American Airlines B777 Domestic Flagship / Business Class Review
Updated: 4 hours ago
Since the aviation world changed after the start of the Coronavirus Pandemic last year https://www.patstravelreviews.com/post/what-is-it-like-flying-during-the-covid-19-pandemic I have flown on the few routes that have some semblance of what flying in First or Business Class was like before March of 2020. Since International travel has been most effected by the pandemic, American has repositioned several of their B777's and B787 Dreamliner's to Domestic routes. Only a handful of these routes are sold as Flagship (International First & Business Class Service). Most of these routes (DFW/LAX, DFW/ORD, CLT/MIA, MIA/JFK, MIA/BOS to name a few) are sold as regular Domestic First Class and have the same service as if you flew on a B737 or Airbus 319/320/321. You just get a much nicer seat than if you were on a narrow-body. But the routes that had Flagship service before Covid-19 hit still have it (to a lesser extent) today. I have flown between LAX and Miami several times as well as between JFK/LAX and from DFW to Kona all on either B777-200's or B777-300's. To my knowledge these routes along with the SFO/JFK route and between ORD/DFW & Hawaii (Maui & HNL along with KOA) are the only flights within the US on American that serves a hot meal along with the amenities associated with International Business Class. Not all of these flights are sold as Flagship. In fact, only a few of the flights I took actually said "Flagship" when I was booking it. Some were marketed as First Class and other's as Business Class, but the service and product is all the same. Last year American was down to just one or two flights a day between LAX & MIA and JFK and only flew the B777 on those few flights. Now I see AA is flying several flights between these cities and the JFK flights are once again being sold as Flagship (both First & Business) on their A321's that are configured for these routes. I will do a separate review of the A321 flights (because outside of now, they normally only fly A321's on these flights) later, although while the seats are different, the service is the same. That also holds true for any B787's on these routes. American has retired all their B767's and A330's so the only widebodies left are the B787 and B777's.
American flies both the B77-200 and 777-300. The 300 has First & Business (along with Premium Economy, Main Cabin Extra and Economy) seats while the 200 only has Business Class and the three Economy Classes. The confusing thing is there are two different variations of the 200's and it is not possible to tell which aircraft you will be getting at time of booking. The
configuration is the same, it is just a different seat. This is significant because in my opinion one of the seats are ok, while the other is one of the best Business Class seats in the sky. For this review I will not go into too much detail with the specifications of each seat as it will make this review too long (I will when I review their International flights). Rather, I will concentrate on the service, Remember, while there isn't too much difference from what you get now as opposed to pre-Covid on these flights, all photo's are from flights within the past 6 months. Hopefully by the end of the year things will be back to
"normal". All three versions are fully 180 degree lie flat International Business Class seats in a 1x2x1 configuration. All seats have USB ports and power plugs, remote for TV with direct aisle access. They all have on demand (AVOD) IFE (In-flight Entertainment) that includes a nice moving map, lots of Movies and Television programing. Some aircraft has free Apple Music and four channels of live TV (although live TV hasn't worked on any of the flights I taken the past 6 months). In addition to the IFE, you can access Wi-Fi. American uses gogo and Viasat on their narrowbodies, but I believe all the B777's have Panasonic. Interestingly, the rate's are much better on these flights than through gogo and Viasat as is the speed. Rates are consistent (unlike thru gogo or Viasat), usually $12 for 2 hours or $19 for flight.
The B777-300 has 2 cabins and are designated as 77W when booking your ticket online. A mini cabin forward (rows 3&4) and a very large rear cabin (rows 5 to 15). I like the 773 seats very much, especially the forward cabin which is much more private than the larger rear cabin. The Safran Cirrus Seats are all facing forward in a reverse herringbone pattern. The downsides to this seat is the TV is embedded in the wall and should be stored for take offs & landings and the headphone plug is extremely difficult to reach and connect. Also for couples traveling the two middle seats are far apart (great if traveling alone).
