Best American Airlines 787 Business Class Seats

Over the past week I’ve flown roundtrip on American’s 787 between Dallas and Beijing. I booked this thanks to some very cheap fares American was offering, which I managed to upgrade to business class using some systemwide upgrades.

American-787
American 787

This was my first time flying American’s 787-8. I recently flew American’s reconfigured 777-200 for the first time, which features the same business class product as the 787-8. It’s worth noting that American has halted reconfiguring their 777s with this product, given the issues they’re having with the seats; they’re now seeking out a new vendor.

Anyway, I figured I’d share my thoughts on the best business class seats on American’s 787, given that it was a point of confusion for me before I took this flight.

American’s 787 business class cabin consists of a total of 28 seats, spread across seven rows in a 1-2-1 configuration. There are five rows in the forward cabin, then there are two lavatories and the walk-up bar by the entryway, and then two more rows in a rear mini cabin.

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American 787 business class walk-up bar

A few things to note off the bat:

  • Half of the seats are rear facing, while the other half are forward facing
  • For the rear facing center seats, the partition between seats is permanently raised (meaning it’s not good when traveling with someone), while for the forward facing center seats, the partition is permanently lowered (meaning it’s good when traveling with someone)
  • On international flights, seat 1D is blocked as a pilot crew rest seat (they used to block 1A, but changed it to 1D); there are separate pilot crew rest bunks, but the pilot contract says they’re entitled to a place to sleep and relax, which is why they also block a seat for the pilots

American-787-Seatmap
American 787 seatmap

To start, I figured I’d share my thoughts on forward vs. rear facing seats:

American 787 forward facing business class seats

Forward facing seats feel a lot like the reverse herringbone seats on American’s 777-300ERs. The seats are angled towards the windows. The main benefit of these seats is that you have more shoulder space. On the side of the seat closest to the aisle there’s an armrest which can be lowered. This means when you’re sleeping there’s plenty of room to stretch out, and it’s even quite easy to bend your legs while sleeping.

There are two other things to note about the forward facing seats. First of all, they have shoulder harnesses, which have to be strapped on for takeoff and landing. Furthermore, the forward facing seats have a single side table on which you can store things.

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American 787 business class, seat 7A

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American 787 business class, seat 7A

American 787 rear facing business class seats

The rear facing seats have the benefit of having two side tables, so you’ll really feel like you’re cocooned when in these seats. There’s no shoulder harness in the rear facing seats, though there’s also the sensation of flying backwards, which I know makes some people feel uncomfortable during takeoff and landing. Personally it doesn’t bother me.

Whether a forward or rear facing seat is better is really a function of personal preference. For example, Ford loves the rear facing seats since he feels cocooned in the seat, and also loves how private they are (when reclined your head is by the window, as opposed to by the aisle). Meanwhile I prefer the forward facing seats, since I’d rather have more shoulder room when sleeping.

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American 787 business class, seat 6A

Which seats are best?

Let me start by saying that the biggest weakness with these seats is that they shake. Each set of forward and rear facing seats are attached in such a way that you can feel whenever the person in the other seat moves. It’s ridiculous, and makes you wonder if no one actually tried sitting in these seats before they committed to installing them throughout the fleet.

Because of the way the seats are configured, there are some seats which aren’t actually connected to others. Here’s which seats are and aren’t connected to others:

  • Window seats which are attached: 1A & 2A, 3A & 4A, 1L & 2L, 3L & 4L
  • Window seats which aren’t attached: 5A, 6A, 7A, 5L, 6L, 7L
  • Center seats which are attached: 2D & 3D, 4D & 5D, 6D & 7D, 2H & 3H, 4H & 5H, 6H & 7H
  • Center seats which aren’t attached: 1D, 1H

American-787-Business-Class-Cabin
American 787 business class cabin

With that in mind, my favorite business class seats on the American 787 are the window seats in the mini cabin. If you prefer a forward facing seat (as I do), I highly recommend seats 7A & 7L. If you prefer a rear facing seat, I recommend 6A & 6L.

