American Airlines First Class Review: DFW-NRT

I recently decided to head over to Hong Kong for a quick weekend.  I had quite a few AAdvantage miles sitting around so I decided to do the trip in First Class.  The plan?  DFW-NRT on American’s 777-200 First Class, a pretty old and dated hard product.

I normally put all of these flight reviews into a trip report, but there wasn’t really much to report about the trip itself so I’ll just highlight the flights for everyone.

The plane and the seat

The nice bit about being based in DFW is American flies to quite a few destinations non-stop.  The bad part is there’s very little competition on their non-stop routes, so you end up with older 777s on many flights.  Like this one.

American Airlines First Class Review

Our 777-200

I boarded through door 2L and made the oh-so-friendly turn left to the First Class cabin.  I was greeted by two very pleasant flight attendants who would proceed to do an incredible job on the flight.  They were senior flight attendants and it showed, their service had a bit of character, which you sometimes don’t get from younger crews.

As I was standing there taking some pictures I was delightfully interrupted and asked if I’d like some champagne.  While American doesn’t serve Dom or Krug like some of the other airlines I’ve flown, I seldom will turn down the champs.

American Airlines First Class Review

Pre-departure champagne

How I knew the flight crew was solid?  They managed to refill my glass without me even realizing it.  Stealth service!

Anyway, back to the flight itself.  I was in a dreadful seat, 4J.  It’s next to the galley and the light shone in on my seat for the duration of our 12:30 flight.  Anyway, here’s what that seat looked like.

American Airlines First Class Review

American 777-200 First Class seat

As you can see, it just looks a bit tired.  The cool bit about the seat, and what American was really proud of back in the day, is that little lever under the left-hand armrest (the one on the right in this picture).  The seat actually swivels.  In the picture above it’s in takeoff/landing mode.  Once you’ve taken off, you pull up on that little lever and can rotate to a diagonal position for lounging and sleeping.  If you need to get some work done, the seat will turn entirely sideways, which allows you to face a little desk.

Overall though it’s at least pretty spacious I guess.  If you had to describe this First Class like you would someone of the opposite sex, you’d probably say “it has a really nice personality”.

American Airlines First Class Review

See? Look at the personality

The thing about this flight: there’s not really that much to do.  There’s no wifi like there is on the 777-300ERs.  The in-flight entertainment system is pretty terrible.  The movies were current and up to date and all that, but the screen was absolutely tiny and the resolution was putrid.  So even watching movies wasn’t very enjoyable.  So what did I do?  Hunkered down and did some blogging (that flight is where most of the Travel as a Story posts have come from).

American Airlines First Class Review

Blogging setup during the flight

What I was looking forward to, though, was the food.  American’s had some fairly unpopular catering changes since the merger but supposedly things had gotten a little better lately, so I wanted to give the new food a shot and see how they’d do.

The Food

As many of you know, I’m a semi-professional photographer.  I enjoy taking pictures of food, so this would be a chance for me to get some good shots for my portfolio.  I hoped.

We started with an amuse bouche of some freezing salmon in a sauce that was just as cold.  I accompanied it with a Dragonslayer.  What’s a Dragonslayer?  Just a different name for a Bailey’s on the rocks, so you don’t have to be a dude and order a Bailey’s on the rocks.

American Airlines First Class Review

Amuse Bouche – Stuff

Although the salmon was slightly frozen, the bread was excellent and the sauce was actually pretty nice.  I finished it up and awaited my soup.  The pacing of the meal service had to be tough on the flight attendants because I was taking quite a while (had a lot of time to kill after all) and they had to deal with a full cabin.  They pulled it off effortlessly.

American Airlines First Class Review

Sweet Potato Soup

The soup was fantastic!  It had a bit of a spice to it but everything was just wonderful.  Top notch AA, for sure.  I almost licked the bowl it was so good.  Up next?  Salad.

American Airlines First Class Review

Salad course

The salad was lovely, a nice strawberry and walnut salad with bleu cheese dressing.  I loved the salad but tend to dislike large leafy spinach for the reason as you can see above: the entire quantity of dressing was on pretty much one leaf.  I love the places in NYC that chop the salad for you and tried to do my own version here (without dirtying up the linens, of course).

