Before hopping on my long-awaited flight in jetBlue Mint, I had to get to LA first. American offers multiple flights a day between DFW and LA. And, thanks to intense competition on the route, cheap fares usually rule. Indeed, for my Saturday flight, American offered coach fares for just $87, and Basic Economy as low as $40. However, while looking through the schedule, something caught my eye. AA upgauged one late afternoon flight to a 787-9. Though I previously flew the 789 in Premium Economy, I’ve never tried the front cabin. And on this flight, First Class sold for just $288. Thus, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to check out the fancy cabin.
Note: this post is part of my trip report series about my weekend trip to try jetBlue Mint. Click here for the trip report index and introductory post.
American Airlines (AA) Flight 2463
- Saturday, November 4, 2017
- Depart: DFW International Airport (DFW), Terminal D, Gate D21A, 17:54, 1m early
- Arrive: Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), Terminal 4, Gate 48B, 19:00, 5m early
- Duration: 3 hours 6 minutes
- Equipment: Boeing 787-9
- Seat: 6L
Ironically, this flight occurred exactly one year to the day of my flight on the 789 in Premium Economy…
After spending a few minutes in The Club at DFW next door (review forthcoming), I arrived at the gate about 5 minutes before boarding time. To my surprise, boarding was well underway, with the agent already calling Group 5. I really hate it when that happens, especially when flying coach. That’s because anything past Group 6 almost always means gate checking your roller bag. Anyway, I made it onboard quickly after joining the line. A surly flight attendant directed me the wrong way, but after crossing over, a friendlier one sent me the right way to 6L.
American Airlines B787-9 Business Class Seating and Interior
American’s 789s feature 7 rows in a 1-2-1 configuration, with two orphaned window seats in an 8th row. AA uses B/E Aerospace Super Diamond seats on this plane, a standard reverse herringbone setup. See Brad’s discussion of American’s various Business Class seats for more details about the Super Diamond. (Note that the photo below is the 77W interior, but the general layout is similar.)
I flew Business Class in the 787-8 previously, and the seat finishes look fairly similar. However, the 789 seats feature a wider headrest, and seem to have a longer bottom cushion.
The main difference between the 788 and 789? As mentioned, the 789 uses a standard reverse herringbone layout, whereas the 788 features a staggered forward/rear-facing setup.
The other difference involved storage space. Compared to the 788, the 789 offers a much better experience in this regard. For starters, there’s plenty of space underneath the ottoman for a personal item, unlike the 788.
There are also useful cubbies in both the left-hand armrest, and the shelf by the window.
The shelf by the window itself provides a decent amount of storage space. I found this a convenient spot to keep my laptop and phone out of the way when getting out of my seat. As a horribly forgetful person, I’d also consider this a good spot to store glasses while sleeping.
If you’re looking for the magazine holder, look back and to the side. It’s located to the right of your head on the seat shell. If anything, this was my one complaint about the seat layout. The location makes it difficult to reach with your seat belt buckled.
A small compartment below the window reveals the power and USB ports. The power port is at the back of the compartment, while the USB and headphone jacks are at the front (not pictured).
Meanwhile, below that compartment is the seat controller. The controller features a touch screen design, and I found it fairly easy to use. One thing to note – the screen goes into “power saver” mode if not used for a few minutes. Just touch anywhere on the screen to reactivate it.
I did encounter one problem, though. My seat briefly jammed a couple of times, and the light controls never worked. The worst occurred during final descent, when my seatback seemed to freeze in the reclined position. An FA came by and tried to fix it but couldn’t. Both times, the seat started working again on its own after a couple of minutes. I overhead the passenger behind me having issues with her seat controls, too. That’s a bit worrisome on a plane this new.
I tried getting some photos of the seat in bed mode, but unfortunately they didn’t come out. The seat measures 21 inches wide and 6 feet long in bed mode. I never really found the 788 seat narrow like Brad, but the 789 seat did feel a bit more spacious, especially foot space. Obviously, a 3-hour flight is insufficient to really judge, but this seems like a very good Business Class seat. At least when it works, anyway.
