Review: American Airlines Business Class 777-200 From Rio to Miami
I was NOT a fan of our experience with American Airlines business class on a 777 from Rio de Janeiro to Miami. In this review, I’ll cover the hard product (flight / plane elements) and soft product (service, intangibles) of our flight on a Boeing 777-200 in American Airlines flagship business class. We got good value, but we weren’t happy with the experience. Read my review, and I think you’ll understand.
This was the return leg of our booking. We paid $502.55 per person cash for round-trip tickets from New York JFK to Rio de Janeiro GIG airport. You can read my review of the outbound flights on the 787-8 business class product here. Essentially, this was $251.28 for a one-way business class flight, and that’s a steal.
Despite the Galeão airport (GIG) in Rio de Janeiro being mostly empty, check in was super slow. I can honestly say it was the slowest check-in process I’ve encountered in the past year. Despite only having 2 families in line in front of us when we arrived, it took over 20 minutes before we got up to the counter. And that’s with 5 counters operating for “priority” people (business class, elite status, etc.). I have no idea why it dragged like that. Literally speaking, the person at the counter we went to was there for more than 20 minutes checking in. Ours took equally as long. I can’t figure out why.
The check-in agent we worked with was friendly. Looking back, she was the only American Airlines employee who smiled at us during this trip.
Prior To The Flight
I knew before going to the airport that the American Airlines Admirals Club lounge was closed. Luckily, we have Priority Pass, so I wasn’t worried about it. At check in, though, the agent informed us that we could use the Plaza Premium Lounge, which is the Priority Pass lounge I’ve visited at this airport previously. (remember that Plaza Premium will leave Priority Pass soon)
Airport security was a ghost town, as was passport control. The lounge hallway was deserted, and the lounge itself was mostly empty with very reduced services. We didn’t eat anything and just had some juice. The lounge clearly closed when our plane departed, because they dimmed the lights and announced that boarding would start soon. It seemed like an effort to shoo people out and close the lounge.
We departed from gate B38, about 7 minutes’ walk from the lounge.
The boarding started with people needing special assistance and then followed their standard boarding process. We also needed to show our passports & COVID tests again. Boarding was very disorganized, with no signs or ropes or anything to keep things organized. Thus, a bunch of people were gathered around, and you didn’t know who was in line/who was waiting for a later boarding group.
When we arrived at the door of the plane, someone looked at our tickets and indicated “this way” for business class. Notice I didn’t say “someone greeted us”. There were no smiles, no hellos, no warm welcomes. “I’m here, I saw your ticket, don’t bother me” was the start of our interaction with the flight crew. It never improved.
Review: American Airlines Business Class 777-200 From GIG To MIA
After boarding, my expectation for how the business class cabin would look matched reality. It looked nice & clean, and it matched the pictures I’d seen online. From here, I’ll divide my review into the hard product (what’s built into the plane) and then the soft product (the intangibles, like service & meals).
Hard Product Review: American Airlines Business Class 777-200
The flagship business cabin is divided into 2 sections, with a galley in between. There are 4 seats per row in a herringbone layout. Seats are 1-2-1, with single seats at the windows and 2 seats together in the middle. That being said, “together” is a loose word here. There are no staggered layout options to find seats that are really “together” in the middle. With masks on and the distance, we had to kind of shout to each other to talk. That’s because your heads are apart and feet closer together.
Rows 1-5 are in the front mini-cabin, and rows 7-10 are in the rear mini-cabin. Row 6 has only 1 seat, because the lavatory and galley eat up the remainder of the row.
We had seats 3D (me) and 3H (my wife).
Overhead bins were ample, as they’re only for business class passengers. Bins in the middle and at the aisle sides provide more than you need. I also like the ‘step’ feature built into the plastic molding, in case you’re struggling to reach something in the bins.
While many business class cabins offer some kind of divider between these middle seats, this cabin didn’t. If seated by someone you don’t know, this is a nice feature. It looks like there is an option to install a divider, but we found nothing available.
