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.
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.
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.
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”.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?