American Airlines 787 Main Cabin Extra LAX-AKL
After my experience last weekend in American Airlines Business class, I wasn’t looking forward to my American Airlines 787 Main Cabin Extra LAX-AKL flight. At 12+ hours each way, AA 82 and 83 are long flights to be in Economy (even if it is “Main Cabin Extra”).
I purchased this ticket back in April when Qantas was offering a highly discounted round trip ticket from Los Angeles to Auckland for $225 after taxes. The flight was a codeshare Qantas/American Airlines flight on an American airplane.
As an American Platinum elite (and also as a Alaska Gold MVP) I was able to select a Main Cabin Extra seat for free. I picked seat 8D as I had read this was the best Economy seat on the plane (more on that later).
The trip started off poorly a few days before departure. I had put in for an upgrade request to Business Class, knowing it would cost $350 + 25k miles. The upgrade cleared however I was told on the phone that the upgrade was invalid and I would not be able to be upgraded. The reason was that my ticket was through Qantas even though it was on an American plane.
I positioned to LAX from Seattle on Alaska and had a couple hours to kill before my flight. I decided to visit the oneworld Business Class Lounge in the International Terminal even though my flight left from Terminal 4. I heard that the LAX-AKL flight was often delayed (in fact it had a 23% on time rating) so I was expecting a late departure.
However, the flight status was listed as on time for a 10:40pm departure. I headed to the gate and sure enough they started boarding around 9:40pm. We took off at 10:56, only 16 minutes late and actually arrived in Auckland 30 minutes early.
When on board I was surprised how (relatively) small the 787 is compared to the 777 or A380 that I had recently flown. When boarding through the front left door, rows 1-5 of Business Class are to the left and rows 6-7 are to the right. Just past the mini Business cabin is the first of the Economy cabins that holds rows 8-18. The second Economy cabin holds rows 19-30. Yes, you read that right. There are only 30 rows of seats on the AA 787-800. There is also no First Class.
The Business Class section is a 1-2-1 reverse herringbone configuration of seats. The Economy Class section is (mostly) a 3-3-3 configuration. As such there is no difference in the width of the standard Economy and Main Cabin Extra. The benefit comes in seat pitch (leg room).
I picked seat 8D; an aisle seat in the middle section of the first row of Economy. The strange thing about the configuration on American’s 787-800 is that the bulkhead in front of row 8 doesn’t line up exactly with the seats. If you are in seat 8C or 8J your legs go into the Business Class aisle. More legroom, but you feel like you are sitting in the middle of an aisle. If you are in seat 8D or 8H you have a bulkhead that actually extends past your seat. So you get an extra bit of space.
The downside of Row 8 is that the IFE screens are housed in the armrest and flip out. This means the seats are slightly narrower than other rows.
The American Airlines 787 Main Cabin Extra LAX-AKL flight ended up being about 1/2 full so there were a ton of extra seats. No one was in the right most seats of row 8 (seats JKL) so I moved over there once we took off and had the row to myself.
Prior to take off the flight attendants passed out menu cards and earbuds to all passengers. Each seat on the American Airlines 787 Main Cabin Extra LAX-AKL flight also had a thin blanket and pillow.
The older couple next to me were quite excited that there was free alcohol on the flight. The flight attendants were quite friendly, joking that they needed to see his ID before giving him two bottles of whisky.
I spoke with the crew quite a bit. Most had been with American (not US) for many, many years. I was very impressed with their service; granted I had low expectations. The least friendly of the lot was the only male flight attendant and also the youngest by at least 20 years.
Shortly after take off we were each treated to a semi warm, dry paper towel. Thanks?
The drink cart came through next followed by dinner. Both directions I had the “cold chicken” salad dish. The flight attendants asked “do you want the hot chicken, cold chicken, or shrimp.” Of note the food was better on the way to Auckland than on the return trip even though they were basically the same dishes.
The food on the American Airlines 787 Main Cabin Extra LAX-AKL flight wasn’t anything special. I did feel like my choice was somewhat healthy. The salad was quite bland (the color speaks for itself). The dinner roll had garlic butter in the middle which reminded me of the cheap Italian bread you get at the grocery store that is pre-buttered/garlic and sliced. The dessert was a chocolate mouse that was okay.
Half way into the flight the snack was served — pizza and ice cream. It was like a 10 year old’s birthday party!
For breakfast you had the choice of eggs or a fruit platter. I chose the fruit each way. I did appreciate the healthy option and noosa is my favorite greek yogurt.
In addition to the meals there were snacks, water and juice in the galley that was self-serve.
The return trip menu was very similar.
My return flight was much more full due to the fact that Selena Gomez and her tour
entourage staff were all on the plane.
I do like the 787. A lot. It feels smaller than a lot of other planes that fly internationally. It also has the bigger windows and more humid air. It definitely makes a difference on a 12+ hour flight.
I had a very positive inflight experience on my American Airlines 787 Main Cabin Extra LAX-AKL flight. It showed me that there are huge inconsistencies from one AA flight to the next. You can get an old plane and a bad crew and have a terrible experience. Or you can get a new plane with a friendly crew and actually enjoy the flight. If AA could standardize their product and staff I might actually fly them again some day.