American Airlines has been gradually rolling out its Premium Economy cabin across its long-haul fleet, and it is now on the majority of its 20 daily flights from London Heathrow as well as flights from Manchester. The move has proved popular with passengers and AA has been installing more of these seats
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 other passengers. I am Emerald in Oneworld, so could use the premium check-in and also then the lounges (American has both an Admiral’s Club and an International First Class Lounge here). Since you don’t get access to these if you are flying in premium economy and we have reviewed them previously, I will just will get on with describing the flight.
Boarding took place at Gate 31 and was done by priority with first and business followed by premium economy, Main Cabin Extra and then economy seating.
The premium economy cabin on this B777-300ER is separated from business class by washrooms (four in total, two of which are for business class passengers and two of which are for premium economy and economy passengers).
The configuration is 2-4-2 with three rows at the sides (16-18 and four rows in the centre (16-19). The configuration is AC – DEGH and JL). Each seat has in seat power both from a traditional plug (EU, US or UK) and a USB power. Seat pitch is 38 inches.
The seats are in a dark grey leather and are noticeably more spacious than the seats behind. By choosing premium economy, you also avoid the new 3-4-3 seating (ten-across) in economy.
There is a limited amount of overhead locker space with the over wing doors obviously stopping lockers in those areas and the centre lockers being smaller in capacity that the side ones, but on this flight it wasn’t a problem, despite the cabin being full.
Obviously flight loads differ throughout the year, but on this flight both premium economy and business were full or close to it, while economy was probably only half full.
No matter how much airlines try and convince us that new seating has allowed them to make these seats far more comfortable and spacious than the previous economy (or coach) seating was in a 3-3-3 configuration, it’s still tight, and so adds to the attraction of premium economy, particularly if you want to either work or get some sleep. For a day flight like this one where I had ten hours spare, working was important to me, and this seat meant I had the space and the in-seat power to do so.
Obviously, the ones to avoid are the centre seats E and G. Best seats are the front row seat, particularly those at the doors (16AC and 16LJ), though bear in mind people will end up standing here either to stretch their legs or wait for 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. You can also get cold feet by the doors, so keep your shoes on or pack an extra pair of socks.
I was in the back row, which was fine and meant I could recline my seat without worrying about the people behind because of the cabin divider behind me. One problem with this row is that there may be a bassinet in the row behind you, in which case all bets are off.
When we boarded we were told that there had been a problem with the IFE system trying to load new content, and as a result it was not working. This would have been a bitter blow for many, I imagine, but since I was working the main inconvenience was not having the flight maps and also the information about the progress of the flight.
Strangely, given it was September after one of the most lovely summers the UK has ever experienced, several passengers were suffering from extremely bad (and noisily wet) colds; coughing and sneezing.
I now pack hand sanitiser with me on flights for after I’ve used the washroom, but of course nearly eleven hours in a confined space with someone with a cold will probably increase one’s chances of also getting a cold.
Not for the first time I wished the rest of the world had caught onto the Asian habit of wearing a face mask to prevent germs from spreading. One day, maybe (though of course I would never wear one myself).
Before the flight departed, top tier card holders were welcomed by name, something I’ll miss when I drop out of Gold / Emerald next year.
We had no delays when departing and once in the air the meal service began. The choice was a salad of seasonal greens, balsamic vinaigrette. Main plates were coconut curry chicken, steamed rice, vegetables or tomato and mozzarella filled fiorelli pasta, leek sauce, pickled peppers, grana Padano cheese. I chose the latter which was fine without being exciting. I asked if they had any Tabasco sauce but they did not. Dessert was apple crumble, fresh cream with blueberries.
Not everyone got the full choice – I think I got one of the last pasta dishes. As it says on the menu “If we reach your seat, and we have run out of your meal of choice, we apologise and hope you will still enjoy your flight.”
The drinks choice was several different beers including Sam Adams, with a white wine of Reserve de Sainte-Helene Colombard-Chardonnay, France and a red of Villa Chavin Reserve Tempranillo Syrah, Spain. The red was fine.
Although this was quite a long flight, it passed fairly quickly. Not having IFE was a blow for some, I suppose, but I worked and then read and slept a fair bit. The person on the inside of me was also a heavy sleeper and so didn’t disturb me wanting to get up and go to the washroom very often, and when I got hungry halfway through the flight I walked to the back of the aircraft through the main cabin and found some crisps and chocolate bars to eat.
Around 90 minutes before landing there was another meal, which was a Mediterranean salad, tzatziki sauce, sautéed asparagus, roasted aubergine, roasted bell peppers, fusilii pasta, and a dessert of Chocolate and salted caramel pudding.
We arrived on time into Dallas Fort-Worth International just after lunchtime (six hours time difference). I was surprised to see it was raining heavily. It had been a very wet September in Dallas, apparently. We were quickly disembarked and there was no queue at immigration.
This is a comfortable premium economy seat with all the power you need to work and enough room to sleep for night flights. It’s a shame the IFE and wifi didn’t work for this flight. I probably wouldn’t have used the wifi because generally I find it very frustrating with slow speeds and frequent dropped connections, but I would certainly have enjoyed watching a film or tracking the progress of the flight.