TRIED AND TESTED FLIGHT

HEATHROW–DAL­LAS FORT-WORTH

Business Traveler (USA) - - CONTENTS - Tom Ot­ley

Amer­i­can Air­lines 777-300ER Pre­mium Econ­omy Lon­don LHR – Dal­las Fort Worth DFW

CHECK-IN I ar­rived at Lon­don Heathrow Ter­mi­nal 3 at 7:00 AM for my de­par­ture on AA51 at 9:15 AM, 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 pro­gram, 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 and made like new, 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 or­ga­nized and ef­fi­ciently done.

THESE AT The pre­mium econ­omy cabin on this 777-300ER 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 cen­ter (16-19), mak­ing a to­tal of 28 seats. Each has power, both from a tra­di­tional socket (EU, US or UK) and a USB port for dig­i­tal de­vices, though it can be tricky to find and ac­cess – it is hid­den 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 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

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

seat in Pre­mium Econ­omy meant I had the space and the power sup­plies to do so.

There is a lim­ited amount of over­head bin space in the pre­mium econ­omy cabin. The pres­ence of the over-wing doors means there are no over­heads in those ar­eas and the cen­ter bins are smaller ca­pac­ity than the side ones. How­ever, on this flight it wasn’t a prob­lem, de­spite the cabin be­ing full, per­haps be­cause more pas­sen­gers had checked their bags.

There are two places to store books and mag­a­zines in the seat­back 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 leg rest 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 SEAT Avoid the cen­ter 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, ear plugs, tooth­brush and tooth­paste and CO Bigelow mois­tur­izer 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 apol­o­gize 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 chips 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 wash­room or re­trieve some­thing from an over­head locker, with flight at­ten­dants in turn over­look­ing this be­hav­ior.

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 were quickly dis­em­barked. 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.

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