Up next was the item I was concerned about: the steak.  Airline steak and I have a convoluted history full of disappointment, except for one flight: Sao Paolo-Montevideo aboard TAM Airlines in 2005.  I was in coach and the steak was unbelievable.  Never had anything like it.

I know that US airlines tend to overcook their steaks at the caterer so I had low expectations going in.  Would this be the time though?  Would I find a steak comparable to that one random epic steak from 10 years ago?

American Airlines First Class Review

No.

It was too bad.  The steak was warmed nicely I guess?  And I’m sure it had a nice personality.  I did like the cheese topping they put on top of the steak (they’re doing other toppings as well, which tells me they know the steak’s not great but don’t plan on changing it soon).  The potatoes were good too.

Up last, after chit-chatting with the flight attendant (who hopefully will read this post, I promised her it’d be up soonish) I ordered what I call a Yep Sundae.  Ordering a Yep Sundae is really easy: ask them what options they have for a sundae and then just say yep to everything.

American Airlines First Class Review

Yep Sundae

So how was the flight after that?  Outside of chatting with the flight attendants for a couple of hours after the meal service had wrapped up, pretty uneventful, which isn’t the worst thing in the world I guess.  Especially since the flight had cost me about $10 in fees (along with 67.5K miles).

All in all…

I felt like such a stellar crew was wasted on such an old plane.  They knew it too.  They did the best they could with what they had though, which is probably much harder than it would’ve been on a newer plane where people were more distracted.

American is currently reconfiguring the 777-200 fleet and removing First Class entirely, to be replaced with a new Business Class.  I don’t disagree with their decision either.  The First Class offering here isn’t cutting the mustard in the international marketplace and there weren’t very many paying passengers in the cabin (they either upgraded or used miles like me).

So, all in all, I sat back, relaxed, got some writing done, and was fed a good meal by a great crew.  12.5 hours later, we landed at Narita International Airport outside of Tokyo.  That is amazing.  Let’s all remember to travel graciously, even when our experience in a 20 year old 777 doesn’t match our Singapore Suites rides, ok?

12 Comments

  1. Thanks for the nice review. I’ve wondered a little about the F cabin in the 777-200 fleet. I nearly booked this aircraft recently but got lucky and ended up on the newer 77w. The older aircraft doesn’t look too bad but the light from the galley would be a problem.

    Reply
    • The light was absolutely a problem but in any other seat it was nice and dark

      Reply
  2. Those screens from the 24 inch CRT Trinitrons are ridiculous, as is the meal you “enjoyed” — which, if you are honest, you wouldn’t pay $5 for. Wish they could just spend a little more and charge a little more so you can enjoy the food like on any international carrier.

    Nice to see the blog featured prominently. I eagerly await Tokyo photos.

    Reply
    • I wouldn’t have paid much for the steak, but the soup was seriously good. I think since they’re pretty much getting rid of international First outside of the 777-300ER they’ll eventually be in a position to invest more but until the 777-200’s are reconfigured I think making changes will just cost them too much money.

      Reply
  3. Mr. Luten,

    I am getting into photography…as a hobby. Did you use a DSLR or a phone? I have been experimenting with both.

    Also, how do you get your shots, do you just pull out your camera, quickly frame it and snap a pic or do you notify the FA’s first?

    Thank you.

    Reply
    • Hi Drew! I used my Sony a7 for every shot in this post and then edited them in Lightroom afterward (actually on the flight).

      I’ve never had a flight attendant give me any grief, usually I ask before taking pictures of the cabin I’m in but like I said I’ve never had issues with it. Every once in a while I’ll try to bust out a short tripod but that’s only if I know the FA is fully ok with everything.

      Reply
      • Thank you for a quick response. The A7 is a great mirror less, I still lug around a Rebel T3i. I also appreciate your tips. I will employ a similar courtesy and see how I fare on an upcoming SFO > DUB flight. I hope the A330-200 has both personality and substance. 🙂

        Again, thank you. Great article.

        Reply
      • What lenses are you packing for your a7? I’ve got the A7s myself 🙂

        Reply
        • I have a variety of lenses, but most of my airplane shots are with the 16-35mm Sony wide angle lens

          Reply
  4. Again, great pictures w/ nice griding & lighting! 🙂

    Reply
    • Thanks!

      Reply
  5. I will proudly order Dragonslayers from this point forward!

    Reply

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