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Flight Review: American Airlines 777-300 New Business Class GRU-JFK

by on April 9, 2013 · 34 comments

in American, Trip Reports

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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.

aa gru lounge

A shot of the main area at American’s Admirals Club in GRU

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!

GRU Lounge Food

A nice spread of snack food in the AA lounge.

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).

My 777-300 chariot back to NYC

My 777-300 chariot back to NYC

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.

Business class seat

The new business class seat.

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 seat from above

Business class seat from above

Business class seats also each have their own 15.4-inch personal entertainment screen loaded with hundreds of movies and TV programs.

Entertainment screens in business class are

Personal entertainment comes with a wide variety of movie and TV program choices.

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.

Comfort controls and entertainment remote

Comfort controls and entertainment remote

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.

amenity kit

AA amenity kits are designed by Eames Office and come with Demalogica products.

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.

Privacy

A little cabin mood lighting – I appreciated the extra privacy.

Meal Service
About an 45 minutes into the flight, it was time for hot towels, nuts, beverages and then the dinner service.

Dinner menu

The dinner menu on my flight.

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.

smoked salmon carpaccio

Meal service started off with a mixed green salad and smoked salmon carpaccio with 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!

cavatelli

For my late dinner I chose the cavatelli with puttanesca and sautéed mushrooms.

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.

sundae

I couldn’t resist the traditional sundae for dessert!

Bed Time
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.

Patriotic mood lighting

Patriotic 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).

Summary
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.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • BartNY

    It seems like business class was nicer than first class!

  • jmw2323

    no shoes off and no additional screening 2 weeks ago CUN-ORD

  • http://twitter.com/susakajo Susakajo

    Thanks for the review. That does look a lot better than the older planes. I was always praying that my business class upgrade wouldn’t land me in the middle seat of the “3″ on a 2-3-2 configuration where you feel totally trapped.

  • That Guy

    They won’t be starting the reconfiguration of existing planes until early 2014, so don’t expect them all to be reconfigured until 2015 or 2016.

  • thepointsguy

    I know.. so sad. I’ll have to keep my flying on AA intl to only London and Sao Paulo until then!

  • thepointsguy

    Yea I hate the middle 3 section- never had a middle seat, but feel bad for those who have!

  • thepointsguy

    I still prefer first, but business wasn’t far behind

  • Santastico

    Couple comments on AA experience flying in and out of Brazil:
    - Their meal service even in first class is terrible. Cheap wines ($12 Argentine Malbec in first class is not what I expect), rubbery food and Ferrero Rocher chocolates ($3 at any Walgreens);
    - Admirals Club at GRU is a joke (just a little better than sitting on the gate area);
    - Rude and old flight attendants. It looks like they feel angry they are not on the schedule to fly to a more fancy place like Paris or London. They do the basic and react as you mentioned when a first class passenger asks for a chicken pea soup. Had the same opinion you had that they always seem to rush to finish the service so they can chat at the front of the plane.

    Regarding GRU airport, as a Brazilian I am ashamed that it is the main airport in the country. The poor lounges is related to a really bad airport.

  • Travelista

    I was underwhelmed by the pictures from First, but actually think Business class looks rather nice!
    By the way – what’s wrong with Gosset champagne? It certainly beats Moët/Veuve/Taittinger/Roederer.
    Having said that, how dare they serve Gosset in First??

  • http://twitter.com/ptahcha Peter (P-Tah) C.

    AA does not offer turndown in business – only in first. Also, I’m surprised at the mediocre wine selection – they were pretty good a year ago.

  • Ethan

    INTL transfer security in GRU a couple weeks ago had the “shoes off, liquids out” stopover. Interesting they didn’t do it.

  • Rob MSP

    Solid review, have been looking forward to this. The new AA fleet can’t come soon enough!

