Flight Review: American Airlines 777-300 New Business Class GRU-JFK
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After having a great experience flying First Class on one of American’s brand new 777-300’s and spending a whirlwind four days in Sao Paulo I was looking forward to flying back to New York again on American’s new 777-300ER, but this time testing out the airline’s new international business class.
Instead of using points for this flight I purchased a roundtrip economy fare for $1,268.46 and applied one of my Executive Platinum Systemwide Upgrades for the flight. I set the return JFK-GRU flight for some time in December – hopefully on a date I can use, especially if I’m running low on Elite Qualifying Miles for the year. The reason I bought a roundtrip ticket was that a one-way was just as expensive, so I figured I might as well book it – since I immediately fell in love with Sao Paulo it’s very likely that I’ll be going back!
I was a little anxious waiting for the upgrade to clear, but thankfully with just over 24 hours left I received an email from AA showing that my upgrade to business class had been confirmed – when Expertflyer.com was only showing 3 seats available in business class. I thought for sure it would come down to the wire, but I’m glad it didn’t.
I had a few hours to spare before take off so I went to check out GRU’s Admirals Club lounge. It’s located in Terminal 2 on the Mezzanine level of Wing D after Passport Control.
I had two friends traveling on Delta and I was allowed to bring both in – one as a guest and one as an extra guest because I showed an Amex Platinum card, which was a nice surprise. The lounge was pretty basic, with meats/cheeses/breads/veggies and self-serve wine and beer and they announced the boarding of the flight about an hour before departure. On my way out I saw pregnant popstar Fergie near the entrance – she was honored at the amfAR gala I attended and I got the chance to meet her briefly at another event. What a super nice and talented woman!
I left extra time for boarding because I thought I might have to clear security again at the gate, which I didn’t. I was surprised because I only went through Brazilian security in the airport and was able to keep my shoes on – usually for international flights they’ll have a TSA outpost by the gate making people take off shoes and get a deeper screening (this happened recently in Johannesburg and Buenos Aires when flying back to the US).
On my flight last week from New York to Sao Paulo I was able to board early and got to poke around the aircraft and test out each class of seats and I even made a video:
On American’s new 777-300’s, business class is 13 rows in total. Two of them are in a mini front cabin just behind first class, and the rest are in a main business class cabin, all in a 1-2-1 alignment like Cathay’s new business class cabin.
The 52 lie-flat seats have a pitch of 75 inches – just two inches short of being long enough for me to stretch out fully – and are 26 inches wide.
Business class seats also each have their own 15.4-inch personal entertainment screen loaded with hundreds of movies and TV programs.
The screen was controlled by a handheld remote, and the seat also had various other controls for positions, an AC adapter plug so I could charge my gadgets and there were plugs for AV connectivity.
The amenity kit case you receive in business isn’t quite as fancy as the one you get in first, which came in a case that can also be used for your iPad or other devices, but it did have the essentials like an eye mask, wash cloth, toothbrush, toothpaste, earplugs, and Dermalogica products such as lip balm, Active Moist Lotion and Multivitamin Hand and Nail Treatment.
Also, there were no pajamas for business class passengers, while those in first do get a pair. Still, there were slippers and socks, which are standard business class items in my opinion.
The business class seats are pretty private and the view of your neighbors is, surprisingly, much more private than in first class.
About an 45 minutes into the flight, it was time for hot towels, nuts, beverages and then the dinner service.
The dinner menu was similar to the first class menu, but the weirdest thing I saw was a chickpea soup as an entree. The passenger in front of me tried to order it as a starter and the flight attendant rebuffed him, saying he would only do it if there were enough available (I have a hard time believing people would order all of the soups for dinner!). Granted the flight left at 9:20pm so the meal offered was light. I started with smoked salmon carpaccio and wasabi.
I had a steak lunch on my last day in Sao Paulo and I wanted to stay away from meat, so I got the cavatelli with puttanesca and sautéed mushrooms for my main, which tasted a little rubbery, but I ate it because I hadn’t snacked much in the lounge. Definitely not a memorable meal at 33,000 feet!
The wine list was also disappointing again with Gosset Brut Excellence as the champagne, a pretty thin Vermentino from Villa Solais on Sardinia and a Pouilly-Fuisse Domaine des Rochers as the other white wine choice. For reds, there was a Chateau du Seuil from Bordeaux, the Genesis Syrah by Hogue Cellars and a vintage Senhora do Convento Port for a dessert wine. Just as with the selection in first class, overall I was disappointed by the options in business and think American could do a better job at selecting some more premium wines to wow their flyers.
Finally, for dessert, I couldn’t resist trying the traditional hot fudge sundae again instead of the cheese plate being offered.
After the meal service the flight attendants pretty much disappeared and I was not offered turndown at any point. I got sleepy while watching a movie, so I just decided to move the seat into the fully flat position and conk out for the night. I’m freakishly tall at 6’7″, so I couldn’t fully extend. My head still hit the top of the bed, but as long as I slept on my side I was fine. 99.99% of people won’t have this issue, but I figured I’d toss this in for my fellow tall folk!
I was in a middle row of seats and there is no divider between the person next to you, but you wouldn’t be able to see them unless you leaned forward. I felt more secluded than in first class, though the first class Flagship Suite is longer, wider and more spacious, so I’d absolutely rather fly that next time around. Although the business class seat was still a little cramped for me, it was head-and-shoulders above American’s former angled business class product, and the new airplane itself is a smooth, quiet ride with nice red and blue mood lighting.
Breakfast and Arrival
Breakfast the next morning was a choice of ham-and-cheese omelette or yogurt with fresh fruit and granola, but after my whirlwind trip, I decided I’d rather have an extra hour of sleep (they start breakfast service pretty early in my opinion!) to sleep on the plane and just have breakfast when I got into New York. I made the mistake of not putting my AA Bose headsets in the case prior to landing, because I was brusquely awoken about an hour before landing by a flight attendant demanding my headset. I get that they don’t want people walking off with them, but collecting an hour before landing is a little extreme in my opinion.
We got to the gate early and I was through immigration in 1 minute thanks to Global Entry and my bag was on the belt within 10 minutes, so AA has been great as far as baggage handling (I normally don’t check, but had to bring a bunch of formal gear for different events and I couldn’t jam it all onto a carry-on).
Overall, the new 777-300ER is a gorgeous plane and the business class cabin is a huge improvement over American’s old product. However, American still lags in areas like lounges, in-flight wine and food (with an emphasis on the former) and service. I almost feel like the business class flight attendants were a little flustered and eager to finish service, but I do have to give praise to one who actually put a bag for me in the overhead bin when I was seated, which I never expect them to do.
At the end of the day, I got where I needed to go, on time, in comfort and most importantly safely, so I have to give American a solid rating for this flight. The only issue is that I’m now too spoiled to ever fly on one of the old planes again, so I hope they finish their retrofitting of the existing 767 and 777s sooner than later!
In another post, I’ll do a side-by-side comparison of AA’s new business and first class products, but overall I’m digging both and look forward to flying on the airline’s 777-300 again.