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American 787 business class mini-cabin

I’d say my second choice would be the window seats in row five, given that they’re the other “independent” window seats.

While all of these seats are fairly close to the lavatories, I didn’t find the noise or light bothersome, and really liked the privacy of the rear cabin. For what it’s worth, the service prep by flight attendants is done primarily in the forward cabin, so the mid-cabin galley isn’t used much.

I’m sure some will disagree, but if traveling with someone I’d probably still choose window seats. The center seats are still fairly removed, so you won’t easily be able to have a conversation without leaning forward. At that point it seems worthwhile to just choose the more private window seats.

If you do want to sit together in the center section, be sure you choose forward facing seats, because the rear facing seats have the partition permanently raised.

Bottom line

For other business class configurations I’d argue all seats are more or less equal. That’s not the case on the American 787, where there’s a huge variance in the quality of seats. While this configuration is in theory efficiently designed, they really screwed it up in terms of the sturdiness of the seats. By selecting window seats in rows five, six, or seven, you won’t be at the mercy of others to have a restful flight.

And in general I really like rows six and seven for how private the mini cabin feels.

What’s your favorite business class seat on the American 787?

Comments

  1. Using the information you provided on the 787 and comparing it to the seat maps on seatguru correctly, that means that the unattached seats on the refurbished 777-200s are all on the windows. And those are only 1A, 7A, 12A, 12L and 7L are unattached. Fair assessment?

  2. What are your thoughts on the privacy of the mini cabin in regards to Y passengers coming up to use the lavatory? Was a curtain up the entire time? I’ve read others complain about staring at 6 passengers in the rear facing seat.

  3. The 787 only has a pilot crew rest seat blocked in the cabin on trips over 14 hours where 4 cockpit crew members are required. The overhead crew rest area for the flight deck has two bunks and one seat, so on routes with a 3 person cockpit crew the overhead rest area satisfies the provision of the contract.

  4. How many of the 777s were reconfigured? Looks like most of them are still 2-3-2 old style recliners. Maybe in 2017-2018 when American has modern business class on most of its long haul, this will be less of an issue.

    And how many 787s are there with these seats? Aren’t there a lot more coming once new seats are selected?

    Would you always choose an AA 767 over a 777-2 or 787 at this time?

  5. Thanks for the timely review. Based on your review, I just changed my original selection of 1L/2L/3L to 5A/6A/7A, even though one of us would have to sit in a separate cabin.

  6. The new business class seats have been chosen. Design and finish out were completed before Christmas. I’m surprised the vendor and seat have not yet been leaked.

    The partition issue was a Zodiac quality issue so they had to be locked into place, however, a fix has been identified and should be rolling out soon. I’m wondering when they will start on the seat movement issue. Surely as the seats are used the problem will get worse as they’re worn in.

  7. Would love to see a similar post on the reconfigured 772s… seems to be a lot of debate about the partitions on that plane, i.e. if they are up for forward/backward seats, etc.

  8. Also on a slightly separate note, in 2014 I flew on either an AA or BA business class to LHR from DFW. I was in a really weird set up whereby my companion and I were seated facing backwards and there were seats on either side–these were no big deal until we tried to sleep. The lie flat beds were set up such that I had to crawl over someones feet if I needed to get out to use the head. What type of seats are these and on what type of plane? I certainly wish to avoid these in the future…

  9. I think you and ford should an article together in theform of having a conversation with each other.

  10. Ben,

    I was looking at award flights on AA and suddenly I saw BOS to SYD with first class milesaver awards available for two! Oh, I was so excited. So, I booked it. Only when I got the confirmation did I notice that only one segment (JFK to SFO) was in first. AA says that they will show availability if any one of the segments has award availability. They canceled the reservation and refunded everything.

    But, I was curious. Is that a thing? It seems terribly confusing.

  11. Still just can’t get enough of the word “given”, can you? At least it was only used 3 times in this post.

    FWIW, this post was much better than yesterday’s trainwreck of an attempt by Ford to impart his months of world traveling wisdom on the rest of us.

