My review of American Airlines 77W Business Class – is it better than BA Club World? (Part 1)

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This is my review of Business Class on American Airlines Boeing 77W (777-300) between London Heathrow and New York JFK.

This is the first of two sister articles.  Today I want to consider the following question:

When redeeming Avios to the US, you often have the option to fly with BA’s partner American Airlines.  But is American Airlines business class as good as Club World?

Later this week Anika will look at this question:

When redeeming Virgin Flying Club miles to the US, you often have the option to fly with Virgin’s partner (and 49% shareholder) Delta Air Lines.  But is Delta One – the Delta business class seat – as good as Virgin Upper Class?

My flight was booked with Avios via ba.com.

At the airport

I reviewed the American Airlines First Class lounge at London Heathrow Terminal 3 here.  It isn’t great and if you’ve got any sense (and a Gold card) you’ll head for the Cathay Pacific First Class lounge instead.  Business Class passengers without a Gold card are best to hit the Qantas or Cathay lounges rather than the AA or BA ones.

The key thing you need to know is that American Airlines operates a range of long-haul Business Class seats.  Between London and New York, the best regarded option was meant to be what AA’s booking system calls the 77W – the Boeing 777-300ER (‘Extended Range’).  Parked at the gate, it looks like this – click on any photo to enlarge slightly:

Review American Airlines Business Class Boeing 777-300 77W

20 years ago, Business Class on US airlines was a laughing stock.  British Airways had its swanky flat beds (BA was the first airline to fly one) whilst the US airlines carried on for years with seats on a par with what Norwegian now flies as Premium.  Those days are long gone on Delta and American.  We are still waiting for United’s Polaris seat to arrive at Heathrow.

It takes you, oh, a whole 10 seconds after boarding to realise that the American Airlines Boeing 777-300ER business class cabin is a huge step up from British Airways Club World.  It is a 1-2-1 herringbone layout with EXCELLENT privacy:

Review American Airlines Business Class Boeing 777-300 77W

All the window seats are solo seats.  In the middle block the seats point inwards so, whilst your feet are fairly close, your head is actually nearer to the person on the other side of the aisle:

Review American Airlines Business Class Boeing 777-300 77W

and

Review American Airlines Business Class Boeing 777-300 77W

Unlike Lufthansa, there is no chance of your feet touching the feet of your neighbour due to the divider:

Review American Airlines Business Class Boeing 777-300 77W

I was sat in 7A, in my usual ‘half way down the cabin, by the window’ position.  I REALLY liked this seat.  There was no slam-dunk reason why – it just got a LOT of small things right:

the seat has lugs at the top, letting you lean your head sideways and giving privacy from the person to the side of you

Review American Airlines Business Class Boeing 777-300 77W

the controls are idiot proof and easy to access

Review American Airlines Business Class Boeing 777-300 77W

whilst your feet disappear into a footwell, it is a big one – you can move your feet around.  I should note that the footwell appeared narrower on the seats in the middle section.

Review American Airlines Business Class Boeing 777-300 77W

the TV, as you can see above, stows away and is not forcibly in your face for the whole flight as you get with Iberia etc

there is an easy to access and good-sized storage area

Review American Airlines Business Class Boeing 777-300 77W

whilst you can’t see it in my pictures, you can move the dining table when it is out so you can still leave your seat

None of these things seem like a big deal. Individually, they’re not.  However, when it all comes together, it makes you feel very calm.  All of the little niggles you expect to find turn out not to exist.

I was a happy bunny at take-off with my (admittedly too small) glass of champagne served by the (ahem) long-serving cabin crew:

Review American Airlines Business Class Boeing 777-300 77W

Nothing is perfect though ….

No seat is ever perfect, of course.  I had a couple of niggles:

You cannot see out of the window easily.  Your head is basically in the aisle whilst your feet are by the window.  If you enjoy staring out of the window whilst flying then this may not be the seat for you.

There is no armrest to one side – in my case, on the aisle.  This occasionally felt weird as I would lean sideways, expecting my arm to hit an arm rest, and there wasn’t one.  (EDIT: comments below suggest that this is a hidden armrest and there was a way of making it come up)

Review American Airlines Business Class Boeing 777-300 77W

No-one explained the seat.  I thought there was no washbag (not all airlines offer them on day flights) but I eventually found it, with a bottle of water, just before landing in a hidden compartment.

The washbag was interesting.  The contents, branded Bigelow, were nothing special.  What I did like was the way that, when unwrapped, it formed a small Cole Haan branded bag:

Review American Airlines Business Class Boeing 777-300 77W

American Airlines Boeing 777-300 IFE

Let’s start with wi-fi.  This was the best in-flight wi-fi I have ever used.  It was relatively cheap ($12 for two hours) and the connection was excellent.  I wasn’t doing any streaming so I can’t comment on that, but it was perfectly acceptable for email and general browsing.

