Airline review: American Airlines, Boeing 777-200, economy class, New York to Rome

THE ROUTE

New York (JFK) to Rome (FCO), flight AA236 

THE AIRCRAFT

Boeing 777-200 (B772). American Airlines claims the largest fleet in the world, comprised of Boeing and Airbus aircraft.

THE LOYALTY SCHEME

AAdvantage. Members earn points on American, oneworld and other participating airlines as well as travel and retail partners.

CLASS

Economy seat 30C. During airport kiosk check-in I skip the option to upgrade to Premium Economy for $US180 ($260).

DURATION

Seven hours and 36 minutes, non-stop.

CARBON EMISSIONS

For a Main Cabin passenger it is rated at 1.1 tonnes. Pay to offset emissions at myclimate.org.

FREQUENCY

Daily departures from New York JFK at 4.50pm, arriving next morning 7.15am at Leonardo da Vinci International Airport in Rome.

HEALTH

No COVID-19 testing or   proof of vaccination required for entry to Italy. Masks are no longer required on planes or within airports in the US. More than half of the passengers and all of the crew members I interact with are without masks.

CHECKING IN

JFK Terminal 8 is busy when I arrive, but it's far from the chaotic horror show of delays and cancellations being talked about in the US. I arrive two hours before take-off and it's enough time to comfortably make the flight, even with a last-minute gate change.

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THE SEAT

There are 146 Main Cabin standard seats in a 3-4-3 configuration. Seats are 17.1 to 18.1 inches (43.5-46cm) wide with 31 to 32 inch (78.7-81.3cm) pitch. Free headsets are provided and there's a USB charger and power outlet to charge computers and phones. It's a full flight. The man in front reclines before we're off the ground and I instantly regret not paying for the Premium Economy upgrade.

BAGGAGE

The rules for free checked baggage are complicated, ranging from zero to three complimentary bags up to 50 pounds (23 kgs) depending on AAdvantage or oneworld status, destination, codeshare arrangements and fare class. I qualify for one free checked bag, plus one carry-on bag and a personal item. Bins overhead fill quickly and some passengers have to stow their bags far from their seat.

ENTERTAINMENT

There's a good selection of new-release movies and TV programs to watch on the seatback touchscreen, plus seat-to-seat chat function and inflight Wi-Fi (two hours for $US29 or flight duration $US35).

There are also video games, though I question the wisdom of having games on a touchscreen that's attached to the seat in front. The kid behind me enthusiastically jabs repeatedly on his screen, playing Battleship. Is it too late for that upgrade?

SERVICE

Dressed in navy, with red, white and blue pops of colour, the American crew members look professional and well-presented. With the flight close to full, they work efficiently as a team to serve dinner and then dim the cabin lights as quickly as possible on this red-eye flight.

FOOD

Dinner is served shortly after take-off, a choice of chicken in barbecue sauce with rice or pasta with tomato sauce. It's OK, but does leave me hungry with anticipation for the delicacies I'll eat in Rome. Also on the tray: green salad with ranch dressing, one very hard bread roll, a cinnamon brownie, cheese and crackers. Two rounds of drinks are offered, including red and white wine. Throughout the flight, pretzels are available in the galley. Before landing, we're handed a breakfast pack containing yoghurt and a cereal bar.

ONE MORE THING

If you're headed to the US or Europe, be prepared for crowded airports and full flights. Arrive early, have your documents in order and wear comfortable shoes.

VERDICT

This non-stop flight was the best choice available on the day in terms of price and schedule. I was relieved not to encounter delays or lost baggage, which in the current climate feels like a victory.

OUR RATING OUT OF FIVE

★★★½

Kristie Kellahan travelled at her own expense.