Reward Flying has a goal to fly as many different aircraft and/or different premium class seats within an airline’s fleet. I’ve flown first class on American’s 777-300 and both 787 versions with Concept D seats in -8 as well as the Super Diamond in -9. Left out was the 777-300ER business class with the Cirrus reverse herringbone seat. Well, I’m not counting the 767 Vantage seat because, why would you?
American flies 787’s exclusively out of O’Hare, my hometown airport. JFK in New York is exclusive 777s, both 200 and 300. I was able to find an award ticket (rare indeed) from JFK to LHR where I’d be flying back on British Airways 787-9. So the award was ORD-JFK on a 737 then connecting to the 777 and on to LHR. Perfect plan.
The tragic events causing the grounding of Boeing’s 737-MAX had ripple effects. One day a few weeks before the flight I received a notice from American that my ORD-JFK flight was changed to ORD-EWR. Due to the MAX grounding American was short planes so they canceled a bunch of routes. ORD-JFK was one of the cancellations. Newark (EWR) is not breeze to JFK, with traffic and there’s always lots of traffic, count on 2 to 3 hours. I called American and the great agent without hesitation put me on a direct ORD-LHR flight that didn’t have award space and it was a 787-9. In fact I had my choice of direct flights as they had three, two 787-9 and one 787-8. Turned out I chose wrong.
So now I would be on a 787-9 with Super Diamond seats, probably my favorite J class seat. It killed my try different things plan but a 787 with a great seat was nothing to pout about.
American’s Flagship Lounge for international travel is a great lounge. Not as nice as United’s Polaris Lounge but certainly worthy of a visit. I arrived about a 90 minutes before departure.
Plenty of sectioned rooms with different types of seating are available throughout the lounge. This was a Friday night before the bank of European flights left and it was never overly crowded. In fact it was almost empty at times.
Beverages were plenty. There was also a wine bar (not pictured) and coolers with various beverages, including paper container water bottles.
This guy must have had a date as Made-To-Order was closed before 6PM.
Many items were very tasty such as this Tuna Poke with roasted cauliflower and Brussels Sprouts. They need to hire the same caterer to supply food in flight.
The highlight of this lounge is watching departures on 10L and international arrivals taxing to Terminal 5.
Soon it was off to the gate for the 7:30PM departure.
Boarding commenced on time and I was immediately greeted by Jennifer my FA. She was great, personable and funny. I knew I was going to enjoy the flight.
Center seats on this 787-9. American made a foolish (IMO) decision not to include a center divider between the seats.
About the time I was getting settled the lights flickered off. No big deal, happens all the time as the cockpit prepares for flight.
But then, about 5 minutes before departure, all the power went out on the plane. The doors had been shut, everyone was seated, now in the dark.
Captain James was excellent about communicating the issue. The first updates were promised in 15 minutes and came on time. Maintenance was still working on the problem. A few minutes before 8 Jennifer was passing through the cabin and didn’t look as cheerful as before. Uh oh I thought. Next update at 8PM came on time as well. “This aircraft is out of service.”
It would be my guess that most airlines don’t have spare 787’s laying around on a Friday night. And in American’s case no 777’s either because they are in New York. Fortunately 767’s weren’t considered. We were told to exit the aircraft and remain by the gate for further information. As business class emptied out he Captain came into the cabin which gave me a chance to speak with him. He immediately aimed his shotgun at American Management and without hesitation pulled the trigger. Apparently the problem that grounded this plane was a known routine maintenance item that American knew about for a month but wouldn’t fix it. I guess today at 7:30 PM whatever it was decided to break. Now American had a far bigger expense, dealing with a few hundred passengers going to London and no plane.
After about 30 minutes at the gate they announced an incoming 787 from Dallas was going to fly us to London. A 787-8. I went back to the lounge for more Tuna Poke and track the incoming flight.
Those that waited at the gate were given a selection of sandwiches, chips and soda.
I will say American handled this issue fairly well. Initial communication and finding a plane was obviously great. The new plane arrived from Dallas at 8:30. Phone notifications for departure started as early as 9pm for a 9:30 departure. This pic from my phone shows 10:38.
Finally around 11:15 we boarded. We departed over four hours late and it took American 3 hours to turn around the incoming 787-8 from Dallas.
Surprisingly they used the same crew. I guess there weren’t any time out issues. Since this was a smaller 787, I was told 10 J passengers were moved back to economy (or premium) and about 40 economy passengers got the boot.
A couple months earlier I flew the 787-8 Concept D seat. I was in the mini-cabin which is now premium economy and had a rear facing seat which I really liked. 1A is completely different. I did not like this seat at all.
The footwell is much smaller. My bag completely fit in the reverse seat. It wasn’t even close here.
At this point it didn’t matter. Let’s just go and get this over with. The Captain said one good thing about being delayed was that the winds had died down. Well not really.
At least I got two amenity kits, one black from the 787-9 and one blue from 787-8. Or maybe it was the other way around.
Much needed at this point.
I had pre ordered the beef, for some reason.
Such a delicate presentation don’t you think?
I’m not going to tell you how it was, you can tell.
Carmel Sea Salt Tart, at least edible and actually quite good.
IFE comparison, 9 variant left and the -8 on the right.
The Concept D bed is not comfortable. Yes the shaking of the seat is true when 2A moves! Plus these seats aren’t as wide as the Super Diamond seat.
Fortunately London came pretty quick. I opted for the simple fruit and yogurt plate.
Just curious if they could make a smaller cinnamon roll.
A placard with a bit of Fake News. “Upgrades” with points on American? Good luck with that.
Arriving at LHR on American offered an opportunity to visit their Arrivals Lounge. I’d anticipated this as being one of the trip highlights.
The weather was beautiful in London, a record for April 20th. Something to do with the closing? But based on how this trip unfolded the closing came as no surprise.
This redemption was an unusual (because they just don’t release this route for points) American Airlines saver award to Europe for 57,500 points and $5.60. Plus I received a 10% discount with my Citi AAdvantage Card. Since then they’ve removed this 10% yearly mileage rebate. I will be cancelling the AA card as the rebate was about the only benefit it had.
Carrier: American Airlines
Date: April, 2019
Route: Chicago - London Heathrow
Flight #: 46
Aircraft: Boeing 787-8 N801AC
Configuration: J20/ W28 / Y+48 / Y138
On Time: No
Reward Flying Rating: 5.3 out of 10 ✈
✔︎American’s 787-8 has a smaller front J cabin which is now the only J cabin as the mini-cabin has been converted to Premium Economy. Only 20 seats are available for a long haul wide-body aircraft. The forward facing Concept D seats were uncomfortable, lacked storage space and were not as private as on the -9.
Cabin/Seats Rating: 4 out of 10 ✈
✔︎The food was terrible and the presentation was worse.
Amenity/Food rating: 3 out of 10 ✈
✔︎ 787-8 monitors are smaller than their counterpart on the -9. I did not watch anything due to the late departure.
IFE rating: 4 out of 10 ✈
✔︎The crew, especially Jennifer was great. Even the Captain communicated the delays and everyone did their best under the circumstances.
Flight Attendant rating: 7.5 out of 10 ✈
✔︎Boeing 787-8. This flight started out with one of American’s newer 787-9 and swapped to a 4 year old 787-8 aircraft. This was their 3rd delivery of a 787 back in 2015.
Aircraft rating: 8 out of 10 ✈