Premium Economy-ish on American’s 787 (Trip Report)

American, Trip Reports

All of a sudden, I’m spending a lot of times on airplanes. This time, I was off to the Metroplex for our first Cranky Concierge full team meeting since 2019. It was good to get the whole team together again, and it gave me a surprise opportunity to try out American’s premium economy on the 787-9.

I had a whole bunch of credits to kill on American, so I was able to use those up quite nicely. I can’t even find what my ticket out cost, but my return was $193.52. With the AAdvantage name change waiver that was in place earlier this year, I was able to burn a lot of credits for everyone flying in.

The day before travel, I checked myself in on the app and noted that I was scheduled out of Terminal 5 at LAX. Though the gate changed, the terminal did not. I took a Lyft and made it to the airport with a little less than an hour to spare. With no line at security, I had time to kill so I wandered aimlessly while waiting for boarding.


American 2746
April 26, 2022

Depart Los Angeles
➤ Scheduled: 7a, Actual: 658a
➤ From: Gate 51B on Runway 25R

Arrive Dallas/Fort Worth
➤ Scheduled: 1207p, Actual: 1151a
➤ At: Gate D1 on Runway 18R

Aircraft
➤ Type: Airbus A321-231
➤ Delivered: July 14, 2017
➤ Registered: N906AA, msn 7651
➤ Livery: Ugly Flag Tail

Flight
➤ Cabin: Coach in Seat 18A
➤ Load: ~99% Full
➤ Flight Time: 2h34m

I believe all the A321s are done with their refurbishments now. This was an airplane that used to have the personal screens, but those are now gone, replaced by streaming.

I took my window seat and the plane filled quickly. Soon we were up, up, and away in the morning light. The clouds made for a really surreal morning view as we turned east.

It was a very nice day to fly. I set up my phone in the holder at the seat and plugged it in to the USB port. Then I started streaming.

At the same time, I pulled out my computer to do some work. The wifi price was steep, $19 for the 2.5 hour flight, but there was an option for 30 minutes free if you watched an ad, so I did that. Half an hour in, I wasn’t done working, but with only a little over 1.5 hours left, I opted for the bargain basement price of $15 for one hour and ran that down until it was over. There was plenty of legroom as well as room for the computer.

For the rest of the flight, I just stared out the window on a clear day in Texas. We landed from the north and taxied to what may be the worst gate at DFW: D1.

These gates are new additions off the end of D. I assume they will eventually be part of the new Terminal F whenever that gets built. But for now, D1 sits way at the end with a byzantine jet bridge.

Once you get into the terminal, it looks nice, but the walk is painfully long since you have to go not only to the main part of D but you have to go past several gates in the main part of D before being allowed to circle back to the exit.

After a busy and productive week, it was time to head home. Most people were flying out on Sunday around 1 or 2pm, but I scheduled my flight at 4pm so I’d be the last one out… it was also a fair bit cheaper than the 3pm flight.

But on Sunday morning, I changed my mind. The 3pm departure had been swapped out to a 787-9 instead of the A321. That alone was tempting, and it was $100 to do it. As an added bonus, since American doesn’t sell premium economy on this airplane separately, I was able to use a very small amount out of our agency soft dollars to put myself in premium economy. Score! I was looking forward to trying it out.

I had rented a car from Turo which is a whole different story, but after dropping that off, I took a Lyft back to Terminal A. Just as a I got there, the flight delayed. Great timing. But I still went through security and then took a seat at the gate to wait it out.

The airplane was just a little slow getting out of LA, so our return would be a little late too. After it arrived and they cleaned the airplane, boarding began. The gate lice were thick on this flight. I found myself getting particularly angry at the woman standing literally at the point where they break the actual line between priority and main boarding groups, just feet from the podium. She was not boarding, just waiting there until she was called.

Eventually I got on, but the jet bridge was backed all the way up to the entrance. If you’ve ever been to gate A13, you know it is very long. For it to be backed up meant there were a LOT of people there.

American 2459
May 1, 2022

Depart Dallas/Fort Worth
➤ Scheduled: 3p, Actual: 338p
➤ From: Gate A13 on Runway 18L

Arrive Los Angeles
➤ Scheduled: 421p, Actual: 441p
➤ At: Gate 43 on Runway 25L

Aircraft
➤ Type: Boeing 787-9
➤ Delivered: Jun 6, 2017
➤ Registered: N827AN, msn 40647
➤ Livery: Ugly Flag Tail

Flight
➤ Cabin: Premium Economy in Seat 9L
➤ Load: ~85% Full
➤ Flight Time: 2h 44m

Eventually, I got onboard, and took my seat. I was in the bulkhead on the right side, because that was the only window left.

That seat is different since it has the leg and footrest built in, needed because there is no seat in front of it.

The seat looked nice enough, though further inspection it looked like it had been beat up and scuffed quite a bit.

I found the power outlet placement under the armrest to be really annoying since my larger plug did not fit well in the small space.

And the TVs, well, I had to leave those down until we were in the air. Even then it took me a little while to figure out how to release them with this unmarked little latch.

Just before buttoning up, a flight attendant came back and said something to my seatmate along the lines of “Mr xxx, what are you doing back here?” He responded that he never got an upgraded boarding pass, and she told him to get up there. That seat remained empty, so I had the whole side to myself.

