Mind the Gap: American Airlines (777-200) Business With B/E Aerospace Super Diamond Seats
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To The Point
When you fly American Airlines’ 777-200 business class, you’re rolling the dice on whether you’ll get an aircraft with Zodiac seats or B/E Aerospace Super Diamond seats — and you won’t know until you board. I lucked into the B/E Aerospace seats on a recent flight to Hawaii. Pros: lots of space for working, many IFE options, the best entrée I’ve eaten on AA. Cons: not great for side sleepers, slow Wi-Fi, an unusually large gap in my seat.
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When you fly business class on American Airlines’ 777-200, you have to cross your fingers hoping you’ll get the B/E Aerospace Super Diamond seats and not the rocking Zodiac seats. Even if you know which tail numbers have which seats, AA oftentimes swaps which versions of the 777-200 aircraft it assigns to a route, so you may experience multiple highs and lows in short succession. In the end, you’re rolling the dice on which seat you’ll get when flying business class on AA’s 777-200.
At a flight time of almost eight hours, American Airlines’ flight from Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) to Kona (KOA) is longer than many of its international flights from the East Coast to Europe. Because of that, if you’re an AA elite, Hawaii flights hit an excellent sweet spot, as you don’t need to use a systemwide upgrade to upgrade and there’s often ample business-class availability (since Hawaii is primarily a leisure destination).
Here’s my take on AA’s 777-200 business class with B/E Aerospace Super Diamond seats from DFW to Kona.
Deals to Hawaii from $300s to under $500 round-trip are relatively common. So if you want to visit Hawaii and have flexible dates, just wait for a deal. TPG writer (and my husband) JT Genter and I booked our Hawaii trip during one of these many deals and paid $414 round-trip per person.
We booked through the Chase travel portal in hopes the fare would code as special fares. It did, so we earned award miles and Elite Qualifying Dollars based on flight mileage instead of cost. We each earned 8,182 Elite Qualifying Miles, 820 Elite Qualifying Dollars and 9,004 award miles — 4,092 base miles and 4,912 bonus miles thanks to my Executive Platinum status. Based on TPG’s current valuations, the award miles we each earned were worth about $126.
Our original check-in was in Atlanta (ATL). Although we’ve both had subpar customer-service experiences in Atlanta, this time everyone we interacted with from the check-in agent to lounge attendants was excellent.
Our flight from Atlanta deplaned into Terminal D at Dallas/Fort Worth. Until recently, there were four lounges in Terminal D that we would’ve been able to use: the American Express Centurion Lounge, accessible through The Platinum Card® from American Express; American Airlines Admirals Club Terminal D, accessible through JT’s Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard; The Club DFW, accessible with Priority Pass; and Minute Suites, accessible for one hour with Priority Pass.
JT laid out the state of Terminal D’s lounges in a full post, but to keep things short: It was sad. The Centurion Lounge was closed and won’t be reopening — at least in its previous location — the AA lounge is being renovated into a Flagship Lounge, and The Club at DFW is at a temporary location.
We stopped by the temporary The Club at DFW, located where a small bar had once been.
At breakfast time, there were two food options: a prepackaged pastry or a small yogurt cup. The drink options were limited as well, consisting of apple juice, orange juice, filter coffee and mixer drinks. Check-in to the lounge took about five minutes because of technical difficulties, and when we left there was a long line of people waiting. Stopping by this temporary lounge wasn’t worth going out of our way — it was small and had limited food, drinks and seating.
Boarding for our flight to Kona took place in Terminal A. Strangely, the gate used wasn’t well-equipped in terms of seating and boarding area for a widebody aircraft that could carry up to 273 passengers.
A flat tire on the inbound aircraft caused a 55-minute delay. As tends to frequently be the case with AA delays, the 11:10am scheduled departure was pushed to 11:30am after the scheduled boarding time had passed. Then the 11:30am departure time was pushed to 11:45am before being pushed again to 12:05pm. Although maintenance delays are understandable, these incremental pushes in departure time were frustrating because they forced passengers to wait at the gate throughout the entire delay.
Boarding was chaotic, with large groups boarding during pre-boarding and the Concierge Key group. By the time we boarded as the first people in Group 1 — the group in which most business-class passengers should board — the business-class cabin was mostly full.
