After checking out of the Park Tower hotel the latest that I could for free, which is 4pm for SPG Gold members if I remember correctly, as taxi was soon outside of the hotel to take me to the airport. This was well ahead of my flight, but I’d rather hang around the American Airlines Admirals Club than hang around the city that I didn’t particularly like that much.
Pulling up to Terminal A and jumping out of the taxi straight out of Grand Theft Auto, I made my way into the airport check in area. Unfortunately the American Airlines counter wouldn’t be set up for another 15 minutes… in Argentinian time, that’s 30-45 min. So I attempted to check in through an automated kiosk at the end of the check in area. Placing all of my documentation on the scanner and filling out the questions, the system then told me I need to see a gate agent. This is not an unknown problem to me, a similar issue happened in South Korea because I was attempting to check in too early. Figuring that was the case, I made one more attempt, after which I hung around and checked out a few shops here and there.
While walking around the check in area, a notice came through my phone that I no longer had a seat on my flight to Miami. What? This was a bit disconcerting, why was this happening? Logging into the app, my seat did in fact disappear, but a bit of searching and quickly I discovered why. Now American Airlines has two types of 777 aircraft. The 777-300ER flagship aircraft with a first class, business class, and economy. My flight was on the older 777-200 version of the plane. Thing with the 777-200 fleet is that American is in the middle of updating the interiors of the aircraft, which means removing the first class cabin and just putting a business class and economy cabin in place. Recently American halted this update due to slow manufacturing by the seat vendors for the business class, so the 777-200 updates had been stopped leaving the majority of the fleet with the old product that had a first class, I was supposed to be on this first class.
At some point, an old 777-200 with the first class was swapped out for the 777-200 with the new interior, since I was in first class, the new plane lacked a first class, so I was bumped down to business. A little disappointing to say the least, but I did end up getting my points refunded for the difference in class that I was flying.
After getting booked into a new seat, off to the terminal I went. A quick trip through security and I was into the Admirals club. A few hours later it was time to board the plane. Argentina is weird, they send you through security, and then before you board, they make everyone open their bags and check the interiors of the bags. This check is not thorough, and only serves to slow down the boarding process. Really I’m not sure what the point of these checks are, but they require them, so we obliged.
Boarding into the business class cabin, I was in love with the seats here. The setup is a reverse herringbone design where every seat has aisle access. This isn’t a true reverse herringbone design as every other seat is backwards here, so the 777-300ER reverse herringbone is slightly different. If you do fly one of these, the backwards facing seats have better window views, so if you like the window, check out those seats. These business class seats are probably some of the best in the airline world. Each seat is private… well except that my seat was broken and the arm rest was in its lowered position and wouldn’t come up… oh well. Of all my flights on this trip, this was the best seat.
Amenity kits were waiting for us at our seats, as well as a menu for the meals on the flight. Once again, I had requested the vegetarian/vegan meal, so none of it applied to me, but take a look at what was on offer.
Bose headphones were handed out to the cabin while we waited to push back from the gate. This is something that America deserves a lot of credit for, while many airlines hand out so called “noise cancelling” headphones, they are in most cases, not actually noise cancelling. Bose are definitely noise cancelling and so very much more comfortable to wear for extended periods of time.
Now let's cover the flight attendants, the word terrible comes to mind. While I give them credit for proactively confirming that I had a vegetarian meal, that's about the only positive that this crew had going for it. They were detached, clearly just there to do the bare minimum and unhappy to do it. This is business class and it was treated like we should be in the cargo hold.
Flight attendants addressed everyone in Spanish first… weird for an American carrier, every other flight overseas with American addresses passengers in English first. When I fly Air France, they address everyone in French first, as I would expect from a French carrier, this was just plain weird. When it came to meal time, everything was served on one platter… this is pretty rare in business class and just spoke to laziness of the crew. It was thrown down in front of me and then they just walked away. When I asked for some balsamic dressing, they rolled their eyes and begrudgingly grabbed the dressing for me, handing it to me without a word, even when I thanked them.
After waking up, I realized I had slept much longer than I had expected, Breakfast was just ready to be served, so as I was bringing my seat to the upright position, the flight attendant asked if I was eating breakfast, to which i said yes. I didn’t even have my seat fully upright when she was back with the try of food, reached across me and pulled out my tray table and threw down the tray. The meal looked like eggs, so in my sleepy haze I asked her if it was eggs, she told me she didn’t know. Alright… not a great interaction here either.
One other incident happened on takeoff. The flight attendants were futzing about with a woman up at the front of business class, now I don’t know what the issue was, but they would help her and then wander off, then come back for a moment and wander off, all while taxiing. Then we pulled onto the runway, and the captain had long ago called for them to take their seats. Then we started our takeoff roll and a flight attendant still was at the front of the cabin. As the big engines kicked in, she tried to walk back to her seat and basically ended up running as she was thrown backwards. This was beyond unprofessional, this was dangerous.
Now back to the other parts of the flight. The seat was fitted with all of the updated electronics. There are multiple USB and power outlets at every seat, a big screen that pops out once in the air. The controller for the monitor has a second screen which i used to display the air show, showing our position, while the main screen played movies for me to watch. I loved this setup, but the controls for the volume were very difficult to access. It required something like 4-5 menu changes just to get to the volume control, that really needs to be corrected. Volume is a basic function that people want quick access to, this is some pretty bad UI design.
Seat controls were easy to use, the fully flat bed was comfortable to lay in and gave plenty of privacy while sleeping. The aisle access at every seat is great so that you can get up and use the bathroom without interfering with anyone else and no one is interfering with you when you are trying to sleep.
The hard product (seat, entertainment, ect) was great on this flight, the soft product (service, food, ect) was terrible. While I was initially very disappointed that I was bumped down a class, after the flight I was grateful. If I had been in first class and received that level of service, and food that was that bad, I would have been even more unhappy about that being my first experience in international first class. First class will need to wait until my British Airways and Emirates flights later this year.
After deplaning, I questioned whether or not I was being too hard on the crew. As chance would have it, later that week I ran across an article with a passing mention of American Airlines crew out of Buenos Aires and how universally terrible they were. Guess it wasn’t just me, as I would have been unhappy with that service in economy, let alone business class.