The American Airlines Boeing 787. Here’s What It’s Like in Economy.

Most people flying American’s new Boeing 787 aren’t going to be enjoying the flat bed business class seats with all aisle access.

Most passengers are going to be flying in American Airlines 787 economy. In fact, for the inaugural Dallas – Chicago flight on the aircraft I flew in coach myself. I flew up front for the return, Chicago – Dallas. That way, I could experience both and compare.

    american airlines 787 economy

I flew in seat 10J, which is a ‘Main Cabin Extra‘ (extra legroom) aisle seat. And it was perfectly fine.

The extra legroom does make a difference, compared to regular economy.

As for width — there are 9 seats across in economy, and the plane has a narrower fuselage than the Boeing 777. I’ll be honest, that’s tight.

American has gone to 10-abreast seating on their 777s, like many other airlines (such as Air France and Emirates) have. But they leave Main Cabin Extra (and some main cabin seats on the refurbished 777-200s) as 9-abreast. With extra legroom and traditional shoulder room, economy is fine for most.

The 787 is tighter in terms of width, though they help to soften that somewhat with narrow aisles. Net net I think of 9-abreast 787s in economy as similar to 10-across 777s. They’re becoming the standard, but I don’t want to fly them at least longer than I have to.

On a short Dallas – Chicago flight they’re perfectly fine, of course! And I had the luxury of sitting in Main Cabin Extra, meaning several inches of additional legroom which helps create a greater sense of personal space.

One other observation about the American Airlines 787 economy on this aircraft is that you’re not awash in a sea of people. There are two sections to the cabin, neither is especially large, and the plane just doesn’t go back that far. For me one of the toughest things about long flights in economy is the sense of being surrounded in close quarters by so many people and I like the smaller plane as a result.

The American Airlines 787 economy seat itself has a touch screen video monitor with movies, air show, news and other features.

It has a controller as well, and power at each seat. That’s in addition to the plane being equipped with Panasonic’s inflight internet which is satellite-based and thus designed for connectivity even over water.

The Boeing 787 has larger windows than other aircraft (and a push button dimmer feature) which creates a greater sense of openness and spaciousness, even if it’s an optical illusion, I’ll take what I can get in when I’m flying the American Airlines 787 economy!

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Recently flew coach on LAN’s 787, LIM-LAX, an 8+ hour flight. I was impressed by the airiness of the interior, especially the main entry behind Business. Loved the big windows.

    But my flight was packed, and the 3-3-3 seating, even in the exit row window (26L), felt quite cramped. Yes, there’s that big door bulge that protrudes into the leg space in the exit row window seat, but that hasn’t bothered me much on other aircraft. On this plane I was very aware of not having much wiggle room in the seat, and being shoulder-to-shoulder with a broad-shouldered dude in the middle seat who had trouble sleeping the whole flight (and thus I had trouble sleeping). And AA’s standard coach seating on this flight is actually 1 inch less than LAN’s (per SeatGuru).

    Given the choice, for a long flight I’m pretty certain I’d rather fly MCE on 77W or 772 than MCE on AA’s 787. As for the standard coach seats, I’m frankly afraid to try AA’s new 10-across 777 seating OR the 787’s 9-across.

  2. Are the seat backs as weirdly low as they look from the photos? The 77W seatbacks seem nice and tall.

  3. I can only hope that the seats AA is using are better than the seats Delta has in their 777s. Did a flight last year direct Atlanta to Dubai and thought I would die before the plane finally landed. There was absolutely no cushioning in the seat and because the recline function tilts the seat, short folks’ feet won’t comfortably touch the floor if you recline at all. Even their better rows at the front of economy were very tight and with three across I was grateful I was on the aisle and could get up and walk the aisles. When I sent a written complaint, Delta said that these were their new fire retardant seats and lighter seats to save fuel. Needless to say, when we flew over Amsterdam on the way, I could only wish that I had done a connecting flight where I could have found somewhere to stretch out and be comfortable for a couple of hours or so and then continue my trip. Needless to say, on the return trip I made sure I had some muscle relaxant pills and just knocked myself out.

  4. I wish you had flown in “real” economy and told us about it (leg room).

  5. Not that I’ll ever experience the back of the bus again, but for the benefit of those who do/will:

    Some report that when the seat in front reclines, the PTV is cannot be viewed. True?

  6. Did United’s 787 in Economy Plus from DEN-NRT and also liked the extra legroom, did make a big difference even though it was $150 to buy up to it for this segment. The one thing I didn’t like was the dimmable windows. They did not dim completely dark so when the sun was shining from the left into my side, it was still annoying when trying to sleep and cast a green shadow on the right side of the plane. Cool technology, but either add a shade or make them 100% dim.

  7. So glad to see a travel writer addressing seat width instead of just pitch/legroom. A 10-across configuration of 777 economy cabin is torture and if the 787 is similar it will also be a miserable experience. Having your elbows pinned to your sides and rubbing shoulders with a stranger for 10 to 14 hours is not acceptable. Seat width and aisle width need to be described clearly in articles covering economy cabin features. Thank you for mentioning them.

  8. I am flying ord to cdg soon and have seat 21a and b for my daughter. Should we upgrade to main cabin extra? Is it worth it?

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