American Airlines B777 First Class SYD-LAX / SYD Qantas First Class Lounge
Virgin America A320 First Class LAX-ORD
At one point this trip was booked as:
An insane amount of flying over a 2 week period, not to mention spending a boatload of points. American Airlines is notorious for not releasing saver award space anywhere, let alone from Sydney in first class. One day I noticed not one, but two seats available a day before I was to return from the region. At the bottom of this report I'll explain the cost of this trip, but suffice it to say I would be saving plenty of points by taking this flight and I wanted to try American's first class service from Australia as it had received accolades from other blogs. It would also be interesting to compare it to Qantas A380 service which I took last year.
Now the trip looked like this:
I show this simply to point out now I was flying 10,000 miles less than before and by the time this flight came around I was toast. Enjoying the trip but ready to get home. It all sounded good in the planning stage. Hence this report may not be up to my standards.
I flew in from Brisbane the day before as today's departure was at 10:15AM and I wanted to visit the Qantas Sydney lounge. Plus it's not fun getting up at 4AM, trekking to the airport to take a 6AM/7AM flight and risking a delay then missing your international flight. So I stayed at the Pullman Hotel in the Mascot area. While all the hotels around Sydney airport are expensive, I got a decent rate and it's probably one of the nicer hotels in the area, which is pretty run down.
Arriving at Sydney Kingsford International terminal I proceeded to the American Airlines check-in. If I were flying Qantas there is a special first class reception area. Not surprisingly American has no such fanfare.
Given an express pass for security I headed to the Qantas lounge. You can read about that visit with this link. It would be a highlight for the day.
A couple photos:
Arriving at the gate 40 minutes prior to departure boarding had already commenced. I made my way inside.
The first class cabin on the American Airlines flagship 777-300 was not awe inspiring.
There are 8 seats in 2 rows, 1x2x1. I was in 1A. All 8 seats were occupied by the time we departed, however, based on the conversations I overheard, 5 or 6 of these passengers were AA employees. No knock against the employee, but how many American customers would like to sit up here? I'm not fingering American, United does the same.
When I'd first booked this flight both 1A/K were taken. I'd read that 2A/K had you sitting partially in business class. And guess what, you are!
So I set a seat alert on ExpertFlyer for 1A/K and sure enough one day I got the alert and changed my seat from 2A to 1A.
Since we entered through door two I had a chance to view business class.
American Airlines has numerous business class seats throughout their fleet. Arguably the best are the Cirrus reverse herringbone installed in the 777-300ERs.
Seat 3A in the mini-cabin. Spoiler alert, fly business class and sit here if you can.
Back to seat 1A. This seat swivels to face out towards the window. Presumably allowing you to work on your laptop or tablet which is placed on the side table. I never got around to work on this flight.
The IFE screen is stored for take-off and landing, similar to the Cirrus business class seats.
I'm not sure what is going on here with the belt.
Narrow storage under the ottoman for small carry on or purse.
All the plugs are easily accessible and you can comb your hair or refresh your makeup at the same time.
These buttons kind of reveal the age of this design.
Down on the floor at the entrance of the pod is a little cubby hole, presumably to store your shoes, but not during take-off or landing.
On the other side was a mesh pocket that held a pair of slippers. I am continually amazed by the silly warnings that are required on aircraft. What could you possibly store here that would be dangerous, slippers?
The seat adjustment is touch screen.
Bose noise cancelling headphones are a nice feature.
First class passengers were given these Cole Haan amenity kits.
A rather large pouch for a rather small number of items.
But the whole idea is well intended as it doubles as a tablet carry case. And it was of decent quality, just not my style.
Before departure I requested a pair of American pajamas.
At first I wasn't impressed as they aren't of the same quality as say Singapore, Lufthansa, Etihad, Qatar, Japan Airlines, Cathay, United to name a few. But I've grown to like them. The top is a comfortable long sleeve t-shirt.
Time to go.
Surprise, we start with nuts. I passed on Champagne, not at 10AM with 20,000 miles in hand and 9K to go.
In the air the nuts were replaced with olives and some kind of chip that looks like it's barbequed flavored. All were passed on. (Notice the USB port which is the only photo I have of it.)
