Now flying daily to Australia, American Airlines' flagship Boeing 777-300ER business class ticks most boxes for business travellers with fully-flat beds, direct aisle access for all and a meal service that lets you order dishes throughout the flight to appease any midnight cravings.
Australian Business Traveller hops aboard AA from Los Angeles to Sydney to test the newest entrant in the bustling trans-Pacific market.
- Frequent flyer program: American Airlines AAdvantage, Oneworld alliance. Qantas Frequent Flyer members can too earn points and status credits when travelling with AA.
- Priority check-in: Dedicated business class desks towards the left of the check-in zone in Terminal 4.
- Checked baggage allowance: 3x32kg bags.
- Carry-on baggage allowance: 1x115cm bag with no set weight limit plus personal items like duty-free purchases, books or umbrellas and a briefcase, laptop bag or purse.
- Priority screening (LAX T4): Not offered during our visit unless also eligible for TSA Pre-Check, which you can't enrol in using an Australian passport.
- Express Path access (Australia arrivals): Yes: present the supplied Express Path card at passport control (if not using or eligible for SmartGate), and again after baggage claim.
With American's Sydney flights departing from Terminal 4 at LAX rather than the more familiar TBIT used by Qantas and Virgin Australia, business class travellers can make use of the American Airlines Admirals Club before their flight.
Offering basic buffet food, a selection of complimentary alcohol and more substantial dishes available for purchase, the lounge isn't on-par with the newer Oneworld Business Lounge over in TBIT...
... but in one redeeming factor, Qantas Platinum frequent flyers (and above) plus other Oneworld Emerald members can relax in the adjacent Flagship Lounge, boasting a more extensive spread of hot food... ... more chilled items... ... and real Champagne in the Taittinger NV.
AA's Boeing 777-300ER business class comes in a 1-2-1 layout – guaranteeing direct aisle access for every passenger – and as a customisation of the same 'Cirrus' seat that's popular with travellers on Cathay Pacific. Each seat transforms into a fully-flat bed and stretches up to 198cm in length... ... and with a side arm rest that can either be raised (below) or lowered (above) for maximum comfort when sitting and sleeping. Passengers are provided with mattress pads to make the seat more comfortable overnight – the same actually given to first class travellers – along with a blanket, pillow, pyjamas and slippers. The shell of each seat wraps around to improve your privacy and oddly gives you more of it than when flying in AA first class... ... while storage is plentiful thanks to a large bench aside the seat, a cabinet large enough for tablets and headphones which also features a mirror in the back of the door... ... a space beside your legs with ample room for PJs, shoes and your water bottle... ... a literature pocket, which admittedly already comes jam-packed by AA... ... and a coat hook for nursing your jacket after it's returned for landing: When sitting upright there's also plenty of room to stretch out with a raised section of the floor serving as a quasi-footrest for take-off and landing... ... and a more comfortable leather footrest further back which gets within reach when the seat is reclined and forms the tail end of your bed when the seat goes fully-flat.
Combined with easily accessible USB and AC power ports, the only downside to this seat is the entertainment screen: but more on that later.
Being an evening flight out of LAX and a morning arrival into Sydney, dinner is served after take-off followed by breakfast closer to arrival.
The journey begins with a choice of juice, water and Champagne (Castelnau Réserve Brut NV) while on the ground, all served in stemmed plastic cups. Using plastic over glass does mean you can nurse your beverage during take-off, but we've never taken half an hour or more to enjoy a small welcome drink – and from the number of empty cups we saw collected before wheels-up, this seemed to be a common theme.
That's followed by a second round in the air and warm mixed nuts, this time with the Champagne served in a tapered glass tumbler: it's not quite a traditional flute, but granted, it's a step closer than the pre-departure plastic. Next up: a bite-sized prosciutto crostini with hints of lime-infused cream cheese to start... ... then a green salad – skipped as we'd already eaten on the ground – before one of five main plates: a grilled beef fillet, pan-seared lamb chops, roasted halibut (selected), mushroom wellington or a mezze plate: Served with chimichurri, goat cheese and squash couscous, the dish was flavourful although the halibut itself arrived rather firm and overcooked.
Dessert provides a further choice between hand selected local cheeses, a Ben & Jerry's brownie ice cream and a Ghirardelli chocolate raspberry mouse, which went down a treat: Can't sleep during the flight? Wagyu beef sliders are also available overnight – as is the mezze plate and the cheese course – while a walk-up bar provides an excuse to stretch your legs with chocolates, cookies, popcorn, potato chips and fruit waiting for you when stocked up: About 1.5 hours before landing, breakfast offers a standard continental option (seasonal fruit and organic yoghurt with granola), or a traditional American breakfast with fluffy scrambled eggs, Canadian bacon, roasted potatoes and a herbed tomato... ... plus the usual juices, teas and filtered coffee, without the espresso options you'd get in AA first class or indeed Qantas business class on the A380 and refurbished Boeing 747s.
Entertainment & Service
Travellers are free to browse and select from 250 movies, 160 TV shows, 13 radio channels, 375 music albums and 20 games, to be enjoyed on a 15.4-inch touchscreen monitor: The screen image is particularly clear – complete with a handy brightness setting oddly not available in first class – although by design, the screen needs to be folded away for take-off and landing: The supplied Bose noise-cancelling headsets are also collected around this time, but if you're listening to music or can tolerate watching your show on an angle, the crew also offer earbuds with aircraft adapters which you can use until you reach the gate.
In theory, you can also glance at the side controller to quickly see how much time is remaining on your flight, but we found that the countdown timer only updates when accessing this information on the main entertainment screen, making it redundant. Crew on this evening's flight were personable and polite, distributing retro-style amenity kits...
... offering to hang jackets before take-off (and remembering to return them before landing) and were warm without being too familiar, which is a great and friendly middle-ground and which made the flight quite enjoyable.
Chris Chamberlin travelled to LA as a guest of American Airlines.
Follow Australian Business Traveller on Twitter: we're @AusBT