Trip Report: Yesterday’s American Airlines Inaugural Boeing 787 Flights

I flew down to Dallas on Tuesday afternoon to take part in the festivities for the American Airlines 787 inaugural flight. The Boeing 787 itself isn’t a new aircraft — its inaugural commercial flight was in October 2011 — but it’s a special aircraft, the first one operating for American, and one which opens up new route possibilities because of its unique economics.

It’s a smaller widebody with long range and excellent fuel economy. It’s touted for passenger comfort because of greater cabin humidity and pressurization at 6000 feet rather than the standard 8000 feet, which some claim make them less jetlagged after a long flight.

To me it’s the plane’s economics which make it interesting, allowing airlines to sustainably serve more non-stop routes that have demand from fewer passengers.

On Tuesday evening American had a small reception in the Presidential suite at the Hyatt Regency across from terminal C. I had chosen to stay at the Grand Hyatt inside of terminal D (cash and points) because I had bet that they’d send an inaugural flight out of the D terminal simply for its spacious gate areas which would allow for ceremonies and swag setup. For a 7:10am departure I wanted to be closer-in in the morning. So I took the Hyatt Regency’s shuttle over from the Grand.

I’ve been to the Regency many times, but have never been in the Presidential suite and didn’t realize it was two levels.

I left at an early-ish hour because the next morning was going to mean an early start. I had been waiting for this for awhile. I purchased my tickets the morning the 787 was loaded into the American schedule a couple of months’ prior — I decided I’d fly the inaugural Dallas to Chicago, and then return on the same aircraft back to Dallas. That way I could sample both economy in one direction (and on a short flight!) and business class the other.

By the gate there was a booth promoting the American Airlines co-brand credit card from Citibank (and promoting less than the best available offer, too).

There was a long line of people waiting to take photos in front of a green screen, where they were placing passengers ‘on the tarmac’ with the 787 and giving folks frames to put their photos in.

There was also a substantial food setup (though I definitely preferred the breakfast tacos for the Austin – Miami inaugural in March).

I had eaten room service breakfast (complimentary for Diamonds at the Grand Hyatt) so skipped this.

At the ceremonies prior to the flight, Fern Fernandez spoke for American and then Boeing’s representative pointed out that American has now operated every single Boeing jet. That’s not quite true, as I’ve written American has owned every Boeing jet but did not operate the 717 in passenger service. They acquired 717s (ordered as MD-95s) from TWA. Interestingly, prior to the jet era American had never purchased a Boeing aircraft, though did get Stratocruisers when they acquired American Overseas Airlines.

Then it was time to board.

There were actually 81 people on the upgrade list.

I was in coach but I decided to board with first class (feel free to rib me for this) because I wanted as much time onboard as possible to take photos before the plane filled up.

From a passenger perspective I think the best thing about the 787 is just that new plane smell, look, and feel. Even the lavatories were new!

I sat down at my seat and started playing with the inflight entertainment system. I pulled up the news and ironically the first story was about profits at Emirates (they declared a dividend to their shareholders, sort of a reverse government subsidy).

It was a great party flight as everyone settled in for takeoff.

We were still about 12 minutes out though and I wasn’t quite ready to be settling, myself. I still paid a visit to the cockpit, and also checked out the forward crew rest area.

Though coach was mostly settled at that point, business class was still partying.

Soon enough we were underway, and the safety video rolled.

It took awhile while we taxied, somehow it seemed like we should have had priority over all those MD80s leaving Dallas. We did get a water cannon salute on the way out though.

Once in the air I started to explore the seat a bit more, had a look at the swag bag we were given for the inaugural (mostly disappointing, I gave mine away to crew on the ground in Chicago).

And I played with the moving map.

I checked out the Panasonic inflight internet system. American’s international aircraft with wifi aren’t serviced by Gogo, so my monthly unlimited plan wasn’t going to cover this flight. I paid $12 for 2 hours, but found it completely unusable given the number of others on the flight trying to use internet too. I emailed about this and expect a refund since I could do pretty much nothing online.

Throughout the flight there was revelry in the aisles, documenting of the flight, and a general party atmosphere.

This was aided by all the executive platinum members on the flight who get complimentary cocktails (and snacks).

The short Chicago flight was over too quickly. We landed to a setup at the gate for the return inaugural, though there weren’t any speeches.. just bottled water and popcorn (and gift bags on boarding).

Here’s the beauty on the ground:

During my layover I went over to Tortas Frontera (I didn’t pre-order with the app).

Then it was time to re-board for the trip to Dallas, where I’d be sitting up front.

Inaugural flight complete, challenge coin obtain.

In subsequent posts I will have thoughts on both the economy and business class seats and experience.

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 Milepoint.com, 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. How were the seats? Seatguru list the seats as 17″ – 18″ wide, which is kind of imprecise. As I’m sure you know, that extra inch makes a huge difference, and I hadn’t realized that the plane was configured three across all the way. I have yet to meet a middle seat fan, so if the seats are narrow as well as the plane having more middle seats, that would make it a lot less appealing.

  2. Yes, nothing says customer comfort like increasing the number of middle seats.

    Profits will give way to comfort again when Americans stop propping up with their votes an overclass that has split us 99-1% – something not possible in countries that don’t have 1/3 redneck Faux-watching know-nothings.

  3. The thing that stands out to me is the total height of the economy class seats – all of those people with their unsupported necks on short, 767-like seats.

  4. You mention Business Class in the article and First Class in the VftW notification email. I would presume it’ll be sold as Business on international routes and First domestically. (An important distinction Qantas and BA flyers at least ;).)

  5. @Joe, The same thing struck me. It seems like the seats are very short. I’m sure they have headrests that extend up, but I bet the personal TVs are too low to watch comfortably.

  6. I was just wondering about the return flight in Business Class. Was that part of the trip report posted and I somehow missed it?

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