Review: American 787 Business Class Beijing To Dallas

Introduction
Review: American 787 Business Class Dallas To Beijing
Review: Sheraton Grand Beijing Dongcheng
Touring Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City, And The Great Wall
Review: American 787 Business Class Beijing To Dallas


Our flight was scheduled to depart at 4:25PM, so we got to the airport at around 2PM, given that immigration and security lines can be quite long in Beijing. I won’t be reviewing the ground experience much this time around, given that I reviewed my flight out of Beijing in American’s old first class last year.

American uses the mediocre Cathay Pacific/Dragonair Lounge in Beijing, though if you have a Priority Pass membership you can also access the Air China First Class Lounge… not that it’s any nicer.

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Beijing Airport Terminal 3

Our flight was departing from gate E21, and boarding started at 3:35PM, a full 50 minutes before our scheduled departure time.

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American 787 Beijing Airport

American 262
Beijing (PEK) – Dallas (DFW)
Monday, April 4
Depart: 4:25PM
Arrive: 5:30PM
Duration: 14hr5min
Aircraft: Boeing 787-8
Seat: 7A (Business Class)

Once onboard we turned right into the business class mini cabin. American’s 787 has a total of 28 seats, spread across seven rows in a 1-2-1 configuration. On the way out we sat in the forward cabin, while on the way back we reserved seats in the rear cabin.

I wrote a separate post about my favorite seats in American’s 787 business class, and the rear mini cabin is definitely my preferred place to sit.

The downside is that it’s to the right of the main entry door, meaning that all the economy passengers walk past your seat, so it’s busier during boarding.

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American 787 business class mini cabin

Furthermore, the curtains between business class and economy aren’t especially thick, so you may get some light or noise from economy.

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American 787 business class mini cabin

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American 787 business class, view from seat 7A

However, everything else about these seats is fantastic. I was in seat 7A, a forward facing seat in the last row of business class. What’s great about the window seats in rows six and seven is that they’re independent, meaning that you won’t experience any of the issues with the wobbliness of the seats, which is ultimately causing American to switch seat vendors.

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American business class 787, seat 7A

Ford was in seat 6A, which is rear facing, and also isn’t connected to any other seat.

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American business class 787, seat 6A

As normal there was plenty of legroom, and I love how you can extend your feet without having to deal with the space limitations of a small cubby for your feet, or anything.

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American business class legroom and entertainment screen

Already waiting at my seat were a pillow and blanket.

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American business class pillow & blanket

Also waiting at my seat was a bottle of water, the menu for the flight, slippers, and the new Cole Haan amenity kit.

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American business class 787, amenity kit, slippers, water, and menu

Shortly after settling in one of the business class flight attendants, Vicki, came by to offer me a pre-departure beverage. I just had a glass of water.

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American business class, pre-departure water

Boarding was extremely efficient, despite the fact that the flight was full in both business and economy. The door closed at 4PM, a full 25 minutes before our scheduled departure time.

Shortly after the door closed the captain came on the PA to welcome us aboard on behalf of himself and his three first officers. He informed us of the flight time of 12hr43min, and that we were scheduled to land on time. He said we were just waiting on our pushback clearance, and should be departing shortly.

I figured we’d be significantly earlier than his “on time” estimate, given that our flight time was 80 minutes under our block time, and we got an early start.

We pushed back at 4:10PM, with an Air Macau A321 to our left. At that point the safety video began to play.

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Air Macau A321 Beijing Airport

Once the video was done the purser, Rebecca, came around to take meal orders. She was a delight, if not a bit crazy in terms of the “insight” she had into the airline (more on that later).

The traffic on our 15 minute taxi to the runway was interesting. I was especially intrigued by the Mahan Air A310 parked next to the Japan Airlines 787.

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Japan Airlines and Mahan Air Beijing Airport

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Taxiing to departure runway Beijing Airport

Then there were several planes headed to the US, including a United 747 and Hainan A330.

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Hainan A330 and United 747 Beijing Airport

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Taxiing Beijing Airport

There was a special livery Air China 777.

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Air China 777 Beijing Airport

And I saw the Ameco hangar, where I believe United does (or at least did) heavy maintenance on some of their planes.

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Ameco maintenance hangar

We held short of runway 19 waiting for an Asiana plane to land.

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Asiana plane on final approach Beijing Airport

Once it touched down we were cleared for departure, at around 4:25PM. You can’t beat taking off right around the time you were scheduled to pushback.

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Taxiing onto runway Beijing Airport

We had a fairly long takeoff roll, and some decent views on the gradual climb out.

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View after takeoff from Beijing

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View after takeoff from Beijing

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View after takeoff from Beijing

Shortly after takeoff the purser made her welcome aboard announcement. I always cringe when they refer to the meal service (especially in economy) as the “international flagship dinner service.” Based on the pictures I’ve seen of American’s economy food, that’s not something I could say with a straight face.

