the in-flight entertainment (Ms. Pink Hair is going for the "New Releases" option), Economy passengers file in and play overhead bin tetris. We ran around a like chicken with its head cut off, darting between rows and around flight crew, as we wanted to have a walk around the plane before it filled up. No chance to see First Class; this was a regular flight and that cabin is off limits.

De-iced and ready to go, the 777-300ER rumbled down the JFK runway and into the sky while we browsed the menu and rode a sparkling wine buzz. This is the part of the flight where, no matter what cabin you're sitting in, you push all the buttons and open all the compartments and see how far back you can recline.

Mmm, warm nuts. Along with a drink and the nuts, flight attendants brought the Bose noise-cancelling headsets around Business Class and we snacked while our flight path began arcing up and over the Atlantic. Others began getting their laptops, books, or other work out while a few starting right into sleep mode. As these planes have satellite in-flight internet (free throughout March!), we spent time tweeting, instagramming, vining and checking Facebook. Sounds like a pretty typical Saturday night, really—booze and social media—except we were at 32,000' and going over 600mph.

See where our plane is on the map? With several hours yet to go in the flight, both the WiFi and moving map quit right there. The movies, TV shows, games and whatnot continued, but with the internet gone we lost interest in sitting still much longer. Luckily dinner had been served and the dessert cart was trundled down the aisle. Our choice over a cheese plate: the ice cream sundae (we got hot fudge & strawberry on ours) available on the premium class menu.

Truth be told, we spaced out for a while at this point in the flight. Up and out of our seat, we crouched down near the footrest to have a better look out the windows and had the usual deep thoughts that only come when you're relaxed, full of food and high above the Earth. Then it was time to stretch the legs and take a post-meal stroll. Much of Business Class had gone straight to sleep after dessert to maximize the time remaining on the flight. Main Cabin & Main Cabin Extra were well engrossed in their seatback entertainment or having chats back by the rear lavatories. All was peaceful.

Can't forget to hit up the walk-up bar! American is the first US airline with an in-flight bar, and the focus here is on more food. It's fully stocked from the period after dinner until breakfast and includes everything from bags of potato chips and chocolate-covered pretzels to sandwich halves, cheese plates and bite-size sweets. We were still quite full from dinner, so finally we unwrapped the blanket, fluffed the pillow and had a go at some sleep.

The smell of hot croissants awakens us, and soon after the flight attendants deliver breakfast. The "entree" is a bowl of Chex Mix-like cereal; no hot omelets here. One more check of the WiFi reveals it's still down (so don't rely on it for your flight), so we start into "Diamonds Are Forever" and, next thing we know, British soil is under our wheels and we've landed on time at London-Heathrow.

Finally, the legroom

Have a look for yourself! We sat our 5'7" normal person frame in each seat and didn't experience butt numbness once, but then that is something we typically get on flights 9 hours or more.

Click the image to enlarge and view the legroom differences

We flew as a guest of American to experience the new plane, but the flight itself was a regular one, with regular paying passengers, a regular flight crew, on a regular route, with a regular passenger experience. All photos and opinions are completely our own.

[Photos: Cynthia Drescher/Jaunted]

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