Aircraft American Airlines Boeing 777-200
Route London Heathrow LHR to Los Angeles LAX
Class Economy class, seat 33D
Seat pitch and seat width A generous-feeling 32 inches and and 18.5 inches respectively
Seat configuration Two-five-two
Luggage allowance One bag no more than 23kg checked in luggage and one piece of hand luggage also no more than 23kg plus a laptop bag or briefcase
Airport and lounge access Heathrow offers one of what American Airlines calls it’s “flagship lounges”. To gain access you have to either be flying first class or hold an Advantage Executive Platinum or oneworld Emerald loyalty card. Heathrow terminal 3 also offers two non-invitation lounges – the No. 1 Lounge, which starts at £35 for three hours access and the Servisair Lounge, which starts at £19.95 also for three hours. The former offers slightly more, which is why it’s more expensive.
Aside from that, you’ll have to make do with Heathrow terminal 3, which is heaving pretty much most of the time. The once-pleasant hang out that was TGI Friday’s has been turned into a Gucci shop, or something, so the only place to relax while eating and drinking is a mostly dreadful chain-style pub called the Bridge Bar. Otherwise it’s Eat, Yo! Sushi or Chez Gérard.
Scheduled flight time According to the flight itinerary, it was supposed to be 11 ½ hours, but for some reason it only took 10
Punctuality The flight left London Heathrow on time
Condition of the aircraft It seemed in quite good condition, but things like having a big screen on the wall at each bulkhead, so to speak, almost aged the aircraft. It’s like having a modern Aston-Martin and then choosing to fit it with an Ikea interior. There were some signs of wear and tear and overall choices in design really let the side down, especially with the botched-looking job of carving a hole in each armrest for the IFE remote control. The toilets remained in mostly good condition throughout the flight.
In-flight entertainment The Boeing 777 – while not as new as the Dreamliner – is still a very recent addition to the skies with the earliest service being in 1995, so for the IFE to be this antiquated was frankly shocking. The TINY 6 ½ inch display supported minimal touchscreen functionality, but the navigation made no sense until the system for my seat was restarted. Until then, it showed a different menu screen to the adjacent seat.
Once it had been restarted, however, it allowed access to the content, which wasn’t even on-demand and there was no guide in the seatback pocket, instead you had to squint and trawl through the tiny list on the tiny screen. Only three categories were available, New Releases, Action/Adventure and International. Nine options were available in New Releases, including Argo, Lincoln and Wreck-It Ralph. Under Action/Adventure Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows was available…and that was it. Finally, under International, there were two choices, Loving Miss Hatto and DCI Banks: Dry Bones That Dream. Whatever they are.
The TV (that’s for TinyVision) offered double the amount of categories, so six then. Comedy, Drama, NBC Universal, Special Interest, Documentary and Travel. Twelve choices were available under Comedy, but there was no description whatsoever aside from the episode title about what actually happened in the show. It’s not as if I could double-check to remind myself what happened in that episode again.
Things got worse as I tapped on Documentary, which only presented three options, Special Interest, which only seemed to have propaganda programming on Exploring the AA Advantage Program and Drama, which only offered eight choices, none of which I had ever heard of.
Of course anyone with an tablet or laptop was watching saved programs on those portable devices. But few, if any, devices will last the length of a 10-hour flight. There was a power point, located under the seat, but it was for a 15 volt DC connector, so it was to all intents and purposes utterly useless since very few people carry an adapter for this.
With an IFE that doesn’t even support on-demand viewing you can’t even pause when you go to the bathroom, a luxury we’ve been enjoying since we began using VHS video cassette recorders back in the 80s. All in all, a dismal display of in-flight entertainment and one that really shows a complete lack of consideration for this airline’s passengers.
Comfort The seat themselves weren’t too bad. The headrest seemed to have more cushioning than most airlines offer in economy class and the tray was two-fold, so that helped a little. Pillows and blankets were already supplied on the seats, but there were no toiletry bags with eye-shades or ear plugs offered at all.
The remote control for the TV was strangely located in the upward-facing section of the left armrest, so every time you just used the armrest, your elbow invariably hit either menu control, or the volume control or one of the channel change buttons. What incompetent monkey thought of putting it there, I mean really, it’s so obvious that this was going to happen. And in two of the three seats in each central row of five, you have remote controls on either armrest, since it changes from being on the left armrest to being on the right in the middle (seat E).
Service We didn’t think any other airline supported a cabin crew program for pensioners aside from British Airways, but evidently we were wrong. This was not a full flight and I’ve seen stewardess cope with much larger numbers with considerably more grace than this lot did. Though not actually rude or inefficient as such, there was an unmistakable lack of care and consideration here.
Food and beverages The drinks service that comes before the meal was chargeable. Let me just say that again, a vodka and orange juice on a 10-hour long-haul flight with the USA’s national carrier was $7. And as if additional insult was needed, the token savoury snack that came with this drinks service was a packet of dry, flavourless “tex mex nachos” that tasted more like a packet of tiny cardboard drinks coasters. We later discovered that wine was complementary, but don’t these Americans know, one has an aperitif before a main meal, which one then drinks wine with.
No menu was provided before the meal, so we had no idea of what to expect and no idea of what time it might be served – breakfast and dinner are self-explanatory. The lunch-of-sorts was offered about an hour into the flight. The choice was pasta or chicken. That was it…and that was all we were told. Upon asking, it was discovered the pasta was a cheese tortellini and to this day, I don’t know what the chicken dish was exactly.
To test the free wine theory I asked for a bottle of red – and in unfolding tradition of this flight weren’t given any choice. It turned out to be a 2011 Merlot from the Domaines Astruc winery in France. Aside from not being the world’s biggest Merlot fan, it was OK. Although not serving it at near freezing temperature might have helped it’s flavor. Or not. The fragrance reminded me of those nights when you’ve drunk far too much free house wine at a low-budget work event. Thankfully, it tasted slightly better than it smelt.
We were tempted to ask the stewardess what the chicken dish was exactly, but to be perfectly fair, I was scared of her. Some amusement was provided by watching other passengers trying to cut into the frozen slab of butter and fail miserably at spreading it over the bread roll. Meanwhile, the salad looked like it had been dead for a week and came with a creamy herb dressing that perhaps the airline hoped might somehow resuscitate it.
About two-thirds of the way into the flight, a snack service was wheeled around comprising of a small, plastic tub containing an oat crunch biscuit, a single-serving size packet of ‘cheesy mini snax biscuits’, two Jacobs table crackers, a tiny Toblerone and packet of Laughing Cow spreadable cheese.
Then an hour before landing we were served with a cheese and tomato pizza, which was in all fairness wasn’t too bad and about an inch thick.
Flight frequency AA flies once daily in both directions – four times if you take into account code-sharing flights with British Airways
Cost of ticket From £544 return from London Heathrow to Los Angeles LAX
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