American Airlines 787-8 business class is a very comfortable way to fly long haul routes. The American Airlines 787 flies several long haul routes including flights to Asia, South America, Australia, New Zealand and Europe from Dallas, Los Angeles, and Chicago.
I flew the 787 between Beijing and Dallas after I missed my Hainan Airlines 787 flight to San Jose. Hainan Airlines was gracious enough to book me on their codeshare and interline partner American Airlines so I could still make it home and to work on time after a six hour delayed flight from Kunming to Beijing.
American Airlines Ground Services Beijing
American Airlines operates from terminal 3 at Beijing Capitol International Airport. The massive terminal was built prior to the 2008 Olympics and is not connected to terminals 1 and 2. Most major airlines fly from terminal 3, except for Hainan and SkyTeam carriers and a few others which operate from the much older terminals 1 and 2. There is a free bus that transfers passengers between the terminals. Typical travel time from terminal 3 to 1 and 2 is 15-25 minutes, depending on traffic.
Lounge access is provided to first and business class travelers along with Oneworld elites. American Airlines makes use of the Cathay Pacific lounge in Beijing. As I was connecting from terminal 1 and only had a few minutes between flights, I did not get to visit the lounge.
Priority services or Priority Access at security and customs is not available in Beijing for Oneworld flyers. Lines can be long and even in a hurry, security and customs took nearly 45 minutes. Plan for plenty of time. From my experience be aware that the Chinese do not move quickly and searches are very thorough! Also remember, lighters and battery packs are not permitted in carryon bags departing from China. The Chinese airport security will confiscate all battery packs. I found out the hard way!
By the time I made it to the gate, it was calling final call. I made it just in the nick of time! I did not get to explore the expansive terminal 3. Boarding was quick and easy with a secondary search of all carryon bags. A flight attendant greeted me at the door and directed me to my seat.
Sitting in my seat, heart racing from the run across the terminal, a lovely flight attendant with a tray full of water and champagne offered me a pre-departure beverage. I took one of both. Finally, I could relax! Next stop Dallas!
American Airlines 787 Business Class Service – Inflight
Once the cabin was secured we were off and on our way to Chicago. I was exhausted as my quick three hour flight from Kunming to Beijing became a 10 hour fiasco and I had not slept much the night before. I quickly fell asleep as we taxied toward the runway and woke up when dinner service began.
Before taking off, I put back on my Hainan Airlines business class pajamas. At my seat was a pillow and blanket, and the Cole Haan amenity kit. The long haul business class enhancements to Australia and Hong Kong routes do not carryover to American Airlines mainland China. This means no sleeper pad or pajamas, and the food and wine is not an upgrade over typical business class offerings.
The 787 seats are very nice and offer each passenger direct aisle access. The 1x2x1 seats face both forward and backwards and feel similar American’s retrofitted 777-200. The middle seats are best for couples. Window seats are the best for solo travelers. The awkward positioning of the seats means your eyes are constantly locking with your neighbor, regardless of where you sit. The seats by the windows face aisle seats, the distance is to far for conversation, but angled for awkward eye contact.
American Airlines business class seat is not very spacious and lacks storage. Bags larger than a small backpack or purse do not fit under the ottoman. There is plenty of overhead bins for larger bags. Smaller items such a phones and passports fit in the seat in the little pockets. Bose noise canceling headphones are available to customers in business class and their case takes up most of the seat’s storage.
Inflight Meal Services
Dinner orders are taken prior to take off. As I had not purchased a ticket on AA, I was not able to pre-select my meals. The crew was out of Fish, so pasta it would be. Later the FA returned and told me someone switched their order. The Sea bass was now all mine! I was very impressed that she remembered my initial request!
Inflight service starts approximately 1 hour after takeoff. Before the official meal service, drinks and warm nuts are served. After approximately another hour, dinner service starts. Dinner service starts with an appetizer and salad, along with warm bread. Drinks refills are provided when the appetizer is dropped off. If drinking anything other than water or wine the flight attendant must return to the galley to fetch the beverage.
The appetizer and salad is on a meal tray and once one is done, the tray remains, but flight attendants clean up the dish. The main dinner dish is on a larger plate and flight attendants deliver the dish with tongs from their carts. After dinner the dessert cart plies the aisles and temps everyone with ice cream sundaes, cheese platters, or other sweet delicacies. I indulged in a sundae.
Nothing about American Airlines dinner service is refined or sophisticated. American Airlines has a fantastic hard product, but their soft product and service standards are not world renown. Flight attendants push carts up and down the aisles and it feels more like a factory manufacturing line than a fine dining experience. Food service standards reminds me of Singaporean hawker stalls, but not as tasty! Meals are served and passengers are never checked in on between courses. Flight attendants on American Airlines are not high end waiters and waitress with service standards, but more like deli workers. Yet then again, flight attendants are not on the plane for your enjoyment and to service your needs; but instead for your safety in case of the rare emergency. Therefore, why should they act like a Singapore Girl or have high service standards?
During the flight, the bar between the forward and rear business cabin offers self-serve snacks and water. For the most part everything is self-service with the exception of alcohol. Flight attendants hide and chat in the forward galley and leave passengers undisturbed. Need service, either walk to the forward galley or dare to use the call light.
Nearly an two hours before landing in Dallas, a second light meal is available to guests in business class. American Airlines offers two options for a light meal before arrival. Service is done in one passing. Similar to dinner, the meal is on a single tray. Flight attendants push carts down the aisle and ask, eggs or pork. Then, drop off the meal and plop a bread roll on each tray. Nothing about the meal is personal and like dinner is not very fancy. The meal is decent size and filling for being a pre-arrival meal.
American Airlines Beijing to Dallas final thoughts
I was very fortunate to be able to fly American Airlines business class but I would much prefer to fly my original ticket on Hainan Airlines any day. I find that American Airlines service is very blasé and not formal. It’s comfortable and easy, but not fancy. Do not expect good food, high end wine, or anything special when flying international business class on American Airlines. It’s truly not any better than American Airlines Transcontinental service.
American Airlines has created an environment of confusion and watered down experiences for frequent flyers. The airlines really needs to standardize their service offering on long haul flights. It makes zero sense to me that Hong Kong flights receive better amenities whereas other long haul flights do not. Dallas – Beijing is only 300 miles shorter than Los Angeles – Hong Kong. Does that justify the difference in service? If anything, it causes confusion among frequent flyers.
American Airlines has been a very successful recently due to mega mergers and low fuel prices. Their business class hard product is among the best for US Airlines, however their soft product is still lacking. Nearly 18 months ago I wrote a post about American Airlines terrible international business class service and food. It seems as though some things won’t change. So liquor yourself up, pop a sleeping pill, and sleep through your flight, because there’s nothing worth staying awake for on American Airlines! Unless you’re flying American Airlines First class, then the wine is actually good!