Flight: Chicago to London Heathrow
Airline: American Airlines
Flight Number: AA98
Plane: Boeing 777-200
Plane Reg: n/a
Cabin: Business Class
If you suffer badly from jet lag, then this could be a good flight for you! It leaves at 23:35, and lands at Heathrow at 13:15. In theory, once you’ve landed, if you can stay awake the rest of the afternoon and go to bed at 9pm – then that could be jet lag over!
There are other flights around 5pm and 7pm – but I was flying in from somewhere else, so chose the 11pm – and as I said above, it’s great for jet lag!
This flight was leaving Chicago O’Hare’s Terminal 3, which is American’s terminal.
Checking in was very easy, I went to the Business Class line, and there were 4 people before me. The queue moved quickly, and I was soon checked in and on my way to Security.
I have TSA Pre-Check, which made things very easy! There was a queue of around 20 people in the Pre-Check line, but it moved very quickly – and I was Airside in less than 5 minutes! Take note UK security!
With American Airlines, anyone flying Business Class or who is a OneWorld Emerald or Sapphire member can enter the Admirals Lounge, and if Emerald can enter the Flagship Lounge. However, Flagship dining is only available if you are actually traveling First Class on American, no matter what your OneWorld status is. Not quite the same as BA’s Concorde room!
I visited the Admirals Lounge between concourse H and K. It’s a pretty big Lounge and has a lot of seating, tables, work stations, and other facilities.
When checking in to the Admirals Lounge, you are given a voucher for a ‘Premium Drink’ . This is for spirits, cocktails, premium wine, etc – correction, it’s for one of each. If you just want to sit, do some work, and/or relax – then, like me, you probably aren’t too fused about all that fancy cocktail stuff!
For reasons I don’t remember, I didn’t go to the T3 Flagship Lounge.
Because I’m useless, I didn’t manage to take any pictures of the Lounge (will do better next time) – but it had the usual cheese cubes, some crackers, some cookies, soda fountain, etc. If you fancied spending anywhere between $11 and $15 you could buy yourself a burger. Yes – you read that right – BUY on top of your Business Class ticket!
As this was a late flight, I chose to have a shower in the lounge. There was a short waiting list, so I left my name and was tannoyed when it was my time. American’s shower designs are actually pretty nice – especially compared to BA’s clinical offering at T5! The thing that let this down was the intermittent hot water and varying water pressure – I guess because everyone else was having showers, it just couldn’t take the strain!
This was a Boeing 777-200. I didn’t manage to get the reg number. I may stand corrected, but I believe in the post Covid-19 world, American may be switching this route with the 787-9 – but I may be wrong!
American’s Business Class offering in the 787 fleet is absolutely excellent, by the way!
This wasn’t (I believe) a Flagship Business seat, however very similar and nevertheless pretty good! This was a rear-facing seat, and there was lots of privacy, especially because the seat was next to the galley.
The seat was nice and wide, and there was a huge amount of legroom – perfect for someone tall.
The seat could pretty much be custom configured to any shape or place you wanted it. Neatly, you could also save the position – so if you needed to go to the bathroom you could put it to default and then put it back exactly how it was. I like these sorts of details!
One thing to note however, is if you need a bathroom break – you’ll probably need to put the tray table away, which means dinner being cleared, or packing up your office in the sky!
American offered this very nice green wash bag. It contained ear plugs, blind folds, a pen, socks, tooth brush and some other bits and bobs. As I do more reviews I’ll be careful to take more pictures and explain what’s in them. But like all the washbags, they go to Chez Neil, and we give them to our staying visitors. No, seriously, we actually do!
The Food and Drink
Once sat down, I was offered the usual customary water or champagne. I took the champagne. Unlike some of the other flights with American, they didn’t offer a refill – and my glass was pretty much taken off me as soon as I’d finished it. Seconds before we were lined up on the runway, a menu was shoved in my face and 10 seconds later I was asked what I wanted to eat. Literally, 30 seconds later we took off!
Once in the air, I was offered the usual hot nuts and a drink. I took a Heineken. The nuts were handed out in a manner which didn’t seem to be optional – and then I waited a least 20 minutes for my drink!
Dinner was a starter of Melon Manchego (me neither!), with a salad and an option of Beef, Prawns, Chicken or Goats Cheese surprise. I went for the Beef, it was pretty good. I ate some of the salad, and offered the Melon Macho’s back to the Cabin Crew, who declined it (their crew food must be better than this stuff!).
Joking aside, came quite an annoying problem. The drinks service was sooooo slow that by the time I had been given my hot nuts and beer, the dinner was now being served.
Secondary drinks were also extremely slow. This meant that the red wine I had ordered to have with my beef didn’t come until I’d pretty much finished my main – I didn’t want it to get cold.
You might argue that I could have pressed my Call Button and chased the drink. But I want to let the guys do things at their own speed to see how they do things without prompt (and so I can write scathing blogs about it afterwards).
Desert options were ice cream, cheese plate (known in England as crackers and cheese, because it’s actually not just a plate of cheese…..though in some restaurants in America it literally is) or mousse.
