Flight Review: American Airlines (777-300ER) Business Class, Dallas to Hong Kong
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Originally added to AA's fleet in 2013, the Boeing 777-300ER (77W) business-class seat is still considered by many to the carrier's best premium cabin seat. The now 10-wide economy seating, though? Not so much.
While positioning to Taipei (TPE) for a series of mileage runs, I was beyond excited when one of my four Executive Platinum systemwide upgrades cleared, essentially giving me the holy grail — Dallas (DFW) to Hong Kong (HKG). With more than 16 hours in the air, I would be able to completely experience AA's 777-300ER business-class product on the longest flight in the American Airlines network. Unfortunately, it wasn't as much of a joy as I hoped it would be.
Since I haven't been able to snag a Chase Sapphire Reserve yet, I used my just-acquired Citi Prestige Card to book this trip. Not only did I earn 3x points on the purchase — yielding me 2,250 ThankYou points that'll be helpful for booking future American Airlines flights — I also was able to get one third of the $750 I paid for this ticket back thanks to the card's $250 annual travel credit, as you can see below.
When I opened my itinerary on AA's website 14 hours before departure, I noticed that my Main Cabin Extra seat assignment had disappeared. Before getting upset, I realized my cabin was now being listed as business, so, I selected a business-class seat, assuming this meant my systemwide upgrade had cleared, but found it strange that American had never notified me about it. 30 minutes later — about 14 hours before it was time to go — I received an email and a notification through the AA app saying that my 10:45am departure to HKG had been moved to 4:30pm. Wanting to avoid having an eight-hour layover at DFW, I called and requested to be rebooked on a later flight from Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS) to DFW and — since the delay now meant I would miss my connecting flight from HKG — rebooked on the next Oneworld flight from HKG to Taipei (TPE).
Since there weren't any other flights from HKG-TPE that would depart after our delayed arrival in HKG, I was going to have to spend the night in Hong Kong before flying out the next day from HKG. Although it was unclear from speaking with American Airlines phone agents whether or not a hotel would be covered, I knew I'd at least be protected by the Citi Prestige Card's delay benefits if AA refused to help.
When I arrived at AUS, the check-in agent struggled to find my reservation and claimed the changes made the previous night hadn't been completed. The agent said my ticket was still pending and that multiple flights were now oversold. It took her about 30 minutes — most of which she spent on the phone with AA reservations — before the situation was finally resolved.
Once at DFW, I went to the Terminal D Admirals Club, which has plenty of seating and desks, great views of the apron for plane spotting, a staffed bar, self-serve snack areas and showers.
My layover was short so I went straight to the International First Class Dining room. As an Executive Platinum member on a same-day international itinerary, I was given an invite card for the dining room at the check-in counter. A lounge attendant greeted me at the entrance, took my invite card and notified me that lunch entrées were being served until 4:00pm.
Although on the lighter side, I put together a meal composed of a fruit cup, cranberry salad, deli meat, cheese and chicken noodle soup. I ordered Champagne with my meal, which was of higher-quality than what's normally available with drink tickets at the lounge bar.
Cabin and Seat
The 1-2-1 business-class cabin configuration is excellent for solo travelers, as it prioritizes privacy and provides direct aisle access to all passengers. The cabin and seat of this aircraft were covered in greater detail in this review, which, unfortunately, was cut short when the purser stopped TPG Editor-in-Chief Zach Honig from taking photos onboard.
This seat is certainly one of the best — if not the best — in AA's fleet. Fully upright, it's comfortable whether you're reading, eating, watching TV or working on a laptop. Beside each seat, you'll find a universal AC power port, USB outlet and AV input. The seat-side compartments are well-placed and plentiful. The seats themselves are all forward-facing and not interconnected so they don't rock when your neighbor moves.
The self-serve food and beverage area was located in the front galley. There were two bathrooms at the back of the cabin as well as two at the front. The ones in the back were small and basic — there was simple gray flooring, but no touch-free sink and no lotion — while the two in the front had classier sinks, touch-free functionality, lotion, faux-wood flooring and more space.
As I was boarding, a flight attendant hurried down the aisle ahead of me distributing business-class amenity kits from a black trash bag. Although this wasn't the most elegant way to present them, the amenity kits were just fine, consisting of a signature Cole Haan bag containing an eye mask, socks, earplugs, headphone covers, a pen, toothbrush and toothpaste, lotion, lip balm, mouthwash and tissues.
Before departure, newspapers — including The New York Times, USA Today and a Chinese-language newspaper — were distributed to passengers from a cart. Apparently, pajamas were also available from this cart, although the flight attendants failed to mention this. I only learned about them mid-flight after noticing that several other business-class passengers were wearing AA-branded pajamas. When I asked a flight attendant for a pair, she said that no pajamas were stocked onboard, the only time I could've gotten them was during the boarding process. She also mentioned that DFW-HKG is one of the few routes on which the carrier offers business-class passengers pajamas at all.
Each seat was stocked with Bose noise-canceling headphones and a water bottle in a window-side compartment. Slippers were also waiting at each seat. The Bose headphones were comfortable and worked well — they were collected an hour before landing, at which point I switched to using my own headphones.
