Amer­i­can Air­lines B777-300ER pre­mium econ­omy

HEATHROW–DAL­LAS/FORT WORTH

Business Traveller (Asia-Pacific) - - TRIED AND TESTED FLIGHT -

CHECK-IN

I ar­rived at Lon­don Heathrow Ter­mi­nal 3 at 0700 for my de­par­ture on AA51 at 0915, a flight of some nine hours and 45 min­utes. Check-in at the air­port is ei­ther in Zone B for pre­mium pas­sen­gers or Zone E some dis­tance away for all oth­ers.

THE LOUNGE

Pre­mium econ­omy pas­sen­gers do not get the use of ei­ther of Amer­i­can’s two lounges at Ter­mi­nal 3. For those with sta­tus ei­ther with the air­line’s loy­alty pro­gramme (AAd­van­tage) or in Oneworld, the op­tions are the Ad­mi­rals Club or the In­ter­na­tional First Class Lounge, both ac­cessed through the same en­trance (in the same area as the Vir­gin At­lantic Club­house). The In­ter­na­tional First Class Lounge is what Amer­i­can calls its top lounges in air­ports where it has yet to re­fur­bish them. Once re­fur­bished, they are re­named Flag­ship lounges.

BOARD­ING

Board­ing took place at Gate 31 with pri­or­ity to first and busi­ness class pas­sen­gers fol­lowed by those in pre­mium econ­omy, main cabin ex­tra and then econ­omy seat­ing. This was well or­gan­ised and ef­fi­ciently done.

THE SEAT

The pre­mium econ­omy cabin on this B777-300ER is sep­a­rated from busi­ness class by four wash­rooms, two for busi­ness class pas­sen­gers and two for pre­mium econ­omy and econ­omy pas­sen­gers.

The con­fig­u­ra­tion is 2-4-2 (AC–DEGH–JL) with three rows at the sides (16-18) and four rows in the cen­tre (16-19), mak­ing a to­tal of 28 seats. Each has power, both from a tra­di­tional socket (EU, US or UK) and a USB point, though it can be tricky to find and ac­cess – it is un­der the arm­rest.

The com­fort­able, dark-grey leather seats have a pitch of 38 inches and are no­tice­ably more spa­cious than those be­hind in econ­omy. By choos­ing pre­mium

Be­ing able to work was im­por­tant, and this seat meant I had the space and power sup­plies to do so

econ­omy, you also avoid the new 3-4-3 seat­ing (ten-across) in econ­omy, which may be rea­son enough to pay the ex­tra.

No mat­ter how much air­lines try to con­vince us that new econ­omy seats of­fer en­hanced lev­els of com­fort over the pre­vi­ous cabins (a 3-3-3 con­fig­u­ra­tion), space is tight, which makes it dif­fi­cult to work or sleep. For a long day flight like this, be­ing able to work was im­por­tant, and this seat in pre­mium econ­omy meant I had the space and the power sup­plies to do so.

There is a lim­ited amount of over­head locker space in the pre­mium econ­omy cabin, with the over-wing doors mean­ing there are no lock­ers in those ar­eas and the cen­tre over­head lock­ers be­ing smaller in ca­pac­ity than the side ones. How­ever, on this flight it wasn’t a prob­lem, de­spite the cabin be­ing full, per­haps be­cause most peo­ple had checked bags.

There are two places to store books and magazines in the seat-back pock­ets, though bulky items wouldn’t fit. A small bag could eas­ily go un­der the seat in front. Footrests come down from the seat in front (apart from the front row) and, when you re­cline, there’s also an elec­tron­i­cally con­trolled legrest if de­sired. These fea­tures make it a lot more com­fort­able for a long-haul flight, as does the ad­justable head­rest, though lots of peo­ple had brought their own neck pil­lows (in­clud­ing me).

