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

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


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.

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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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  1. I flew this plane in “main cabin extra” last month on the same route and found it great and would be more than happy to do so again. I’d rather keep the points for something else

    • AA main cabin was good 15 years ago, when they had 34″ pitch (“More Room throughout Coach” ) and a 2-5-2 layout.

      But with a 3-4-3 layout and a 31/32″seat pitch I wouldn’t do it now.

      • There’s some of the 777s that still have 9 across towards the front of the economy cabin. Then 10 across at the back. On you can check the exact seat map on any flight to see what you’re gonna get (as long as there’s no equipment swaps of course)

        I actually wouldn’t take the exit row again (which I did in one direction) as there’s no storage anywhere and the TV screen needs to be stowed away for the takeoff and landing

        • Come to think of it, it’s the 777-200 that has the 9 across rows. It also has a worse business class seat (still all aisle access but front and rear facing with issues with wobbling when the person in the connected seat moves around)

  2. If it’s the same as the Cathay long haul J seat then it’s an excellent hard product.

    For those of us not starting in London, with AA we have the T5-T3 transfer to tackle. This can easily take an hour on a bad day and I don’t think you could do it in less than 30 mins with a perfect run. This is vs <10 mins from doors open on inbound Domestic to being in the lounge for a T5-T5. Less of an issue on return as you have to do security anyway coming into T5 as an international arrival but you still have 15-20 mins on a bus.

    • Prins Polo says:

      Agree, this is why e.g. flying on Finnair from HEL into T3 I prefer to continue to the US on AA in order to avoid the T3-T5 transfer.

    • BarryOnCaronline says:

      Agree, why can BA not manage transfers for domestic passengers between T5 and T3 so to avoid another UK security check. Bus transportation would sort this irritation.

      • The flow of passengers across the Heathrow campus and the routes you take are all approved by UK Border Force.

        The only approvals outside of this are for Tarmac Transfers when there is a genuine concern that passengers will miss their onward connection.

        This is done on a flight to flight basis and in reality is when your connection drops below minimum connection time, but when there are sufficient volumes of passengers to warrant the extra cost of the buses.

        The approval to do this is given on a case by case basis by the Alpha 1 at UK Border Force.

        It is not BA’s failing, it is the airport design and UK Border Force.

  3. Rob, just a small point – the ‘W’ denotes 777-300ER. The plain ‘-300’ is something else (only a few exist, mostly serving regional routes in Asia). In IATA terms the latter is 773. If you’re going to use full aircraft types in articles please get them right 😉

    • Oops just realised you corrected yourself in the article and it’s just the header… ignore me! Coffee needed 🙂

    • RussellH says:

      And people were giving me hassle a couple of weeks ago about my complaining that an article about the Piccadilly Line to LHR being illustrated by a picture of S Stock, which does not fit in a tube tunnel!

      I have no idea if I could tell the difference at a glance between a 777-300 and a 777-300ER, but I suspect not. I suspect that I would find it difficult to tell the difference between either of those and an A330 (but then I have never been on an A330).

      • 777-300 to 777-300ER visibly is the same except the winglets and number of doors being the primary dividers.

        Plus it normally says somewhere on the fuselage!

      • Well, if we want to feel good about others being pedants too, let me help some more and suggest you keep your full stops inside your parentheses please 🙂

        • Shoestring says:

          @Chris – but RussellH’s full stop usage is correct. Full stop *inside* parenthesis when it’s a whole sentence in parenthesis. *Outside* parenthesis when there’s a standard sentence with a clause in parenthesis at the end.

  4. The new direct aisle access Polaris seat on UA has been flying to/from lhr/sfo for a few months now.

    I’ve been flying AA new 773 in business since it launched and it for now is way better than BA CW.

    OT but my first BA longhaul oak-lgw had WiFi the other day. Speeds were ok. You can use google on safari for no access fee. The plane itself was really old.

  5. The toiletries brand is C.O. Bigelow, which is a quality brand and can be found at Liberty.

    • I hadn’t realised Bigelow had become a brand. Good for them. I love their shop in The Village, especially as the Caswell Massey shop at the Waldorf closed a few years back.

      The store is old fashioned and charming and the prices are reasonably. I hope this doesn’t change.

  6. Having flown both BA and AA in the last 2 weeks I would disagree with the comment on the IFE. Both BA and AA had the same ‘new’ movies’ for September, while AA offered a far larger catalogue overall for both movies and tv shows (though admittedly aimed at the younger, blockbuster viewer market, with almost every Marvel Universe movie available ie, me 🙂 ).

  7. The thing that had me flummoxed the first time I flew AA Business was where to plug the headphones in! There headphones had that curious triangle arrangement of prongs that airlines go for, and right next to you – with the media controls is a triangular arrangement of sockets.. but no that’s not it (although it’s so damn closed to fitting). The socket for the headphones is _inside_ the storage cubby where the headphones are kept. You can’t see the socket whilst you’re sitting in your chair though.. but the mirror behind the cubbyhole door isn’t just for vanity.. its so, if you’re paying attention, you can see the socket holes reflected in it.

  8. Can someone who’s flown both this and the new 772 seat (also AA) say which they prefer and why? I absolutely loved that recently (especially the rear-facing window seat) and from Rob’s photos I think it was better than the 77W, which confuses me as the latter is meant to be their new ‘flagship’…
    I do realise they’re both excellent products, would just like to know how they stack up against each other!

    • The 77Ws were new planes that came with this seating. The 772s are older planes that have been upgraded. I read somewhere that there were licensing issues which stopped them using the reverse herringbone seating on the refurbished 772s.

      I’ve not flown on a 772, but in some of the reviews I’ve read people have complained that because the forward/backward seats are joined together, you may feel some movement when the person behind you is moving in their seat

      • AA had supplier issues too which meant they scrapped the contract, after some planes had already been done, and moved to a different seat. It is all very messy.

    • David S says:

      On our last trip to Hawaii, did 77W TATL and flew 772 to Maui. The 77W seats are much better and you have more space to put things and personally found more comfortable. The 772 have had lots of problems with the Zodiac seats (alternating front and back facing) since the fixations were not good and there are lots of reviews on which seats to chose on American forums. The problem was so big with supply and the seats, AA had to cancel the order half way from what I can gather. The seats are ok, lie flat but you do feel a little bit hemmed in when you are lying flat but choose the seats carefully since your seat could rock when the attached seat occupant moves!!! Some of the 772 are retrofitted with the B/E super diamond which are the seats to go for if you get the chance since they are similar to the 77W seats.

  9. 77w is an exception, no other plane have or will have those seats,
    and AA has only 20 77Ws

    They have at least 6 different kind of new Business Class seats
    – 777-300ER
    – 767
    – 777-200s and 787-8 (also Zodiac, but more narrow than 777-300ER)
    – Airbus A321 Transcontinental
    – 777-200s, 787-9 and A350
    – Airbus 330 from US Airways (“Envoy”)

    maybe more, I’ve lost count?

    + there’s some planes with old seats around

  10. 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:


      • 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.

  11. 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!

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