Review: American Airlines Business Class New York to Madrid (JFK-MAD)

First Class Giraffe checking out the cabin configuration
First Class Giraffe checking out the cabin configuration

Read more from this trip – Thanksgiving in Florence:

Introduction

Flight Details:

  • Date of flight: November 27, 2019
  • Where: New York (“JFK”) to Madrid (“MAD”)
  • Flight time: 8 hours 5 minutes
  • Flight #: AA94
  • Seat: 8L
  • Paid flight / points: Paid

I was flying to Florence to celebrate a friend’s birthday. Giraffes love Tuscan wine, pasta and beautiful views of the the Duomo so I was really looking forward to this holiday. There weren’t any direct flights available so I decided to fly American Airlines to Madrid and then Iberia onward to Florence.

Cabin

American Airlines has several configurations of their 777-200 business class cabin. Some planes have the excellent Rockwell Collins Super Diamond seat (see my review of AA95 MAD-JFK) and some have the inferior Safran Concept D seat (formerly known as Zodiac Concept D).

Unfortunately, my plane was configured with the Safran Concept D seats. The seats are arranged in forward and rearward facing pairs and are physically attached to another seat. If the person sitting in the seat attached to your seat moves then your seat will move as well. It didn’t end up being an issue on this flight; however, I have had issues in the past. Imagine being jolted every time a rambunctious child moves. It’s not conducive to a good night’s rest.

American Airlines Boeing 777-200 business class cabin with Safran Concept D seats
American Airlines Boeing 777-200 business class cabin with Safran Concept D seats

I selected window seat 8L. The window seats are angled towards the windows, which provides a good amount of privacy. The seats are 21″ wide and unlike the Super Diamond seats don’t have a clunky airbag seatbelt. Instead these seats have a shoulder belt, which must be worn during takeoff and landing.

Safran Concept D seat - 8L
Safran Concept D seat – 8L

The seats are controlled via a touch screen, which is fairly easy to use. There’s also a remote to control the in-flight entertainment system and lights.

Touchscreen seat controls and remote
Touchscreen seat controls and remote

Recommended Seats

If you’re traveling solo choose 2-4A/L, 8-10A/L or 6L. If you’re traveling with a companion choose 2-4D/H or 8-10D/H. Rows 1, 5 and 7 are in close proximity to the galley or lavatory and are best avoided. Unfortunately, there’s no way to tell if your flight will have the Super Diamond or Concept D seats by looking at the seat map.

American Airlines Boeing 777-200 cabin layout  Source: Expert Flyer
American Airlines Boeing 777-200 cabin layout  Source: Expert Flyer

In-Flight Entertainment / Storage

The business class cabin has 15.4″ pop-out touchscreen monitors. American has a pretty good selection of latest release movies, TV programs, audio selections, games and 5 live steaming  TV channels. You can check to see what’s playing on your upcoming flight here.

In-flight entertainment system (“IFE”)
In-flight entertainment system (“IFE”)

The seats have two USB and two traditional style power ports. There’s small stowage area, which I used to store my phone when the seat was fully reclined.

Power ports and storage compartment
Power ports and storage compartment

American now uses the Bang & Olufsen H9i headset, which features active noise cancellation. Some people complain that these aren’t as comfortable as the Bose headsets American previously provided, but I personally find them to be quite comfortable.

Bang & Olufsen H9i headset
Bang & Olufsen H9i headset

Amenity Kit

American teamed up with This is Ground, a downtown Los Angeles based leather goods manufacturer to produce their amenity kits. This is Ground gets their vegetable-tanned leather from Tuscany in the Leather District where I’d soon be headed. The amenity kit I received on this flight was a snap closure version.

This is Ground amenity kit
This is Ground amenity kit

The kit contains body lotion, a dental kit, earplugs, eye mask, lip balm, mints, mouthwash, a pen, socks and a pack of tissues.

This is Ground amenity kit - opened
This is Ground amenity kit – opened

Service / A Medical Emergency

American Airlines has been getting a lot of bad press recently about subpar service. I found the service on this flight to be excellent, but it started with some drama. One of the flight attendants asked for my help putting a bag in the overhead bin because she couldn’t easily reach it. As a strong and tall giraffe I was more than happy to assist, but I did think to myself that being able to reach the overhead bins should be a pre-qualification for being a flight attendant.

Things took a turn for the worst when the same flight attendant tried putting a bag in the overhead bin in the economy cabin, slipped and was knocked unconscious. The pilot came on over the PA and requested any doctors on-board to hit their flight attendant call button. Luckily the flight attendant ended up regaining consciousness, but she was unable to return to work. To American’s credit they were able to quickly find a replacement flight attendant and we were only slightly delayed.

Even with all of this drama the flight attendants were able to offer pre-departure beverages. I opted for a glass of champagne and a glass of water. American serves Cattier Brut Icone Champagne on this route, which retails for around $45 per bottle. It’s made from 50% Pinot Meunier, 30% Pinot Noir and 20% Chardonnay. It’s quite nice for a business class champagne.

Pre-departure beverages (“PDBs”)
Pre-departure beverages (“PDBs”)

Food and Beverage Menus

Menus were distributed along with the PDBs. There were 4 options for main plates and 3 dessert options.

Food menu
Food menu

American has a fairly extensive beverage selection in business class. Nothing stands out as particularly premium, but it covers all the bases.

Beverage menu
Beverage menu

The wine list included Craftwork Chardonnay Monterey ($20 per bottle), Weingut Robert Weil Tradition Riesling Rheingau ($17 per bottle), Famiglia Bianchi Cabernet Sauvignon San Rafael Mendoza ($15 per bottle) and Château Martinolles Vieilles Vignes Limoux ($10 per bottle). If you fancy dessert wine they also had Churchill Late Bottled Vintage Port ($25 per bottle).

Wine list
Wine list

Food and Beverage

Meal service began roughly 30-minutes after takeoff. Beverages were served from a cart along with warm mixed nuts in a ceramic ramekin. I ordered a gin and tonic along with a sparkling water.

Drink service and warm mixed nuts
Drink service and warm mixed nuts

The appetizer consisted of paprika lemon chicken with buttermilk hummus, shaved asparagus and chipotle aioli. The chicken was juicy and flavorful. It was served with a side salad of seasonal greens, edamame and yellow sundried tomato. The flight attendants also offered a choice of bread. I opted for the pretzel roll, but unfortunately it was stale.

Appetizer and salad
Appetizer and salad

For my main course I chose the herbed roasted chicken breast with sweet potato mash, green beans and pomodoro sauce (pomodoro means tomato in Italian). The chicken was a bit on the dry side, but adding the pomodoro sauce helped. The sweet potato mash lacked flavor.

Main course
Main course

I skipped dessert and after the meal service I reclined my seat and slept until shortly before landing.

Overall Verdict

First Class Giraffe Approved

The service on this flight really impressed me. The flight attendants were friendly and service oriented even with the medical emergency that affected one of the flight attendants at the gate.

The food wasn’t particularly memorable, but my meal was relatively healthy and filling. I think the warm mixed nuts offered by American are great and help boost their food and beverage score. They just taste like home.

American Airline’s 777-200 configured with the Safran Concept D seats isn’t an ideal configuration, but I didn’t have any issues with being jolted awake on this flight. I arrived in Madrid well rested and ready to sprint to my connecting flight.

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