First Class Ameican Airlines AA193 Los Angeles-Hong Kong
Price
Quality
Support
Overall
Summary: Despite the decline of first class across the industry, American Airlines still strives to offer the ultimate flying...
4.8great

Despite the decline of first class across the industry, American Airlines still strives to offer the ultimate flying experience in its first class cabin on its new flights between Los Angeles and Hong Kong, discovers Nick Walton.

AA193 Los Angeles-Hong Kong

Despite the decline of first class across the industry, American Airlines still strives to offer the ultimate flying experience in its first class cabin on its new flights between Los Angeles and Hong Kong, discovers Nick Walton.

Background

Very few airlines offer first class today, but on ultra-long-haul routes, the extra perks that come with sitting at the very front of the plane can make all the difference for time-poor travellers looking to make the most of their time in their destination. American Airlines offers the only true international first class product in North America, extending its premium product to its Boeing 777-300ER aircraft flying between Asia and Dallas and Los Angeles.

Check in/The Lounge

I had checked in for my onward flight before arriving in Los Angeles so made my way directly from my arrival gate to American Airlines’ Admirals Club and its makeshift Flagship Lounge, a space reserved for first class passengers while the new lounge is under construction. Located at the back of the Admirals Club, this is a basic but serenely quiet space, with arm chairs, bar tables, work stations, and a buffet selection in an adjacent room. There was a great bar set up, a busy coffee machine, and access to well-maintained shower suites. The new-look Flagship Lounge, when it opens in at the end of the year, promises to be spectacular, and will offer restaurant-style dining, make-your-own-cocktail stations, additional space, and dedicated shower suites. The only thing lacking at the makeshift lounge were working power points; very few seemed to be connected to the grid.

Flagship-Dining

AA’s new look Flagship Lounge will open later this year

 

The Seat

The flight was full but first class passengers were given a head start onto the 777-300ER, which features eight first class seats in a 1-2-1 configuration, of which seven were occupied for the overnight flight.

American Airlines’ Flagship Suite seat is spacious, modern and elegant – it doesn’t have the ultra-modern look of the airline’s business class seat (of which I’m a big fan), but instead looks like something you’d find in a private jet, with plush leather, plenty of storage space, an expansive 17-inch personal monitor, and the ability to tweak the seat configuration for movies or dining, to turn it towards a spacious shelf that becomes a desk in the sky, or, in the case of the centre seats, turn it to enjoy dinner with your seat mate. There’s also the essentials, including a built-in dish for smartphones, complete with a USB port; a compartment with a pair of international AC sockets; a connection to use your own device on the in-seat entertainment system; and blissful AA-branded Bose noise-cancelling headphones, a god-sent amenity given how many screaming children there were in the business class cabin beyond.

Once passengers found their own seats, cheerful but slightly flustered crew served glasses of sparkling wine (which I declined, preferring to wait for the Laurent Pierrer Grand Siecle Champagne on the menu), warm smoked almonds, stylish leather amenity kits by Cole Haan (although they were the transcontinental kits and not the airline’s new international version) and sets of signature pajamas.

When converted into a 77-inch long bed, the seat is superbly comfortable, offering a truly brilliant sleep, which is the deciding factor for many business travellers.

We departed LAX on time, with a predicted flight time of 14 hours 28 minutes.

AAL 777-300ER 1053 WE301

Dining

American Airlines has worked hard to offer a market-leading dining experience in first class, with a menu of small dishes that allow passengers the chance to linger their way through a multi-course meal paired with world-class wines selected by Intervine and Ken Chase. Unfortunately, as he took orders the pursuer persuaded each passenger not to order multiple small dishes as intended by the chef, but to simply order an appetizer and main. I opted for an heirloom tomato salad with Italian buffalo milk mozzarella and macadamia pesto; followed by King Salmon and prawns with champagne risotto and pumpkin, which I matched with a Pascal Jolivet Les Terres Blanches from Pouilly-Fume.

The dishes were well proportioned and perfectly nice but were no different than what I’d enjoyed in business class on other trips, although I hazard a guess the overall dining experience would have been much better if offered the way it was designed, perhaps during the day.

I skipped dessert, which included a choice of the airline’s signature ice cream sundae; mixed berry pavlova; and poached pear with warm red wine sauce.

Breakfast, served 90 minutes before arrival in Hong Kong, was also similar to business class breakfasts past and included the choice of an American breakfast with scrambled eggs, Applewood bacon and roasted potatoes; chow mein noodles with beef brisket; or a continental breakfast of yogurt and granola.

Entertainment

American Airlines’ entertainment system is one of its leading drawcards and the ability to not only connect to wifi (unlimited for US$19) but also connect your own device is great. Even after multiple long-haul flights with the airline over a space of a few months I still found plenty of television shows and movies to enjoy.

Service

Even in first class, where American Airlines’ crew should be performing at their peak, service still needs refinement and consistency. Some cabin attendants had finesse and whisked passengers away to the golden era of flying, with a great understanding of the wine list and a sense of pedigree you’d expect in a fine-dining restaurant; others didn’t seem to see a distinction between cabins and brutishly fussed through the dinner service like they were working coach. When it came to getting some sleep, passengers made up their own beds, a service that’s offered in business class on many carriers, while crew retreated to the galley, staying there for much of the flight.

AAL 777-300ER 1053 WE301

What We Loved

I can honestly say this was the most comfortable seat I’ve ever slept in. I also love the intuitive design.

What We Didn’t

As a big fan of American’s business class product, I find first class to lack privacy. Service needs a shakeup.

Summary

American Airlines has all the competitive hardware components to offer a world-class product, but the airline’s staff need to get onboard. Even with its compelling business class product, the carrier’s first class offering would maintain the old-world charms of flying’s heyday, and seduce premium travellers, if only it was executed as it was intended. www.aa.com

American Airlines Hong Kong-Los Angeles in First Class from HK$55,000 (US$7,052); www.aa.com

Recommend to friends
  • gplus
  • pinterest

Leave a comment