The purser also announced that while wifi would be available on the flight, it would only begin working about 90 minutes after takeoff, due to Chinese restrictions on the service. Since wifi wouldn’t be available initially I browsed the entertainment selection, and decided to watch “Daddy’s Home,” starring Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg. It was amusing enough for an airplane movie.

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Entertainment selection in American business class

The windows were also dimmed throughout the cabin shortly after takeoff.

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Boeing 787 windows

About 20 minutes after takeoff the cabin crew began their service, starting with hot towels being distributed, followed by tablecloths being placed on trays.

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Dinner service table setting

The dinner menu read as follows:

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And the wine/beverage list read as follows:

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The cart was rolled through the aisle with drinks and warm mixed nuts. I just had a glass of water. The purser tends to work the left aisle on the 787, so she was serving me throughout the flight.

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Dinner service — hot nuts and water

She was a gem, and we’d briefly talk every time she came through the aisle with her service. She explained she only flies to Asia out of Dallas, which she has no problem holding thanks to her seniority. I thought it was funny that she claimed that American will soon be upgrading their routes between Dallas and Beijing, Seoul Incheon, and Shanghai, to the 777-300ER. She said it was a sure thing, and should be announced any day.

Yeah, I don’t see that happening…

Next I was served a tray with the salad and appetizer. In the past I’ve found American’s catering out of Beijing to be horrible.

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Dinner service — starter, salad, and bread

In this case the appetizer consisting of duck spring rolls wasn’t half bad.

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Dinner service starter — Peking duck spring roll

Neither was the salad.

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Dinner service salad — seasonal greens with carrot spaghetti and tomatoes

However, the pretzel roll was hard as a rock. Apparently this is because American now roundtrip caters most things out of Dallas (supposedly since they realize the quality out of Beijing is terrible). Unfortunately that leads to really hard bread, though.

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Dinner service bread — pretzel bread

For the main course I ordered the ginger scallops. I’m not sure what I was thinking ordering scallops out of Beijing, but it was possibly the worst main course I’ve ever had on a plane. Usually I love scallops, but the texture of these was so bad.

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Dinner service main course — ginger scallops with stir fried noodles and vegetables

The roasted duck breast seemed like it might have been the better option.

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Dinner service main course — roasted duck breast with egg fried rice and snap peas

For dessert I had the sundae, which was good as always.

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Dinner service dessert — ice cream with berries and nuts

All things considered it wasn’t an especially good meal, but then again, that’s exactly what I was expecting out of Beijing.

The meal service was done about 80 minutes after takeoff, as we were passing over Harbin (which I’d really like to visit).

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Airshow enroute from Beijing to Dallas

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Airshow enroute from Beijing to Dallas

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Airshow enroute from Beijing to Dallas

After dinner I decided to sleep, given that it was approaching my bedtime in Beijing. I managed to get a solid six hours of sleep, and woke up feeling really refreshed. It was great to not have a seat which shook when the person in front or behind you moved, so I highly recommend seat 7A.

Upon waking up I was offered a mid-flight snack, from the following menu:

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I passed, as I wasn’t very hungry. However, I did check out the snack setup they had across from the lavatories and between the two cabins.

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American business class snack bar

Much to my surprise, most of the people in the forward cabin seemed to be awake.

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American 787 forward business class cabin

I connected to the wifi and worked for a few hours. The wifi speeds were excellent, and at only $19 for the entire flight, the wifi plan was a bargain. Eventually the sun began to rise. I have to say that the flight was exceptionally smooth throughout — I don’t recall hitting a single bump.

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View enroute to Dallas

I worked all the way until we were about 90 minutes out of Dallas, at which point the pre-arrival meal service began. The menu read as follows:

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Much like on the Dallas to Beijing flight, the pre-arrival meal offering is a bit confusing. Around this time it’s early morning in Beijing, while it’s afternoon at our destination. I ordered the quiche, which was small, though surprisingly tasty.

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Pre-landing meal service — salad, main course, and dessert

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Pre-landing meal service — pumpkin and mushroom quiche

The side salad was decent as well, and more than anything I was happy to see it wasn’t served with some creamy dressing.

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Pre-landing meal service — fresh seasonal greens with green peppers and tomatoes

The ginger sour cream cake was a nice contrast to the normal overly sweet desserts which American usually serves.

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Pre-landing meal service — ginger sour cream cake

About 30 minutes before landing the captain came on the PA to inform us that we’d be landing at around 4PM, which would be almost 90 minutes ahead of schedule.

The seatbelt sign was turned on shortly after the announcement, at which point the crew began their landing preparations.