In the sitting position, I liked this seat. While sitting up, it felt quite comparable to the seat experience on the 787-8 we flew previously.
The amount of spacing around the feet and the seat is very good. It doesn’t feel cramped when sitting in the chair. I’m 5’10” and had to slide my seat forward to reach the foot rest in the footwell. However, there is an elevated ‘bump’ for lack of a better word, and my feet easily reached it. My feet never felt cramped. This space was also sufficient to store the pillow/blanket pack without it getting in my way.
The foot area is angled towards the center of the plane, while our heads were closer to the aisle. That being said, I didn’t feel exposed to the aisle or ever worry about being hit by the service cart.
The seatbelt is very padded, which I found heavy when resting on my lap. It does not have a 3-point shoulder harness. Instead of the standard “lift to open” buckle, this seatbelt has a push button. It’s similar to a seatbelt in your car in that regard.
The aisle-side arm rest is adjustable. You can put it up/down depending on your preference. It’s really easy to operate. Push the button and hold it while pushing down on the arm rest to lower. To raise it, simply push the button and it comes up automatically.
The arm rest on the center side is the plastic molding between my seat and my wife’s. It was decently roomy, and I was able to use this space for the headphones, bottle of water, and some personal items.
I always harp on storage. There was no place to put a laptop, unless you put it in the footwell. If your laptop is in a case, it’s too thick to fit in the literature holder.
The bins are too small for a laptop, because of the sub-divisions.
Inside one bin, I had a bottle of water and my headset. This bin also held the remote control for the entertainment system. In here, I also had a universal outlet and the headphone jack. There are also 2 USB ports.
The rear bin held the amenity kit, which came in a plastic bag.
On arrival at my seat, the tray table contained a menu and a sanitizing wipe. I assumed from the position of the tray table that it could slide out more and ALSO slide in more. The way it sits half-way out like this couldn’t be right, could it? Yup.
The tray table comes out fully and then unfolds. It is a decent size. While it avoids the horrendous slamming with tons of noise on the Dreamliner 787-8 plane, the fact it doesn’t slide all the way under the entertainment monitor became a big problem later in the flight. I liked it while seated and during meals. Later in the flight, I wanted to rip it off and throw in the trash.
The seat has good features. It included everything in my basic expectations in a business class cabin. As far as a “chair”, the American Airlines business class product on 777-200 flights covers my expectations.
Above my shoulder, built into the plastic molding, there is a reading lamp on the middle side. This is the side away from the aisle. It flips in/out easily and turns on automatically when opened.
This cabin does not have a “do not disturb” sign of any sort, which is a nice feature that could be added.
Below the storage, seat controls are via a touch-screen display. The screen turns off after a period of non-use. Touching the screen turns them back on. I found them simple to use.
The indicator for the overhead light didn’t work. In fact, the lights over my seat and my wife’s seat both did not work. I’m not sure if this is due to the controls or light bulbs being burnt out. We didn’t ask for it to be fixed during the flight, since we don’t use these much, but it does need to be improved.
Personal Entertainment System
While not overly large, the personal entertainment system (PES) was sufficient. The screen is touch screen, or you can use the remote control. I found the control more convenient. When touching buttons on the screen, such as the “volume up”, nothing happened. So I pushed it again. Then again. All the sudden, the volume went up 5 notches. It wasn’t intuitive when using the touch screen. The remote worked as expected, though.
Unlike the 787-8 entertainment system, the screen doesn’t move. You can’t put it away, probably due to the fact the tray table is attached to it.
There are lots of options for movies, music, TV programming, games, and even audio books.
Headphone sets were at our seats on arrival. These are Bang & Olufsen, and I thought they were good quality. The sound was clear, the cord was long enough to not be cumbersome without being so long that it gets in the way falling everywhere. The headphones are comfortable, rather than squeezing your head. I prefer in-ear headphones personally, but these were good.