The IFE screen was large and bright, with the usual selection of television shows, movies and music normally found on AA international flights, as well as a few live TV stations with sports and news.
I bought a Panasonic Wi-Fi pass for the entire 16-hour flight for $19. I tested the speed twice — once shortly after the departure meal and once six hours before landing. The first test showed 1.71 Mbps download and 0.43 Mbps upload, while the second test fared even worse, with 0.76 Mbps download and 0.05 Mbps upload. Overall, both speeds were acceptable for checking emails and sending small file transfers, but lagged too much to work efficiently for anything more than that.
There was a bedding kit provided at each seat that contained a full-size pillow, a warm comforter and a mattress pad. After reclining my seat into a fully flat bed, I slept comfortably for four hours near the end of the flight.
Food and Beverage
During the boarding process, we were offered a choice of water, orange juice or sparkling wine, while the departure meal service started shortly after takeoff. Meal orders were taken, lemon-scented towels were distributed and tablecloths were laid across the tables within 15 minutes of departure.
My seat, 14A, was located in the second-to-last row of the business-class cabin, so it wasn't surprising that the beverage service didn't reach me until 40 minutes after takeoff. For what it's worth, although the menu listed "warm mixed nuts," the ones I received were cold.
About 20 minutes after drinks were served, the char siu duck small plate and seasonal greens salad were passed around with a choice of white or multigrain bread. The duck was too fatty for my taste, but arrived on an appealing medley of ginger, beets and shallots. The salad was composed of just greens and mushrooms, which was surprisingly plain.
My main plate was served about 20 minutes after the appetizer and salad course. We were given five choices for dinner: coffee-braised short rib, beef Wellington, shrimp Panang, cauliflower steak or an antipasto plate. Although I am not a vegetarian, I do try to limit my meat consumption, so I opted for the sole vegetarian option, cauliflower steak.
Unfortunately, what I was served didn't look like cauliflower steak, but I figured it was merely presented in an unexpected manner, so I ate the asparagus side before cutting into what was clearly red meat. After notifying a flight attendant, I was eventually brought the correct dish. The cauliflower was well-seasoned, while the farro that was served with it was perfectly textured and buttery.
An ice-cream sundae, chocolate sea salt caramel tart and a cheese plate were listed in the menu, but my dinner setting was cleared after I finished my cauliflower steak with no offer of dessert. I could've flagged down a flight attendant and asked, but I decided to do some work instead.
The mid-flight snack was served just under six hours into the flight, a choice between hummus and beef sliders. I ordered the hummus, but found that the snack actually contained — wait for it — no hummus! Instead, it was made up of pita bread, prosciutto, olives and pesto-marinated mozzarella. The snack was small, but provided a little taste of all four things. My plate was removed promptly once I finished eating.
Breakfast was served 90 minutes before landing, a choice between a continental or traditional American breakfast. I chose the traditional American breakfast and received scrambled eggs, Canadian bacon and roasted potatoes — the roasted potatoes were perfectly cooked, while the bacon was overcooked and the eggs looked and tasted like powdered eggs. Both meal choices were served with a side of yogurt, a croissant and a small fruit plate. The fruit was surprisingly fresh and contained blueberries, mango, cantaloupe and kiwi.
Although the AA employees in the lounge — especially in the International First Class Dining area — were helpful and friendly, I was disappointed by the service on this flight. A flight attendant introduced herself to the passengers on the left side of the business cabin one by one shortly after takeoff, and during each of these interactions, she recorded departure meal choices. When she got to my seat, I saw her correctly write down my choice of cauliflower steak. Despite this, as noted above, I was served the wrong main dish. When I rang the call button to address this, a different flight attendant tried to dismiss me as if I'd ordered the wrong dish. After I insisted that I ordered the vegetarian option, she walked away in a huff — without any indication of whether I'd be getting another dish. A different flight attendant returned soon after with my (correct) meal, but there was never any acknowledgement of the mistake from any of the cabin crew.
After I finished my main course, everything was taken away with no offer of dessert. Despite being awake and working on my laptop without headphones, I wasn't offered anything until the mid-flight snack. This wouldn't be noteworthy except that the flight attendants offered passengers seated around me drinks, additional desserts and snacks multiple times without them even having to ask.
Thanks to the substantial delay, I'd missed my original connection to Taipei. Since the next Oneworld flight to TPE departed the next morning, I was pleased to find a representative waiting for me with a sign when I deplaned — he walked two other passengers and me to the connected Regal Airport Hotel, where I was put up for the night.
The hard product on American Airlines' 777-300ER is one of my favorites. The seats provide privacy, comfort and excellent storage and are great for working and sleeping. But the soft product — especially the service by the flight attendants — was severely lacking on this flight. From unapologetically serving me the wrong entrée to never offering dessert and seemingly providing superior service to those around me, I was very disappointed with my experience on this AA long-haul flight.
Have you flown in business class on AA's 777-300ER? Tell us about your experience, below. Hopefully it was better than mine!
All photos by the author.