The eagle-eyed amongst you may have spotted that I had two rolls with my dinner, and also two deserts. This is because I was hungry but tight enough not to have wanted to spend $15 in the Admirals Club on dinner, on top of my air fare!
Because drinks service was so slow, I then asked for a glass of Port to have with my cheese – thinking that this would take another 30 minutes and I could have my cheese and Port a little later on. Typically, it was served (slammed down on the tray table) actually very quickly!
Breakfast was served about 45 minutes before landing, this time more efficiently. The culinary delight available was Quiche Lorraine (whatever that is), or a fresh fruit bowl.
On any view, the entertainment was absolutely world class. There were more blockbuster movies (old and new) than you could watch in a year!
There were also a HUGE number of music albums on the system – I managed to find any number of obscure bands – for example, under Guns ‘n’ Roses (not so obscure) it had full Appetite for Destruction, Use Your Illusion I and II and Chinese Democracy albums.
The one thing that is a let down for American Airlines is the lack of international TV. It would be nice, if like BA, there as more of a varied international offering – American TV just isn’t funny!
The Flight Map on American’s 777 is great. Lots of different viewing options, etc.
I’ve no idea how big the screen was, but it was a pretty good size I’d say. I can’t remember how it operated, so I won’t make any comment on that!
One annoying thing about the entertainment system is the flip in/out screens, which are required to be stowed (flipped in so you can’t see it, in non-aviation speak) for takeoff and landing. This means you probably lose an hour (at least) of entertainment. Actually that’s a lie, it’s less than that – cue headphone rant below!
The funny observation to this is that on both BA and American their safety videos are on the screens. BA’s Cabin Crew always meticulously un-stow (un-flip) the screens for the safety video, to make sure everyone watches them and puts them back for takeoff. American’s Cabin Crew didn’t bother either way.
The Cabin Crew
I won’t go into a full rant about the state of American’s Cabin Crew (I know I’ve been pretty scathing so far!) – but at least BA, Virgin, Qatar, JAL, Emirates, etc have a bit of pride about their uniform and a proudness of wearing it whilst representing the company internationally. I’m afraid to say American’s attitude appears to be anything goes. Some had hair up, some hair down, some wearing jackets, others not, some left their ties on, others took them off – shoes were all different, with some wearing trainers (sneakers), lots of phone gazing on the seats next to the exits, etc. You could call me a snob – but BA and Virgin (for example) are always pristine about their appearance, whether in the airport or on the flight.
The Cabin Crew did not address me by my name, at any time, even when taking my order. It was more “hey what do you want for dinner” or “hey here’s your drink”. Some may say it’s a third world problem, others may agree with me – but I think it’s a personal touch that counts.
Likewise a big letdown was on the dinner service. It just wasn’t polished. Food and drinks were slammed and shoved on the tray table – I felt like I was a product on a conveyor belt.
In Business Class, American used to give out Bose headphones, now they’re Bang and Olufsen. On every flight I’ve been on, without fail, your Entertainment is interrupted around 90 minutes before landing. This is because the Cabin Crew want to collect the expensive headphones, and replace them with some free Avis-branded crappy ones.
This is very annoying – why not assume Business Class travelers will return them? Or why not do it after landing, during the taxi to the gate? Or why not let people who’ve paid lots of money for their ticket keep a free pair of $100 headphones?
Sometimes, if there is a headphone shortage on the count-in, the Cabin Crew will keep interrupting the entertainment to demand their headphones back!
The problem is, even if you use your own headphones (which I do) – you’re still interrupted if you’re plugged into the plane’s entertainment system! Bloody annoying, hence why I don’t watch films on the plane!
Landing at Heathrow
Heathrow’s Terminal 3 is pretty good for landing and getting out. Security on the other hand is a complete mess – lots of shouting and pointing to an illogical end. I know this isn’t the Airline’s fault, so I’ll leave it at that. But sort it out Heathrow!
My luggage arrived relatively quickly – however if anyone tries to convince you that ‘priority luggage’ means your suitcase is given priority before other non-priority luggage – it’s not true!
There is no doubt the fact that this Business Class product in terms of the Seat, Entertainment and Comfort was outstandingly good. In fact, it’s basically BA’s First.
However, the Cabin Crew let this flight down somewhat. The service wasn’t rude or unpolite, but it felt like a production line and that I was a product. A complete lack of personal touch.
If you’re a business traveler (like me) and you want a great seat, good comfort, some nice food, to do some work and get a good sleep; I would definitely recommend this product. When you’re on much longer trips like LAX it’s exceptional.
However, if you’re planning a luxury holiday and you want five-star service before you get to your hotel – or you’re saving up to treat yourself to Business Class; I would fly with an airline who are actually interested in providing better customer service.
I should add, this is referring to my experience with this specific flight. I’ve had plenty of other American Airlines flights which have been by far better!
69 out of 87 – or 79%
I’ve down-scored on the Cabin Crew due to service, I’ve down-scored the Lounge due to lack of food variety, drinks, and the shower issue. However, I’ve given full marks for the seat, comfort and entertainment.
See my flight to Chicago here.