American Airlines Retrofit 777; Reviewed
American Airlines is in the midst of a massive fleet restoration project. As part of American’s merger with now defunct US Airways, American completely overhauled its branding. An airline’s brand is most prominent in their fleet. To keep up with new passenger demands, reduce its carbon footprint, and complete its brand overhaul, American has been retiring old aircraft and introducing new, modern aircraft. In addition to retiring the old and welcoming the new, American has retrofitted hundreds of pre-existing aircraft.
Domestic narrowbodies, including the Airbus a319, saw new interiors and power outlets while internationally configured widebodies saw brand new business class cabins and in-flight entertainment. However, it hasn’t been a clear-cut and simple process for American. After completing only a handful of Boeing 777-200s and receiving 75% of the airline’s Boeing 787-8s, American made the decision to cut ties with Zodiac Seats US following months of unfulfilled orders and delays. American has since reached an agreement with B/E Aerospace to fulfill the airline’s remaining orders.
Last summer, I had the unique opportunity to fly on one of American’s first newly retrofitted Boeing 777s. At the time, American’s new business class product was supplied by Zodiac Aerospace. This summer, however, I only recently discovered that American Airlines had begun to install their [second] new business class product, this time, supplied by B/E Aerospace. After what I thought was thorough research, I decided to book a flight from Dallas to Miami. I was under the impression that the aircraft featured the week old B/E Aerospace business class seats.
It occurred to me a few days in advanced that there was the real possibility that the flight I booked could be either operated with an older Boeing 777-200 or configured with the wrong product. Still, I had to be in Miami regardless of what type of seat I’d arrive in. Unfortunately, I had booked a first generation retrofitted Boeing 777-200 featuring the Zodiac business class seats
After only a two hour flight, I realized what a shame it was that American canceled all remaining Zodiac seat orders. Aside from the occasional shaking of the seat, American’s Zodiac business class seat is one of my favorite business class products, here’s why.
At the Gate
My inbound flight arrived at the gate an hour and a half before scheduled boarding time for the flight to Miami. With such a short layover, my family and I (including our puppy), made our way to a restaurant to relax for a while. Our early dinner, however, was anything but relaxing. Dallas-Fort Worth doesn’t have animal relief areas in every terminal. Not having an animal relief area nearby, required each of us to take turns walking our tiny puppy to remote corners of the terminal, stacks of paper towels in hands, in hopes that she’d decide to use the restroom.
After a fairly miserable dinner, we made our way over to the gate. The flight departed from gate A24, a renovated gate. I was relieved when I found out that the departure gate was A24, because of how disgusting and ancient DFW’s non-renovated terminals are. After twenty or so minutes, boarding commenced. The gate agents were surprisingly welcoming and professional. The other passengers, however, were not. Every single passenger (some in Groups 2 and 3) made a b-line to the jetbridge, stepping on each other’s heels.
Once onboard, the mid-galley flight attendants gave my family and I a very cold and insincere welcome. In hindsight, having completed the flight, I can honestly say that the flight attendants (except for 2) were not legitimately unprofessional or unpleasant but just awkward. The flight crew did everything by the books and went out of their way to make sure premium class passengers were comfortable, but they lacked human emotion. In hindsight, it was a very strange flight overall.
Once I finished taking an absurd amount of pictures, I took my seat. Soon after, one of the nicest and most welcoming flight attendants I’ve had on an American Airlines’ flight, came over and asked me if I’d like anything before departure. I decided to go with an OJ on ice, still yearning for the days I can indulge in adult beverages.
After a twenty minute delay due to twenty or so connecting passengers not yet having boarded, the door was closed, and we made our way to the runway.
At 40,000 Feet
Shortly after takeoff, the flight attendants came by to take drink orders, offer mixed nuts, hand out hot towels and pass around headsets. The purser worked my aisle and was very welcoming and professional. She joked with fellow passengers and did everything she could to make the flight was as pleasant as possible.
I preordered dinner when I booked my flight. As per the usual, American offered a meat option and a vegetarian option. The meat option was a chicken dish with a side salad and pasta. The vegetarian dish was an eggplant parmesan accompanied with a pasta and side salad. Wanting some good ole’ fashioned pasta, I decided to keep my pre-ordered meal.
I wasn’t expecting much. I’ve learned not to get my hopes up when it comes to short domestic flights on American. Their pastas are typically smothered in a cheap red sauce, their chicken plates are usually dry, and the steak option is hard to come by.
Having flown on enough domestic flights with the “dinner service”, I was pleasantly surprised when I took my first bite of the eggplant parmesan. It was tender, yet not mushy, and the sauce was full of flavor. The pasta that accompanied the eggplant was a little dry, however, tasted great. The salad was also unusually fresh, and the pretzel roll was baked to perfection. My only complaint about my meal was the sad chocolate chip cookie that was served following dinner. American’s onboard cookies have taken a nose dive in the last few years.
The Dinner Service; In Pictures
The Seat; American’s First Generation Retrofit
As previously mentioned, I booked this flight not only because my family and I were vacationing in Miami, but also because I thought that this flight was operated by American’s Second Generation Retrofitted Boeing 777-200. I was wrong. There was a last minute equipment swap that resulted in the aircraft featuring the American Airlines Zodiac business class product.
Also as previously mentioned, this particular product has grown on me. There is one major flaw, the fact that certain seats are installed as pairs which results in you having to feel the person behind you’s every move. Aside from the shaky seat flaw, I’ve grown to love this business class product. Not only does the seat fully recline into a flat bed, but the seat also offers an unrivaled amount of privacy for those seated near the windows. I’d even go as far to say that I prefer the Zodiac seat over the Reverse Herringbone configuration. The American Airlines Zodiac business class seat is private, feature ample storage, offers an abundance of space and features two AC power outlets.
The seat also features a fairly large IFE screen with touchscreen remote handset. American’s retrofitted Boeing 777s also feature Live TV in both cabins. Additionally, the seat is unique in that it is controlled by a separate touchscreen adjacent to the IFE remote. The seat controls allow for full control of the seat from lumbar to the headrest. My favorite feature of the Zodiac seat is the “zero-gravity” mode in which the seat reclines into a gigantic recliner. This “zero-gravity” mode is designed to relieve pressure on certain pressure points and muscles that are frequently strained.
The Seat; In Pictures
The flight was fairly short, just two hours. Though it was short, I enjoyed every minute of it. I caught up on some Big Bang Theory and enjoyed some comfort food before my tropical retreat. The flight attendants might have been a little robotic. However, they made sure every passenger was comfortable.
Unfortunately, this trip report was supposed to be about American’s brand new second generation retrofit business class product, not their first generation Zodiac seat. Though I didn’t get to experience AA’s brand new seat, this was only my fourth time in the Zodiac seats, so it was almost as if it were a new product for me.
The Zodiac product will remain the dominant retrofit business class seat on American for quite some time. However, it won’t be long until the B/E Aerospace makes it way to more Boeing 777s and Boeing 787s.