Flat Beds on the American 767-300, Then Coach Home (Trip Report)

American, Trip Reports

As I wrote yesterday, it’s a quiet Thanksgiving week, so I’m posting my recent trip reports to get them out of the queue. There’s no post on Thursday. I’ll be back on Monday with a regular post.

Two days after my Mint experience on JetBlue, it was time to move on. I had to go straight to Chicago for a bachelor party. With no reason to trudge back to Ft Lauderdale this time, I did the wise thing and flew out of Miami since the hotel was right there. I was really excited to find that American had a morning flight on the 767-300ER, especially since the company that flew me out would put me up front on this flight as well. I hadn’t flown the new flat beds yet, and I was eager to test them out, even if for a mere 3 hour flight.

Upon arriving at the airport, I found the usual Miami chaos. People were just scattered everywhere, blocking entrances to the checkpoints, and generally arguing with others. Welcome to Miami. The line-minder who usually just checks to see if you have Pre Check on your boarding pass was also policing carry-on sizes for some reason. A traveler in front of me was pretty angry when told she had to go check her bag at the counter.

It only took a few minutes before I was through security and on my way to my gate. Miami is a nice-looking airport on the inside (better be considering how expensive it was to build), and it wasn’t all that crowded.

I found my gate, a strange one with no windows, and waited until it was time to board.

November 10, 2017
American 334 Lv Miami 835a Arr Chicago/O’Hare 1053a
Miami (MIA): Gate D16, Runway 8R, Depart 1m Early
Chicago/O’Hare (ORD): Gate K15, Runway 10C, Arrive 36m Late
N395AN, Boeing 767-323ER, Ugly Flag Tail colors, ~95% Full
Seat 3J, First
Flight Time 3h10m

The last time I flew on an American 767 up front, I was on that miserable angled torture chamber of a seat that is thankfully gone. As I walked onboard the aircraft this time, I was immediately impressed by the change.

The new seats look nice.

They do make for an awkward aisle position and people were clipping carry-ons a lot on the way in, but that’s a minor issue.

I found my seat and kicked myself for somehow choosing the one that’s closer to the aisle unlike the ones in front and behind. (The staggered layout alternates positions by row.) But that’s ok, I still had a good view.

There was overhead bin madness on this flight. People apparently tried to lug everything on the airplane (again, welcome to Miami), and the flight attendants, instead of forcing the bags to be checked, tried to find room even in the premium cabin. One flight attendant asked a woman near me if she could move her purse from the outside bins to the center bins (which are much smaller but plenty big for her purse). Incredibly, she refused. I ended up volunteering to squeeze my bag into the center bins. The flight attendants were appreciative even though they’d already found some room elsewhere by the time I shoehorned my bag.

We pushed back on time and wandered out to the runway for our eastbound departure.

We got above the low scattered clouds quickly and pointed north. It was a downright beautiful morning to fly, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. The flight attendants came through with drinks, but I just had water to start. (Later, I gave in and had a screwdriver.)

My biggest complaint is that these 767 business class seats do not have in-seat video built in. On long flights, they hand out personal tablets, but on domestic flights they don’t. This tray (below) is supposed to hold the tablet, and that power outlet behind is supposed to keep it powered.

The only entertainment we had was the looping NBC stuff on the overhead monitors. There was no wifi or streaming video to be found. Talk about old-school. There were also, unsurprisingly, no noise-canceling headphones given out as on longer flights.

I found the seat really comfortable, and lounged much of the way up. Food was served, and I opted for the fruit plate.

The fruit wasn’t very good, but the granola was tasty. I found the tray table really challenging to use; it kept getting stuck. The flight attendant said she could never get them to work either and called someone else over to help. Later I decided to lie down.

It’s not the longest bed in the world (not a problem for me), but I found it really comfortable. As an added bonus, the overhead monitor was right above my seat in the aisle, so I could lie down and watch the video… sort of.

Other than being further from the window, I found a reason to really dislike the aisle seat. My arm kept slipping out to the side of the seat, and if someone rolled by in a cart my elbow would have been hit hard. Maybe I was somehow not set up properly, but I know that on the window, that doesn’t happen.

I took a stroll through the coach cabin, and it did look a whole lot different there — just rows and rows of seats with scattered overhead monitors right down the middle.

That transported me back to a different age of flying. Oh, and so did this…

We started our descent as we approached Chicago. I could still see the lake before a layer of clouds rolled in just outside of town. We got down to 4,400 feet and then we just sat there… for a long time. We headed way west, waved to Iowa, and then finally got back in line to land. After we got on the ground, the captain noted that O’Hare had just closed one runway so we had been routed way out of the way before we could land.

