This past April my daughter and I traveled to South America on a father-daughter getaway for 11 days. We visited Buenos Aires and Montevideo, finishing off with a day in Miami before heading home. The trip was kicked off with an economy flight to Dallas (SEE: American Airlines A321 Review: San Francisco to Dallas), followed by an overnight long-haul in American Airlines 777-200 business class to Buenos Aires.
Booking American Airlines Business Class
I planned this trip months in advance. American Airlines business class space can be both fickle and elusive. When I saw plenty of options to South America for a spring 2019 trip, I decided to jump. The tickets cost 57,500 American Airlines miles plus the $5.60 TSA fee per person. Economy class was also available, which would have cost only 30,000 miles per person. But I wanted to be able to sleep on the 10-hour overnight flight, as we would arrive in Argentina in the morning with a whole day ahead of us.
Our first segment was unfortunately booked in economy, as there were no first class business saver seats. American does allow limited free changes (date and flight) on their awards, and I could have called back anytime to change our domestic leg to first class, if the space opened. Unfortunately, it did not.
When I booked the tickets, I was very careful to check the seat map to see which American Airlines 777-200 business class product we were flying. There are two different versions. One version offers Zodiac business class seats that are narrower and alternate between forward and reverse facing. Everything I’ve read concludes that this is one of American’s worst business products, as pairs of seats are linked and the movement of your seat mate can disrupt sleep.
Luckily, our American Airlines 777-200 business class flight was aboard one of the refurbished planes which feature B/E Aerospace Super Diamond seats that offer a much more comfortable experience. The American Airlines seat map and SeatGuru both confirmed we were flying this product.
We’d arrived on a connecting flight from San Francisco, so our entire experience at DFW was post-security. With a 7-hour layover before our long-haul, we had plenty of time to kill in multiple lounges Dallas-Fort Worth. I thought about trying out Gameway, where Priority Pass members can enjoy two hours of gaming. However, given that school was still a part of this trip, I decided we should spend half the time at The Club at DFW, and the other half at the Temporary American Airlines Premium Lounge. She could focus on her studies, and me on work. I know…total killjoy, dad.
Both lounges were nice, although I must honestly say that I preferred The Club at DFW to the American Premium Lounge. The new Flagship Lounge had not yet opened, which was a bummer. American Airlines business class tickets to South America qualify for access.
Boarding Our 777-200
After departing the temporary Premium Lounge at DFW, we strolled through Terminal D to Gate 23 where boarding would commence in a few minutes. There was definitely some excitement prior to our American Airlines 777-200 business class flight (except she still didn’t know)!
I’d hoped to take photos of our plane, but we were completely unable to see the aircraft from the terminal. This was a first. And I didn’t like it. There were “windows”, but they were completely opaque. Boarding started right on time, which was nice. We’d been waiting long enough.
We entered the 777-200 and I showed our boarding passes to the flight attendant who greeted us. He directed up the left aisle. My daughter almost headed the other way. Flying business class was a total surprise for her!
As we stowed our bags and settled in, the flight attendant offered us a newspaper from a few of the biggest U.S. publications. This was followed by pre-departure beverages, a choice between sparkling wine and orange juice.
The same attendant came by later to provide menus, taking our main course orders shortly thereafter. I chose the seafood cannelloni, which barely won over the fried chicken. Chicken is nearly always a safe bet, but I decided to (stupidly) depart from this reasoning.
The flight time from Dallas to Buenos Aires is right around 10 hours. Flight tracker displayed 9:49. I’ve not flown business class much, but I do try to always make sure the flight time is at last 8 hours. I want to be able to sleep more than just a couple hours, and still enjoy the service.
American Airlines 777-200 Business Class Seat
As I mentioned before, our aircraft was equipped with the B/E Aerospace Super Diamond seats which offer a good amount of privacy and are a very comfortable hard product. The seats are in a reverse herringbone configuration, arranged 1-2-1 across the cabin. Every seat has direct aisle access.
Instead of booking a pair of seats in the middle, I booked two consecutive window seats. When I flew business class with two kids last November, I found this arrangement to be totally fine and stuck with it for this trip. In general, I find the reverse herringbone configuration best for solo travelers.
My daughter was in seat 2A while I was in 3A. These are in the forward section of the business class cabin. American’s 777-200 business class configured with the Super Diamond product seat up to 37 folks in the premium cabin. Their 777-200s do not offer a first class cabin.
I was curious to compare this reverse-herringbone hard product to Cathay Pacific’s 777-300ER business class seat, and I found them to be similar, but with notable differences. The American Airlines IFE screen is fixed in place, rather than stored in the side of the seat in front. The tray table also simply slides toward you rather than folding out. This is a better design, in my opinion.
The design of the IFE and tray table does give the seat a more cramped feel than Cathay’s product, but there is still plenty of foot-room and the cubby is spacious enough when the bed is flat. A blanket and pillow sealed in plastic were provided at each business class seat.
The design of the seat does leave you with a larger side table. The first compartment to the side contains the Bose headphone set that American supplies in business class.
