The American 787 business class is a gorgeous new product.
They offer a fully flat bed, four seats across and all aisle access. Contrast that, for instance, with United which has six seats across rather than four so passengers in the window have someone to climb over.
Having shared my story of the American Airlines inaugural Boeing 787 flights, I am circling back to talk about the seats and cabin.
How is the seat? And more importantly which seat should you choose?
I flew economy on the outbound from Dallas to Chicago, and then I flew in business class Chicago back to Dallas. Here I’m going to focus on the business class product, and will write a separate post on economy seating.
Forward Versus Backward Facing Seats
In my opinion the best seats are in the corners of the cabin — window seats at the front and back of each business class cabin have extra storage space. That means rows 1, 5, 6, and 7 seats A and L.
The seat itself does have storage though either way:
Row six is backward facing, some will prefer it and some won’t (rows 2 and 4 are also backward facing, and lack this additional storage). There are advantages and disadvantages to forward facing and backward facing.
- Forward facing seats have armrests that move down and give the seat a more open feeling. They also have shoulder strap seat belts.
- Rear facing seats have more surface work space but armrests do not move down So there’s more usable space but I feel a bit claustrophobic.
Flying solo I prefer the forward facing seats in the corners of the cabin.
Other Seating Considerations
I am not sure I prefer the mini-cabin. On net I probably do but I also find the smaller cabin a bit claustrophobic.
Choosing a rear facing and a forward facing seat across the aisle from each other may actually be better for couples than two seats in the middle of the cabin. You can turn and look right at each other. The aisles are narrow, so you’re actually still pretty close.
The more traditional choice for a couple would be the center seats which have a divider between.
My Impression of the Seat
The seat itself is comfortable, and there was a plastic-wrapped pillow and blanket though on a long flight I would really want two pillows for sleeping.
The screen is large, and the flight attendant came by to take it out for taxiing because it had to be facing me while the safety video played. The screen can be controlled via touch or via the controller at the side of your seat.
I like the dual power ports in the business seat (in addition to USB charging).
The tray table was sturdy and far more intuitive than on the 767.
There’s an electronic controller to adjust your seat.
It turns out that my seat controller wouldn’t work. It needed to be reset, and there’s a method for doing this that involves getting underneath the seat. I didn’t have the crew do this on my short Chicago – Dallas flight.
I was still able to put the seat into bed mode and bring it back out because there are buttons at the back of the seat that you can access while laying down. I just couldn’t make micro-adjustments while seated.
The bed of course is the highlight of the seat.
I found the seat to be very tight at the shoulders while in bed mode — not quite as tight as on the 767, but not nearly as spacious as on the Boeing 777-300ER. This is a big reason why I prefer the forward facing seat that has less workspace, since I can create a sense of greater roominess by pushing down the armrest.
My only other knock besides the tight space at the shoulders when in bed mode is that the seat itself seemed a bit ‘plastic’ — which is fine, I think it’s gorgeous — but I worry a little bit about how well it will hold up over time.
More Impressions of the Plane
The right side lavatory in business class is quite large, I was surprised and delighted to see that’s been built into the plan. It’s big enough to change into pajamas comfortably (bring your own AA pajamas, of course, they do not provide those in business class).
On longer flights they’ll set up snacks and drinks in the galley for self-serve.
I had almost no mobile phone signal once onboard the aircraft. The aircraft itself blocks device connectivity.
The electronic windows are cool but are not as unique as they’re sometimes given credit for. The windows themselves are larger than on other aircraft, but the electronic controls are similar to Qantas and British Airways offerings. Although Qantas and BA block outside light completely, while the 787 offers a comforting muted light during the day. I enjoy that, others claim it disrupts their ability to sleep since they can’t black out daylight completely.
On a short flight I didn’t really notice the difference in cabin pressurization or humidity.
Ultimately, from a passenger experience perspective, I think that new planes with the latest technology are great. For me his plane isn’t about passenger experience (beyond that it’s new with the coolest gadgets) as much as the opportunities it opens up to serve long distance markets with fewer passengers.
Still, inaugurals are cool and we got a water cannon salute on the flight out of Chicago as well as on the first flight from Dallas.