Review: American Airlines Boeing 787-9 Business Class, Paris – Dallas

After flying Etihad first class, their First Apartment, and Singapore Suites (cabin to ourselves!) I actually had a little bit of trepidation about flying American Airlines business class home across the Atlantic.

Not because of the seat, American Airlines has some of the very best business class seats across the Atlantic, certainly on their Boeing 777-300ERs, Boeing 787-9s, and some 777-200s (with the Super Diamond seats, though I don’t mind at all the Concept D seats which are also fully flat with direct aisle access). The biggest reason was the pillow, American’s thin pillow, so I fully prepared like any good 13 year old girl and brought my own. (New Casper sleep products should help, but even here American is chintzy, transatlantic business will get only a pillow and duvet.)

I checked in at Paris Charles de Gaulle and found a snaking line, I’m not a fan at all of American’s understaffed lines for all premium and elite passengers at outstations (even busy ones like Paris with plenty of premium passengers).

I was asked a series of ‘security’ questions, what I had done on the trip and what I do for a living, by someone not at all qualified to evaluate my responses. I got SSSS’d for extra screening at the gate.

Then it was off to the lounge, I decided to use the Cathay Pacific lounge instead of the American Admirals Club although the two are actually surprisingly similar especially in the morning before Cathay’s Noodle Bar opens (it opens just as the Paris flight starts to board).

Agents questioned me on entering, as a oneworld business class and top tier elite member, “the American lounge is over there” “yes but I prefer to use this one” “oh ok.”

It was less crowded than the American lounge would have been at this time, but even the furnishings and and views are similar.

There’s hot food and cold items as well, plus self serve beverages.

Sadly, no noodle bar for me this morning and that’s the only real plus feature of the lounge.

I half wanted to wait around for some noodles that I’d have to eat quickly, but my flight was departing from the other end of the airport, it seemed as though I had to walk all the way to Orly from the lounge in order to board.

Since I was SSSS’d I was pulled aside on the jetway. There was a line of people being SSSS’d. One line was for economy passengers and another line for business class passengers. Business passengers got priority to have their bags opened, completely unpacked and repacked.

Once onboard I made it into the fantastic 787-9 business class cabin, which I’d flown in before but am always happy with. The Super Diamond business class seat is one of the better base business class products in the sky. It was the most advanced business class that Qatar offered, for instance, before the introduction of their new Qsuite.

The only thing American’s version lacks is any sort of privacy screen between the two middle seats that you can put up or down. There’s no privacy at all for a passenger traveling solo in a middle seat. Fortunately that wouldn’t matter on this flight as I was together with my wife.

I had a look around the seat.

I then had a look at the menu for the flight. Since I didn’t get any noodles…

Then I opened up the amenity kit to see what was inside.

We were finally fully boarded a few minutes late once all the extra security flagged passengers were off the jetway and onto the aircraft and we pushed back.

I popped open a book for our taxi and takeoff. On this flight I was finishing up the Sebastian Mallaby biography of Alan Greespan. I kept going with it because I was determiend to finish before making it back to the States, one less thing to travel with. I’m a bit strange in that I don’t carry a tablet, just my laptop and phone, and don’t really do ebooks.

I read until it was time for lunch. I just had water to drink. Here I’ll say that American’s spirits and whiskies are fine for business class, so are their soft drinks. I don’t love Minute Maid juices but there you go.

Fresh Poo coffee is something that United ditched (for Illy) but American still serves. It continues the theme that American is often last to and gets dragged to the product improvement party by their competitors, resisting as long as they can (like bedding, United’s Saks bedding is more consistent across business class and Delta has offered Westin bedding for some time).

And while I wish that American would invest a bit more in premium cabin wine, if all they’re going to do is provision a retail $15 cab they’ve actually picked a decent one. At the same time if they’re going to serve a $15 Australian red, even from this winemaker, I’d just assume it was a shiraz. These are minor quibbles however.

Although the caprese salad and wedge salad are listed as separate courses, they were served together and were enjoyable.

I had pre-ordered my entree, the beef tenderloin with oxtail ravioli. I figured it was a safe choice even if steak usually comes out overcooked (and it wasn’t exactly as if the flight attendant asked for my preferred temperature).

So imagine how shocked I was when the dish arrived and it was fantastic. Seriously, I thought American had tossed out its catering and replaced it with something else entirely (and not at LAX). The steak was perfectly done, a little more cooked than I normally like it but for the grade of meat and inflight probably the right choice. And the ravioli was delicious.

I then had an ice cream sundae for dessert with a glass of baileys to accompany.

