What We Loved
· The seats. My god, these seats are splendid. It's hard to find fault with them, and that's saying a lot. You take direct aisle access for all, lie-flat ability, extra width thanks to a retracting armrest, all sorts of storage nooks and a top-notch entertainment system and you've got a winner.
· Privacy. We're not going to mince words. The new Business Class is the most private modern Biz seat we've ever enjoyed. They're present on other airlines as well (like Cathay Pacific's 777-300ER), and the wingback style and 1-2-1 configuration with direct aisle access means comfortable semi-seclusion whether it's a 6- or 16-hour flight.
· The menu. We're not sure what we expected to eat on this flight, but "smoked salmon on spring pea blinis" was a complete shocker (in a good way). The beef entree was a little gray, but a crust of Boursin cheese and a side of wilted spinach saved the day.
· The walk-up bar. Even on a 6-hour flight with lie-flat seats, it's still quite nice to get up, have a walk and maybe a chat somewhere that isn't bothering others. The open champagne and selection of finger foods available for the taking isn't too bad, either.
· The bathrooms. Clean lines, sinks modeled after those in upscale hotel rooms and, in some lavs, a full-length mirror make heading to the head a more pleasant experience than one expects from an airplane.
· The Eames-pattern amenity kits. The midcentury modern period during which Charles & Ray Eames worked was decades ago, but those iconic designs are forever fresh, forever modern. The fact that American licensed an Eames pattern for their amenity kits shows a playful hipness, heretofore unassociated with American Airlines. In short, the kits make us smile even before unzipping them.
· WiFi. Hallelujah, long-haul in-flight WiFi has arrived to a US airline. The speed is on par with a Starbucks network, we managed to download an app to our iPhone, and Tweeting/Facebooking/Instagramming/Vining is smooth as butter…when the system is working.
· The custom ice cream sundaes. Rolling a dessert cart down the aisle is an extra oomph in the already pleasant meal service; it's a literally sweet touch evocative of the truly personalized service thought lost to the ages.
· The in-flight entertainment. The seatback system was chock full of an eclectic assortment of films, from which we watched "Diamonds are Forever," "Hotel" (a documentary on Marriott), and "The Eye Has to Travel" (a documentary on Diana Vreeland).
· Main Cabin Extra. This mini-cabin of seats with extra legroom sits between Business and Main Cabin and the space of it all is outstanding. Not only are the seats further apart (feel free to open your laptop without fear of it being crushed in a quick recline), but the overhead bins less crowded and the noise level quieter.
· The enthusiasm of the flight attendants. Our crew seemed genuinely interested in passenger's opinions of the new aircraft, asking how the seats felt, how well they slept, and even if they'd noticed the cool new sinks in the lavatories.
What We Didn't Love Quite So Much
· Unreliability of WiFi. Naturally we love the fact that WiFi is offered at all, but it cut out on our flight after two hours and didn't return. WiFi may be a bonus, but once American begins charging for access in April, there will be many unhappy paying users should it continue to be unreliable.
· Limited breakfast. Hope you like cereal, or it's just a hot croissant and fruit. We've nothing against Chex Mix, but chowing down on a dry breakfast (ex: granola, cereal even with milk, shredded wheat) requires more saliva than we have on offer after 6 hours in the dry environment of an airplane.
· Short flight time. The 777-300ER's "ER" stands for "Extended Range." It can fly much further than New York to London, but as a bright shining example of the "New American" brand and experience, it's on this premium route. The 6-plus hours of flight time are barely enough to fully enjoy the plane's perks in the premium classes. For example, few passengers seemed to take advantage of the copious snacks at the walk-up bar, simply because there wasn't time to get hungry again after dinner service.
· Window proximity. As much we love the seats (and boy, do we love these seats), the arrangement has window seats angled to face the windows. If you want to look out and marvel at the wings or the sunrise, or even the earth below as we so love to do, you must get up out of your seat and crouch near the footrest. It's a small price to pay to enjoy a Business Class experience, but it irks us nonetheless.
· Meal linens. If we're going to get really nit-picky here, we have to say that white tablecloth service isn't possible since the tablecloths are black! And we have to admit we miss the buttonhole in the corner of the napkin (and yes, we do use it when wearing a button-down, because it keeps all the crusty bread crumbs and sauce drips off the clothes we still have to wear the rest of that day).
So, if you want to take this baby for a spin yourself, you can find the new American 777-300ERs flying these routes right now:
· New York-JFK to London-Heathrow
· Dallas/Ft. Worth to London-Heathrow
· Dallas/Ft. Worth to Sao Paulo, Brazil
There she is, the new 777-300ER
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]