We took off and went on a more northerly route to LA. Once I figured out how to unlock my TV, I watched Belfast, which I really enjoyed. The flight attendants came through asking what I wanted to drink, and I had to ask… was this just regular economy service? She said that there was no meal or anything, but she could definitely get me a drink. So, I had some scotch.

As we got toward West Texas, the storms started building, and we had some really great views of the clouds. But once in New Mexico, they abrubtly disappeared.

I got up to use the lav and saw these plastered on all of them. What’s that about?

The rest of the flight was uneventful. After landing in LA, we had a quick taxi to the gate. They are doing a ton of work on the baggage claim in Terminal 4, so we were guided through the old halls leading to the former T4 customs area. It looks like that has now been repurposed as domestic baggage claim while work is being done.

I didn’t have to deal with that, however, so I just went to the curb and was soon on my way home.

19 comments on “Premium Economy-ish on American’s 787 (Trip Report)

  1. So, did you like the premium economy? Thoughts about how it would be on a longer international flight.

    1. AAforever – Yeah, I liked it, just like domestic First. It’s all a question of price as to whether I’d ever buy it in general, but it is a very nice step up.

  2. The sign on the lav meant the vacuum generator is inop, below that altitude it is needed to create the vacuum to flush the toilet. Above that altitude the pressure differential between the inside and outside is great enough to flush the toilets with out it.

    1. Thanks for elaborating on this.

      I assumed it was one of those, “Not working quite perfectly but still safe to fly” equipment malfunction items, and your explanation makes sense as to why that may be the case.

      I guess I never really thought about the technology and engineering involved in airplane lavs and sanitary systems; I’m sure it’s a fascinating subject with a lot of work done on it over the years.

  3. CF, I think your tags are off. You have Delta/Southwest (and I believe a picture of the bay area??) on the all AA trip report.

    Hope you enjoyed the oven we call home here in the DFDub! Nothing like July heat in May…

  4. Last summer I needed to go LAX/ORD. I usually fly Tim’s airline but the AA Premium Economy B-789 was too tempting to resist. A few weeks before the 1st flight the aircraft was downgraded to a B738 (and now in the middle seat). At least the return was still B789. The B789 flight was in the evening and then the delay announcements started to come in. I told my wife the crew are going to time out. She asked what does that mean? I said we better look for a hotel. The delay was for 1 missing flight attendant. FA no show so flight was delayed 18 hours (next day). AA said sorry no hotel available due to Lollapalooza. I did get $10 food voucher. Bonvoy found a hotel 30 minutes from ORD. By the time we got to hotel the room it was gone (I didn’t know hotels overbook also). Desk clerk found a room back in DT Chicago and did not charge for room or taxi. B789 PE was nice but not worth that. Bonvoy Good. AA bad.

  5. LOL — I never thought about this until now either. That’s interesting that normally the plane uses a vacuum pump (I assume ?) but can use the delta between the pressurized cabin and the un-pressurized waste container (I assume).

    Yeah — we need a guest post from a sanitary high altitude engineer :). Bonus points for somehow involving Dalton’s Law in the discussion.

    1. Agreed, Jim.

      Reminds me of how supposedly one of the most common questions asked of astronauts/NASA by schoolchildren is, “How do astronauts use the restroom in space?” Can’t say I blame kids for asking that one all the time.

      I’m sure there has been much thought and effort put into airline lavs, just as I’m sure the same can be said for toilets on land… When you’re trying to maximize performance given limits on power/water/etc consumption, the engineering needs to be on point.

  6. I feel your pain on D1 at DFW. I had a layover there in February and my connection was at D2. Food options are limited the time of morning I was there and I was unaware how isolated those two gates are from everything else in the terminal.

    1. I don’t recall flying out of D1 or D2 at DFW, but what you and Cranky describes sounds like most of the gates at MCI, in terms of having very few food options after security and in terms of feeling isolated from all but a few other gates…

      I love Kansas City, but that airport is an overcrowded dump. It must have been cramped and in need of rebuilding 30 years ago. /end random rant/

        1. That walk from D1-D4 back to the main terminal is about as long as between D and C or A and B on the long cross airport terminal connectors.

  7. The free internet reminds me of the 90s, pre-cell days, when you got free long distance on landline phones for listening to Vermont Teddy Bear ads. I think that it was two minutes free for every ad or something like that.

  8. I’d love to hear about your Turo car rental experience. Will you be posting about that? Thanks!

    1. Wasn’t going to post about Turo, but it all went fine. It’s just a little nerve-wracking when you’re renting something where maintenance and safety is such a big concern. I wanted a minivan to carry the team around, and we found one, but it was in an industrial area at an auto shop. Nobody was there when I arrived, but someone eventually showed up. The car was mostly clean, though we found some old handi snack containers under a seat. The car itself ran mostly ok, but it idled really rough and needed washer fluid. I took a ton of photos since you have no way of documenting otherwise in case of an issue. This guy was good, never had any trouble, and the value was great. I just don’t know how I feel about it in general.

  9. If you are originating in DFW that gate REALLY sucks, because most of the time D parking is completely full. You have to either park remote or at another terminal, fight your way to D them walk 19 miles out to D1.

    Note: when they were discussing planning for F before the pandemic they were considering not building a parking garage there. But there isn’t enough parking now anyway since they have pulled multiple garages from service.

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