I read some more and watched television and after perhaps two and a half hours we were halfway through the flight and I decided to take a brief nap so that I’d be able to keep going until my regular bedtime at home in the States despite coming in from Europe.

Nailed the Halfway Point Exactly for Laying Down to Rest

I made my bed with the blanket as a mattress pad.

Then I got my bag down out of the overhead where I’d stashed an extra pillow, and I laid down to rest for a couple of hours. I got up, caught up on work for a bit with internet pretty functional, and flight attendants came around with the second service.

I asked for the ‘barbecue beef cheese toastie’ though I should really know better. It’s supposed to approximate comfort food, but it really doesn’t. I took a bite, bite and a half, and called it good, ate the fruit that accompanied it while waiting to have my tray picked back up.

Soon enough we were on the ground in Dallas where I’d make the quick pass through Global Entry, and reprinting my connecting boarding pass got me PreCheck for my final segment home to Austin despite having been SSSS’d in Paris.

Service on the flight was fine though unremarkable, fairly assembly-line like but this is business class and they have a lot of people to serve. Every interaction was pleasant enough if not particularly memorable.

As long as the flight isn’t served by a Boeing 767 (seats too narrow) or 757 (no direct aisle access, using B/E Diamond seats that United is replacing with Polaris), I’d choose American Airlines business class over pretty much anything else that’s flying transatlantic. They offer really good seats and functional internet. And my main meal really surprised me by how good it was. They’re also improving the bedding.

Ultimately I consider business class to be primarily about the seat, and that’s just where American shines. I prefer them over British Airways, Lufthansa, Delta (I haven’t yet flown the new Delta One suite headed mostly to Asia), KLM, and I prefer them of course over Air France’s angled A380s though not their reverse herringbone direct aisle access 777s.

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. I just flew CDG-MIA on the 772. Crew was fantastic. I also got SSSS’d, and no precheck on connecting. We were interviewed at check in by an Anna Kendrick lookalike and she also asked us besides your questions what we had ordered at the last restaurant, and what the name of the restaurant was, so there’s a little variety for you if you were wondering. Still let us through when we couldn’t pronounce the name.
    Cod tasted fine although on the dry side, but I’m surprised you said the internet was good. Ours was abysmal for most of the flight, not working for long stretches. Ended up working on some files on my local drive instead. I can’t emphasize how attentive the crew was though, as opposed to the one on the outbound, which was just blah. Admirals Club was fine to spend an hour or two. After having bfast at the PH we didn’t really care for lounge food.

  2. Random thoughts:

    a) The red of choice should have been the Crozes-Hermitage by Paul Jaboulet Âiné. Not only is it Syrah (Shiraz), but it’s quite good. that said, the Margaret River does produce some excellent Cabernets . . .

    b) In re: “I’m a bit strange in that I don’t carry a tablet, just my laptop and phone, and don’t really do ebooks.” There are many of us, Gary, that are that wee bit strange . . .

  3. Hubby and I did PEK-ORD in J on. 778, everything was food except for the rocking seats. The food (there was lots) was very food I had the Halibut and hubby the Filet.

  4. Thank you for the flight report. With recent stringent cost savings to help the airline bottom line, I wonder if your gourmet business-class steak was topped with Country Crock margarine instead of real butter. Some people think Country Crock margarine tastes and looks like plastic.

  5. What do you suggest as best seats for a couple traveling together? Middle seats seem like the option, but I’m wondering whether its better to take two single seats that aren’t attached to any other seats to avoid the shaking issue.

  6. Thanks for the report.

    How long do you suggest arriving at airport prior to CDG-DFW in biz, given the new procedures?

  7. @Gary

    Would it kill American to create any sort of ambiance or atmosphere at all when you step on their planes. Looking at your pics (and my AA flights) it’s just grey upon grey upon gray upon white. It looks like a Sam’s Club or CVS with all that stark white and grey.

    Why can’t their finishings have some color, some branding on the bulkheads, turn on the the mood lighting for boarding. Add some color to cushions, seats, bulkheads etc.

    It makes a terrible first impression when you step onto an aircraft for 10 hours that has no ambiance, atmosphere or any personality at all.

    I don’t get why when Delta and United have gorgeous new cabins with lighting, bulkheads and branding and styling everywhere – American does nothing

  8. I just flew AA biz on a 787 from LAX-SYD last week & got a totally different amenity kit than you.

    I got the same on when they gave for JFK-LAX in biz.

    Also, I had a Casper mattress and decent pillow and pajamas (though I like the old ones better than the new ones)

    I didn’t like the tray table on the 787. It restricts ability to rollover when sleeping and “crowds” your feet more than the older biz class does. I’d rather fly a 777 than 787.