  • http://www.facebook.com/matt.berg.73 Matt Berg

    Thanks for the review.  The new American Business Class looks great, very similar to Cathay’s New Business Class and a huge step up from the old 2-3-2 layout.  I always found it bizarre that you could pay all that money for a Business Class ticket and still end up in a middle seat.  It’s just too bad that the saver award availability on any 777-300er route from NYC is virtually non-existent; even if booked 11 months in advance.  You commented on the great privacy, but could you tell if the privacy in the 2 middle seats make it too difficult to speak to the person next to you?  Would you recommend the middle seats for a couple on a honeymoon?

  • thepointsguy

    You’d have to lean forward to speak, but it isn’t terrible. Definitely better than doing a window and an aisle, in my opinion

  • thepointsguy

    Agree with pretty much everything, though not all flight attendants are old/rude..

  • http://twitter.com/WanderngAramean Wandering Aramean

    Isn’t 2 guests in the lounge pretty much standard with the AmEx Platinum card, regardless of status??

  • Robert

    AA premium service will never match their Asian, European or MIddle Eastern rivals since U.S. flght attendants do not have a genuine service ethic. I hate to admit this as an american, but It is beneath them to provide services beyond what is spelled out in their procedures manual. New planes and better seats will never correct that.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=3300410 Carl Cheng

    Since it’s like Cathay’s, the middle seats actually work quite well. I flew with a friend and you can move your seats forward past the divider and see and chat quite easily. I think it’s better than window/aisle so you won’t have attendants moving between you and you won’t have to shout and disturb other passengers.

  • Julia

    Sounds like it’s as you said, Int’l Transfer security check, whereas he was originating in GRU, not transferring through.

  • Suzy

    I’ve heard that the new planes are supposed to have a better system for conditioning the air, that leaves it less dry. Did you happen to notice if this was true? The dry air on long haul flights is the part that’s most difficult for me to handle.

  • HeraSentMe

    No shoes off and my mother brought me a snickerdoodle yesterday GOT-PAID a whole dollar for being a travel industry online shill.

  • Smitty

    Correct!

  • JBC

    Correction , turn down service isn’t offered in business class only first class. Also Bose headsets need to be collected 1 hour before landing as they need to be all inventoried and locked before landing . Also a lot is going on for the cabin crew towards the end of the flight especially in the last hour with hot towels , arrival drink , handing of coats back, liquor inventory and bar breakdown .

  • http://twitter.com/PatrickDahlke Patrick Dahlke

    For the price…. Business is a better bang for your buck!

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  • Gib

    American Express Platinum Members can bring 2 guests into the club, regardless of status, and Centurion Members may bring 3 guests into the club, or one guest into the Flagship Lounge, regardless of status.

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  • Chris

    I am disappointed they don’t have the 777-300′s for their JFK-GIG routes! They are still using the old blasted 767′s which are blah.

  • Jaan

    I absolutely agree… the product can be improved, but the quality of service is just as important. I reluctantly fly AA a lot for work due to corporate contracts and loathe the experience. My last flight on FIRST on AA – Sao Paulo to New York City – the attendants spent a large part of the flight sitting in the First seats, reading or eating. LAZY! When I asked *very politely * for a mid-flight snack, I was asked if I could wait until after the pilots had their toilet break… which I’m happy to do. It was half an hour till the attendant came back to ask what I’d like to eat. And, this is in FIRST class. Disappointing.

  • Jaan

    I flew FIRST and was never offered the turn down service. As I mentioned above, the flight attendants were too busy reading the paper or eating… in the FIRST seats.

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  • Carl McCaskill

    As a flight attendant at AA with 24 years of experience, I treat each passenger with respect and I consistently go above and beyond for each passenger. I have flown on every major Asian carrier. While their flight attendants are very polite and do an excellent service, if you are ever on an Asian carrier and something goes wrong, such as spilling a can of tomato juice on a passenger, they don’t know what to do and often freeze with fear, while a flight attendant at AA would just go to the Purser and ask to upgrade that passenger and try to do everything possible to rectify the situation. Most of the flight attendants on the international side are very aware of treating the passengers as well as possible. I don’t fly domestic flights so I honestly can not comment on that side of the operation. I am a Purser for AA, if you are on one of my flights, you will be treated with the utmost respect and kindness. I honer each passenger and I am thankful for their choice to fly with AA.

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