  12. This was a much better post than the crap Ford put out yesterday. He really should go back to school and learn to write eloquently if he wants to carry on ‘contributing’

  13. Seriously, Abraham, STFU! Write your own blog if you want to choose words, given you sound incredibly dull and unintelligent so I don’t know who would read it.

  14. This is the best feedback I’ve read regarding J on the AA 787. Just moved our seats from 1/2 A to 6/7A for PEK-ORD later this month. Some reported the mini-cabin to be claustrophobic, from the pic and your review it seems private and quieter. Ex PEK Low expectations on catering but hoping for a comfy ride. Thanks for sharing!

  15. I recently had a DFW-PVG round trip on a 788. On the way there all dividers were lowered, so we were able to switch to 1D/H which was great as a couple. Unfortunately, on the way back all odd numbered rows were raised and even numbered rows were lowered and we were in 3D/H.

  16. This post is so timely as I will be heading on the LAX to HND flight next week on the B787-800. My wife and I both cleared SWU to business class ( It was 11 days out before flight). I chose originally 6L and 7L so we would be next to each other. Then I decided that having a backward facing seat would not be great for sleeping. Switched to 7A and 7L. So happy you approved. Ford’s review yesterday made me nervous of the seat, but glad you pointed out that we chose the best seats! Great review! See you at FTU in a few weeks.

  17. I don’t understand. Ben and Ford have had the exact same level of experience with the seats on the AA 787, yet Ford’s article (which is more a recounting, based on a personal experience) is generally derided while Ben’s article (which purports to proclaim what is the best seat(s) out of 28, based on at most two flights) is generally lauded.

    Personally, I think I enjoyed Ford’s article more.

    I also personally prefer Row 5 to Row 7, although I do agree Row 6 has the best rear-facing window seats.

  18. When push comes to shove on this plane, I’ll take a non-connected seat every time (over window/directional preference). I’ve done 8 or 10 of these flights to PEK; the Harlem Shake caused by your overweight conjoined twin is enough to make you lose your sh*t. I am a deep sleeper. Did not enjoy being JOLTED awake each time my 250lb seat twin returned from the lavatory. Absolutely terrible “premium” experience. Someone’s head should role at AA.

  19. Pilot crew rest seat in business class on this aircraft is FAA required, it’s not a contract item. The type of rest area requirements are dictated by length of flight. A Class 1 rest area is a crew bunk, and Class 2 is a lay flat (business class or better) seat. On DFW-PEK both are required.

    Pretty sure the FAA/airline/pilot union was involved in moving the seat from 1A to 1D due to lack of window shade. A curtain must be provided for darkness and some sound mitigation. With the lack of window shade it makes the window seats unusable for this purpose.

    Hopefully you can update your article to reflect that the pilot rest seat is required by the FAA.

  20. As I understand, behind minicabin is Y. So, all traffic from Y to lavatories, enter/exit would be through minicabin. Is it correct?

  21. Ben,
    Any way to know which seats in the 777-200 aren’t attached? Flying in June and don’t want to have this issue.

    Thanks!

  22. do passengers in economy/ main cabin extra come up to use the restroom in business class?

    I am looking at the seat map and noticed that restrooms for economy is all located behind row 18.

  23. It’s so odd that they still block a business class seat for the pilots when they have a really nice crew bunk that’s away from the hustle and bustle of the cabins. Most crew I know relish the time away from the pax! Many of the newer crew bunks also feature the IFE product so it’s really not all that different than a business seat except it’s a permanent bed. I’m not sure about the 787 but I know the new 77W also has actual seats in the crew bunk as well (or a seat). To my knowledge, they don’t block a seat on that for crew. I was always so annoyed on the 763 when they would block a seat and I was #1 on the upgrade list!! ARGH!!

  24. Just flew this aircraft from ORD to PVG. I did 1L there and 7L home.

    I’d have to say I prefer 1L. For one the seat had more privacy. In 1L you don’t see the person across the ailse. In 7L you are starting at 6D the entire flight.

    In addition the forward cabin in my opinion felt more private than the mini cabin which is right up against coach.

    I’d stay away from the rear facing in the mini cabin. Regardless it’s a nice way to fly longhaul.

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