Chicago was getting messy. Those low clouds were actually spitting flurries, and the snow picked up as we taxied. We took a tour of the airport for a long time before finally finding a spot in the penalty box. There’s nothing quite like a 30+ minute taxi before finally getting to the gate. Just before we pulled in, I saw a lot of deicing going on, as evidenced by the green wings on this guy.

I hadn’t been back to Chicago for a long time, so it was good to be able to visit some of the old haunts from my United days. I have fond memories of the place, but the weather was not one of them. By Sunday, all the gloominess had me longing for sun.

My friends and I left our friend’s house in Bucktown at 11:45am. They hopped out at United’s terminal first, and then I was dropped off at American’s Terminal 3. I had Pre Check so I got through quickly and had about an hour to kill. I have to admit, I love the distinctive look of American’s O’Hare terminal.

A friend at American offered to put me on the list to check out the Flagship Lounge since it was newly-redone. I accepted just so I could see the place. It looks good and has a ton of space (carved into smaller rooms), though admittedly this was an off-peak time.
I’m not sure how full it gets later in the day.

On the far side, there’s a nice buffet area.

I didn’t take advantage of any of that. I just sat there and stared out the window watching the traffic move back and forth on the ramp. It was mesmerizing. (I was also hungover, so there’s that.)

I saw my airplane pull in (the one in the front left of that photo above) and then another one came behind in the old silver colors. It’s amazing to me how shocking it is now to see one of those silver birds. Kind of sad, actually. I wandered down to the gate and boarded my flight.

November 12, 2017
American 1491 Lv Chicago/O’Hare 135p Arr Orange County 403p
Chicago/O’Hare (ORD): Gate K6, Runway 28R, Depart 3m Early
Orange County (SNA): Gate 5, Runway 20R, Arrive 14m Early
N960NN, Boeing 737-823, Ugly Flag colors, 100% Full
Seat 13F, Coach
Flight Time 3h55m

This flight was completely full, so my vaunted strategy of choosing the window in front of the exit paid no dividends. On an American 737, it’s always roulette to see what kind of interior you’ll get. I got lucky on this one and had the whole Boeing Sky Interior with in-seat video setup. I plugged in my headphones, turned on a terrible movie (Baywatch, oh yeah, so bad) and hoped we’d be in the air soon.

Our Captain was female, and I feel bad saying that it’s still something of a surprise (but certainly not an unwelcome one) to hear a woman’s voice come on the PA. She told us we’d be on our way soon, and that was good news. We did, in fact, leave early, and it was a very short taxi to the runway. After a quick takeoff roll, we were up in the soup.

It was rainy and nasty in Chicago, but it was a smooth climb through the muck. By the time we were passing Des Moines, the weather had all cleared and we were in brilliant sunshine. Cruising at 30,000 feet, I could only marvel at the massive windmills which I could actually see turning from such a high altitude.

The flight attendants came through with drinks and food. I had a ginger ale on this flight, and though they offered the whole can, I didn’t want it. I had to use the lav once, and both people next to me looked annoyed. The guy on the aisle only got out a bit into the aisle making the woman in the middle have to get uncomfortably close to him for me to be able to get out. I vowed to drink nothing further so I wouldn’t have to get up and subject her to that again.

Baywatch was done, and I moved on to The House. I clearly hit the bad movie jackpot on this flight. As we approached Denver, some high clouds came back. We sat in those the rest of the way, but it remained smooth.

Once we started descending, the captain said that it might be bumpy so she had the flight attendants sit a bit early. We had some really neat scenery on what was a rare gloomy day.

With the movie over, I flipped on the map and turned on the cockpit view.

That’s a good map on those airplanes. We landed early and had a quick taxi to the gate.

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14 comments on “Flat Beds on the American 767-300, Then Coach Home (Trip Report)

  1. Brett,

    In the interest of disclosure, can you mention the group you are on the board of, that flew you out to the Miami area?

    I am (just) old enough to remember the ash trays on armrests when I flew as a kid in the early/mid 90s… But not old enough to remember when people could (legally) use them for their intended purpose. For the majority of people who do not smoke, it is nice that most places went from smoking friendly to smoking prohibited in a generation.

    1. Oh sure, it’s just a travel agency/consolidator. New owners came in and brought me on the board thanks to my concierge experience. No airline involved.

  2. Those AA 767s are really miserable in back. Not only is there no in seat entertainment, they intended to install it at one time, so there’s a bunch of under seat room taken up by a box of electronics, and your elbow keeps bumping the call button on the ancient Super-Nintendo style controller.

