Review: American Airlines Business Class LAX - PVG
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I have already written about my flight experience on American after being upgraded from Business class to First class on the reverse of this flight (Shanghai to Los Angeles) here, but despite the fact that I've flown this flight in Business multiple times now, I haven't had a chance to review it yet. I took this particular flight back in March and it was my second time flying this route. In all honesty, I do my best to fly Cathay Pacific when traveling to Shanghai, but sometimes it isn't within my budget, so I resort to flying American.
American Airlines #183
Los Angeles (LAX) - Shanghai (PVG)
Friday, March 20th, 2015
10:55 AM - 4:10 PM (+1)
Boeing 777-200: Seat 11H (Business Class)
I fly to Shanghai for business quite often and since I am loyal to oneworld, I will often get stuck flying American Airlines metal internationally. I will admit that in some cases, i.e. when a route has a 777-300 or uses the newest American Airlines Business class layout, flying American internationally is not bad, but this particular route is a bit rough with the extremely dated 777-200.
American Airlines boards even this international flight directly out of American's terminal 4 at LAX, which is a bit of a nightmare to begin with because none of the boarding areas are really large enough to comfortably support such a large group of people. It's also disappointing because Tom Bradley International is the nicest terminal at LAX and terminal 4 is probably the worst, but I digress.
Once boarding, the first thing you will notice is how extremely old the airplane looks. The seats are caked in years of grime and unfortunately, nothing ever looks very clean. American's Business class on this route has a 2-3-2 configuration, which is less than ideal for an extremely long flight when you know you'll either have to disturb your seatmate to get up or they'll disturb you depending on where you're seated. Additionally, instead of being lie-flat, which is the standard for Business class seats on international flights, the seats are angled lie-flat, which is basically the worst when flying more than 12 hours internationally and preferring to spend a majority of the flight asleep. So, not only does every seat not have aisle access (standard in most international Business class cabins), but you'll be sleeping sitting halfway up as well.
It should be said that as an objective reviewer, I need to point these things out, but I am honestly really appreciative that my employer will pay for Business class when flying to China - much appreciated!
I grabbed my seat in 11H, which is an aisle seat next to the window and settled in. At some point during the boarding process, the flight attendants came by to offer orange juice, water, or champagne. I had some water and perused the menu. Due to the timing, this flight offers a "dinner" served at lunch time in the US shortly after takeoff, and a "breakfast" served in the middle of the night in the US about an hour and a half before landing.
While waiting for takeoff, I had a look at the entertainment system and the seat controls. As you can see, everything is extremely dated. The remote controls for the in-flight entertainment are usually somewhat crusty and can be found to the left of the seat. The televisions themselves are pretty small compared to standard international Business class offerings and are completely stationary, so no adjustments can really be made. The good news is that American's movie offerings are quite good and on flights to China, there are usually around 40-50 (my estimation based on flipping through) movies available each flight.
As I mentioned, the seats are angled lie-flat and the seat controls found near the armrest in the middle of the two seats are quite complicated given there's not really anywhere for them to go! I usually have a bit of a hard time getting my seat as flat as it will go, but then again, I usually struggle with seat controls, so maybe it's just me!
Prior to takeoff, the crew will come by to take meal orders and sometimes will introduce themselves. Service on these flights is usually hit or miss, but I'd say more often a miss. The first time I took this flight, I had service items sit on the table at my seat for no less than 6 hours without being taken away even though I had given all indications they were no longer needed. After ringing the call button, no one came for more than 20 minutes, so I had to wait for my seatmate to get up, then finagle my way out of the seat without knocking things over, then just took the glasses to the galley and put them somewhere because it was clear that a flight attendant was never going to do it. Generally, US airlines never have service on the same level as Asian airlines, which I find very disappointing, but it's something I accept as a given.
Shortly after takeoff, drink service began and we were offered warm nuts along with our drink of choice.
The "dinner" menu read as follows:
Thai Chicken with grilled five-spice pineapple, watermelon, and Asian mint dressing
Mixed greens with artichokes, roasted tomatoes and feta cheese
Peppered Beef Filet with thyme jus, smoked mac and cheese and haricots verts
Cashew Chicken with ginger garlic sauce, egg fried rice, stir-fried vegetables, and baby bok choy
Soy Glazed Halibut with miso sauce, green tea rice, snap peas and baby carrots
Stuffed Portobello Mushroom with mixed vegetables, wild rice, sauteed spinach and roasted red pepper sauce
Traditional Ice Cream Sundae with your choice of butterscotch, hot fudge, or seasonal berry toppings
Gourmet Cheese Plate
Black Forest Mousse Cake
True to form, I ordered the peppered beef filet as my entree. In general, I somehow think beef is better than chicken on an airplane (up for debate) and I don't eat fish or like mushrooms. The starter was pretty odd. The combination of chicken, fruit and mint was a bit too weird for me, but I at least finished the fruit and some of the chicken - separately. I really enjoy this salad and have seen it on multiple American flights. They love to pile on the dressing, which is more than I would have liked, but it has a lot of flavor with the artichoke and feta, which is great. The beef is honestly never great, but somehow it's the lesser of the evils for me, so beef it is. In this case, it was suspended in a pool of watery liquid and the mac and cheese was a bit too smoked for my liking, but it was edible so I'm not complaining. For dessert this time around, I went with the ice cream, but I've since found that my stomach is happier if I skip dessert while flying for long periods of time - imagine that!
As soon as meal service was complete, the flight attendants turned down the lights and straight up disappeared for the next 7-8 hours. Rarely have I seen them stroll the aisles to check and see if anyone needs anything and it's almost always the case that I won't see them again until the lights come back on and it's time for the "breakfast" service to begin. This is disappointing to me as someone who does not like to ring the call button and hates to be a bother, but would definitely appreciate it if the flight attendants came by every once in a while so that I could feel comfortable grabbing them if necessary.
About an hour and a half before landing, the lights come on and the flight attendants begin beverage service. "Breakfast" meals are on the cart, so they pass them out after you order your drink. I decided to pass on breakfast on this flight, but the menu read as follows:
Fresh Seasonal Greens with bell pepper, radish and pepper cream dressing
Broccoli and Red Pepper Strata with smoked chicken sausage and roasted potatoes
Dim Sum roast pork bun, chicken gyoza pot sticker and shrimp shumai with e-fu noodles
Triple Chocolate Cheesecake
I have ordered the Strata before and it's really not appetizing at all. The egg is always over-cooked and all of the items kind of blend together, so it all has the same flavor. In general, I just don't eat anything before landing when flying this route, but I think it would be really nice if they could offer some sort of a la carte fruit or yogurt as an additional option.
Once the meal service is complete, it's usually about 40 minutes until landing, so I'll use that time to freshen up and collect my belongings. It should also be noted that American passes out Bose headsets at the beginning of the flight, which is very nice, but they start collecting them right about now. So a word of advice here is to always have a backup pair of headphones ready in case you want to finish watching that movie that was almost over before landing.
All in all, this flight could certainly be worse, but I'm always so underwhelmed. Flying between San Francisco and Shanghai in Cathay Pacific Business is truly a world of difference and it's unfortunate that American doesn't even try to step up their game. Despite this, it should be noted - I have been told that in November, the aircraft will finally be upgraded to a 787, which I honestly think will make this a MUCH more pleasant flight due to the much nicer, newer aircraft and the fact that it offers a 1-2-1 configuration with lie-flat seats in Business.
As of now, my recommendation is to avoid flying American international on the old 777-200 aircrafts if you can.
Just a twenty-something with a full-time job and a full-time obsession with traveling. It's best to LiveTraveled.