Sadly, the IFE system itself was a bit of a let down.  American Airlines has live streaming of BBC World News and two US news channels, which was very impressive.

The film selection was weak – Sherlock Gnomes and Solo were what passed as ‘new releases’.  The back catalogue selection was well curated, I admit, but the TV selection was poor.  The TV comedy selection, which I often go for because they are short programmes, was particularly woeful.  Overall it doesn’t come close to the literally thousands of pieces of content offered by the Middle East airlines.

It’s worth noting that you can connect your own device to the IFE system but it requires one of those white / red / yellow 3-part cables.

There were three novel features:

seat to seat chat, letting you email a passenger elsewhere on the plane

a chat room, which no-one was in but which in theory lets you have a group chat with anyone who wants to join

an e-reader with some magazines on it – except that the choice was US-centric and very limited

I was a little frustrated.  The live TV and chat functions show an airline which is trying to do things differently, but it then lets itself down with weak content.

To be continued ….

This is the end of Part 1 of my American Airlines 77W Business Class review from London Heathrow to New York JFK.

In Part 2, click here, I take a look at the food on offer.

If you are reading this via email, you have not been sent Part 2.  Click here to read it directly on the HFP website.

Bits: Last day for our Marriott exclusive, Air India drops Heathrow to New York, BA A380 to Dubai
My review of American Airlines 77W Business Class - is it better than BA Club World? (Part 2)
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Comments

  1. James carp says:

    OT but hope saoneone Can Help,
    Can I get a referral from my partners BAPP card to a gold credit card?

    • Genghis says:

      Yes

      • James carp says:

        Tried logging on to BAPP site for referral link and it only allows to refer for BAPP or the free card and no mention no of the gold version. Is it a phone call job or can be done via web? Thank you

        • Peter K says:

          It only says you can refer for another BA card….but when the referral link is used the person using it can then click an option to bring up “other cards” and chose another type (e.g. the gold credit card).

        • James carp says:

          ‘Other cards’ seems to be only the blue free Amex and no mention of the gold card when I go via the referral link.

        • Peter K says:

          Maybe you have adblocker on? Maybe try a different browser?
          I just tried it now referring from the BA card and the whole list of cards were available to choose.

        • james carp says:

          Yes it has finally worked. Used laptop rather than iphone and thus a different browser and seems to show all the cards now for referral. Thanks again for everyones input.

  2. AA flatters to deceive. Everyone crows: “Oh look, it’s 1-2-1” which is actually meaningless. What actually matters is the square foot per seat. So for instance JAL offers 2-3-2 on the same plane in Business and it feels better than AA.

    And that is before we talk about the soft service. I had to literally bed the AA hostess for more champagne. They should be pestering me! One thing you can never say about BA is that they are tight with drinks.

    I give AA credit for one thing though – their Flagship lounges are excellent IS you qualify for them and IF you can ever find one.

    • Ahem. Bed the hostess for more drinks? Winner / Winner, surely? And just under your post I had a Screwfix advert!

    • 1-2-1 on its own isn’t entirely meaningless. It means you don’t have to climb over another passenger to get out of your seat.

      It means half the passengers have window seats, instead of 1 in 8 on BA.

      Then look at the seat dimensions – 72 by 20 on BA, 75 by 20.5 on AA. So the AA seat is 6% bigger.

      But the size of the seat is just a small part of the story. You get a lot of personal space around you on AA, and lots of storage space.

      The proof is in the second cabin on the 77W.

      On AA, you will find 44 business class seats, all with aisle access, 22 by the windows

      On BA, you will find 56 “Club World” seats. In 50 of those seats, you have to climb over someone to get out of your seat, or someone has to climb over you to get out of theirs. Add to that if you are travelling solo you will find yourself facing a stranger during take off and landing, and have their food passed across you during meal service. On a full flight, you may even feel you are sharing a double bed with a stranger if you in a middle pair with little privacy.

      So 27% more personal space and storage space (including the overhead lockers) on the AA 77W

      And we agree, one of the things that actually matters is the square foot per seat!

  3. Nick,

    Yeah I know what you are saying but, even so, the “seats across” metric is overplayed. Heck even United are claiming 1-2-1 and it’s really 8-across but staggered. The best measure is to divide the square footage of the cabin by the number of seats.

    And yeah, the “scramble over” in BA is irksome but, as BA Gold, I get to pick my seats when I book so can avoid that. It’s not true for all seats – you have to study the plan.

    Anyway, I’d still rather fly BA than any US airline at this point. But BA had better not take my loyalty for granted and I am curious about the new BA CW hard product when it emerges next year. That said, can’t see them reducing density when they can fill seats like they do.

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