I also liked the fact that wipes for the headsets came tucked into the case. You don’t know who used them previously.
While I liked the chair in the seated position, I hated the bed. Hated it. It doesn’t require a specific position for lying down, which is good. I attribute this to the open design of the plastic molding around the seats. Thus, you can lie in pretty much any position.
That being said, the padding is quite hard. The divisions from the headrest, body section, and seat section were uncomfortable. A mattress pad to put over the bed could definitely help here. I found it difficult to lie comfortably on this bed.
Also, the position of the padding for the middle-side arm rest stuck out awkwardly. This ate into the space around your shoulders / upper body. I’m not huge–5’10” and 165lbs. My wife is even smaller. We both felt this arm rest was in the way and that the padding divisions made sleeping difficult.
On arrival at our seats, the blanket and pillow were waiting inside a plastic bag. The blanket was comfortable and large enough to cover my whole body well. I find most planes are cold during the night, and this did the job well. The pillow was decent. It didn’t sink into nothingness when you put your head on it, but it doesn’t match the gel pillow on United Polaris business class.
The cabin gets sufficiently dark when you want to sleep, and the flight attendants avoided turning on the main lights. They used soft lighting at night to help you see your way to the bathroom, avoiding turning on the main lights. In fact, this was the lighting used during meal service, as well, given that it was an overnight flight.
Additionally, the fact the tray table can’t go further under the entertainment screen is a huge problem. So is the layout of the plastic molding. If you have the seat in the reclining or bed position, I found it really awkward & difficult trying to get in/out of the seat. The tray table eats up your space around the legs for getting in/out. The plastic molding sticks back too far to make the transition simple. You need to either do some gymnastics or move your seat back to the “chair” position to get in/out. That is a serious design flaw. It’s unnecessarily cumbersome the way things are situated.
Business Class Lavatories
The lavatories in business class were spacious, which is nice. There is a large baby changing table, which folds down from the wall. There are no amenities like lotion or perfume in the bathrooms, though. I found that surprising.
Business Class Galley
A feature I liked with the American Airlines business class cabin on the 777-200 was the galley area. Between business class and premium economy, this galley is open for stretching your legs, getting a bottle of water, etc. Prior to the pandemic, they had additional snacks in this area. There’s also a flight tracker. This is a nice area for getting out of your seat during the flight.
Soft Product Review: American Airlines Business Class 777-200
How was the soft product? This encompasses the flight attendants, service on board, meals, and extras that aren’t built into the plane itself. Spoiler alert: it was beyond bad.
The amenity kit on our flight was good. As with our previous American Airlines business class flight, it came in plastic wrap. On arrival, the amenity kit was sitting in one of the storage bins at our seats.
The amenity kit came in a folding leather case with a snap to keep it closed. It looks nice and is better than some others I’ve received. Nothing spectacular, but I’d rate it as “good”.
Inside, there are the standard items: eye mask, socks, toothbrush & toothpaste, pen, ear plugs, lip balm & hand lotion. The kit also had mouth wash & tissues, which are beyond most amenity kits these days. They also had advertisements for the Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard from Barclays. Another paper included the drug facts and ingredients for items in the kit.
While not the most flashy, the kit had everything you would expect and isn’t lacking anything.
Prior to boarding, menus were placed at each seat. When we arrived, we found a bilingual menu with the meal options for dinner & breakfast, as well as a list of drinks.
We requested special meals before the flight and confirmed these with the American Airlines twitter team the day before our flight. With American Airlines, when flying in Flagship Business or Flagship First, you can also select from the meal options online before the flight. That’s something I haven’t seen with other airlines. It’s usually just for special requests.
While tons of airlines routinely mess up our requests for special meals (my wife and I are both vegan), American Airlines on both flights got this right. They had our dinners on the plane, and everything was vegan. That’s a good start. And they’re actually offering special meals, while some airlines aren’t offering them right now (looking at you, United & Turkish!).
The meal, though..it sucked.
