The US carriers were certainly slower to adopt Premium Economy, but it’s now a staple on many American Airlines flights. That’s particularly true of the airline’s Boeing 777 jets. These appear on AA’s Sydney-Los Angeles route – and then onwards from LA to the likes of London. That’s where I take AA Premium Economy for a spin.

As it happens, the plane operating my flight is the same jet that’s just arrived from Sydney. Not merely the same aircraft type, but the very same plane (registration N718AN, for those playing at home). Even though I’m zipping over to the UK, it’s great to experience the same seat as travellers would get on AA’s flights from Australia.

Check-in and boarding

Travellers booked in American Airlines Premium Economy can use the airline’s priority check-in counters. There’s a small wait when I join the line in LA, but I’m through in about 10 minutes. As it happens, I’d forgotten I could use AA Flagship First Check-in as a oneworld Emerald frequent flyer. But today, I’m in transit on separate bookings – and I have around 10 hours between flights – so I’m really not fussed.

In fact, this was one of those ‘right place, right time’ scenarios. I originally booked an Economy seat using Qantas Points. I needed to grab a flight at short notice – and this was the only flight I could get on points that day, period. But it seems the flight I’m on ends up being oversold in Economy. And they need to shuffle somebody forward to make room for everybody else. As a solo traveller, I’m easy to shift – and when the agents spot my oneworld Emerald status, it’s a done deal.

To be clear, upgrades like this aren’t a published perk of status. Especially when that status comes from Qantas, and you’re flying on American Airlines. But as many frequent travellers can attest, occasionally, something unexpected pops up as a surprise and delight. For me, today is one such day.

Fast-forward to the gate, and it’s a little chaotic. Fellow travellers are crowding the boarding area – but AA staff are fortunately proficient at enforcing the priority boarding order. Normally, Premium Economy gets priority boarding with group four. But with my Qantas Platinum number on the booking, that’s brought forward to group two. I’m glad to have that head start. The lockers on this aircraft aren’t huge – and I’m sitting at an exit row, so everything has to go up. Mission complete.

Lounge options when departing Los Angeles

A seat in American Airlines Premium Economy doesn’t include lounge access by default. But depending on your frequent flyer status or other memberships, you might be covered for complimentary access. Here are those options when flying AA from Los Angeles to London.

I’m able to visit all of the lounges listed. This time, I opt for Qantas First to enjoy a multi-course lunch when the lounge is rather quiet. I’m also connecting from Sydney, so the marble-clad shower suites come in handy. Closer to boarding, I wander over to Terminal 4 for a quick nip in the Flagship Lounge – then it’s time to board.

American Airlines Boeing 777 Premium Economy seating

Premium Economy comes in a 2-4-2 layout aboard American Airlines’ Boeing 777s. It’s a cosy cabin of just 28 seats, set across three rows on the sides and four rows in the centre. For the key stats, we’re talking a respectable 38 inches (96.5cm) of pitch and a seat width of 19 inches (48cm).

If you’ve flown ‘First Class’ on AA’s newer short-haul jets, you’ll notice a striking similarity with the airline’s long-haul Premium Economy. In fact, it’s the very same seat. So, how does it shape up on a long overnight flight? For me, it comes down to where you’re sitting because not every seat is the same.

I’m in the most prized place in the cabin: right at the emergency exit. Not only does this come with limitless legroom, but the seat has a swing-up leg rest too. When flying Premium Economy, I always find this the most comfortable setup – and it helps me get a good rest. This is a 10-hour flight and I doze for about 4.5 hours or so. Not bad. There’s a little foot traffic given the nearby restroom, but it doesn’t intrude on my sleep.

Here’s the thing, though. Only the front row gets the proper legrest. All of the other rows simply come with a fold-down foot bar to rest your feet on. At six feet tall, I never find these particularly comfortable – especially as there’s no leg support. If you’re like me and that’s something you value, pre-select your seat in the front row if you can.

The adjustable height headrest and foldable headrest wings help you craft the perfect setup. A pillow and blanket are ready and waiting at each seat upon boarding. Given I’m at the exit, that means immediately shifting them to the overhead locker before take-off.