It’s worth not­ing that, while flight loads dif­fer through­out the year, in this case both pre­mium econ­omy and busi­ness were full or close to it. How­ever, econ­omy was prob­a­bly half empty, leav­ing a few lucky pas­sen­gers the op­tion of stretch­ing out across two or three seats and thus hav­ing more space than those who had paid for pre­mium econ­omy.

BEST SEATS

Avoid the cen­tre seats E and G. The best seats are those in the front row, par­tic­u­larly at the doors (16AC and 16JL), though bear in mind peo­ple will end up stand­ing here ei­ther to stretch their legs or wait to use the wash­rooms, so they aren’t per­haps the qui­etest choice. These wash­rooms are also used by econ­omy pas­sen­gers from the front of the main cabin. If you do choose these front row seats by the doors, you might get cold feet, so pack an ex­tra pair of socks.

I was in the back row in 19H, which meant I could re­cline my seat with­out wor­ry­ing about en­croach­ing on any­one’s space and also wasn’t knocked by any pas­sen­gers sit­ting be­hind. How­ever, one po­ten­tial prob­lem with this row is that there may be a bassinet at the front of the econ­omy cabin and so just be­hind you, in which case all bets are off.

THE FLIGHT

When we boarded we were told that the IFE sys­tem wasn’t work­ing. This would have been a bit­ter blow for many, but I was work­ing, so the main in­con­ve­nience was not hav­ing ac­cess to the flight maps and wifi.

There was a small amenity bag at the seat con­tain­ing an eye mask, earplugs, tooth­brush and tooth­paste, and CO Bigelow mois­turiser and lip balm.

We de­parted on time and the meal ser­vice be­gan once we were in the air. The starter was a salad of sea­sonal greens with bal­samic vinai­grette. Mains were co­conut curry chicken, rice and veg­eta­bles or tomato- and moz­zarella-filled fiorelli pasta, leek sauce and pick­led pep­pers with Grana Padano. I chose the lat­ter, which was fine though hardly ex­cit­ing. Dessert was ap­ple crum­ble with fresh cream and blue­ber­ries.

Not ev­ery­one got the full choice – I got one of the last pasta dishes. As it says on the menu, “If we reach your seat and have run out of your meal of choice, we apol­o­gise and hope you will still en­joy your flight.”

There was a choice of sev­eral dif­fer­ent beers in­clud­ing Sam Adams, and a white wine – Re­serve de Sainte-Hélène Colom­bard-Chardon­nay, France – or a red – Villa Chavin Re­serve Tem­pranillo Syrah, Spain. I had the red, which was ac­cept­able.

Although this was a long flight, it passed quickly as I worked, read and slept a fair bit. The per­son on the in­side of me in 19G was a heavy sleeper and so didn’t dis­turb me by get­ting up very of­ten. About half­way through the flight I was hun­gry and walked to the back of the air­craft through the main econ­omy cabin and found some crisps and choco­late bars to eat.

There were some bouts of mild tur­bu­lence and, as has be­come the norm, the seat belt sign would be left on for pro­longed pe­ri­ods. Many pas­sen­gers ig­nored it to go to use the bath­room or re­trieve some­thing from an over­head locker, with flight at­ten­dants in turn over­look­ing this be­hav­iour.

Around 90 min­utes be­fore land­ing there was an­other meal of Mediter­ranean salad, tzatziki, sautéed as­para­gus, roasted aubergine, roasted bell pep­pers, fusilli pasta, and choco­late and salted caramel pud­ding.

AR­RIVAL

We ar­rived on time and dis­em­barked quickly. There was no queue at im­mi­gra­tion.

VER­DICT

This is a com­fort­able pre­mium econ­omy seat with all the power you need to work and enough room to sleep. It’s a shame the IFE and wifi were not work­ing. I prob­a­bly wouldn’t have used the wifi, but I would cer­tainly have en­joyed watch­ing a film or track­ing the progress of the flight. Tom Ot­ley

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