While I wasn't able to locate the exact Champagne offered on this flight, my guess it is a reasonably priced champagne and probably not in the class of Dom or Salon. Just a guess. The Heitz Cellars Cab is is decent cabernet to my tastes. But as you will see, mine mostly spilled.
I began with the chicken bilini and smoked salmon cube canapés.
Not surprisingly the Sydney-Los Angeles is a prized route for American employees, attracting their most senior crew members. Serving today's flight was a 30+ year American flight attendant named Billie. She was fantastic, at least in terms of likeability. She was always laughing or telling jokes and genuinely liked her job. You couldn't help but like her. Recently the CEO of Qatar Airlines, who I'm sure regrets it, stating US airlines flight attendants were a bunch of Grandmas. Billie was, but polar opposite of the point this CEO was trying to make.
When she placed the canapé plate on my tray and the chicken tipped off the blini, she said "Oops!" They were as good as they look.
The Jerusalem artichoke soup as ok, but had me wanting Thai's celery soup flying into Sydney.
At least it was fresh.
Then things got interesting, not food wise but flight wise. We encountered a medium chop. Enough were liquids from glasses spilled and you couldn't really eat. It wasn't severe, just constant bouncing. This is one of the problems flying a 777 with a full load of fuel and passengers. Our altitude was 33,000 feet whereas newer aircraft like the 787 and A350 can get higher often avoiding this kind of weather.
The chop lasted for about 3 hours. Only then did I get, or want, dinner.
Fortunately it was a braised dish so it didn't get overcooked. In the end it was a decidedly good business class main meal.
Dessert was a simple spoonful of chocolate mousse with some fruit on top.
Now that the larger dinner plate was removed you can see where most of my wine went. For those of you who read the report I wrote on Singapore Airlines from Frankfurt to Singapore, you might remember what happened on that flight when some wine spilled. It was just a small spill on my neighbors table cloth, like a ring around the base of the glass. Angie, the SQ flight attendant insisted she change the table cloth. No insistence was offered here.
I asked for the bed to be made. Another attendant made it up as Billie was on break. The mattress pad was pretty thin. Apparently American is moving to a new line of bedding soon. They need to.
I tried to sleep but….
The IFE was no help to me, as nothing interested me. That doesn't mean there wasn't anything to watch, just nothing I wanted to watch.
I wouldn't call the first class monitor anything outstanding. I remained content to listen to an audiobook to pass the time.
Somewhere over the Pacific I ordered the steak sandwich from the Small Plates menu.
The flavor was excellent, the meat needed canine teeth.
Cheese was available but I did not partake.
Breakfast was served the standard 90 minutes out.
Firmly against eggs on a plane, unless freshly made as on Lufthansa or Austrian and maybe others as well, I went continental.
The fruit was fresh and the granola was different and good, just not in abundance.
The ginger rhubarb smoothies was delicious.
And the yogurt was to my liking as well, the real stuff.
A beautiful sunrise meant LA was not too far away.
And we had the unusual LAX landing to the east on 6L
And I'd be remiss if I didn't offer some aircraft spotting. First Sydney.
I saved at least 10,000 points over the conventional method for reward redemption on this route. Find out how at rewardflying.com along with more ratings and other insights.
While JAL first class is a favorite, this trip also includes their new reverse herringbone business class seat, a long awaited trip on Garuda Indonesia, albeit in the middle of the night and a lucky snag on Delta's brand new A350 to check out their highly touted but nothing special Vantage XL Delta One seat, now with a door, that doesn't fully close. All posting next year, happy new year to all!
Qantas First Class Lounge International
Sydney - SYD
Los Angeles - LAX
This was a perfectly fine business class trip, not first class. The seat is a little oversized from a business class seat while looking like one, the food is definitely business class, the amenities are the same as you get in business class (maybe the amenity pouch is different), the IFE looks business class, the cabin feels like business class and you get the added bonus of light from the front galley keeping you from sleeping.
While I've rated the trans-pacific first class flights on a Qantas A380 and American 777 equally on my website rating system, I think I caught Qantas on a bad day food wise. However I can safely say, the most economical and comfortable way to cross the international dateline in a premium cabin is on American in business class. And even better, they've gone to the 787-9 with B/E Super Diamond seats which flies at 40,000 feet.
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