Food and beverage in American Airlines Boeing 777 Premium Economy

Today’s flight leaves Los Angeles at around 4:30 pm. After a journey time of roughly 10.5 hours, we reach London close to 11 am local time the next calendar day. In effect, this makes the onboard service dinner after take-off and breakfast before landing. Meals and beverages are all included in American Airlines Premium Economy.

Service begins with the first meal where I’m offered a choice of ‘beef or pasta’. There’s no menu to describe the dishes in detail, but pasta sounds good. It’s creamy, tasty and comes with some greens – both in the main and on the side. Speaking of on the side, I land on an Aviation gin and tonic to drink. The tray also has cheese and crackers, as well as a cheesecake slice for dessert. Then it’s nap time.

Closer to landing, there’s a simple breakfast. I opt for a fruit salad which comes with yoghurt, granola a pastry and coffee. It’s all I need – and before long, we’re in London.

Inflight entertainment and service

There’s only one real downside to sitting in the front row of American Airlines Premium Economy. Rather than your TV residing on the seatback in front, it folds out from within the armrest. Of course, there is no seat in front for it to rest on otherwise, so it’s understandable.

On an overnight flight, it’s not such an issue – especially when you’re planning to sleep. But if this were a daytime leg where you’d be viewing for hours at a time, it wouldn’t be as comfortable. That’s because the screen doesn’t sit at your eye line – it’s down at your lap.

As for content options, there’s enough to watch. My go-to move when I’m planning to rest is to cue up old favourites – things I’ve seen before, which means not actively ‘watching’. I find I’m more likely to doze off if I’m not too focused – and that strategy serves me well here.

Service on today’s flight is acceptable but relatively unremarkable. To me, it felt a little more ‘Economy’ than ‘Premium Economy’. While the crew were perfectly polite and efficient, there was no spark to the service. Even though passengers didn’t have a printed menu, the crew also didn’t elaborate on the choices at mealtimes.

It’s worth noting that while it’s nice to have a window seat, there’s little to see from the exit row. The position of the seat, window and wing don’t combine to create much in the way of vistas. But on an overnight flight like this, sleep is the bigger goal.

Lounge access on arrival in London

For many of American Airlines’ Premium Economy flyers, the journey finishes once on the ground. But those with top-tier frequent flyer status have one final treat to enjoy. That’s access to the American Airlines Arrivals Lounge at London Heathrow. It’s open daily from 6:30 am until 3:30 pm.

The lounge offers a large bank of shower suites. There’s also buffet dining and a small à la carte menu. I order the bacon brioche roll and it hits the spot for a busy day ahead.

As for which top-tier frequent flyer cards grant access here, you’ll need nothing short of oneworld Emerald. In the Qantas camp, that means Platinum, Platinum One or Chairman’s Lounge. AAdvantage Platinum Pro, Executive Platinum and ConciergeKey can also get you inside. The same is true of Emerald-level cards from other oneworld airlines.

The verdict on American Airlines Boeing 777 Premium Economy

On the whole, American Airlines Premium Economy offers an experience that’s certainly an upgrade over regular Economy. But having frequent flyer status is key to getting the most out of the journey. By nature of holding a Qantas Platinum card, I’m able to bookend the trip with lounge access at either end.

Of course, upgrades from Economy aren’t to be expected. And for that matter, the surprise upgrade doesn’t contribute to our star rating. Nor do the lounge options available for tiered frequent flyers – as much as they make the journey better.

The Premium Economy product itself, the seat is comfortable. And if you can grab a spot in the exit row, you’ll get a proper leg rest for maximum comfort. However, the food and beverage experience is not as elevated or polished as with some other leading global airlines, it’s three stars for now.

Also reviewed: American Airlines launches new Brisbane-Dallas Fort Worth route

Featured image courtesy of American Airlines. Other photography by Chris Chamberlin. Chris booked a reward seat in Economy at his own expense and received an unsolicited operational upgrade to Premium Economy at check-in as a oneworld Emerald frequent flyer.

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American Airlines Boeing 777 Premium Economy (Los Angeles – London Heathrow) was last modified: May 9th, 2024 by Chris Chamberlin