The second compartment contains the IFE controller and headphone jack (an odd place for these, in my opinion), as well as universal power and USB outlets. It was big enough to hold the various charging cords I had and a few other small items for the flight.
The in-flight magazine, safety card, and other printed materials are also located in a holder to the side of the seat.
The seat controls are easy enough to use. You can manually adjust various sections, or use the simple selection between upright, reclined and flat.
American provided their amenity kit in a sealed blue plastic bag. I’m sure this is for sanitary reasons, but it also seems wasteful. The contents of the kit are the typical ear plugs and eye mask you’ll want for a long-haul flight, plus lip balm, skin cream, and dental hygiene items. Most importantly, it includes an Aviator Red Mastercard advertisement.
The aisle arm rest also offers some storage space and can be raised and lowered. These must be lowered for takeoff and landing.
Overall, American Airlines 777-200 business class featuring the B/E Aerospace Diamond seat is a solid hard product. It’s nothing revolutionary, but plenty comfortable for a long-haul flight. Many carriers use this seat, and I see it as a baseline standard for business class.
American Airlines Business Class Service
Service began very promptly on our flight with the traditional hot towel. Tablecloths followed a few minutes later. Then the captain broke in to provide a brief rundown on the journey before saying goodnight. They’d cut the announcements so we all could sleep.
There were four main course options on our flight, including beef, chicken, seafood and vegetarian options. Orders had been taken during boarding, likely so that service could be completed quickly.
The flight attendants served beverages service starting 10 minutes later. Our American Airlines 777-200 business class flight featured one champagne, two red wines, two white wines, and a port.
Given our destination, I went with the Argentinian Malbec. Water and warm nuts were served as well. I still don’t understand the appeal. I hardly touch them each time.
The flight attendant serving us was professional but stone-faced. She didn’t ask or say anything beyond what she necessary. This is very different than what I have experienced flying Delta domestic first class and my one time flying a United premium cabin. The genuine, warm service from the United flight attendant on my flight from San Francisco to Seoul in first class back in 2017 still makes that my most enjoyable and memorable premium cabin flight to date. And it was my first.
The demeanor of the American business class flight attendants during boarding was aloof enough, but I didn’t really expect that to continue through the rest of the service. It’s not that I need or want them to be over the top attentive. They did their job quickly without engaging with anyone. I just wanted to remark on this, though, as it could easily detract from the experience. A warm smile, “how are you?”, and other pleasantries are important for a job that consists primarily of customer service.
The food arrived quickly. I’d started a movie shortly after drinks were served, and it seemed like the food was ready in no time at all. I enjoyed the salmon starter, which was served with two tiny halves of a quail egg.
When the server placed the main course in front of me, two things struck me. First, it was the wrong main course, as I was staring down at chicken and potatoes. Second, I thought it looked delicious, so I was perfectly content to just let the mistake play out.
But I didn’t get the chance. The flight attendant removed the first plate barely 15 seconds later (basically in the time it took to snap a photo) and placed the seafood cannelloni in front of me. This all occurred so fast, and it became clear she’d switched mine with the passenger behind me. She didn’t even say a word, not even an “Whoops! Wrong one.”
The seafood cannelloni was so-so. After seeing the chicken and then having it whisked away seconds later, I was left wishing I’d have opted for that. I almost flagged the server again and asked to switch, but that seemed tacky. Plus, I could tell she wasn’t in the mood for special requests.
The tray was taken promptly after I finished, and dessert was served. I chose the Irish cream mousse cake, which was delicious. What I appreciated most about our meal service was its speed and efficiency. We were left with plenty of time to sleep. The cabin lights were dimmed about 75 minutes into the flight.
For her part, my daughter was still working away at her main course when I finished. My kids are some of the slowest eaters, and the presence of a screen does not help things. I asked her to finish up so the flight attendants could finish clearing the cabin.
Overall, the food and beverages were decent on our American Airlines 777-200 business class flight. My Asiana A380 business class experience still reigns supreme as the best business class food I’ve had (a recent China Airlines flight may have changed that).
American Airlines offers an extensive list of movies in their in-flight entertainment system. There are a good number of recent releases and a great selection of kids movies. I panned through dozens before finally settling on Casablanca. Don’t laugh. I’d not yet watched the classic.
The IFE screen itself is fixed in place. You cannot even adjust the tilt of the screen, which might be desirable for some if you’re trying to watch a movie while mostly reclined.
This was also officially the first time I’d tried Bose noise canceling headphones. Ever. True story. Man, what a difference they make. They cut cabin noise significantly. I may have to break down and get a pair.
Besides binge-watching movies, both my older kids love the selection of games the in-flight entertainment offers. My daughter spent all of dinner playing Plants vs. Zombies on the touchscreen, the main reason it took her so long to eat.
Once we’d wrapped up our enjoyment of the entertainment, it was time to sleep. I’m clear with my kids that when we fly business class, the point is to sleep. If sleeping isn’t as desirable (e.g. on a westbound flight from the U.S. to Europe), economy is just dandy.
