“Our flying time today will be a quick 16 hours and 35 minutes” is a joke that pilots love to tell on American Airlines Flight 125 from DFW to Hong Kong, nonstop. By flight time it is the longest flight that American flies and believe me when I tell you there’s nothing “quick” about a 16 hour and 35 minute flight.
So how do you make a flight like that work? Well, for starters, fly in Business Class. And then start a blog. And then have a reader reach out to you and ask if you need any systemwide upgrades to upgrade to First Class. Then have that upgrade clear at the gate!
Now I’ve flown DFW-HKG with American probably 10 times over the past three years in coach and in business but never in First. This flight marked the beginning of my month-long work trip to Asia so I wasn’t in as much of Flight Review Mode as I would typically be if I was doing a flight exclusively for the blog, but I wanted to go ahead and cover it anyway.
So here we go: my review of American Airlines First Class…and why I would’ve rather flown in business.
(if you’d like to see a video of it instead, please feel free to check out my little vlog about the flight below!)
American Airlines 777-300ER First Class
American by and large has gotten rid of international First Class. In fact, the only plane type where it still exists is the Boeing 777-300ER (or 77W in American parlance). The First Class cabin is small, with only two rows of four seats.
American’s seat is pretty unique compared to the competition. They don’t try to do anything over the top like Emirates or Singapore, rather they just have a nice wide seat that swivels right and left. For takeoff you have to face forward but once you’re in the air you can swivel the seat toward the screen for a more relaxed viewing angle. If you need to get some work done you can swivel the seat to face the desk in your seating area.
The seating area is quite large and has a lot of desk space, but storage space is fairly lacking if I’m honest. I travel with a lot of gadgets, especially when I’m filming a vlog for the YouTube channel, and I quickly ran out of places to put things. I realize that may be just me because I usually travel with 2-3 cameras, 3-4 lenses, and a microphone, but I could easily see it being the same for others who travel with, for example, a work laptop and a personal laptop. Very nice seat, spacious seating area, but it isn’t the most functional space.
It is pretty classy though, I like the little lamp with a diffuser on it instead of the pen light you normally would see right here.
An example of something that was well-intended but didn’t really deliver was the little tray for a phone. It has a USB charger next to it but you can tell it was designed when phones were much smaller. What I would’ve loved to see instead was make this area a flat shelf space with non-slip material so it isn’t so dependent on the size of the phone. Or, even better, a wireless charging area with non-slip material. I tried to put my iPhone X in there, but it just didn’t fit very well so the space ended up being unused.
Ultimately, though, when it comes to a seat and the seating area the number one rule is it has to be comfortable, and the seat itself was very comfortable. Maybe not Cathay Pacific First Class comfortable but still very nice.
The swivel thing is a cool differentiator but at no point during the extremely long flight did I see anyone swiveling all the way over to the desk mode, even the guy in the seat next to me, who was working on Important Business-ey Stuff the entire flight, had his seat facing the screen and just used the tray table as a desk. When something isn’t used for the function intended it means there’s wasted utility unfortunately.
Here’s the bad part about the seat: there’s very little privacy. I’ll compare it to the business class seat later, but the seat is very open and you end up seeing what other people are up to throughout the flight, which many people don’t really like in a First Class cabin, people tend to mind their own business in my experience. I had heard this about the First Class seats but it was my first time experiencing it and I could definitely feel more exposed.
American’s catering is average at best, but I do have to say I enjoyed the meals I had on this flight, particularly the breakfast at the end of the flight.
Now if I were a good travel blogger I would’ve saved the menu to show to you but honestly I ran out of room in my backpack by the end of the trip and had to toss some things into the bin, the AA menu sadly was binned.
The meal service started very shortly after our departure from Dallas and began with warm nuts and champagne (my third glass hehe).
The flight attendant serving my side of the cabin was prompt, very professional, and incredibly efficient, it seemed like everyone had their food in no time. The warm nuts were followed by an amuse bouche of olives and chips of some sort. I’m not an olive guy but the chips were delicious.
I was actually shocked to see the word “caviar” on a US airline’s food menu but it wasn’t a full serving of caviar, just a small sampling of it which rested atop the appetizer, which was delicious.
The entree I ordered was actually not listed on the menu, my flight attendant informed me he had a beef filet and shrimp. I have a general rule: when a plate includes 2 out of my 3 favorite foods, order it. Soooo I got the beef filet and the shrimp.
The beef was a little overcooked but was still tender enough and was packed full of flavor (no doubt chemically packed, but that’s the nature of airline food).
After dinner I asked my flight attendant what he suggested for dessert and he strongly recommended the chocolate tart. He was right, it was fantastic!
I then switched the seat into bed mode aaaaand didn’t get a single minute of sleep. I tossed and turned for an hour or so then decided to watch a few movies. About halfway through Elf I finally fell asleep for a few hours. Eventually I counted enough sheep that we were getting close to landing. Now the weird part about AA125 is you leave in the morning and land in the afternoon the next day in Hong Kong, but you’re served a dinner-esque meal after takeoff and breakfast just before landing. Kind of backwards but oh well. The breakfast was awesome!
Soon enough we touched down in Hong Kong right on schedyule and I was off to the rest of my journey.
So why would you prefer business class on this flight, or were you just clickbaiting us?
Nope, was being 100% serious. The first class seat is very nice but the overall experience feels more like a nicer Business Class than it does a true First Class. The catering was nice but not leaps and bounds different than the business class meal. I guess the main reason is that the business class on American Airlines 777-300ERs is so good. I’ve reviewed it previously here. While that seat isn’t as big as the First Class seat it’s much more private, where the First Class seat was a bit too open for my taste.
Another thing, and this was the really unfortunate part: the galley lights were on for the entire flight, which cast a large amount of light onto my seat which made it hard to sleep. Additionally, the flight attendants passed the time by chitchatting at full volume. I’m absolutely in favor of them enjoying the flight as much as they can, but it was very audible in the cabin. It wasn’t that huge of a deal I guess, but noisy and bright are not good conditions in which to get some sleep.
There’s a very easy solution that I would love to see American adopt: thick, sound-reducing curtains. If American got the same curtains as Cathay Pacific it’d be perfect. They reduce galley noise and block light. The Cathay staff dutifully button the curtain closed every time they go through it to make sure the customers get the absolute best experience. These curtains would make every customer’s experience better in my opinion.
That said, flying in a premium cabin is absolutely a joy compared to what it’s like flying this route in coach. And coach is only going to get worse when American makes the embarrassingly terrible decision to change the Main Cabin Extra seats from 3-3-3 to 3-4-3, at that point I will no longer fly a 777 without being in a premium cabin, it’s just cruel otherwise.
Hope you enjoyed the review! Let me know what you think in the comments below!