January Guest Review: American Airlines 787-9

American Airlines’ 787 Dreamliner dominates most international routes out of Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD). I was supposed to be flying from Chicago O’Hare to Shanghai Pudong (PVG) with the service of Main Cabin Extra in seat 11A. However, due to adverse weather conditions and  my previous flight from Dayton being late by 45 minutes, I missed miss my connection to Shanghai. American then rebooked me on a flight to Tokyo Narita (NRT) and then connecting from there with ANA on flight NH921. Luckily for me, the flight to Tokyo is also on a 787-8 Dreamliner. Although I wasn’t too pleased to find out I was moved to seat 19K (a middle seat in the exit row) which American still considers as Main Cabin Extra; they wouldn’t refund me the difference for the seating. I wasn’t happy about being stuck in the middle seat after $189 for my original window seat.

Once on board, I got to my seat and it wasn’t all that bad, I ended up having 8 feet of space in front of me which offered some consolation for the middle seat! Minutes after we finished boarding, the captain informed us that we would have to wait around 20 minutes for deicing which turned out to be a huge lie as we sat for 90 minutes before we even stated de-icing, owing to a large queue at O’Hare.

Deicing was extensive and delayed the flight by quite a margin.

After a long 2 hours of waiting at the gate, we finally started taxiing to the runway – which, surprisingly, took a relatively small amount of time.

Sunset over the Pacific.

Around 20 minutes after departure, cabin crew started serving us drinks. American has a very good selection of drinks onboard and I chose Dr Pepper. Soon after the drink service, they began to serve meals, there was chicken with shrimp or beef noodles, I chose the beef noodles, to my surprise it tasted phenomenal, good job American!

Mood lighting then came on after they collected litter. Although the mood lighting created a very relaxing atmosphere, I wasn’t tired so settled in for a movie. In the exit row of seats, you have to pull the tray table and IFE out of the armrest, thus slightly hampering seat width. However, to make up for that, they offered the movie “IT” which has been one of the films on my “must see” list!

The seats on the Dreamliner were fairly comfortable for the 13 and a half hour flight however I would of liked them to be a bit wider. My original plan was to lean on the window to sleep but I found myself having trouble in the middle. I only slept for 2 hours on this long flight which wasn’t fantastic. I did manage to sleep through the distribution of landing cards for immigration in Japan and when I got up to ask the flight attendant about this, she was rude and said she couldn’t help me because she was “busy” for whatever reason. This was disappointing.

The iconic 787 cabin.

A bit later, we got a little snack which consisted of a Turkey Sandwich and some ice cream, the sandwich was great but the ice cream was hard as rock so I didn’t eat that. In the galley, there was a little snack bar with chips, breads, and cookies that anyone could walk up and take, I didn’t take a lot of food but I did hang out there for quite a while, serving as a good place to stretch and walk around on these long trans-pacific journeys.

American’s “Snack” Meal Service.

Soon after, we recieved our final meal service and began our descent, that meal was a ham and cheese filled croissant which was really good, the croissant was soft and the meat was warm along with the cheese. A nice touch. About 20 minutes before landing the flight attendants told my neighbours and I, since we are in the exit row, that we had to put our bags back in the overhead locker and after we did, in what felt like a blink of an eye, we touched down in Tokyo.

Once I got off the plane, there were lots of gate agents helping everyone with connections since our plane was delayed, I had around 25 minutes for my connection which was not enough for me at all but lucky for me an agent helped me rush through security and she took me on a bus to my gate. The bus ride was around 10 minutes and it gave a really good view of the airport but it was night time so I couldn’t snag any good pictures without glare. To conclude the trip, due to the delayed arrival of my flight, I missed my onward connection and wasn’t able to be with my family for Christmas.

In conclusion I have to say this wasn’t my greatest experience in the skies, however not my worst either. The Dreamliner is a fantastic plane to fly on however, I feel that American would have made my trip a lot better if I wasn’t stuck in that middle seat for so long. If you are ever flying to Japan, I would definitely recommend ANA or JAL over a US carrier just because, at least in my experience, Japanese carriers are more enjoyable to fly on.


This guest review is written by Fengning Liu. To apply for our February Guest Review position, go to www.londonspotter.co.uk/guestreview, fill in the form and send us a sample of your work. 

