I recently flew American Airlines Economy Class round trip between Chicago and London. On the outbound flight, I had the unique experience of a daytime flight on an eastbound trans-Atlantic flight. Most flights from the US to Europe are red-eyes, leaving in the afternoon or evening, and arriving the next day. On this trip, my flight left Chicago in the morning, and arrived in London the same evening. Not usually a fan of overnight flights, I was interested to try it out, and now can say that I would certainly do it again.
In the first few months of this year, I have had several long haul business trips, and it looks like there will be more to come. This trip was for business in Italy. Timing for my work was such that I flew to London, booked a hotel nearby, then flew out of there the next morning onward to Italy. It made for a long time in transit, but thanks to having a real bed to sleep in, jet lag was minimal.
American Airlines flight 90, O’Hare to Heathrow
American Airlines flight 90 currently leaves O’Hare at 9am, and arrives into Heathrow at 10:45pm, and is currently operated by a 787-8. For the first time I can remember, I didn’t attempt to upgrade an over water flight in economy. While business class is always preferred to economy, I just don’t have enough SWUs to use for all of my planned travel. So I figured a day flight that is under 8 hours would be fine, and of course, it was.
It helped a lot that my flight had lots of open seats, it was maybe 80% full at most in economy. I had a window seat in Main Cabin Extra, and there was an open middle seat. There were enough open seats that some people moved back to have an entire set of 3 for themselves. I didn’t want to sleep on this flight, so I could hopefully sleep after landing, so I just stayed put.
American Airlines long haul economy service
Other than the predictably poor economy meal service, and very inconsistent internet, the flight was fine. American’s 787s are well equipped with regard to In Flight Entertainment. With a huge selection of movies, music and TV. A selection of Live TV channels are available as well. I admittedly did get somewhat hungry on the flight, and it felt like it was hard to find flight attendants for much of the middle section of the flight. They lock the window dimmers on the ‘dark’ setting, and turn off cabin lights, likely trying to encourage sleep.
I also noticed that the cabin was pretty dirty. The air vents above and next to my seat are very dusty. The plane I flew on is less than 2 years old, so that lack of cleaning is pretty disappointing and very gross.
The initial meal service consisted of a cheese omelet or a cheese blintz. Also on the tray was a snack pack and a bottle of water, so presumably this is intended to hold most passengers over until before arrival. Meh. I’m glad I had a full breakfast in the American Airlines International First Lounge before my flight. About 90 minutes before arrival, flight attendants provided a snack, consisting of a cheese stromboli, and I had a glass of wine. Economy wines (red or white) are in giant bottles, but I guess that is better than a box? Beyond that, there was minimal service from flight attendants. They did leave some water and juice in a mid-cabin galley.
Late night arrival into London
Upon arrival at Heathrow, there was a long wait in the passport control line. I was hoping to use Fast Track, but it was closed at that late hour. I had an AA FastTrack card from a previous trip. They didn’t distribute these in the Economy cabin, not that it would have mattered this time. After the long line, I am reconsidering the UK Registered Traveller program. It seems too expensive, and I usually don’t often visit the UK. But with a few trips of late, I am all for easier entry when arriving on an international trip. (See: NEXUS, EasyPass, Japan). What say you, is Registered Traveller worth it?
Once I finally cleared customs, I headed towards my hotel, which was a short distance away via a free bus. Even with an early arrival, thanks to the long wait for passport control, it was nearly midnight when I got to my room.
Flying London to Chicago in American Airlines Economy Class
On my way home, I had the same routing. While I didn’t have to sweat out the upgrade to the last-minute, obviously I would have preferred flying up front. Admittedly, it was somewhat refreshing not to worry about the upgrade, but on this flight the economy cabin was nearly full, so I didn’t have the extra space of an open middle seat. I had a short visit to the Cathay Pacific First Class lounge before boarding, so mostly picked at the meal service. The 8:40am departure time of my flight meant the first meal is breakfast, with a choice between a full English breakfast (my neighbor had it, and it would a stretch to call it that), and scrambled eggs, waffles, and cherry compote, which was my choice.
Around the midpoint of the flight, a cup of ice cream was served, and then again 90 or so minutes before landing, a warm snack was provided. The snack consists of small savory pastry and a sweet cake.
Final thoughts on American Airlines Economy Class
For a relatively short international flight, this experience was fine. The in-flight entertainment system is excellent, and when the wifi works, it is a good way to pass the time. American’s 787s are nice enough. I’d be less interested in flying economy on the 767s due to their age, or the 777s for the 10-across economy class seating. I hope to upgrade future flights, but I expect to have several more in economy this year. But given the caveats I mentioned, I’m sure it will be fine.