After an amazing week in Paris it was finally time to come home. I originally booked our flight home on American’s newly retrofitted 767 aircraft, but weeks before departure American swapped the plane to a 787-800. I originally selected our flight because of the 2-4-2 configuration in economy, but the swap meant a 3-3-3 configuration. Once I noticed the change in aircraft I immediately changed our seats 18A and 18B because there is no seat 18C. This we would retain the original 2 seat configuration as planned. None of this really mattered in the end however because upon check-in I noticed several empty business class seats to which I planned to upgrade.
Upgrading Using Miles and Co-Pay
After checking the seat maps in the hours leading up to our departure I noticed there were several business class seats available. Once we arrived at the Admirals Club in Paris I decided to request an upgrade using the Miles and Co-Pay method. At face value the 25,000 AAdvantage miles and $350 doesn’t seem like much of a bargain, but given how hard it is to find Business SAAver awards these days I figured it was my only chance to sit in front on American’s 787.
Given there were 10 or so open business class seats (out of 28) we had no problem with the upgrade and were able to select two seats next to each other. Originally the Admirals Club agent assigned us in two seats in different rows, but I checked the seat map and noticed rows 6 and 7 behind the middle galley completely open. After checking out the seat map it seemed seats 6D and 6H were the best for a couple traveling together. We’d both have forward facing seats and would sit next to each other.
Boarding In Paris
After the LONG walk from the Admirals Club we arrived at our gate to board our flight back to Chicago. Boarding stared a few minutes after the posted boarding time which was perfect because we arrived to the gate right as they started boarding. One thing I loved (maybe the only thing) about Paris’ Charles Du Gaulle airport are the glass jetways which I of course forgot to take a picture of. We boarded through the L2 door which is located just between rows 5 and 6 of the business class cabin. We quickly took our seats and were immediately offered pre-departure champagne. Boarding took a surprisingly long time which is probably due to the absurdly long lines at check-in and security. Before long the boarding door was closed and we pushed back from the gate.
American Airlines 787-8 Business Class Seat(s)
American decided to go with a reverse herringbone seating arrangement for the business class cabin on the 787-800 aircraft. The SeatGuru seat map shows which seats are forward facing and which seats are rearward facing. For our flight we decided to sit in the middle of row 6 because both seats were forward facing. While on the ground I decided to switch to seat 6A (recommended by the flight attendant) because it allows passengers traveling together to see one another.
As you can see from the above picture this is the seat as it appeared when we boarded. In the center seats the forward facing seats face inward while the rear facing seats face outward. We originally selected seats 6D and 6H because we thought they’d allows us to easily communicate. Because the seat is so far back into the pod you can’t see the person sitting next to you. This is great when traveling alone because it offers a ton of privacy, but when traveling with a companion it is difficult to see the other person. Also, the center partition is easily raised and lowered, but that just makes it easier to see/judge what the person next to you is watching on the large IFE screen.
I ended up sitting in seat 6A during my flight home to Chicago which is a mirror of seat 6L featured above. Sitting in a rearward facing seat was strange during takeoff and landing, but having an unobstructed view of the 787 wing through the oversized windows was an avgeeks dream.
Above are the controls to the in-flight entertainment and the seat. The inflight entertainment remote is removable and offers touch screen controls on the front and a full QWERTY keyboard on the back. A neat feature of the remote is the ability to display the flight info and flight map on the remote’s screen while entertainment plays on the personal IFE screen. The remote also controls the flight attendant call button and overhead lights. There are 4 overhead lights configurations to cycle through.
The seat controls are also touch sensitive. Featured above are the ‘preset’ seat configurations, but each component of the seat is customizable. By selecting custom on the display you can change any movable part of the seat at will.
Located just above the IFE controller is a small reading lamp which it turned on and off by the little button on the bottom right corner.
Lastly, above is the premium cabin bathroom on American’s 787 aircraft. The configuration is the same on the 787-9 which we flew to get to Paris.
Overall I found the seat a comfortable way to cross the Atlantic. The seat turns into a fully lie-flat bed which led to a very nice nap in the middle of our flight. We flew a day flight home, but after the cabin crew dimmed the lights and windows the cabin was definitely dark enough to sleep.
As many of you know the windows on the 787 do not have window shades, but rather feature a dimer switch to dim the windows the block out light. When fully dimmed you can still partially see through the window, but there’s almost no light penetration from the outside. I personally love this feature because the flight attendants can dim the windows at any time and actually lock the window from being ‘opened.’ In the middle of our flight I tried to click the dimmer button, but the windows were locked in the fully dimmed configuration.