British Airways B787-9 Flight Review

When British Airways announced they would start to operate the Boeing 787 Dreamliner on the Heathrow-Madrid route I booked the inaugural flight for October 29th and couldn’t wait. I was, however, invited to attend the Inaugural JL42 flight to Tokyo which ultimately took priority.

I knew that I wanted to come back and try this route one day so on January 13th I was accompanied by James on BA460 to Madrid onboard G-ZBKN, a Boeing 787-9 model.

James joined me for today’s adventure!

My journey began in a strange way – I was unable to check in online because I had an ‘unmatched E-Ticket’. I, therefore, had to check in at the airport. I was worried that this would mean I was going to be given a poor seat but in actual fact, the flight was pretty empty so I was able to sit where I wanted – the Premium Economy cabin in seat 20K.

The airport wasn’t very busy at all and I was through security in under five minutes. I hadn’t been through normal security for a while at T5 as I had been using ‘Fast Track’ for most of my flights beforehand. I was really impressed with the speed at which we were airside.

Once through security I managed to kill time by having a bite to eat and heading to the Concourse C gates on the transfer train. Flying out of C gates can be very hectic and confusing at Heathrow but I found the procedure easy and care-free this time around. I organised pre-boarding to the aircraft for shots, went for a coffee and before I knew it we were ready to go.

Being such a quiet flight, boarding was organised in a very relaxed manner and we took our seats ready for the flight.

I headed to the back as boarding began.

The Cabin:

British Airways have brought in an updated cabin for the B787-9 aircraft. It differs from the -8 model as it has a First cabin at the front of the aircraft instead of only ‘Club World’ (BA’s long-haul business class). The First cabin has 8 semi-enclosed suites which have been updated from the old First suite. The cabin is laid out in a 1-2-1 configuration and offers 73” of pitch and 22” of width. You can see the difference between old and new below.

 

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The Club section of the aircraft is split into two cabins. The first is a cosier one with only two rows (6 and 7) and the second is a much larger addition covering rows 10 to 13. The Club seats are laid out in the usual formation of alternate staggered seating over a 2-3-2 configuration. Each row has seven seats however, three are facing backwards. Each seat has direct cabin access but seats in the middle of the cabin (E seats) are ones to avoid at all costs. While sitting in this seat I felt a little claustrophobic and closed in which isn’t the feeling you want in business class. Overall the cabin has a really nice feel to it and if you’re flying Club I would definitely recommend getting a seat in the front cabin. The seat offers 72” of pitch (note that is only 1” less than First) and 20” of width.

The second Club cabin. A lot larger.

The next cabin is the Premium Economy cabin or World Traveller Plus as BA call it. The cabin is nicely laid out to feel cosy and at the same time very spacious. The cabin is laid out in a 2-3-2 configuration and covers rows 16-21. The seat to avoid in this cabin is the window seat in row 21 as there is no window. My initial impression of the cabin was good: large seats with a spacious feel. As I sat down it struck me just how good the comfort really was. The 38 inches of legroom is plenty to stretch out your legs and is far better than the Club Europe product BA offer on their short haul fleet.

The Premium economy cabin

The seat recline is the best I have seen on a Premium product which may sound like a positive but I found it to have a negative impact. While most modern Premium Economy products have seat shells protecting the passengers behind when you recline, BA have opted not to install this. Seeing as the recline is so good, you can easily end up with a seat in your face. This is something other premium economies such as Air France and Japan Airlines don’t have. This disappointed me. It is possible to see this from either angle, however. If you need to sleep, the recline really is excellent. The footrest under the seat in front is a fantastic addition to the cabin, too.

Premium economy mid-flight. Very spacious indeed.

The final cabin on the aircraft is the economy cabin or World Traveller. This cabin is configured in a 3-3-3 layout and covers rows 30-43.

The economy cabin feels very big but at the same time very cramped. The 128 seats are crammed in a nine-abreast setup. The legroom offered is 31” which doesn’t seem too bad when compared to other airlines. The cabin did, however, feel tight and no way near as comfortable as the Premium cabin.

Less attractive and less comfortable in my opinion.