    About the only thing the “refurb” did in back is replace the CRTs with still-small and crappy LCDs, and put in new upholstery.

    They aren’t so bad for a domestic hop, but it’s shameful they still use them for long trans-Atlantic flights.

    1. They’re so cheap they only put in the new bins and sidewall covers up front! Unbelievable. Main cabin looks like 1998.

    2. They really are miserable. Luckily the only time I’ve recently been on one was a very short MIA-MCO flight. I can’t imagine being on one for any sort of long haul flight.

    3. I recently flew the 767-300 down to Brazil in coach. It was a time warp. I can’t remember the last time I flew an intercontinental flight without individual IFE. How old are these aircraft? And why do they have an ancient-looking controller for individual IFE in the armrest but no screens?

      That said, I also flew to South America in coach on one of their newly-reconfigured 3-4-3 777s. The 767 seats seemed noticeably wider. So I’m not sure which is the better option. Both aren’t great.

  3. I am down in south Florida and often use MIA. You are correct that the airport over on the AA side is a complete mess so we only will venture down there for Delta or a non-OneWorld international flight.

    The H and J fingers where those are located are well-organized with an inside security connection and amazingly quick screening facilities. There is a roomy and modern SkyClub and border control allows much quicker and smoother entry than over on the other side.

    I have also taken an AA738 with the Sky ORD-SNA but that was in first and I was quite impressed by the job AA had done on that configuration. There was an inch or two extra leg room more than on DL and there were all sorts of neat little touches such as a small tray for your cellphone to charge and a dropdown ring for a drink cup or glass.

    I have no comment on the IFE since I seldom bother with it but I do remember that at SNA the baggage took an inordinate amount of time before it came down the chute.

    Under any circumstances, this trip was before Parker and his America West gang got their hands on the airline and all bets on what was there before them is off as they turn AA into a clone of HP, just as they did with US. The only thing that I can be fairly sure of is that the bags will come out a whole lot faster at SNA than they did with the old AA since those guys do know how to run an airline.

  4. I will admit, I really do love the AA 767-300ER. Maybe it’s because I have an exceptionally strong nostalgic side, or is it really the fact that it’s such a skinny wide body. 2x3x2 is just fun. The old look of the plane, the 767 is starting to replace the L1011 for me in terms of “man I like that plane”. I’ve had some really good service on the MIA-ORD routes before and as such, what AA lacks in hard product, they have made up (at least with me) in soft product. When I compliment the old bird to the crews, they really often times beam with pride. Sure the 787s are nice and fancy, but man, those 767s…well…they are 767s…and I love them. I also like O’Hare too….so you can assume my judgement is suspect from the start.

    1. I’m a big fan of these birds as well, for the same reason. Flew one about a year ago DFW-OGG in the back and found it quite enjoyable (though a lot of that enjoyment may have been due to the gate agent being kind enough to switch me into an exit row for free (no status and it was an award ticket) and the seat next to me was empty). No updated first/biz cabin on that one at the time. Crew was chipper. Not sure if it’s due to the plane or the route.

      One oddity: This particular bird had the new livery, but no winglets, which went a long way to help boost the retro vibe as I stared out the window. Most other 763’s at the time which had the old livery still had the winglets added already, so that was interesting. It was among the older 767-300ER’s that they had (I forgot the ship number), and the FA’s said it would soon be destined for the boneyard. I wondered why not just leave it in silver eagle livery?

  5. Nice report. I was at ORD this past Sunday and, like you, watched the activity on the AA ramp and was also struck by the different paint schemes. Definitely not a fan of the new pain scheme…still. Added bonus of ORD is getting to listen to Thomas Haden Church (Wings, Sideways) doing some of the public address announcements.

      1. The repeated PSAs are done by him and a female voice on a continuous loop. It took me a while to figure it out (long connection)…although it probably helped that the previous week I was feeling pretty down on Merlot so I watched Sideways again…

  6. Commenting on the fact that AA are using refurbished 757s on the Transatlantic route between JFK and EDI. When I boarded in Edinburgh it took me a minute or two to realise that I was looking at ceiling monitors. Haven’t seen them for years. I was at a window and couldn’t see the full screen, which was lucky as it was showing Pirates of the Caribbean! Honestly thought I had been transported back in time. Thought the flight was very uncomfortable, cabin crew were great and food was average for the route but won’t use it again until these planes are retired.
    To add insult to injury we were delayed for 2 hours on the return flight as the tablets in business class weren’t working.

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