Business Class Meal Service
I guess you could say that service began on the ground when the flight attendant provided us with a menu and our pre-departure Cattier Brut Icone NV champagne. The menu for our flight featured a caprese salad, a gem wedge salad, choice of main (braised beef, corn-fed chicken breast, seared white halibut, or seven cheese ravioli), and dessert (ice cream sundae, gourmet cheese plate, or roasted white chocolate and hazelnut cake). Dinner service began shortly after reaching our cruising altitude and lasted just under an hour from start to finish. Following the meal service the flight attendants setup a mid-flight snack bar in the middle galley for passengers to grab snacks throughout the flight. Because the business class cabin had so many empty seats many of the leftover desserts were available as a mid-flight snack.
Shortly before our decent into Chicago the flight attendants offered us a light meal. The light meal was a choice between a barbecue beef sandwich with brie and sweet chili jam or a charred cauliflower power bowl. It was a tough choice, but I opted for the barbecue beef which was fantastic. The meal also came with a side of fruit, bag of chips, and a small chocolate pudding. My apologies for the lighting, but the cabin lights were off and windows dimmed at this point of the flight.
Business Class Amenity Kit
Each business class passenger currently receives a Cole Haan amenity kit. The current lineup of kits are small zippered pouches in a variety of colors. At my seat was the grey and orange version while my girlfriend received the grey and yellow version. Inside we found an eye mask and travel socks (each the color of the exterior zipper), a dental kit, headphone covers, tissues, ear plugs, a pen, and a variety of products from CO Bigelow Apothecaries. The inside of the kit also featured a card which explained the kit and on the reverse side of the card are promo codes for a 20% discount on C.O. Bigelow products and a $100 discount of $300 purchase from Cole Haan (promo codes not shown for obvious reasons).
I have a soft spot for orange and really like the way the kit looks from the outside. The kit is well made and honestly is something I could see myself using as a small travel dopp kit on future trips. The Cole Haan and CO Bigelo promo codes surprised me as both could offer nice savings on future purchases. In theory these promo codes help offset the cost of the upgrade, but that’s a stretch! By far the most useful part of the entire amenity kit is the pen. I can’t tell you how many times I find myself looking for a pen when traveling. I always carry one in my briefcase, but almost always forget one when traveling on personal trips.
I’m not sure if it’s tacky to talk about the cost of this flight or not. I’m doing it to show you (the reader) that you can enjoy these experiences at huge discounts. I hate other travel blogs that try to say “travel is free” because it’s simply not that easy. Because of that I’m sharing the cost of the flight so you can see how I did it. If you appreciate this or not this please comment so I can choose to include or omit the cost from future flight reviews. I find knowing the cost of the flight helpful in understanding the best way to use miles and points.
So, with that, the cost. As I mentioned before the entire round trip cost of the trip was $350 each from Chicago to Paris and back in economy. This upgrade cost me 25,000 points and $300 in a co-pay. I value American points at $0.015 a piece which means I view the upgrade as $675 or as 45,000 points. Buying a one-way business class seat from Paris to Chicago on American currently costs $6,327 so I found the miles and co-pay method of upgrading as a perfectly good use of points and cash.
Many other travel writers advise against miles and co-pay upgrades, but I’m starting to love them on American flights. By using a miles and co-pay upgrade you still earn your original EQM and EQM. If you booked this flight using miles alone you’d earn no EQM or EQD for the flight. Plus, American’s SAAver Business Class awards are incredibly hard to find these days making AAdvantage miles quite difficult to use. If you are lucky enough to find a non-stop SAAver award the cost is 57,500 AA miles or $855 ($0.015) plus $5.60 in fees.
This flight was the perfect end to our trip to Paris. I’ve been trying to find my way to the front of an American 787 since they first started flying last year and I finally made it. I’ve read the seat is somewhat cramped in the shoulders which I could see, but I’m not a very big person and didn’t feel that way. Overall I have no complaints about the flight and am glad I used the miles and co-pay method to upgrade to business class on this flight. I’m not sure that I’d make a habit of upgrading, especially heading west, but it’s nice to know the option is available.
If anyone is traveling as a pair I highly recommend sitting in the middle and aisle seats rather than trying to sit together in the middle section. Sitting across the aisle isn’t ideal, but it’s the only way to actually see the person you’re traveling with on American’s 788 business class seating arrangement. Anyone looking for complete privacy should look to sit in odd numbered seats as they offered more privacy than the even numbered rows. Additionally, American’ 789 aircraft does not feature the reverse seats and only features forward facing pods. For anyone who’s interested the seats are Zodiac Concept D seats.