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Airshow on approach into Dallas

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View on approach into Dallas

Our descent was smooth, and as usual there weren’t especially exciting views on the approach.

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View on approach into Dallas

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View on approach into Dallas

We had a smooth touchdown on runway 18R at 4PM sharp.

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View on final approach into Dallas

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Touchdown in Dallas

From there it was a short five minute taxi to our arrival gate at the international terminal, and a couple of those minutes were spent holding short of runway 18L.

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Taxiing Dallas Airport

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Taxiing Dallas Airport

We pulled into gate D25 at 4:05PM.

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Taxiing Dallas Airport

American sometimes has employees waiting with “Express Connection” boarding passes upon arrival. This is typically for passengers who have tight connections, as the orange boarding pass cover allows them to get expedited back to their departure gate. I’m not sure why they had someone with these boarding passes waiting on arrival, given that we were over an hour early. Presumably no one was at risk of missing their flight.

As we deplaned I grabbed a quick picture of the plane. I know you’re not supposed to take pictures in the customs hall itself, but in this case we weren’t even in the hall, and I was just trying to grab one picture of the plane. The guy with the “Express Connection” boarding passes yelled at me. I said “sorry,” and then he proceeded to get on his walkie talkie to report me — “there’s a guy in a blue sweatshirt with a big camera taking pictures.” I was wearing an orange sweatshirt and was taking a picture with my iPhone, so unsurprisingly, I wasn’t arrested on arrival. 😉

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American 787 on arrival in Dallas

Thanks to the early arrival we managed to get on standby for an earlier flight back to Los Angeles.

American 787 business class bottom line

This was another very pleasant flight on American. I sat in seat 7A for the first time, which is definitely my “go to” business class seat on this plane, as it feels quite private and doesn’t shake like some of the other seats.

I slept really well on this flight, and also got a good amount of work done thanks to the fast (and reasonably priced) wifi. The crew on this sector was friendly, in particular the purser. Actually, all four of my recent American flights to and from Asia have had excellent crews, while in the past I’ve found them to be more of a mixed bag. The food was pretty bad, though I’ve come to expect that when flying American out of Beijing.

All-in-all this was a very nice experience on American. Their 787s are a huge upgrade over the old 777s they used to fly on the route.

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Comments

  1. Any recollection which center dividers were up and which were down in the middle seats in rows 6 and 7?

  2. Good stuff, Ben. I’m taking AA 787 from LAX->ORD in two months (first class). My first time on AA. I’m seated in 1L which is attached. I almost switched assigned seats to 7A after reading your comments about the wobbly seats. But I noticed on the SeatGuru map that the rear-facing seat opposite 7A faces towards you. Could be wrong. Didn’t like that, so I stuck with 1L. If it sucks, I’ll probably switch to 7A on ORD->LAX leg. New fan, BTW. Love your blog.

  3. Another AA dinosaur FA on board who claims to know everything about AA, but actually probably knows nothing.

  4. I guess the “Express Connections” guy really didn’t want to report you for your picture-taking 😉 or he’s color-blind, one or the other.

  5. Some poor guy in a blue sweatshirt was detained. 🙂 Too bad about wobbly seats, they mar an otherwise great cabin. The food looks delicious.

  6. Flew Shanghai to Chicago yesterday and had the exact same menu. Good crew in Business but compared to Asian carriers very average. The crew was accommodating when asked for anything; however, one had to initiate requests instead of being asked. I was only there for one night on business so had the same crew coming and going – and the same seat and flight attendant!

  7. @ Ben — When an entree is as bad as that, why not send it back and ask if they have any other options remaining?

    A few times I’ve had to do this business class (and once in First). I’ve never had any resistance and have always been accomodated.

    JRL

  8. Glad to hear the crew from PEK-DFW was good. I’ve flown HKG- DFW twice on AA and will try to avoid AA and ONLY fly CX in the future. The CX crew and food are heads and tails above AA. I’d rather fly CX HKG- LAX and then LAX to DFW than have to put up with the surly FA crews on the AA HKG- DFW flight.

  9. Lucky, in an earlier post you said,

    “The one thing that’s awkward about the seat is that for the most part someone is staring right at you, or you’re staring right at someone, depending on whether you have a forward or rear facing seat.”

    Can you talk more about this? Which seats have you staring at someone or vice versa? Thanks.

  10. The ginger scallops out of Beijing are the only airline meal I have ever complained about. I have extensive tolerance for bad food (I expect it in airplanes), but this dish is just terrible. The texture of the scallops was disgusting (as Ben says), and there was no discernible ginger flavor, or any other flavor for that matter.

