I was was fortunate enough (and willing to make two stops on a SAN to MSY flight) to recently experience American Airline’s new Boeing 787-800 Dreamliner Business Class on a flight from LAX to DFW. American will predominately use these aircraft for international routes to destinations like Tokyo Haneda, London, Sao Paulo, Beijing, Shanghai, Madrid, and Auckland. But as they take delivery of these new aircraft they are using them on a few domestic routes between their hubs. So this review will be more of the plane and seat and less of the service, as the service on this flight was the exact same as any flight from LAX to DFW.
As I have only flown on American’s 787 once and a 2hr and 30min flight at that, I was a little leery of writing this review. But because I had read a few negative reviews of the Business Class lay-out and seats I thought it was important to add my two cents. With this flight I have flown all three of American’s new international Business Class seats within the last six months. American took delivery of their first Dreamliner in 2015 so I was surprised they didn’t use the same seats and business class concept on the 787 as they have on their new 777-300’s (their new seat on the 767 are also slightly different). But they didn’t. So now they have several different seats across their long-haul fleet. There are several differences with the Business Class cabin and seat from their other new planes. The biggest being half of the seats are rear facing (I think they will have this same concept on their retrofitted 777’s)
There are two cabins in Business Class in a 1x2x1 configuration giving every seat direct aisle access. Five rows forward and two rows in a smaller more secluded cabin behind the galley for a total of 28 seats. But even the forward cabin only seats 16 so it still had an intimate feel. I was seated in 1H, a rear facing center aisle seat (the two single side seats in row 1 are forward facing). The cabin was a little less dolled-up than if this was an international flight. There was only the small domestic blanket on the seat and no amenity kit, menu, or bottle of water. So it looked a little barren. The overheads are very big, easily fitting a rollerboard suitcase. As I was in row 1 it is worth noting there are no overheads in the center section for rows 1 & 2. There are two lights overhead for each seat and an additional reading light over your shoulder. In addition, there are also two air-vents overhead (big pet-peeve of mine. Most airlines choose not to have air-vents on widebodies and one of the few advantages of flying US Airlines).
As I said, the service was the same as any American domestic flight between 2 and 4 hours. (see review http://patstravelreviews.com/american-airlines-737-800-first-class-review/ ) A pre-departure drink was offered (not always done on American), and a small hot towel was distributed after take off. There were two choices offered for breakfasts. Either Quiche or French Toast. I like American’s French Toast (and do not like Quiche) so was happy that they acknowledged my pre-order.
American calls their new Business Class seats “Business Suites”. Aside from the rear facing seats, which some people may not like as it is definitely a different sensation when taking off, the other difference with these seats from American’s other International Business Class seats is they are almost completely private (surrounded by the seats shell). I’m not sure how to describe it so I hope the photo’s will explain better. But I guess the term “suite” does fit. The seats themselves are cloth with a leather headrest in a charcoal color scheme. They have a 60 inch pitch and recline to 180 degree 77″ lie-flat bed. There is a very small ottoman that the seat flattens out to. I found it to be very narrow when in that lie-flat position, however, the forward facing seats outer armrests can be lowered to allow for more width when sleeping. I actually do not like to sleep with the seat fully flat and always sleep in a cradle position, so the narrowness of the seat did not bother me. I only slept thirty minutes, but I slept well. The seat controls took a little getting used to as they are touch screen, but once I got the hang of it I was able to set the seat in a comfortable position for me. The seat control also has a memory function. Another quirky component of the forward and rear facing seats is that the middle divider between the two center seats only seems to raise in the rear facing seats. I had read about this prior to my flight and I found the same to be true on this flight. Now, this may just be temporary as there are dividers on all middle seats, or it is just another variation between the two sets of seats. The divider is certainly needed with the rear facing seats as the seats are angled toward the aisle and you and your seatmate’s heads are close together. The forward facing seats are angled in, therefore far away from the person next to you. This is also note-worthy if traveling with someone. Of course the single sides do not have this issue. One thing the rear facing seat has, is more table space. There is a table top on both sides, but no outer armrest. Since one of my dislikes of most of the new Business Class seats is lack of storage (and this seat is the same), I welcomed this extra space. There is some room on one side of you (and seatback pocket on other side) plus a small area where I am sure they put bottled water and an amenity kit on international flights. One very nice feature of these seats is there are two power outlets as well as two USB ports in an easily accessible area.
As expected the IFE (inflight entertainment) on the Dreamliner is AVOD (audio visual on demand). The TV monitor pulls out from the side of the panel and is a generous 16 inches. Programming is available on the ground, but I assumed that the screens needed to be locked for takeoff. I did, however, noticed that a few passengers had theirs opened on landing. The programming is basically the same as American’s other seats with seat-back entertainment. There is a large selection of new movies, as well as classic and International movies. Several different TV shows and documentaries are also available. An extensive music library with both CD’s and radio programing to listen to. In addition, there are games and a very nice moving map (better than what is on their new domestic seats). On international flights Bose headphones will be available, but on this flight they only handed out the small earbuds. I used my own headphones and needed a two-pronged adapter to get sound on both sides. A couple new features with AA’s 787’s is the handset and live television. The remote, like the screen itself, is touchscreen. But, I found it much easier to scroll through the menu on the screen rather than the remote (but I am not very tech savvy). The live television has three channels (CNN, CNBC, and a sports channel If I remember correctly) and is available on international routes as well as these few domestic routes. In addition to the live TV, these Dreamliner’s are also equipped with international Wi-Fi. This is not the same gogo Wi-Fi that’s on AA’s domestic flights. The rates for this flight was $12/2hr or $17/4hr (if flight was long enough). Unlike gogo, who’s rates change from flight to flight, I think that these are the same rates as on their long-haul flights (I remember it being the same on the 777-300’s). I tried it out on AA’s site (is free) and the speed was ok, but not great.
Of course, besides the seat itself, flying on the 787 Dreamliner is an elevated experience. As this flight was too short to make such a statement, I am basing this on past experiences flying on the Dreamliner (flown a few times on United’s and JAL’s – I have also reviewed both these Business Class products), The ceilings are higher and the windows really are much bigger (although each one-side seat only has one window. The other is blocked by the seats shell) and not having the shade allows you to enjoy the scenery while still blocking the sunlight. The ride is very quite and while I personally do not feel a difference in the air-quality, it is supposed to be much better. The lighting is nice and the three lavatories upfront were quite big (with hand motion flushing 😉 ).
American will soon take delivery of the larger 787-900. Like the 787-800, there will be no First Class cabin, but will have Main Cabin Extra along with regular economy. However, I read that unlike the 787-800, there will be a separate Premium Economy cabin with real Premium Economy seats. Not just a few extra inches of legroom you get with MCE, but an upgraded leather seat with upgraded service. I also read (787-800 only) that on International flights there is a walk-up bar with snacks and drinks.
Again, it is hard to completely form an opinion of these new seats from a 2.5 hr. flight. The shells on the Suites can make the cabin feel a little cramped, but having had the pleasure of flying on other airlines 787’s and flying Business Class on American’s 777-300 I am looking forward to taking a flight that is much longer than 2.5 hours.