A few weeks ago, Shelly and I headed to Switzerland with this Dallas TX to London Heathrow leg flying American Airlines flight 50 in flagship first. Taking into account this trip is post-Covid, I will do my best to give you a totally objective review of this flight.
This flight was one of the three flight, two hotels and one lounge reviews for our trip to Switzerland. The other reviews are listed below:
- Emirates game changer first class from Zurich to Dubai is here.
- Emirates first class lounge at Dubai International Airport is here.
- Emirates first class from Dubai to San Francisco is here.
- Hotel Continental Park in Lucerne Switzerland is here.
- Waldorf Astoria Palm Jumeirah in Dubai is here.
What Is American Airlines International Flagship First Class
American Airlines offers three types of first class service:
- International Flagship first class (777-300),
- Domestic Flagship first class (777-300) and
- Domestic first class (all other aircraft types).
They also have three types of business class service:
- International Flagship business class (777-300),
- Domestic Flagship business class (777-300) and
- Domestic business class (all other aircraft types).
I have included American Airlines International business class into the equation as I will compare some of the differences between the two.
What The Flight Costs
Typically, American Airlines has about a three-thousand dollar difference on this routes between first and business class.
I actually booked this one-way flight from Seattle to Dallas-Fort Worth and on to London Heathrow using Alaska Airlines miles. I redeemed 85,000 and $42.00 for both flights.
How I Reviewed This Flight
I’ll be honest, I had a great deal of difficulty reviewing this flight. I have flown international first class on several airlines and this flight is post-pandemic. To make sure that I remained objective, I employed two controls into this review:
- Control #1 – The international flagship first class experience as stated on their website. In some metric categories, I will include their description in bold text and
- Control #2 – We flew back in first class on Emirates. There is no way that I am comparing American with Emirates. I used Emirates as a control on the post-pandemic service level.
The Predeparture Experience
Passengers flying aboard Amercian Airlines Flagship international first class are entitled to visit:
- American Airlines first class dining at select airports. “Enjoy an exclusive fine-dining experience inside select Flagship® Lounges – allowing you to eat before your flight and sleep sooner.”
- American Airlines first class lounge at select airports. “Relax before you fly in our premium lounge in select hub cities. Or access our International First Class Lounges and Admirals Club® lounges in other cities.Relax before you fly in our premium lounge in select hub cities. Or access our International First Class Lounges and Admirals Club® lounges in other cities.”
American Airlines first class dining is an exclusive first class dining room. Both first class dining and the first class lounge were closed at DFW. When I inquired about this, I was told that first class dining was closed as a restaurant in accordance with Texas state law. I was told that the first class lounge was closed because they serve a buffet. I was a little puzzled by the restaurant closure so I googled Texas restaurant status and I found that Texas reopened full indoor restaurant seating as of March 10, 2021.
The Admiral’s Club in concourse D was open. They served a snack buffet and had a food for purchase menu. I asked if the menu items were complimentary to Flagship international first class passengers in place of first class dining and they said no.
American Airlines does anticipate reopening first class dining and the first class lounge in September.
The Boarding Experience
Prior to boarding the aircraft, I overheard the gate agents discussing moving the passenger seated in 2A. This grabbed my attention since my wife will be sitting in seat 2A. I went to the desk and I asked about the situation. They explained to me that a part of her suite is inoperative. They told me that the desk function at that seat was broken. We decided to keep seat 2A.
This aircraft comes in from Miami before departing for London. This flight usually departs about thirty minutes late and American Airlines says that is due to aircraft cleaning. The boarding process was typical and orderly for an international flight. You are greeted at the aircraft door by the purser and directed to your seat. Most international airlines have a flight attendant escort first class passengers to their seats and demonstrate the features of the suite. It is a nice touch when you are escorted to your seat and assisted in getting settled. American Airlines does not do this but it is not in any way a deal-breaker.
The “Flagship First” Suite
American Airlines only operated their flagship first class on board their Boeing 777-300ER aircraft. Current, American has 20 of these aircraft with an average age of 16.7 years. The first class suite is configured as:
- 1-2-1 reverse herringbone layout with eight seats,
- The seat width is 21.5 inches,
- The seat pitch is 64 inches and
- The lay-flat bed is 78 inches long.
