Flight test: American Airlines economy class

21:42, Jan 28 2014
American Airlines
ICILY EFFICIENT: An American Airlines Boeing 777-200.

The staff are icily efficient, going through the motions with as little contact as professionally possible.

THE ROUTE London Heathrow to New York JFK

THE PLANE Boeing 777-200

THE LOYALTY SCHEME AAdvantage, or Oneworld partners such as Qantas

UP THE BACK OR POINTY END? Economy class, seat 20C

TIME IN THE AIR Eight hours and five minutes


THE SEAT STUFF 31-32 inches pitch, 18 inches wide

BAGGAGE ALLOWANCE The common baggage allowance for economy applies here: one checked bag of up to 23 kilograms, and one carry-on bag and one personal item.

COMFORT FACTOR I am lucky enough to score an aisle seat in the front row of economy, meaning plenty of legroom. The seats are firm, though comfortable enough, and the 2-5-2 layout makes things cosy without reducing passengers to sardines. A single red line on the class dividers is the only attempt at cabin decoration; everything else is grey and uninspired.

THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT A low-res monitor pops up from under the seat and offers a surprisingly basic interface of lists and pixilated icons. The movie selection is extremely limited - all American, except for a British film about Hollywood - and movies are on loops rather than "on demand," meaning you wait for it.

More interesting is the in-flight magazine, American Way, which is intelligent and thoughtful. My issue includes stories on African-Americans in college football, poverty rates, and Dubuque, Iowa, "one of the most underrated cities in America".

THE SERVICE The staff are icily efficient, going through the motions with as little contact as professionally possible. One attendant snaps at passengers when it comes to wrangling luggage into overhead spaces.

She later swishes the dividing curtain between economy and business when my foot brushes against it. At the start of the flight we are encouraged to use our own headphones because the staff don't have enough available, despite this being a full flight.

FEEDING TIME Chicken with pasta, or pasta in cream sauce? I opt for the chicken version, which comes coddled in layers of plastic wrap (no sign of recycling). The salad is fresh, and the chicken is tender and hot. The sauce, however, manages to be both over-seasoned and completely bland, tasting of salt.

Dessert must be the honey and oatmeal biscuits. Some crackers and Laughing Cow "cheese spread" finish it all off, and I wash it down with a small but welcome bottle of French merlot. The second, pre-landing snack comes out in the form of glutinous pizza. Food is not a highlight here.

ONE MORE THING After much legal wrangling in the US, American Airlines was cleared to merge with US Airways. The result, when complete, will be the biggest carrier in the world. Expect some changes as the two airlines combine their fleets and loyalty programs.

THE VERDICT American Airlines gets the job done for reasonable fares. But with so many carriers covering this frequently travelled route, there are better options.

FREQUENCY American Airlines offers multiple flights a day between London and New York.

Tested by Lance Richardson, who flew at his own expense.