We pushed back and departed from runway 09R at 13.30 before banking right and heading through the Bay of Biscay to Madrid Barajas Airport. We began our descent at around 16.20 local time and landed on runway 32L at 16.51. The landing was slightly turbulent but it was a great novelty being able to complete a two-and-a-half-hour flight on a 787.

Mid-cruise – what a view

Service

Being a European flight, BA operated it just as they would an A320. The economy section was offered the usual buy on board products from M&S and Club was given a complimentary meal. The First cabin wasn’t used for this flight as it is only utilised on short haul when the Club cabin is overbooked.

I found the crew to be a mixed bag. A special mention goes out to both Arthur and Declan who were attentive and a great laugh. The cabin manager, on the other hand, came across as rude and easily irritable. This was disappointing and reinforced my opinion of preferring Euro Fleet crew.

Entertainment

One of the major perks of flying the 787 on short haul routes is the ability to use IFE (In-Flight-Entertainment). The screens are the same in both economy and premium economy which, in my honest opinion, was pretty poor. The screens had a decent selection of films, games and music but were poor in quality, slow and had terrible touchscreen responsivity. British Airways haven’t, unfortunately, rolled out WiFi on their 787 fleet so connectivity wasn’t available during the flight.

Premium’s entertainment.

Another major benefit of the Premium cabin is that you get USB plugs in your seat. This can be very handy for keeping you charged during a long flight.

Bonus points to Premium

 

Overall, I had a fantastic time onboard British Airways’ B787 aircraft and was really impressed with both the Club and World Traveller Plus cabins. I was less impressed, however, with the First cabin, which I thought was a nice improvement from the old cabin but still didn’t impress me as a First Class offering, and the economy or World Traveller cabin which was uncomfortable and seemed very cramped. The crew were impressive but the Cabin Manager really let them down with her attitude.

If you’re interested in flying a 787 but can’t afford to fly it long haul then fly to Madrid and experience the Dreamliner in all its glory. A fantastic aircraft and an awesome experience.

Interested in more 787 reviews? Last year we reviewed Norwegian in Premium Class, Air France in Premium Economy and Japan Airlines in Premium Economy and Economy and Virgin Atlantic in Economy!

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Norwegian B787-9 in Premium Class- Flight Review

If you’ve been reading my delivery reports recently, you’ll know that Norwegian are receiving B787s at a rapid rate. They currently have 32 on order but that will most likely be rising in the future. I flew one of their 787s on DY7016 – New York JFK to London Gatwick – in Norwegian’s ‘Premium’ cabin to see what they were offering.

Norwegian have both B787-8 and B787-9 Dreamliners in their fleet. The -8 variant has 32 premium seats and the -9 has 35. I flew on G-CJUI, a 787-9 model that was delivered to Norwegian in April 2017. The aircraft is setup with 42 rows – the first 5 rows are fitted with ‘Haeco model 3050’ premium seats in a 2-3-2 configuration and the following 37 with economy seats in a 3-3-3 configuration.

The comfort of the premium cabin really impressed me

The Premium seats offer a generous 46” of pitch and 19” of width. The legroom offered is actually the most you will find on any premium economy product on any airline behind Open Skies who offer an inch more. This gives you an idea of the generosity of the product. This compares to the economy seats which offer only 31” of pitch and 17” of width. My seat for the transatlantic flight was 3J.

The 787 Dreamliners boast a complete overhaul in onboard product from the old aircraft people are used to flying. Ranging from windows with automatic dimming to a state of the art cockpit, the 787 really is how the next generation of flying will look. The flight deck is similar to that of the B737MAX which I flew a few days earlier in terms of automation.

The flightdeck during ground preperation

The aircraft is powered by two Rolls Royce Trent 1000 engines which generate a whopping 74,000lbs of thrust each. With that said, they are some of the quietest engines in the industry, thanks to noise reducing chevrons fitted to the rear. The aircraft has 3 galleys and nine toilets. The toilets are also fitted with mood lighting which automatically changes when the doors are locked and unlocked. The crew rest is fitted at the rear of the cabin above the rear galley.