American Airlines 777-200 Business Class Lie-Flat Seat
At about 90 minutes into the flight I switched the seat to its lie-flat configuration and had my daughter do the same. We did our best to sleep for the next 5-6 hours (until breakfast). I probably only got ~3 hours of decent sleep, even with the noise canceling headphones on.
The business class seat is plenty long (about 6-1/2 feet) and the footwell roomy. I found the mid-section if the seat a bit uncomfortable, however. There was a gap between the two main cushions when in lie-flat mode. It was also difficult to get my arms comfortable with a wall on the window side.
Still, this product is worlds better than what I’ve read about the other American Airlines 777-200 business class seat, which is exceptionally narrow.
Breakfast served started at 6:30 Dallas time, about six hours into the flight and two hours out from Buenos Aires. We could choose between a red pepper and broccoli strata or fruit, granola, and Greek yogurt. I enjoyed the breakfast served in AA business class, although it was served with the same apathy as dinner.
Other Flight Amenities
I never did try the WiFi. If we’d been up and I’d been trying to work, I might have given it a go. But since the point of our overnight business class flight was to sleep, it didn’t even occur to me to use it. I generally find in-flight WiFi to be frustrating in terms of speed, although I don’t believe I’ve ever tried American’s.
A note on the lavatories: the lavs between the two business sections are larger than forward lav. I unfortunately didn’t find this out until very late in the flight. The American flight attendants kept all of them very clean.
Arrival Into Buenos Aires
The pilots stuck to their word and held all announcements until we began our descent. The flight attendants made only one before this, about an hour before arrival, when they asked for the Bose headsets to be replaced in their cases. Having to hand over the Bose headphone when you’ve both finished breakfast and still have an hour of flight time is annoying. Then again, not all carriers supply great headphones in the first place (and even American is dropping Bose).
At least I could open the window at this point to catch my first glimpse of Argentina. It was a patchwork of fields and small towns amid the pampas as far as I could see. I always enjoy my first descent into a new country!
We landed at Ministro Pistarini International Airport, more commonly known as Ezeiza Airport. It even has the code EZE.
From there we said goodbye to our American Airlines 777-200 business class experience. We’d landed at around 10:30 a.m. and from there made our way through immigration and then into Buenos Aires.
Overall, I enjoyed our flight in American Airlines 777-200 business class. It was my first time flying any American Airlines international premium product. We found the hard product very nice, as the seats are comfortable and private. My only complaint is that the seat wasn’t as comfortable as I’d hoped when fully flat for sleeping. The food was fine, but I wouldn’t call it top-tier. Asiana still holds my personal record for best business class food (SEE: Asiana Airlines Business Class Review: Seoul to Sydney).
The service was perplexing. I wouldn’t necessarily call it poor, as dinner was served quickly and efficiently, and everything was taken care of well. But it was just done…so….indifferently. It’s not that I want flight attendants to be over the top friendly. I’ll just say there is a big difference between the Delta flight attendants who have looked me in the eye and greeted me cheerfully with a “Welcome, Mr. Snyder” to what we experienced on this flight. And this is comparing domestic first to international business!
Just a number of days later we flew American Airlines business class a second time, but this time on a 767 instead of their 777-200. Stay tuned for that review!
I have had mediocre service on AA trans Atlantic Business Class. I fly trans Atlantic B Class approximately 8 times per year. The FA’s often have a poor attitude. They always seem ready to challenge you and are on the defensive. I have had wonderful ones also but in general they always seem disinterested and ready to go on break. In addition some of them need to pay more attention to their personal grooming. Just my observation.
I’ve heard many reports of this on AA, but this was my first experience of this sort. Such a bummer.
AA are terrible. I just flew back from HND to LAX. the most word FA would say is have you looked at the menu?
I don’t know why they are so terse. I’d read reports of this prior to our flight. Bummer the service is so bad. Hard product is fine.
My family and I flew that plane and route last summer and really enjoyed it. The food was pretty good and it sounds like we had a better cabin crew than you did. I found the seat comfortable enough to sleep in lay flat mode but do recall it helped to incline the seat back slightly upwards in order to be more comfortable. And I sat in the exact same seat as your daughter!
Glad you enjoyed it, too! Aside from the service, ours was a great experience.
It’s a funny thing with AA – I spent 18 months working with them and flying extensively, mostly in J. There are a majority of super-nice and very helpful people working with the company. But then they have, let’s say the bad apple section of some VERY passive-aggressive crew and ground service personnel and some are just openly hostile. It’s a bizarre mentality for a service environment. Part of your job, a big part, is being connected to other people, helping them with this and that and making sure that they have a good experience. It’s maybe best described as… Read more »
Hard product is very nice. It’s hard to pick the best among the few reverse herringbone I’ve flown, as they all feel pretty much the same.
I don’t get the total lack of service when your job *is* service. Even if you get just one “bad apple” on a flight, it has the potential to affect it for some customers. FAs with Delta and Alaska (admittedly the latter don’t fly long-haul) are consistently better, IME.
[…] I felt great on arrival into Buenos Aires during our trip to South America. The business class return wasn’t so bad, either, even though I […]
[…] I felt great on arrival into Buenos Aires during our trip to South America. The business class return wasn’t so bad, either, even though I […]