American’s 777-200s are being retrofitted, and the first one is now in service with a brand new business class that looks fantastic but no longer offering first class.
Since American’s 777-300ER aircraft got a new first class, that means the old Flagship Suites are being retired.
I reviewed American’s first class lounge at New York JFK at the start of the trip.
From the lounge I proceeded to the departure gate just as boarding was already starting to commence.
And there she was! It’s like a throwback to what feels like an earlier time. There’s great space, even some ingeniousness to the seat. They’ve enhanced the soft product over the past three years. But at its core is a large first class cabin (too large for modern economcis) with a seat that’s been left behind by the competition, with privacy provided only by passengers being angled away from each other.
The seat swivels. The most unique feature is that you can turn the seat to face many directions with about a 180 degree turn. If you’re traveling with someone, turn complete to face them and they can do the same.
I didn’t take a picture of it that way, but here are middle seats with a divider up between them which can be lowered for passengers traveling together.
There’s a blanket and mattress pad with small pillow in first class, it was on the seat’s ottoman. And there’s a big pillow and blanket above the seat in the overhead, too. Together they make for quite nice bedding.
Amenity kits were distributed.
Menus were distributed as well. You can pre-order your order through the same system American uses for domestic flights — which is to say you choose from an option that’s also on this menu, not from a longer selection of off-menu items the way that Singapore and Thai allow.
Pajamas were distributed. I do like American’s pajamas, my older pairs have washed and lasted well.
On takeoff I was asked my meal choice, I chose the steak and asked for their quick service since I wanted to go to sleep right away.
I was asked if I wanted to be woken for breakfast. My preference is not to be, though I’m usually up by then or at least I’ll wake up when breakfast service begins.
For dinner I first asked for Dine Upon Request service. This is how it’s described.
Want to Eat but Need to Sleep?
In order to allow you to sleep as long as possible, you may choose our Dine Upon Request® service which allows your meal to be presented all at once, at the time you desire.
I thought I might sleep, and take my meal later. I was really beat. But I was told that they don’t do that, it wasn’t possible. Which seemed strange to me since the offering is even a registered trademark of American. But instead I skipped the soup and salad and just had them bring my entree and appetizer.
I did also have them bring the ice cream sundae, I had just a few bites and then made my bed.
This was the first time in international first class where there’s been bedding and I’ve made my own bed. That was fine, and the bedding is quite comfortable and so is the seat.
I slept on and off for six hours, which was fantastic. I was up, breakfast was served. It was fine though I’ve have better eggs on most other carriers.
Ultimately I will miss this seat, I sleep well in it. And I will miss having a cabin that’s as large with so many seats. American will have far fewer planes with first class, and those have fewer first class seats still. They have too many now on the 777-200 which is why first class awards (and upgrades) have been pretty easy to get.
At the same time, the business seats will be quite good. And it’s certainly time for a cabin refresh. For instance, the 777-200 I was on was held together with tin foil…
They do hold business and economy passengers while first class deplanes, there are some clear areas where the service elements are spot on (not least of which the bedding and pajamas) and some elements where they’re behind (service is entirely crew-dependent and the meals are nearly identical to what’s offered in business class). It makes sense that for the most part American will be focused on a strong business class going forward, where they do very well, rather than the sort of top end service that American companies don’t often pay for and Asian carriers provide better.