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Transport : Airlines

I flew in a Boeing 777-300ER (B77W) of American Airlines (AA) transatlantic overnight from New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK) to London’s Heathrow Airport (LHR) in the First Class cabin. As a comparison, read my trip report of Business Class on the B777 on the same route.

For this flight, I booked a Business Class ticket and used one of my AAdvantage (AA’s loyalty program) systemwide upgrades to get a seat into AA’s First Class cabin.

The Boeing 777-300ER or B77W is currently AA’s largest wide-body plane and AA owns 27 of these planes. While AA’s B77W has one of the best longhaul Business Class products in the world (and is your best airline and business choice for a transatlantic trip), I was less impressed by their First Class product. The difference between First Class and AA’s excellent Business Class is only very marginal. In fact, I would argue that it is not worth spending the money or the miles to upgrade from Business to First. Yes, the suite has more space, the seat can be turned into an office desk, there is turndown service (with a duvet and an extra pillow), and you get an extra course (soup) with your meal. But I really could not find any other differences.

At New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, AA offers their AA flagship lounge which I have already reviewed. From the lounge, it was only a 5 minute walk to the gate where the B77W plane was ready for boarding.

First Class Cabin on American Airlines
AA’s B77W has 8 seats in First Class, 52 in Business Class, 30 seats in Main Cabin Extra (that is how AA designates its premium Economy Class), and 220 seats in Economy Class. A flight attendant who guided me to the First Class cabin, which is located in the nose of the B77W, behind the cockpit. With just 8 seats, the First Class cabin feels airy, spacious and private. Seats are placed in two rows in a 1-2-1 layout, all have direct aisle access. The best seats in the cabin are the 4 First Class seats on the sides which are ideal for solo travellers with a generous 3 windows per seat, while the 4 seats in the middle are perfect for those traveling with a companion. If you are a solo traveler and you end up in one the middle seats, there’s no problem as you can rise a divider for added privacy. I suggest to avoid the window seats in row 1 (1A and 1J), since the proximity to the galley may be bothersome, especially during a night flight.

The First Class Seat
The seat very comfortable and spacious one. But remarkably, the First Class suite itself is less private as compared to the Business Class seat since it lacks a shelling compartment.

The seat has several storage locations for your personal items; a bottle holder next to the seat, a shoe storage in a cabinet next to the ottoman, a coat hook on the panel in front of you and a small storage compartment at the back of the working table that has a mirror and contains a bottle of water and American’s noise-canceling Bose headphones. The latter cabinet also contains the power port (universal AC power outlet and USB port). The seat features a very large tray table in addition to the work surface so you can keep working while eating, which – given the extended meal service – is a productive and nice touch. There’s also a tray next to the working table with convenient USB charging.

Every part of the seat, including the seat back, head and leg rest, are adjustable using the seat control touchscreen device that you can find on the working table. The seat itself can also be aligned to various position: the take-off position, a position which aligns with the ottoman (and in which the seat can be transformed into a fully lie-flat bed), and a position in which the seat faces the windows, transforming the suite in a very comfortable working office.

As mentioned above, the seat can be reclined 180°, forming – together with the large ottoman – a comfortable bed. A duvet is provided, which increases the sleeping comfort. The ottoman also has a separate seat belt, so it can serve as an extra seat in case you want to have dinner with a companion.

As a First Class passenger, I received black pyjamas, red slippers, a voucher for access to AA’s arrival lounge at London Heathrow and an amenity bag, which contained essentials like an eye mask, earplugs, wash cloth, toothbrush, toothpaste, a pen, socks, and Red Flower body lotion, face cream and lip balm. The bedding – which was placed on the ottoman during boarding – was superb: a blanket, duvet and two thick pillows. In comparison: Business Class passengers only get the blanket with one pillow, no pyjamas nor slippers, and a limited-edition heritage amenity kit, which contains the same essentials as in the First Class bag. American Airlines have just launched a new Business and First Class amenity kit but it is not noteworthy when compared to the best airline amenity kits.

Food
Dinner service started soon after takeoff, and the courses were served in quick succession. First, I was served an apéritif with an assortment of mixed nuts. For the starter, I ordered the beet and goat cheese ravioli, with mixed greens, balsamic glaze, and crushed pistachios. I then had the creamy carrot soup, with hilo ginger and fresh parsley, which I found to be the highlight of the dinner. Next, I was served a salad of mixed greens with artichokes, roasted tomatoes, feta cheese, and creamy Italian dressing. As main course, I had the seared halibut with gremolata, sautéed tomato fennel, lemon risotto, and broccolini. Dessert was a warm pecan tart, topped with vanilla ice cream. The food was good but not great and the menu – except for the soup – was 100% identical to the one during my AA Business Class trip the previous year.

After the main meal service, a walk-up bar stocked with snacks and refreshments was set up in the galley for First Class passengers. It was a very nice spread of a large assortment of snacks that was constantly replenished during the flight. It’s similar to the Business Class set up bar.

60 minutes prior to landing, breakfast was served. One could order broccoli and red pepper strata, with smoked chicken sausage and roasted potatoes, but I just had a fresh fruit bowl, with granola and yoghurt.

A 17-inch touchscreen monitor is located in front of the seat, above the ottoman. It can be released by pressing a button located under the working table. The inflight entertainment itself can be controlled using the touchscreen or a dedicated control unit. The Panasonic inflight entertainment itself features an impressive catalogue of 120 movies, 150 TV shows, and more than 350 audio selections.

WiFi was available for purchase once on board the aircraft: a 2 hour pass for $12, a 4 hour pass for $17, or a duration of flight pass for $19. I found the WiFi speed was ok, but was not complimentary, even for passengers in the premium cabins.

Is AA First Class much better than AA B77W Business Class?
Should I spend AAdvantage systemwide upgrade voucher, money or miles to upgrade from Business to First on American Airlines? AA’s Flagship First Class suite is very comfortable, but it does not feel hugely luxury compared to other airlines like Qatar Airways, Emirates or Etihad Airways. In addition, AA’s Business Class is so good that the difference with First Class is only very marginal. AA is also about to roll out it’s Super Diamond Business Class across its fleet that will further improve Business. If you have an AAdvantage systemwide upgrade voucher then why not treat yourself, but without much difference in the food or seats, the upgrade from Business to First with miles or money simply is not worth it.

I have also reviewed the American Airlines new Super Diamond Business Class product and my American Airlines Long Haul Business Class reviews along with my other American Airlines First Class Reviews.

It is worth reading my tips on how to find cheap and discounted First or Business Class flight tickets to and from North America.

Review by my friends at Luxury Travel Expert