    Also, hate the windows are controlled by the crew.

  9. Flew this route on AAL in biz class earlier this year. Used the AAL lounge, similar experience, met some new friends from our home town. Good service, good food, love the darkened cabin, managed to get a few hours of sleep. Used the Peninsula’s BMW car service, walked us through security, literally, and right to the lounge, well worth the 330 euro. Eight days in Paris didn’t exactly suck either.

  10. Don’t give American too much credit for the food. After all, you’re originating from Paris, and the catering standards at that station are uniformly higher across all carriers. One just gets a better prep and care with the product, possibly in the DNA of the French culture. Never have had a bad meal flying out of CDG.
    If you want to get an idea of American’s approach to their food, look no further than the cover picture on the menu. Spinach strangled by a rubber band, broken stems, bruised leaves – how appetizing!

    As for the SSS black ball you drew, don’t be surprised there either. They’ve been blown up a lot in Paris lately, so security would be expected to be tighter. Where I was surprised was returning from Sydney in First when my spouse was SSS’d. After enjoying the Qantas lounge we were escorted to the gate by an American concierge service just as boarding began. We were the very last passengers to board, as the SSSing took so long.

    Thanks for the run down on the seats. Sounds like it’s worth it to book a circuitous routing in order to avoid any equipment other than the 787 (American cabin). I was not that impressed with BA’s 787 first class product out of Austin a while back.

    Would love to see a post with a table giving First and Business class ratings for the current fleets of all the carriers you’ve flown. Could just be a zero or a one so as to have a handy reference.

  11. I flew CDG – DFW business class on the 787-9 in September. The outbound was on a 777 – 200 with the same Super Diamond seat. The Super Diamond is my favorite AA business class seat. I rank them higher than the 777-300 because the Super Diamond has better storage and it has a fixed video screen that allows gate-to-gate viewing. The 777-300 forward business class cabin with only two rows of seats is the best business class cabin on AA though.

    The only aircraft DL flies to Europe that comes close to the AA Super Diamond or 777-300 seat is the A330. The seats on the retired 747-400 were better that the A330 b/t/w. I flew business NRT-DTW in November on the new DL A350-900. The color scheme of the “suite” is pleasant and relaxing. The door, however, does little to increase privacy since anyone over the age of 10 who is walking in the aisle can see over it. The suite seat has more storage than the DL 747-400 or A330 but less than AA 777s and 787-9s. The footwell in the forward-facing Delta Suite suffers from some of the “foot claustrophobia” that plagues DL 767s. On the whole, the DL suite is no better than the AA 777 and 787-9 business-class seats. DL might be able to charge a premium for the suites vis a vis its other aircraft with inferior seats, but I wouldn’t pay more for a DL suite than an AA Super Diamond.

    While I agree that AA has very good seats in business class, AA food and beverages are nothing special. AA seems to specialize in really cheap appetizers like Caprese Salad and Potato Blinis and very plain wedge salads. Plus AA usually doesn’t have a soup course in business class as DL does. Similar to Gary’s experience with the “toastie,” flying LHR-CLT in an AA A330-300 (envoy seat) the pre-arrival meal was one of my worst ever. The FA described the offering as “sliders.” Not White Castle hamburgers (my first thought) but a cheeseless barbeque beef sandwich. The sandwich was absolutely disgusting.

    From my experience with AA and DL, I’d say DL has better food in business class. But it is bewildering the Delta hasn’t figured out pre ordering regular meals in business class even though it allows ordering special meals and TPAC it allows ordering Asian meals. It wouldn’t seem to require a big leap to extend ordering to all meals.

  12. “Never have had a bad meal flying out of CDG.”

    But those nice meals will still never compensate for the horror that is CDG from the moment you arrive at the airport to the moment your flight departs. I can’t ever recall a pleasant experience at CDG. On the other hand while I recently had excellent service in AA’s 787 from Madrid to Dallas and enjoyed the lounge in Madrid I confess the amount of time needed to get from airport train station to the lounge was rather astonishing. And I further confess I did like the separate global entry exit door at Dallas for arriving passengers who have only carry-ons.

  13. @russell in an oligopoly like the USA has for many industries, there is no real incentive to offer any fancy stuff, because the market is not going anywhere.
    After the Dr Dao incident, there were many who said “will never fly United again”. Im willing to bet that they will have been forced to fly United at some point due to lack of any options.

  14. @747always

    But United & Delta are offering beautiful cabins on new planes.

    And American does not just fly domestic, it competes against carriers all over the world

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