One Victim Live Shared His American Airlines First Class Service, Hong Kong – Dallas

American Airlines is the only U.S. carrier which offers a ‘three cabin first class’ product. They have a first class ahead of business class on their Airbus A321T aircraft that mostly fly domestically between New York JFK and both Los Angeles and San Francisco, and on their Boeing 777-300ER aicraft flying largely to London Heathrow, Hong Kong and São Paulo.

Business class is a flat bed with direct aisle access and generally enough food to keep from going hungry, but it’s a mass market product. First class is supposed to be an elevated experience. A smaller cabin where you aren’t surrounded by a lot of people; better bedding for sleeping; quality dining and top notch wines and liquors; as well as personalized service.

There are certainly some incredible first class products, like the new Singapore Airlines first class with separate bed and seating area (where a center divider between seats can open to allow a couple traveling together to sleep beside each other). Singapore offers some of the best dining and service in the sky. I’ve certainly always enjoyed first class meals and service on ANA and Cathay Pacific, and there are partisans who really like the Air France product.

Singapore Airlines New A380 First Class

If you were to fly Hong Kong – São Paulo via Dallas Fort-Worth in American Airlines business class the lowest price I’m seeing in September is $2795, without looking at discounts such as via (air and car) or booking through American Express’ Platinum airfare program.

Elevating that to first class the lowest price I see in September is $12,577. (Again without researching bulk fares.)

First class is more than four times as expensive as business class for this one way journey. Is it worth it? For some customers, buying a more tailored experience, it can be.

  • They aren’t considering the upcharge over business. Instead it’s a value compared to flying private.
  • They may have to get off the plane and go to a meeting, and in the context of huge merger or mega entertainment show the cost may be a rounding error but the comfort could make a difference in the outcome.

But is American Airlines international first class worth it? There’s no suites with doors. There’s no fine dining compared to peers selling international first class. The benefit surely comes from the service, right?

A customer flying American Airlines Hong Kong – Dallas – São Paulo in first class shared his experiences with American’s first class service in real time during the Hong Kong – Dallas flight.

He found the purser working the first class cabin the “worst flight attendant [he’s] ever had.”

  • Meal service began with no linens on the tray, and no drink refills offered during the meal and “just a bad attitude.” He had pre-ordered his choice of meal but was told he couldn’t have it because “there were people with higher status” who wanted it (he reports he’s an Executive Platinum member flying in paid first class, though that shouldn’t matter in this case).

  • He proactively asked for a glass of red wine. He’d already had a glass of white with an early course. The request was denied, being told he “had to finish the white bottle for cost saving.”

  • He asked for a bottle of water but was told none were available, however this didn’t appear to be a catering issue since he saw “tons of water bottles” when he walked back to business class.

  • When he requested a mid-flight snack he was told catering “forgot to load any.”

  • Not only didn’t he get a mid-flight snack, but “[n]o meals served before landing because they are short staffed” which perplexes me – that most obvious read suggests the flight attendant was accusing the company of violating their union contract and FAA minimums. Regardless, there would have been time to prepare a second meal on a flight blocked at 14 hours 45 minutes.

American Airlines Boeing 777-300ER First Class, Credit: American

At the American Airlines investor day in September, 2017 CEO Doug Parker didn’t just tell the audience that his airline would never lose money again. He said that at the end of the day investments in seats don’t make a difference, other airlines are going to match the best seats. What can create a competitive advantage is service.

Parker laid out the argument that American would make culture a competitive advantage. They would do such a great job with the airline’s culture, that employees would be aligned with their mission of taking care of customers, and that would help them earn a revenue premium.

I know how this passenger would respond if Doug Parker did his best impression of former New York Mayor Ed Koch asking, “How am I doin’?”

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Kory
    I don’t know why is so hard to believe it?

    I experienced my self. Last time I was in first class from MIA to STI same happen forge food. All they serve you is a hot napkin to clean your hands and be ready to finger eat some very old peanut. Exactly went I ask for a glass of red wine I was told I most finish the white I already order.
    The actitud of the fly attendant is very clear that they do not want to be bother with any request.

  2. Recent flight from ORD to LHR. Morning departure. I pre-ordered my dinner well in advance. 2hrs into the flight I never had the meal delivered. I spoke with the aged flight attendant and was returned with a very angry reply…….We’ve already finished dinner service and there are no extra meals available. I explained that I had never received the meal. She walked away.Later returned and never apologized,but offered me a cheese plate,along a mileage deposit of 1,500 miles into my Platinum account. Yes 1,500 miles,and that was that. She further went onto explain that it would be deposited into my account within days…………..Whoopee! Also went onto explain that the miles were for spilling a drink on the customer,as she couldn’t give the Fifteen hundred miles for food service.
    Just poor service.I did get a discounted ticket to LHR for under $4000.00. Maybe that’s what you should expect from American. It seems that customers put up with kind of behavioral attitude and poor service because they are part of the FF program and just accept the continuing low quality you receive.

  3. What a disgrace! Why people still book with domestic carriers to fly international is beyond me?! You want good service, book with an international carrier! As a former AA employee pre 2K it’s an absolute disgrace what’s become of this airline I once loved! Crandall would be rolling in his grave!

  4. American International First has not been great for years. “Aged” crew and attitude part of problem. Food and service rest. This brings it to a new low. We once had JAL First that AA screwed up and AA put us in their First instead. Like comparing a Rolls Royce to a moped.

  5. When flying international on business or first class, I always fly on international carrier. From DFW to NRT I always make sure I go with JAL. They are the best. Last year, I flew from Manila to Chicago via Narita on business and First and it was a luxury. Even during covid, JAL never cut down on the service and food/drink menu.

  6. You can surly tell the difference between US and AA FAs. Not even a question. There are few FAs that still get that first class is a PRODUCT AND A SERVICE. Not one or the other. Delta seems to be loosing steam lately and American can catch up quick, just like United has over the last year.

    Airlines need to notice that we vote with our pocketbook and care about seats, fitting into bathrooms (im 6’5 and lean), elite programsvalue, mile redemption usage, food, fast consistent wifi, , gate locations and baggage delivery – All items have driven me away to pick the best airline based on the route/plane/airline –

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