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As part of my whirlwind trip to Brazil, South Korea and China, I flew JFK-GRU on the new American Airlines 777-300ER. My ticket was a total of $1,238 for Economy (round-trip with a return later in the year); I then used one of the eight EVIPs I receive each year to instantly upgrade to business, which otherwise would have cost more than $5,000—which is why I love being an American AAdvantage Executive Platinum member.
To Redeem or To Buy?
A one-way US to Brazil business class Saver award ticket will cost you only 50,000 American AAdvantage miles, but can run up to 150,000 miles for an AAnytime award. Since there was no saver award availability, I decided to buy a ticket.
To break it down, for this leg of the trip, my EVIP saved me $2,006.15 by allowing me to upgrade a $619 one-way Economy fare to what would have been a $2,625.15 one-way business class fare. Considering you get eight EVIPS a year, this is why I continue to re-qualify for Executive Platinum and think it’s the most generous top-tier airline elite status out there.
That being said, American has gotten stingier with releasing advanced upgrade space, especially on the new planes. For me, I’m a last-minute booker, but I’d love to see more advanced award space. ExpertFlyer is great for setting alerts to determine if upgrade space is available.
The flagship lounge at JFK is nice. Only first class ticket holders have access to the lounge, and being Executive Platinum or Oneworld Emerald gets you access as well. They had a decent buffet— they’ve really upped their game recently. And their serve-yourself bar with high-end liquors like Patrón is a nice touch. It’s pretty comfortable, and never too crowded.
My only real complaint about the ground experience has less to do with American Airlines, per se, than it does with JFK. For every genuinely nice employee you come across at this busy airport, you have an equal number of gruff, cranky workers who seem to be at the limit of their patience.
When they called boarding for first and business class in the lounge, we left and wound up standing at the gate for about a half-hour. As a special pre-boarding treat we landed a gate agent who was nearing the end of their shift, which, combined with the general demeanor of airline employees at JFK, made for a boarding experience that felt anything but “business class.”
Anyway, onto the flight.
I thought the mood lighting on board—which I’d describe as “patriotic bordello”—would be just for takeoff, but it was for the whole flight. It was a little extreme, but at least it didn’t bother my eyes. If any of you have an opinion on the plane’s AMERICA, YEAH! lighting, let me know in the comments.
The seat was massive and comfortable, with a 26-inch width, 46-inch pitch, and 78-inch lie-flat beds. And the business class configuration is nice as well, with only four across—compared to United’s six across (or even eight across) business class on international 777-200s.
There were plenty of 110v plugs, the Audio Video On Demand (AVOD) entertainment system had lots of new releases, and WiFi on board meant that I could check my TPG To Go app during the flight and stay up to date with the site.
I was offered the Heritage amenity kit, which I just love. Mine was for Reno Air and the felted-wool pouch itself is really cool. It contained all the basics as well as skincare items by New York-based botanical toiletries line Red Flower.
While I like the immediate food service so I can sleep longer, come on, AA—serving sauce in an aluminum container with a cap?! The whole meal was just meh. I would love to see AA up their wine and Champagne game, too. The options were pretty bad. They’ll never be the best airline in the world, but they’ve got a great product and could make it so much better by not serving slop and $10 wine.
I basically slept the whole flight; it’s not often I feel truly rested after a full eight hours’ sleep on a long-haul flight. But I woke up after breakfast service, and couldn’t even get a juice or some fruit as the flight attendants were too busy yanking the Bose headphones off everyone’s heads a full hour before landing. (I’ve always hated this.) I had to convince the attendant that my Bose were in fact mine.
Overall, though, a comfortable flight and a great deal with the upgrade. As I mentioned in a previous post, my return to the States was actually the first leg of the trip to Asia, for which I used awards, but I booked a round-trip JFK-GRU ticket because it was cheaper than one-way. Always remember to look into round-trip tickets for additional cost savings when purchasing your tickets outright. Oh—one last thing: My favorite perk of AAdvantage Executive Platinum status is getting eight upgrade certificates good for any paid coach fare to business class (based on availability). This is the main reason why I continue to fly American year after year. Loyalty should go both ways.