American set to take-off with the 777-300ER

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American Airlines will begin service on its new Boeing 777-300ER later today, with an inaugural run to Sao Paulo Guarulhos from Dallas-Fort Worth.

The aircraft (N718AN) will also be the first to carry the Fort Worth-based carrier's new "soaring spirit" livery in revenue service, since the corporate makeover was debuted on 17 January.

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"This is a monumental day for all of us at American," says Virasb Vahidi, chief commercial officer of American, in a statement. "The 777-300ER is a critical part of our fleet renewal program, offering additional network flexibility and providing increased efficiency, while delivering a state-of-the-art experience for our customers onboard."

American will initially use the aircraft between Dallas-Fort Worth and Sao Paulo, followed by Dallas-Fort Worth to London Heathrow, New York John F. Kennedy (JFK) to Heathrow and Los Angeles to Heathrow later in 2013.

The 777-300ER is not scheduled to fly regularly on any domestic routes for the foreseeable future, the airline says.

American was slated to begin flights on the aircraft on 13 December 2012 but supply chain issues related to the first and business class seats delayed the launch. Zodiac UK manufactures the seats.

The 777-300ER is outfitted with eight seats in first class, 52 in business, 30 in main cabin extra - American's new premium economy offering - and 220 in economy.

The interior is designed to bring a "sense of occasion" back to flying, says Steven Moo-Young, director of onboard product planning and design. Interior features of the aircraft that he highlights include direct aisle access for every first and business class seat, inflight international wi-fi and electrical outlets throughout the aircraft, and audio video on demand (AVOD) with over 250 entertainment selections.

The updates are much needed. American will be able to do away with the almost lie-flat seats in all but its 777-200 first class cabins and lack of AVOD on much of its international fleet with the upgrades.

In terms of noticeable similarities between the premium cabin seats on American and Cathay Pacific Airways, Moo-Young says that as members of the Oneworld alliance they have similar customer profiles "to a degree".

American is slated to begin similar upgrades to the interiors of its existing widebody fleet from the first quarter of 2014. The 777-200 will be reconfigured with up to 45 business class seats, up to 45 main cabin extra and up to 170 economy seats - first class will be eliminated - and around half of its 58 767-300ERs with up to 28 business, up to 45 main cabin extra and 167 economy seats. The remaining 767-300ERs will be removed from the fleet.

Moo-Young says that the interior updates to the rest of its widebody fleet will be similar but not identical to the interior on the 777-300ER.

"We want to take advantage of all of the technological advances between this aircraft and the rest of our widebody fleet," he says.

Ahead of departure from Dallas-Fort Worth a line of more than 100 American employees had gathered at the gate in order to get a preview of the aircraft before it departed on its inaugural flight.

"Our pilots love the new plane," says Jim Dees, fleet captain for the 777 and Boeing 787 at American. The sentiment is clearly shared.