Finally, a very large tray table rests underneath the TV screen.
Getting it unlatched proved tricky, though. I tried several times with no luck, and the FA finally showed me how to do it when she brought my meal. The latch is hidden underneath the center of the tray. Just feel under the metal piece that appears to hang down in the center. A poor design if you ask me. (FWIW, I also thought the faux wood failed to match the seat generally.)
As for the rest of the interior, it’s the same as other American Dreamliners. The abundance of grays is perhaps a little drab, but the ceiling mood lighting adds some welcome color. Meanwhile, the aisles seemed wider than the 788. Most likely, it’s an illusion created by the staggered front/rear configuration in the 788.
I also briefly checked out the lavatory, which is – pretty standard. Nothing particularly fancy.
Each Business Class seat includes a large video screen up front, featuring excellent picture quality.
Like all of AA’s refurbished IFE systems, each seat also has a handheld controller, found with the power and USB ports.
While I found the controller on the 788 a little balky, the unit on the 789 was much easier to modulate. I didn’t spend much time documenting the IFE selection. However, it’s pretty much the identical set of games, movies, and TV shows found on the 788 and 777-300ER. Also like the 788, the system allows you to watch different programs on the main screen and the controller. So, if you fancy keeping an eye on the flight map while watching a movie, you can do that.
Speaking of flight map, AA provides the familiar customizable 3D map, which could be one of those 3d animation models, found on all of its new systems.
I also decided to try connecting to the WiFi. Since this is an internationally-configured aircraft, WiFi is provided by OnAir. And unfortunately, it proved predictably useless. I couldn’t even get the screen to select a plan to load. Oh well – guess it saved me $16.
Food & Beverage
The FAs offered pre-departure beverages, but only orange juice or water. The purser also came through to confirm meal choices with each passenger. Choices included grilled chicken, couscous with vegetables, and stuffed poblano peppers. I pre-ordered the couscous online, so the purser just confirmed that I still wanted it. The purser didn’t address passengers by name, or really even offer a greeting. Just asked for meal choices, and then moved on.
Service began about 30 minutes after take-off with warm mixed nuts. I decided to get the party started with a gin & tonic as well. Got to get in the obligatory G&T selfie, after all.
The FAs delivered main courses about an hour into the flight. The couscous with mixed vegetables didn’t look like much.
But it tasted decent, at least. The couscous was tender, and came with a spicy sauce that provided a welcome kick. I also took a helping from the bread basket, but sadly, there were no pretzel rolls. I took a sourdough roll instead. It looked OK, but was dry and a little stale. The side salad was nothing to write home about. A few leaves of arugula and not much else.
For desert, we received tasty warm chocolate chip cookies.
I had low expectations of this meal coming in. Frankly both choices seemed underwhelming online. In the end, it turned out OK. But can you really consider this a First Class meal?
The First Class FAs weren’t proactive about offering drink refills. They did patrol the cabin several times during the flight, though, so you could ask for something if you wanted it.
We only had about half the flight before the sun set, not leaving much time for sightseeing out the window. Things got off to a good start, though, with a butt shot of a British Airways 747-400 heading for the runway.
We took off to the south, providing a nice view of Fort Worth through the hazy sunshine.
Soon, we turned to the west, providing a brief glimpse of the DFW airfield. If you look closely, you can see it underneath the Dreamliner’s awesome curved wing.
Later, a thunderstorm tried to pop in the unseasonably hot air over West Texas.
And finally, we caught a peek at sunset somewhere over New Mexico.
It caught the Dreamliner’s engine ablaze, but in a good way.
American Airlines B787-9 Business Class – Final Thoughts
American’s 789 features an impressive hard product. I’d say the seat compares favorably to any competitor. But the problem with American is, you never know what you’re going to get when it comes to soft product. As good as the hard product is, it’s let down half the time by mediocre service and meals, like on this flight. That being said, thanks to competitive domestic F pricing, it’s often possible to find seats for less than $300 each way. That’s a decent price if you’re interested in testing out the product, but can’t swing an overseas trip.