The main dish included black-eyed peas & bell peppers in no sauce with no seasonings. And the peas were undercooked. The asparagus was decent but again had no flavor whatsoever. Plain tomatoes on the side…um, ok. Broccoli that was steamed so long it was mushy enough you could drink it with a straw.
In the lower left, the small plate had slices of raw zucchini. What??
Then, a bread roll, some jam, and slides of watermelon. I remember when I became vegan almost 20 years ago, and vegan options back then sucked compared to today. People laughed about bad vegan food at the time. American Airlines went retro and concocted a dinner of horrible vegan food from my college dining hall in 2003. Congratulations.
They had no special meal for breakfast. The only options were the 2 breakfast options on the menu.
Overall Thoughts On Service
This leads into our overall thoughts on service during our American Airlines business class flight on the 777. The service was beyond bad. Just…really bad. There’s no other way to put it.
When I boarded, no one greeted me or smiled. Just a weak arm pointing at the aisle I should enter. When we left the plane, no one thanked us for flying American Airlines or gave that Robin Williams-genie-in-Aladdin type of “thank you, goodbye, thank you…” you would expect. I’m not joking when I say that the flight attendants resoundly committed themselves to saying less than 100 words during the flight experience, and I believe they accomplished that feat.
Here are some examples of the curt, non-friendly interactions we had.
1 hour until someone talked to us
No one came to say hello when we boarded. That’s definitely not typical in a premium cabin. From boarding, safety video, take off, and reaching cruising altitude, no one talked to either of us. I was inside the plane for over an hour until a flight attendant approached me. She came down the aisle taking dinner orders. Our conversation went like this:
Her: Special meal, right?
Her: Want woken up for breakfast?
Me: Do I have a special meal for breakfast?
Her: *shakes head*
Me: No thanks.
Her: *walks away*
No please, thank you, hello, or smile. Not a drop of friendliness in her voice. I’ve had friendlier service with a vending machine.
My wife’s flight attendant was even more curt:
FA: Veg meal?
*FA walks away*
Collecting headphones during the night
Can someone explain to me this OBSESSION that the American Airlines flight attendants have with the headphones? On both of our flights, outbound and return, they came around taking away headphones while people slept. What the hell is going on here?
My flight attendant got the headphones and then accidentally dropped them on my chest while I was sleeping. Of course it woke me up and scared me half to death.
On my wife’s side, her headphone cord was tangled up with her arm while sleeping. That didn’t stop the guy from pulling on the cord and insisting on taking away the headphones while she slept. Of course, she woke up.
Are people stealing these left and right? I just can’t get my head around the way AA handles these. I’ve never seen this on any airline, and it’s beyond annoying.
Departure, FAs act like I’m in their way
When it was time to exit, we used the middle door (between business and economy). 2 flights attendants were hanging out near the galley/lavatory area, just chatting. Not saying goodbye to people, just hanging out chatting and blocking the aisle. When I politely said “excuse me” so I could get off the plane, they looked SHOCKED. It was that “the audacity of this man interrupting our chat!” expression on their faces. Like I was being rude for using this aisle to exit the plane.
Oh, and of course no one said goodbye or “thanks” or anything. Nope, they would’ve had to talk to the customers.
The flight attendants on our flight were awful. Install a robot to hand out meals, and let’s be done with it. American Airlines would offer a superior soft product if they did this. The people working in the business class cabin were not friendly, provided no concept of “customer service”, and they didn’t even do the safety demonstration (it was a video). To be blunt, my flight would’ve been better without these FAs. I’d prefer their absence to their presence.
Maybe the robots would make a better meal, also.
Final Thoughts On American Airlines Business Class 777 Flight
Our American Airlines business class flight on the Boeing 777-200 was “The Good, The Bad & The Ugly”. The good=chair product. The bad=meals and bed product. The ugly=service from the flight attendants.
Was anyone mean to us? No. Were we injured in some way? No. But would I fly American Airlines business class on the 777-200 again? Nope. Especially not with this crew.