The Trent 1000 engines that power the aircraft are one of the most silent in the industry

Premium passengers are treated to complimentary lounge access at available airports. One of those airports is New York JFK. Norwegian used to use the Korean Air lounge but have recently moved to the Alitalia Lounge at gate 3. I’d heard mixed reviews of Korean Air’s lounge but was eager to find out what the Alitalia lounge offered. The lounge offers complimentary WiFi which I found a little slow at times. There is no hot food available, just sandwiches and salads from the fridge, crisps and other light snacks and quite a wide range of soft drinks and alcoholic beverage. The lounge windows offered a view of a few gates and it was nice to watch the sun go down and some evening departures.

The view from the lounge

I sat down with a light dinner and did some work. While the lounge is a nice way of relaxing before a flight, it is nothing special.

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Once the cleaners were finished I was allowed free access onto the aircraft to photograph the cabin and meet the crew.

 

 

Our scheduled departure time was 23.00 but we were delayed during boarding and finally pushed back 20 minutes late at 23.20 – nothing major and handled very well by the cabin crew. After boarding, I was offered a drink and given a set of headphones by Louise who was operating as one of the two premium crew for the day. We took off from runway 22R at 23.50 and were offered another drink shortly after.

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We began our cruise at 39,000ft before ascending to 41,000ft until we hit the western point on Wales where we began to descend for arrival into LGW. The cruise was smooth apart from some very heavy turbulence over the eastern point of Canada. Dinner was served 50 minutes after takeoff at 12.40 New York time. For dinner, I was given a choice of ‘Savory Grilled Chicken Breast’, ‘Rich and Tender Grilled Beef Filet’ and ‘Seared Shrimp Basted in Creamy Lemon Beuree Sauce’. The meals in Premium are still served in Norwegian’s standard boxes. I would love to see a plated meal introduced to Norwegian’s menu. I went for the beef, seeing as I had chicken on the MAX trip up to New York.

Dinner is served

The meal was well presented and tasted good. I was, without a doubt, full for the rest of the trip. After the meal service, the whole cabin was offered tea or coffee and a choice of either Cognac or Bailey’s. This was a really nice touch.

Premium seats are fitted with flip-out IFE screens which come out of the middle arm rest. The screens are bigger than those in economy class and have a good selection of films and TV programs available. I really enjoyed the different maps that were available to use during the crossing and had these up for most of the flight. The IFE also has a nice feature which allows you to order drinks (complimentary for premium passengers) and snacks.

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Charging points are included in the premium seat which allows to work on the go. This compares to the economy product where there are two plugs per three seats.  The 787s haven’t, yet, been fitted with wifi which is a shame. I’d love to see this coming in the future.

Around an hour before landing  we were offered breakfast. I have to say I thought the breakfast was superb. I wasn’t expecting anything major for breakfast but was greeted with a really nice mix of food. My breakfast included a bread roll, slice of parma ham, ball of cream cheese, two slices of cheddar cheese and a selection of fruit pieces accompanied by a coffee. I was really impressed with the breakfast.

Breakfast was the best meal of the flight I thought

Perks of flying premium include a complimentary blanket, headphones, unlimited complimentary drinks, dinner, breakfast, pre-boarding and access out of the aircraft before economy passengers. Thanks to a good flight time we landed at 11.09am on runway 26L at London Gatwick, thus making up for the delays at JFK. Disembarkation was handled professionally and premium passengers were speedily whisked off the aircraft.

The premium seat offered by Norwegian is a cheaper option than most premium economies. I selected a random date in summer 2018 to compare prices. A premium economy fare with British Airways from LHR-JFK on July 17th will set you back £1707. On the same date, a Premium fare with Norwegian will cost you £502. Being a lot cheaper, you would expect Norwegian’s premium service to be a lot worse than that of its competitors but I didn’t find that. I found that I had a surplus of legroom (46” – more than any of its competitors in London) and enjoyed complimentary drinks throughout the flight. A premium fare also gives you the flexibility of taking two checked bags onboard, seat reservation and fast track access at selected airports. Upgrading to Norwegian’s premium fare from a basic economy fare, on my selected day in summer 2018, will cost you £140.

The comfort and value of the Premium cabin really impressed me

Norwegian’s premium seat offers better levels of comfort at a very competitive price and that should be taken advantage of by all you keen travelers.

Disclaimer: This trip was provided by Norwegian Air.