I starting writing this as I was on AA 175, a 14ish hour flight from DFW to NRT (Narita, Japan) in business class. This plane is a Boeing 772 equipped with the new business class seats (all forward facing), which are fantastic. Before I review and specifics of the flight, however, know this: 14 hours is a long time in an airplane. Have you ever seen the Lewis Black video about flying to New Zealand? Look it up sometime when you aren’t at work and there aren’t any small children around to hear the language. It has always been funny, and this particular journey makes it all the funnier.So I was hyped to start the trip, which means I let some distinctly first world problems bother me until the flight got into its groove. Boarding was a little weird- of course we started by pre-boarding those with physical limits, but then a family with grown children came in from the side and all boarded at once without standing in line. They are right ahead of me in business class, and that became a challenge when they elected to stow their stuff in my overhead bin (each seat in business class has dedicated bin space). It was also a while before the flight attendant came around. That’s when it hit me– I essentially have a private suite with pretty decent food and drink (I pre-ordered the Japanese meal and enjoy Woodford Reserve bourbon) and should just shut up. These are tiny travel problems. There was still plenty of space for my stuff, and at pretty much exactly that moment the flight attendant came around offering sparkling wine. From there, everything was as good as 14 hours on an airplane can be. I made a short video describing the seat and my reaction as I boarded.
When I got to the seat, they had already placed several things there– the menu for the flight, blanket, pillow, amenity kit, and Bose headphones. I probably had to spend 20-30 minutes figuring out how to work the seat. Happily, there are lots of storage cubbies to keep my stuff. That is useful if you are going to have a lot of equipment out for travel blogging, and that is useful if you are trying to kill the best part of a day in a flying tin can. I made a short video showing the contents of the amenity kit as well as the general layout of the seat.
Meal service started very quickly after takeoff, and almost felt rushed. It started with a hot towel, followed by warm buts and choice of drink. I enjoy Woodford Reserve bourbon, and happily they pour rather a lot of it. It seems like those of us who pre-ordered the Japanese meal got served first. Regardless of whether one had that or a Western meal, the appetizer try was served separately from the entree tray. My appetizer tray came with 5 different miniature dishes which were really good- below, I have left a picture of the meal. Unfortunately, my picture of the menu did not turn out well.
Service up to this point in the flight had been solid, if rushed, and then… the flight attendants largely went away. I discovered later that they were there if I required anything, but I was expecting someone to come through the cabin from time to time to check on us. That did not happen. In their defense, almost all of the other passengers appeared to be sleeping. I could not do that on a 10:35 a.m. departure, although I was fine watching movies. I was disappointed, though, that the speed of the wifi connection declined as we went through the flight. Part of my plan had been to complete this blog post on the flight, and the speed of the connection prevented me from doing that.
Eventually, I decided to ask for some more food, and that led to an important discovery- it is extremely hard to use chopsticks to dip noodles in broth on a moving airplane, but a lovely flight attendant insisted that I try. So try I did, but require a new shirt I shall. Happily, they pour enough bourbon to constitute at least a triple, and I am on my second, so any sartorial challenges may not have been strictly due to the movement of the aircraft. If I had not wanted to ask for the noodle, there were other light snacks available in the business class galley. Pictures of both are below:
After the snack, it was time to settle in for some more movies. I attempted to take a nap, although the time of day made that difficult. Also, while this seat is great when seated, it became too narrow as a lie flight bed. My arms had nowhere to go, although I later learned that the armrest on the aisle could have been lowered to make it easier for my right arm.
American did indeed do that widely reported thing where they took up the Bose headphones a good hour and a half before landing. That was weird, because the three-pronged plus on the things meant they would have been worthless to me even if I was so inclined. At this point, they also offered another light meal service. The flight attendant described it as beef and rice, although I am fairly sure this is the dish the menu had described as a Japanese beef and potato stew. It tasted pretty good, and I was very much ready for a light meal at this point in the flight.
So would I book this flight again? Definitely, if the price was right and it fit my travel schedule. I am flying back next week in JAL’s new business class, and I will be curious to compare the two. In summary, however:
- The seat was great when seated or reclined, and less so when fully flat.
- The wifi was not great.
- The onboard entertainment was actually pretty good, and it was particularly helped by having several live news channels.
- The service wasn’t amazing, although it was certainly good enough to get me what I needed.
- The food was pretty good. It wasn’t fantastic, although it easily passed the standard I would expect on a plane. Do pre-order you entree for the first meal, though, to be sure you get what you want.
Happy travels, and post a comment to let me know if you have any questions! And remember- per the Lewis Black video I referenced earlier, 14 hours in an airplane is a very long time. Settle in, make the best of it, and enjoy the ride.
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