American Airlines Business Class: LAX-SYD B777-300ER
American Airlines has always had a poor reputation but they seem to be fixing it now at least with their hard product (new planes). They started a new route back on December 17, 2015 from Los Angeles to Sydney. It’s seen light loads since they launched as they are using their flagship plane (B777-300ER) which has the largest passenger capacity of their fleet. I was lucky to be able to use a gifted SWU (System Wide Upgrade) from an AA Executive Platinum member to upgrade from an Economy paid ticket to Business for my flight from Los Angeles to Sydney. The SWU upgrades are clearing around 36 hours prior to the flight but no need to worry as there are always 15+ business class seats available on this route. This is one of the best flights, if not the best, to use SWU’s as the value is around $4,000 each way for the upgrade from Economy to Business class.
The flight leaves from Terminal 4 @ LAX but they opened a new post-security connector to TBIT (Tom Bradley International Terminal) so Business Class passengers can access the Oneworld Business Class Lounge located in TBIT. The lounge wasn’t as nice as the Star Alliance Business Class lounge in TBIT due to no outdoor balcony but otherwise was top tier for a US-based lounge. The food and drink offerings were very nice but the food could have a few more options. They offer a juicing bar which is a nice touch to keep everyone healthy while traveling.
Upon boarding, I found my seat at 3J which is the same reverse herringbone Business Class seat EVA Air and Cathay Pacific offer. It’s the best business class seat available today. The amenities included Bose noise-canceling headphones, pajamas, slippers and a heritage amenity kit (changed to Cole Haan kit as of March 2016 with a $75 off $250 Cole Haan coupon).
American offers pre-ordering of meals online so I selected the Grilled Beef filet for this leg (Roast Rack of Lamb on SYD-LAX is amazing!). The beef was very good but a bit of a heavy meal when it’s served around 11:30PM body clock. I was off to bed after the meal and catching up online. They include a 2 blanks and 2 pillows to make your own bed. The seat goes lie-flat and has plenty of room to enjoy many hours of sleep. It’s nothing like the padding that Cathay Pacific provides in First Class but it’s fine for sleeping 7+ hours. I slept for almost 9 hours and woke up for breakfast which is served about 2 hours prior to landing. An onboard walk up bar is available for light snacks and drinks throughout the flight which was nice as it’s right behind Row 4 in the galley. I opted for the Traditional American breakfast along with some fruit which was a perfect amount of food to fuel me through my morning. We landed into Sydney on time and I utilized the ePassport machines for immigration. I was given an Express Path voucher before landing for exiting baggage claim which expedited the process with no wait. It was a painless process and much easier than entering the US even with Global Entry. I was off in my Uber in no time on a beautiful Sydney morning!
On American’s 777-300ER planes they offer international satellite WiFi which I was eager to try given I’d be flying this route quite often. I connected to “AA Inflight” and was sent to a landing page to pay the $19 for the entire flight with no data limits :). The service is provided by T-Mobile Germany and offers OK speeds given you receive unlimited data. Typically download speeds are similar to a 3G cellular connection (<2Mbps) whereas upload speeds are very slow at around 0.2Mbps making it very hard to send large files. I still enjoy having WiFi on a long haul as it gives me something else to do besides watch movies. The price works out to be ~$1.25/hr. Well worth it in my opinion!
Overall: The inflight crew service was the quality of a US airline which is poor. Don’t expect them to go out of their way to hang your clothes or make your bed like all Asian and Middle Eastern airlines do. Only expect a nice business class seat. AA Business Class is the best business product to SYD at the moment until Virgin Australia starts their new business class service on their LAX-SYD route later this month. Inflight WiFi service is still going to make AA a winner for me. If you are an American Executive Platinum or have a friend who is willing to gift a SWU to you give this route a try!
Tip: Signup for the American Airlines status challenge as you will make Platinum status with just 1 roundtrip on this route.
AA SWU success so far this year:
-Cleared on a Sunday (Feb 2016) LAX-SYD 36 hours prior from Economy to Business using a gifted SWU.
-Cleared on a Wednesday (March 2016) SYD-LAX 36 hours prior from Economy to Business using a gifted SWU.
-Cleared on a Saturday LAX-SYD (April 2016) 23 days prior from Economy to Business using a gifted SWU.
-Cleared on a Friday (April 2016) SYD-LAX 36 hours prior from Economy to Business using a gifted SWU.