Some of the 200's have alternate rear and forward facing Safran (Zodiac) seats while the other has the all forward facing reverse herringbone Rockwell Super Diamond seats. The 777-200 seat maps are identical and are designated as 772 when booking online. Six rows forward (rows 1 thru 6, middle seats only go to row 5) and four rows aft (rows 7 - 10). Because they are same configuration you only know what kind of seat you are getting when you check-in a day before flight. If the seat map has the seat box with a cut out on top then these are the rear facing seats. If it is just a blue box then it is the reverse herringbone layout. In the forward cabin the rear facing seats are the odd rows for the middle seats and even rows on single side window seats. However, in the rear cabin the odd numbered single seats (so 7A&L/9A&L) and even middle 2 seats (8D&H/10D&H ) face backwards. While both AA and SeatGuru list their seat width and pitch the same I find the Super Diamond way more comfortable to sit and sleep. The ottoman is bigger and just roomier. Both seats outer armrest lowers. I like the novelty of sitting backwards, but these seats have a smaller TV that is locked into the side panel. Has almost no storage area and at least in seats 1 & 2 L you can feel when the person behind you moves. Meanwhile, the Super Diamond has a larger and clearer TV that is directly in front of you (so you can watch gate to gate ) and has fantastic storage (four separate compartments :)). The one benefit of the rear facing seats is for couples. The heads of both seats are near one another and makes it much easier to communicate.
The amenity's you receive on these flights are basically the same as pre-Covid. On most flights I took, an amenity kit was waiting at your seat or handed out after boarding. Same with a bottle of water, menu and Bang & Olufsen headphones. All flights had a nice wrapped pillow and blanket at the seat. A few flights didn't have a menu or amenity kit and my guess that was a crew decision (didn't have the time or just didn't want to go the extra step). The Amenity Kits varied and on a recent LAX to MIA
flight, the Kit may have been from Flagship First because it was much nicer than I have ever received on American (outside of First). What is currently unavailable is the ability to pre-order your meal (between 30 days till 24 hours before departure), pre-departure drinks and a hot towel after take-off (this has been eliminated on all flights). The pre-Covid service on these 4 to 5 hour flights used to be a drink of choice in a glass with warm Cashews & Almonds in a Ramekin (now plastic cup with sealed drink and small packet of premium nuts) then an appetizer and salad (now one or the other), followed by the main entrée. An Ice Cream Sundae (or other Dessert), Fruit & Cheese and after dinner drink completed the main meal. The meal selections are the same as before (4 selections) with a choice of Beef (Short Ribs or Filet), Chicken (usually Asian-style Chicken with Jasmine Rice), Fish (usually Salmon), and a Vegetarian Dish (usually Pasta). Breakfast
also had four options. Oatmeal, Eggs & Canadian Bacon, an Omelet, or Bagel & Smoked Salmon (Lox). Currently the entire meal; Appetizer or Salad, Main Dish and Dessert are served sealed on one tray. While I understand the desire to keep everyone safe and to minimize contact I am not sure how taking off the aluminum foil or plastic wrap achieves this? For the most part the quality of the meals are the same as pre-Covid with Lunch and Dinner have more elaborate offerings than Breakfast. The Dessert Tarts are not my favorites (I miss the Sundaes) but are more than edible. What isn't as edible is the bread. The rolls are very dry and not heated as they used to be. I would
normally be disappointed in this, but I am so happy to eat a hot meal on board I gladly accept it. Also gone is the warm, fresh baked Chocolate Chip Cookie served prior to landing. They still have the cookie, only now it is wrapped and certainly not fresh baked. I do not remember this cookie ever being served by the flight attendants. If set up, it was in
a basket in the galley between cabins along with a few other snacks. On a few flights these snacks were not set-up at all. I think this also may be a crew decision. On the 8 hour DFW to KOA flight a small tray with a few snacks was served (in addition to snacks in the galley) prior to landing. I do not think this is the normal pre-arrival meal on the DFW/ORD to Hawaii flights. To my knowledge American never stopped serving drinks in First Class (at least not since August when I first flew again), but their alcohol selection is reduced. They are serving Wine from the bottle, Beer, along with a selection of Whiskeys & Spirits. Any mixed drink is given the small bottles to mix yourself.
Hopefully American and other airlines will return to regular service sooner than later. I read yesterday (May 2, 2021) that the most people flew through US Airports since early March, 2020. This is a sure sign that air travel is rebounding (that and my flight to DFW tomorrow morning is fully booked). With new cases going down and vaccinations up, catering should be returning as well. Unfortunately, I think the return to pre-Covid meals and service will lag behind. Not so much due to safety, rather the airlines are still struggling and are looking to cut costs wherever they can (I was recently told by an airline employee that this is not the case and customer feedback is the reason service is slow to return - sounds like corporate speak) In the meantime, I will drive to Los Angeles and enjoy these few routes that provide some semblance of the Flagship experience.