As a comparison, the business class seating is configured as:
- 1-2-1 reverse herringbone layout with lay-flat suites,
- The seat width is 20.5 inches,
- The seat pitch is 43 inches and
- The lay-flat bed is 75 inches.
The first class seat is an open suite with no privacy. The seat is comfortable and it has a unique feature, the seat can turn 45 degrees and the side table can flip out to become an office suite.
There were no jammies or slippers available in first class for this flight. I couldn’t get an answer if these items failed to make the catering truck or it was due to cost cutbacks. She did find a pair of slippers left over which I was able to use.
American Airlines describes the bedding as:
Casper sleep set
We’ve got comfort covered with pajamas, slippers, mattress pads, pillows and blankets created alongside sleep technology company Casper exclusively for us.
I have to say that the bedding was very comfortable. It is designed in a way that the bedding does not shift as I rolled over.
The new first class amenity kit is by D. S. and Durga.
The noise-canceling headset is by Band and Olufson and they had a good sound quality. The first class monitor is a small 15-inch swing-out design. The suite does have an array of audio and entertainment connections.
Food And Beverage Service
There was no pre-departure champaign or any choice of beverage on this flight. The flight attendants did pass out bottled water and a package of nuts prior to pushback.
The beverage service used disposable plastic and paper cups in first class. I was told this was due to Covid. This is the the reason that I used the control group to see if this is the new reality or cost-cutting.
The food service was something that I need to mention. American Airlines describes their international flagship first class meals as:
You can now choose when you’d like to enjoy a multi-course meal complete with our award-winning wines. We’ve also partnered with the James Beard Foundation to create exclusive dishes designed by their elite chefs.
In my experience in flying in premium cabins, there are first class and business class menus. The dinner is first class is usually a five-course meal while business class is typically three courses. I thought my eyes were seeing things as American Airlines serves first class passengers from the business class menu. Normally, the different courses are served as individual courses.
For dinner, I ordered the bourbon-glazed salmon with fig and roasted pepper orzo, sugar snap peas and cherry tomatoes. The dessert was set as the lemon tart. The starter was the sundried tomato tartar. Other dinner options were:
- Peppercorn seared beef filet,
- Braised chicken cacciatore and
- Cheese enchiladas
All of the food was delivered at the same time on a plastic tray.
There was a mid-flight snack tray set up in the first class galley.
The breakfast options were:
- Fresh fruit bowl or
- Scrambled eggs benedict.
I ordered the scrambled eggs.
Covid Or Cost-cutting?
As I said at the very beginning, this review was very difficult to write. I want to be objective and I really wanted this first class experience to work out. This is why I used the two control groups to make sure that my expectations of a product called international flagship first class are a much better experience than in business class.
American Airlines staff all gave me the same reason for service downgrades as Covid. In some respects, I could accept that explanation. However, my return flight flying first class on Emirates showed no downgrade in first class service level. Let me be clear, Emirates is still concerned about Covid as the flight attendant uniforms are equipped with full PPE. Emirates did serve all meal courses individually and all beverages were served in appropriate glassware.
To be honest, the menus in flagship first and flagship business are the same menus. Except for the desk configuration, the suites are nearly identical in design.
I hadn’t flown American Airlines on an international flight in a long time. I was really hoping for a first class experience that was somewhat comparable to that of international carriers. I have read other blogger’s reviews where they claim that British Airways first class is the best business class offering. I have actually had very good service in British Airways first class and I believe that their first class doesn’t deserve that moniker.
The dated, open suites were comfortable and not a deal-breaker. That being said, many international carriers have enclosed suites in business class. Maybe it is time for American Airlines to upgrade their flagship first class suite.
I was looking forward to an exemplary example of international first class service. Maybe it was just my flight but the results fell short of how American Airlines describes that top-of-the-line product. I wanted to be as objective as possible so you the reader can decide for yourself if the price premium for flagship first class is worth the price or not.
Tomorrow, I will review Emirates first class from Zurich to Dubai.