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Normal people who are 7 ½ months pregnant probably don’t get up at 4:45AM to catch a flight to Chicago just to immediately hop on another flight in Chicago to fly home purely to enjoy the aircraft itself, but no one ever accused me of being 100% normal. If that’s what it took to be on American Airlines flight 2320, their first passenger 787 Dreamliner flight, that’s what I would do.
I love travel primarily for the purposes of experiencing amazing places around the world, but there are some aircraft that catch my attention. The 787 Dreamliner is one of the aircraft that impresses me beyond just a way to get from Point A to Point B. It is a very big leap forward for commercial aircraft and offers great comforts for passengers, especially on longer trips.
A couple of years ago I had the pleasure of being on the inaugural United 787 flight from Houston to Chicago, and this morning I got to experience the inaugural American Airlines 787 flight from Dallas to Chicago. I booked the tickets back in February as soon as it was confirmed this would be the inaugural flight and then looked forward to the big event.
Pre-Flight Festivities on the American Airlines 787 Dreamliner Inaugural
Inaugural flights for new aircraft types are typically special events for the airline and (geeky) customers. This particular inaugural was a big affair even though the flight time had the festivities starting in the pre-dawn hours. To give you an example of who attends these sort of things, of the roughly 226 passengers on board, 78 of them reportedly had Executive Platinum top tier status with American Airlines. That is not at all a normal percentage of travelers to have top tier status on one flight, but it is indicative of the frequent traveler who loves to fly and experience new aircraft.
At the gate there was free breakfast, speeches from American and Boeing folks, a photo opportunity for passengers, and lots of excitement from pretty much everyone.
After the speeches were finished it was time to line up and head on board the shiny new aircraft.
While boarding passengers were given a 787 inaugural commemorative pack with goodies including a commemorative coin. When is the last time that an airline handed out freebies that cool?!
On-Board the American Airlines 787 Dreamliner Inaugural Flight
After taking some obligatory boarding photos, I found that the overhead bins were large and seemed to easily hold all the bags brought on board (though many people probably had less luggage than normal due to the unique nature of the flight).
After boarding the plane it was still far from a normal flight since virtually everyone was taking pictures of the plane, trying out different seats, capturing their perfect selfie, and certainly taking way longer to get settled than normal. Instead of having to inconspicuously take photos of the plane like I normally do, on this flight it was not only accepted but encouraged to photograph darn near everything!
The plane got a water cannon salute and then we headed to the runway for an on-time departure that was met with cheers from the passengers. Unlike on the United inaugural Dreamliner flight, there wasn’t any champagne sent around for a celebratory toast. Once airborne, for the most part the crew tried to do a normal service, though there were far more people milling about in the aisles than on a regular flight making that a bit of a challenge I’m sure.
I sat in 9E, which is a Main Cabin Extra seat in the middle section on a 3-3-3 configuration in the second row of economy. I found the legroom to be total ample and comfortable even in the middle seat. The recline on the seat was also much more comfortable than expected, and it was not even all that intrusive to the person behind you when you reclined.
The in-flight entertainment had a good selection of movies and TV shows, as well as lots of power outlets to charge up your electronic goodies. The TV screen itself does not adjust its angle, so if you someone reclines the view is slightly different than when you are looking at the screen straight on.
The Panasonic internet was $12 for two hours of access, but the connectivity was terrible. I was able to successfully tweet twice on the two hour flight after many attempts, but the connection was slow, weak, and very inconsistent. A Panasonic rep on-board reportedly said that there were just too many people trying to connect for the system to handle. I think the Panasonic rep should have been handing out on-the-spot $12 refunds, but no such luck…
While I spent the majority of the flight in my economy seat, I was sure to try out the 77 inch lie-flat business class seats, which of course were great. There are forward and rear-facing seats in two separate business class cabins in a 1-2-1 configuration. Since I didn’t actually fly in those seats I’ll leave more detailed reviews to those that did!
If you want the coach seats with the most legroom on the American Airlines 787, then head to row 19 where you have legroom for miles thanks to it being an emergency exit row. Of course children under the age of 15 cannot sit in exit rows, so that isn’t helpful to families with little ones.
The lavatories I visited just behind row 18 both had changing tables available for those in need of such facilities.
As with all of the Dreamliner flights I have experienced, the ride was smooth and quiet. The cabin lighting and dimming windows are very cool, and the flex wings are pretty spectacular to see in action.
After an all too brief 1 hour and 52 minutes, we touched down at Chicago O’Hare at 9:23AM to another round of cheers for a successful first passenger flight on the AA 787 Dreamliner.
The American Airlines 787 inaugural festivities were over, but the beginning of a long relationship between American and the Boeing Dreamliner was likely just beginning. American will operate the 787 on domestic routes until early June, and then will fly it from Dallas to Beijing beginning on June 2nd, and from Dallas to Buenos Aires beginning June 4th. They have over 40 787-8 and 787-9 planes on order, so in the coming years the Dreamliner will have a larger and larger presence in the American Airlines fleet.
I very much enjoyed my first American Airlines Dreamliner flight, and I look forward to flying that aircraft again (and again) in the future. Is the Dreamliner on your list of favorite aircraft types? Would you ever fly an inaugural flight just for the fun of it?