That being said, there was a nice vibe on board the aircraft during boarding, with Hawaiian-themed music playing and about half of the flight attendants wearing leis.
Cabin and Seat
American has two versions of its 777-200 — one with B/E Aerospace Super Diamond seats and one with the rocking Zodiac seats that TPG‘s Zach Honig experienced recently. The maddening part is that you never know for sure which product you’re getting until you board the aircraft.
I experienced this madness for myself on an AA 777-200 flight last September. The aircraft assigned to our 10-and-a-half-hour redeye flight was installed with B/E Aerospace seats, but a last-minute equipment change put us on an aircraft with the Zodiac Concept D seating. My neighbor didn’t understand the seat-rocking issues and woke me up repeatedly.
We lucked out on this flight and got B/E Aerospace seats — one of American’s best business-class products. The business-class cabin had 10 rows of 1-2-1 seating with the sixth row only containing one window seat. The first six rows were in a front cabin, while rows 7 through 10 were in a rear minicabin. Two lavatories and the primary business-class galley were between the two cabins. There was also a lavatory at the front of the aircraft.
Each seat faced forward and, inherent to the 1-2-1 configuration, had direct aisle access. The seats were 21 inches wide. For this flight, I sat in 5A and JT sat in 6L so we’d be able to collect landing videos on either side of the cabin. Yes, we’re that AvGeeky.
The 18.5-inch IFE screen was large and crisp. It wasn’t adjustable in terms of pitch or tilt, but its brightness could be adjusted in the settings menu. A table slid out from in front of the IFE screen. When unfolded, the table was about 18 inches by 17 inches. I found the table stable enough to comfortably work and eat.
The seat had three preset configurations — upright, lounge and lie-flat. The back pitch, leg pitch and lumbar support could be manually set.
The seat could lie flat in 30 seconds. When laid flat, the bed was 78 inches long. Unfortunately, my bed, as well as JT’s (at 6L), had a 3-inch gap between the back cushion and bottom cushion when the seat was laid flat. There was a smaller, yet noticeable, gap when the seat was upright. It’s worth noting that neither of our B/E Aerospace Super Diamond seats on our return trip had this gap.
Besides the large gap, the bed was relatively comfortable when flat. However, as a side sleeper, I found the decreasing width — to about 19 inches wide in the knee area — uncomfortable. Plus, the table didn’t fold away and instead sat below the IFE screen. This meant that if you turned or moved your knees while sleeping on your side, you’d wake when your knees slammed into the table. For this reason, I prefer American’s 777-300 reverse-herringbone seat over this one as the best premium seat on American.
The gap in my seat resulted in my seat belt becoming lost each time I unbuckled to get up. One time I had to completely put my seat into lie-flat position before I could retrieve the belt.
There was an armrest on the aisle side of the seat that could be raised and lowered by about 8 inches. Inside the armrest was an 8.5-inch-deep well that could hold a tablet, water bottle or similarly sized item.
On the other side of the seat were two compartments. One was about 1.5 inches deep and initially held the provided Bose headphones.
The other compartment was about 4 inches deep and contained two USB outlets, one universal power outlet and a remote for the IFE. This compartment is also where the headphone jack was.
When closed, the area on top of the compartments was great for placing items. At 13 inches deep and 33 inches long, the surface could easily handle laptops, books and more. I loved being able to move my laptop to this area when it was time to eat meals or I wanted to get up from my seat.
If you like privacy, choose a window seat. AA decided not to install privacy dividers between the middle seats, so you’d see your seatmate throughout the flight if you were seated in the middle seats. Some passengers chose to leave the compartment covers up throughout most of the flight to create a DIY divider.
There was a literature pocket near the two compartments, but there was not much space for additional material in this area.
In terms of lighting, there were overhead reading lights as well as a small reading light on the seat.
There were three business-class lavatories: one in the front of the aircraft and two between the business-class cabins. The lavatory behind 5A was larger and handicapped-accessible.
As my DFW to Kona flight was domestic, there weren’t any amenities like lotion or mouthwash in the lavatory.
Headphones and a plastic-wrapped blanket and pillow awaited passengers at each seat. The pillow provided was plush and large enough for sleeping. The comforter blanket wasn’t soft, but it was warm and also large enough for sleeping.
