Initial thoughts from the American Airlines 787 Inaugural Flight


There is no doubt that the 787 is a big deal for American Airlines and excitement surrounding the inaugural flight on Thursday from Dallas to Chicago was evidence of that. The party started well before departure and kept going well after arrival; just getting the passengers off the plane was a minor miracle. There were a few “accidental” passengers on board, those who just booked a flight to Chicago and ended up on the party plane, but the majority appeared to be of the AvGeek varietal, adding an extra flight in to their life to be part of the moment.

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The water canon salute at departure was a bit of a bust, at least on the “A” side of the plane, and we spent a bit of time taxiing around the DFW airport before eventually lining up for departure under gray skies. I certainly prefer the blue skies of a clear day as a general rule, but this particular day the clouds were a HUGE benefit. Without them I would not have managed to get this photo:

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And, quite frankly, that is the sort of beauty and amazing which makes all the flying and travel worthwhile to me.

The crew was great, particularly in the face of all of us getting in their way. The flight itself was mostly smooth, though an occasional few bumps kept us in our seats a tiny bit more than we would like (and I’m sure less than the crew would have preferred).

And there were some interesting choices made in the configuration of the cabins in general. The economy class seats feel like they are higher off the floor than on other planes I’ve flown. Combine that with slightly shorter seat backs and the net effect is seats which can recline in a tighter pitched cabin while not putting your head in the lap of the passenger behind you. The IFE screens in economy still do not tilt so if the person in front of you reclines forget about watching, but at least they’re not in your lap.

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It is 3-3-3 in the back but that’s no surprise given the general trends in the industry or the part where AA has gone 3-4-3 on the 77Ws recently. That’s not to say it is incredibly comfortable, but I managed OK on this flight in part because the other two in my row were rather smaller passengers. It seems that the “3” space allotted is really more like 2.75 and sometimes that works out OK for 3 people there if not all of them are big. AA did offer Main Cabin Extra passengers on the 77W a bit of extra width as well; no such luck with a 2-4-2 arrangement on the 787s. It would have been nice, of course, but I can see how it would have been challenging for the aisles and passenger flow.

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The plane also includes the new, patent pending seat design built as a collaboration between Zodiac and American (and the source of more than a few headaches and delays) in business class. The seats deliver on the promise of fully flat and the IFE screens were nice. Some passengers noted that the seat feels a bit narrow in bed mode (I didn’t recline all the way during the few minutes I spent in one) and that wouldn’t surprise me too much. Just looking at the photos it appears the seat back tapers a  bit at the top. I’m also not too big a guy so I don’t know that it would bother me. The privacy divider between the center pair seats doesn’t seem to go down; at least no one on board could find the button to adjust it. That seems a strange decision to make given that sometimes people do fly with another passenger they want to communicate with.

Read More: How the new American Airlines business class seats came to be

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Overall a very nice ride. I like it better than the 77W in economy for sure. I haven’t spent enough time in business class on either to really judge that aspect.

More to come on IFE and in-flight connectivity once I get answers to a few open questions about those bits of the system. But definitely a great party flight.

Speaking of which, I scored an extra goodies bag from the ground crew in DFW just prior to departure. Anyone want it??

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

23 Comments

  1. Sure I would love to have it. I never get to go on these types of flights.

  2. From the picture, it looks like someone with fairly broad shoulders would bump into the paneling both in the seat and bed mode. Is it just an optical illusion? I agree, it does look like it tapers at the top. The wing photo is very nice. It could be a photo op for a movie.

  3. Pet peeve is too narrow lie flat business seats when reclined. Very disappointed-again

  4. Would love the gift bag Seth Currently sitting in ORD and just watched it land, a beauty! Will be on her in a couple hours but couldn’t get out of work for the inaugural…at least I get on it on day 1!

  5. I would love to get that extra bag. Don’t think I have chances to fly on these type of flights.

  6. Yes please! I would use it on my coach trip to Paris, and pretend I’m in front!!

  7. Always need goodies, especially since I lost most of my airline goodies a few years ago

  8. You know, in the previous article mentioning the new business class seats, the photos didn’t look like they were quite as narrow as the photo in this post show – optical illusion, or did they feel weirdly narrow when you tried them? Thanks for thinking of your readers with the avswag…… sweet!

    1. I found the seat fine when seated upright. The back rest holds it forward enough that I had plenty of shoulder room. I didn’t lay flat in it but several others suggested it was narrow and it looks that way to me as well. I would not be surprised to learn that it really is.

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