Airline review: American Airlines economy class, Los Angeles to Sydney

THE PLANE

Boeing 777-300ER. American Airlines was the first US carrier to take delivery of this plane in 2013 and now has 20 in its fleet. 

THE ROUTE

Los Angeles to Sydney.

THE LOYALTY SCHEME

AAdvantage. Passengers can also earn points towards Qantas Frequent Flyer via oneworld.

CLASS

Economy, window seat 31L.

DURATION

Fifteen hours, five minutes.

FREQUENCY 

This daily non-stop service started in December 2015.

SEAT 

Seats are in a 3-4-3 configuration and feature a USB connection and in-seat power. Seat pitch: 31 inches (79 centimetres). Seat width: 17 inches (43 centimetres). 

BAGGAGE

Two checked bags up to 23 kilograms each, plus one carry-on bag (no weight restriction) and a personal item. 

COMFORT

A fortuitous discussion with staff at the gate gets me an exit row seat (normally they cost extra but if you ask nicely an hour before departure, sometimes they'll give you one), so there's plenty of legroom and I can get up without disturbing my neighbour. After recent flights on Airbus A380s and Boeing 787 Dreamliners, the 777 has noticeably more background cabin noise. However, the combination of earplugs and a headrest with adjustable wings allows me to get five hours' sleep.

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ENTERTAINMENT

Entertainment is via an intuitive 9-inch (23-centimetre) touch-sensitive screen, which allows iPad-style swipe movements to scroll through selections. There is an impressive range of movies – I count 51 new releases plus numerous others in categories such as award winners, festival favourites and Disney. There are also plenty of TV shows and music options, plus games, podcasts, audio books and an e-Reader (albeit with limited options). There's a handy favourites system for saving selections and even a seat-to-seat chat service (although strangely, the person in 1A doesn't answer my request for a glass of champagne). 

SERVICE

Efficient but brusque. One attendant complains that AA uses fewer staff on this plane than other airlines, which could explain the hurried service. There is no time for a second round of the drinks trolley during dinner, and breakfast is served only 50 minutes before landing, resulting in a rather frenzied clearing operation.

FOOD

Despite the uninspiring "Beef, fish or chicken?" introduction, my dinner of beef with carrots, broccoli and mash is unexpectedly tasty. As is the passionfruit dessert and the salted-caramel ice-cream delivered afterwards. Wine options are limited, however, as are the snacks available during the bulk of the flight (chips and water). Breakfast is delivered in a similar fashion ("We've run out of fruit so it's just eggs") but again it's a pleasant surprise – a decent-sized serving of eggs, bacon and mushrooms with a muffin, granola bar and a yoghurt. 

ONE MORE THING

AA flights leave LAX from Terminal 4, not the Tom Bradley International Terminal. On the plus side, this can often mean shorter lines; on the downside there's a limited range of shops and eateries. Frustratingly, during my trip, every bank of power outlets has a "Not operational" sign.

THE VERDICT

Fine rather than fantastic. The good news for travellers is that the extra competition on this route should bring lower fares.

Our rating out of five: ★★★½

Tested by Rob McFarland, who flew courtesy of Vail Resorts.

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