  11. Lucky, how’s AA’s biz class seats compared to CX’s? I just got back to Asia from SFO on CX’s J class, I found the seats too narrow to have any comfortable sleep. I did not realize CX’s flights out of SFO do not have first class cabin till it was too late. It sure made me and my wife miss those wide CX’s first class seats.

  12. The food looked terrible, so the fact that there was so little of it, probably was a good thing.

    This just proves the point how TERRIBLE US airlines are. Anyone going transpacific should think twice of being subjected to this (12-14 hours).

    It just looked like pre-packaged stuff. That rice looked liked it was scooped out with an ice cream scoop (no it wasn’t).

    Toss in the surly service, and its time to fly with an Asian based carrier.

  13. @Silver – CX does operate F from SFO to HK on only one of its daily flights, its the CX873 which leaves at 00:50 , their other flights only have biz and below

  14. I don’t understand how you think this is good?? This review just shows how crap AA is. Even BA is much much better – but you continue to slag of BA and suck up to AA like there’s no tomorrow

  15. Very nice review. Due to the nature of scallops, you just don’t order them in those situations.

  16. @James

    AA gets him seats on Etihad!

    I wonder why AA can’t offer a choice of appetizers the way other airlines do. Is it that much cheaper for them? Less work for the FAs?

  17. So the food is all catered from DFW, even for the return?

    Two 14 hours flights. A few hours before to load. How long is the plane on the ground in PEK?

    Point is, the food you eat before landing on the return has been in carts, presumably refrigerated, for a day and a half. Or more.

    How would any airline ever expect that product to taste good? Shouldn’t they shoot a bit higher for a fare that’s probably in the $4 – 6K range?

  18. Water? I look forward to your comments about the champers and the wine. Are you on the wagon?

  19. Surprised they are still serving the horrible scallops. First and only time I felt obligated to complain to an airline about the food, and this was over a year ago. I’m sure they’ve had a year of complaints about them directly or from the FAs who hear from the passengers.

  20. ben, anyone that can assist on an off topic question

    Will be spending 1 day in Singapore for the first time. Will arrive after a long flight and would like to stay somewhere close to the main attractions, few bars/ restaurants to have dinner, etc. My travel agent has proposed the following hotels, appreciate anyone’s recommendations. Thank you!

    Julian

    FAIRMONT SINGAPORE
    CONRAD SINGAPORE
    HILTON SINGAPORE
    SHANGRI LA SINGAPORE
    SHERATON TOWERS SINGAPORE
    GRAND HYATT SINGAPORE
    WESTIN SINGAPORE

  21. @julian, the Westin is by far the newest and is the closest to places like club street, Telok Ayer street etc where there are lots of nice restaurants and bars. Fairmont or Conrad works too but that’s closer to South Beach/Chijmes. The rest are in Orchard road (Only good for shopping).

  22. On the subject of this review, I’m sorry but the food looks abysmal. I kind of agree with @James

  23. Hi Ben,

    What seats will you recommend for a family of 3 (2 adults + 1 child) who would like to sit close to each other? If one of them sits in 7A would the other seats in that row be good? I have a business class booking from ORD to PEK in December and would like to pick good seats before they disappear. Thanks.

  24. It wouldn’t hurt AA to work on their menu offerings and food quality in all cabins. They’re making huge profits now, there’s no excuse not to give a little back. Maybe if enough people complain? I’ve had some very disappointing meals in International business class and I keep seeing the same items on the menus.

  25. While typically nothing to write home about, the premium cabin food on AA is typically decent enough to satisfy hunger. I suspect what’s making these meals absolutely disgusting is the roundtrip catering from DFW. That’s so gross eating scallops that have been on board for probably close to 24hrs factoring in DFW-PEK flight time and ground time. It’s almost bordering on being a hazard at that point. What if the chillers were off or something on the way over? ICK! I’m actually surprised they do this due to weight. It’s twice the amount of meals needed on the way over (DFW-PEK). Interesting…and disgusting!

  26. I just landed after the PEK-ORD flight, and sat in 6L which was surprisingly good (I had 1J on DFW-HKG for the outbound, which was also surprisingly spacious).

    Same meal options, though I wisely preordered the duck. While not anywhere up to Beijing standards, it was at least edible. Pretty much everything else about the food, seat, lounge, and gate mirrored my experience.

    I will say that the 12+ hour flight on the 788 felt significantly shorter than the 15+ hour flight on the 777-300ER, which I can only attribute to the better air quality.

  27. @Lucky
    I’ve flown Mahan Air a couple of times and it’s surprisingly nice compared to Iran Air. Privately owned it boasts new interiors and really good catering on board. It will be interesting to see where they take this product now that the sanctions have been lifted.

  28. Hi Guys, meant to flying LAX-LHR on an AA 772 in August in Business, have all the 772s been retrofitted to flat beds now? Dont want to be on angled flat-thanks!

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