The headphones were the folding Bose headphones often found on American’s international business-class flights. The ones at my seat had a fraying cord, but the sound provided was still good. Although I try to limit what I carry since I’m on the road full-time, these headphones made me consider purchasing high-quality noise-canceling headphones. Unfortunately, they were collected 35 minutes before landing.
The IFE selection was surprisingly extensive. There was a separate Disney category for kids as well as tons of movies and TV shows. I fly a lot, so on some carriers I tend to have trouble finding anything I want to watch but haven’t seen yet. On this flight, this wasn’t an issue at all. Indeed, I binge-watched “The Good Place” before switching to listening to one of the many available albums. Plus, there were five live TV stations with news and sports.
This aircraft had Panasonic Wi-Fi that cost $12 for two hours, $17 for four hours and $19 for a full-flight pass. I’d hoped to work the entire flight, so I bought the $19 pass but was frustrated by the relatively poor quality — especially in terms of upload speed.
As the flight from DFW to Kona was domestic, no amenity kits were provided.
Food and Beverage
Prosecco, orange juice and water were offered on a tray during boarding.
The food on this flight was Hawaiian-themed. I had preordered the vegetarian main course, and a flight attendant confirmed my order during boarding, took my drink order and asked whether to wake me for the arrival snack.
There were five wines available on this flight: Zonin prosecco from Italy, Gnarly Head chardonnay from California, Babich Classics sauvignon blanc from New Zealand, Casa Silva Reserva Cuvee Colchagua cabernet sauvignon from Chile, and Vina Arazu syrah from Spain. There were also various spirits, whiskeys, beers, liqueurs and nonalcoholic beverages.
Tablecloths were set 20 minutes after takeoff, and bottles of cold water were distributed a few minutes later. Drinks and cold nuts with pineapple bits and coconut flakes were served 35 minutes after takeoff. Although I prefer warm nuts, I did appreciate the Hawaiian-themed nut mixture.
The small plate of char siu pork on pineapple slaw and red-leaf lettuce salad were served 24 minutes later. A choice of breads, including King’s Hawaiian rolls, was served shortly after.
There were three choices for the main plate: beef bulgogi with roasted potato medley and Asian slaw; steamed sea bass with cilantro jasmine rice and ginger soy glaze; and zucchini “meatballs” with zucchini-Parmesan-pesto spaghetti and tomato jam.
The vegetarian meatballs were excellent — they featured crisp breading and were tasty on the inside. The spaghetti was cooked perfectly, and the pesto added the perfect flavor. Despite not looking like much, this is likely the best AA business-class entrée I’ve eaten.
Dessert was a choice of AA’s signature ice cream sundae or a fruit-and-cheese plate. I opted for the sundae with pineapple-coconut compote and whipped cream — it was decadent, and I appreciated the Hawaiian-themed pineapple-coconut compote.
The arrival meal was served an hour and 37 minutes before landing. We could choose tomato-basil cream cheese dip, cherry tomato, olive and arugula, or fresh grapes and a selection of fine cheeses.
Both choices came with crackers and a piece of chocolate. I ordered the dip, which was creamy and had vegetables mixed in. There was plenty of dip — way too much for the portion of crackers provided.
As is often the case on American Airlines flights, the service was a mixed bag. The main flight attendant serving my section was friendly. It was his first trip to Kona, and he seemed excited to be on board.
None of the other flight attendants were notable, and service was generally apathetic. One specific example: A nearby passenger’s call button was ignored for about 30 minutes, at which point it was simply reset. If it had been my call button, I’d have been more proactive in seeking service, but a call button shouldn’t be ignored for nearly that long.
American’s 777-200 with B/E Aerospace Super Diamond seats is one of my favorite American business-class hard products for daytime flights because of the significant table and counterspace at each seat. However, the large gap in some seats can be uncomfortable and, as a side sleeper, the tray table on this seat frustrates me on flights where I need to sleep.
It’s interesting that American puts one of its best business-class products on the seasonal leisure route to Kona. The entire upgrade list cleared for my flight, and last-minute nonrevenue passengers filled at least three business-class seats. On my return flight, my upgrade cleared just over 24 hours before the flight.
For AA elites finding themselves a bit behind on requalifying: With the cheap fares we’ve been seeing consistently to Hawaii, the ability to find special fares and the good chance AA elites (especially Executive Platinums and Concierge Keys) have of getting upgraded, Hawaii can make for an excellent mileage run to a beautiful destination.