Flying From Maui in One of the Most Vintage American Airlines Aircraft

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We concluded our family spring break trip to Maui with a much anticipated award flight sitting in the “good seats” on an American Airlines 767-300. Hawaii is always worth it, but that doesn’t take away from it being pretty darn far away and from having a time zone that is rough for us both coming and going. Factor in having a seven year old and one year old to take care of no matter how tired you are when you land, and it can be a little painful. To ease the transition, we purposefully booked seats that had the highest probability of at least decent rest on the overnight flight home.

 

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Business class seats on the Maui – Dallas American Airlines operated nonstop flights pretty much are never available at the 40,000 mile saver award level, so the lowest you can realistically expect to pay for them is 67,500 American Airlines miles per ticket. That is a ton of miles, but we really haven’t been taking too many ‘big’ trips recently, so I booked the three awards and felt good about it being the right decision. This is especially true since the seat chart for months and months indicated we should be in the 1-2-1 seat configuration…which means having the retro-fitted lie-flat seats as shown above, and not the old 2-2-2 antiquated angled lie flat seats. This may border on #avgeek talk, but it is really one of those things you want to look out for as it makes a huge difference.

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We enjoyed the heck out of our trip to Maui, and when we checked in for our flight and headed to the airport for the long flight home all still seemed well with our 1-2-1 seat assignments in place. However, when we actually got to our gate and I looked out the window, I saw what appeared to be a very ‘vintage’ shiny silver American Airlines aircraft.

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This worried me a bit, but it was too late to do anything about it at this point anyway, so I just hoped that it was only the outside of the plane that looked a bit ‘classic’. I think you know what happened next.

We boarded the plane, turned right and any excitement about the flight home deflated into mumbles of disappointment. This has to be one of the most vintage planes in the American Airlines fleet. It was classic-1992-chic not only on the outside, but more importantly from a comfort perspective, on the inside.

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Old American Airlines 763 angled seats

While it was actually a better business class product than on the United aircraft we flew to Hawaii a few years earlier, there were no lie-flat seats to be found on this classic bird. Before I go further, yes, I know this is a #firstworldproblem, but this is a blog that is in part about using your miles to fly as comfortably as possible, so within that realm of operation, it is still a problem.

For whatever reason there had been an aircraft substitution, and instead of the fancy looking seats shown in the first image on this post, we had this…

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and this…..

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and one of these…

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and this…

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and that…

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And his face was less than smiling with joy after I had hyped up how I thought we were flying home. In truth, the plane photographed better than it looked in person.

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While it is hard to show the true angle of these in photos, I absolutely slid halfway to the ground in the angled seat more than once. My seven year old, thankfully, did just fine.

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We were not the only ones that noticed the swap, as I heard many unhappy folks during boarding who had ponied up the miles or money for one type of seat only to have the privilege of a surprise vintage ride home instead. American doesn’t have all that many of these non-retrofitted 763 aircraft still in operation, and my understanding is that within the year they will all be (hopefully) retired or retrofitted. If they don’t get retired, they at least need a very good cleaning as there was visible dirt and grime everywhere except the pillows and blankets, which were actually quite nice.

In truth these old and angled seats were still the best I have ever had coming home from Hawaii, but the problem to me lies in the unannounced last minute swap. This is not an apples to apples situation, and at least having a head’s up and the option to change your cabin or flight as a result would be a bit more reasonable than just a surprise disappointment at the gate. At the very least American had to have know about this for 12 hours or so since the plane flew from Dallas, but when I looked a bit deeper it seems that plane had been doing the Maui – Dallas runs for a few days straight, during which time my flight still displayed the 1-2-1 retrofitted seat map. Had I dug for this info ahead of time I could have found it, but I was way too busy enjoying Maui.

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While I had explained to my daughter we all share one movie screen on these sort of planes, in the end the flight attendants did bring out personal devices that they plugged in and set up which helped pass the time when we weren’t trying our best to sleep.

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The best part of the flight, by far, were the views of Maui shortly after take-off. We were in the air just before sunset and everything looked absolutely gorgeous from the right side of the plane looking back.

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Shortly after take-off and the set-up of the personal devices, the meal was served. It consisted of a smoked island fish dip, salad, wasabi crusted chicken, and an ice cream sundae. It was totally decent and a notch above normal domestic meals for sure, though I think my daughter opted to eat about three or four Hawaiian rolls instead of most of what was on her plate. By the time food was served it was dark, and I didn’t want to disturb anyone with a flash, so please forgive the lack of images beyond the menu and mixed nuts.

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Our flight from Maui to Dallas was safe, on-time, and of course those are the most important things in the end, but I will caution you that despite what you think you may have booked, these older seats are still being operated as a “surprise” swap on this and likely other routes. After spending so many miles to get us home in the “good seats” it was a bit of a bummer to be in these vintage and relatively uncomfortable seats. I probably slept a cumulative 2-3 hours and my husband clocked in at under an hour.

Not that American or any other airline really cares that much about my opinion, but in the interest of trying to be constructive, here’s how something like this might be better handled. First, an email head’s up of the change from the airline might be a good idea as soon as they are aware, in a similar fashion to say a delay or schedule change. Options in such an email could be free downgrading to coach and get credited the difference in miles, free change to another flight, or at least a token apology of a few thousand miles or similar. They could even frame it in a fun way to highlight that you are one of the last to get a flight on this classic aircraft design. This wouldn’t have been needed even a couple years ago when most of their Hawaii flights from Dallas operated in angled seats and you got what you expected. However, now that it is the exception, and certainly a disappointment and downgrade from a retrofitted aircraft, and I think that ignoring the swap and hoping no one notices or cares probably isn’t the best course of action.

I know I won’t be splurging on that route again while the older seats are in service as I’d rather save my miles for something I will truly enjoy rather than end up with a surprise disappointment that costs the same number of miles. Instead, I’ll just save a ton of miles miles, book coach, and plan a stop on the west coast, which really isn’t a terrible strategy regardless.

Have you been surprised with American’s ‘vintage’ 763 angled seats on a recent flight?

 

Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.

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Comments

  1. Looking in AA for savers business/first class from the east cost to HNL…I checked the whole year…nothing available :0/

  2. While I am disgusted with Delta for basically destroying their Skymiles program I am actually happy I only fly them domestically. When compared to UA and AA, Delta is years ahead in what you get for your money and miles. When I think AA has reached the bottom they amaze me to find ways to go even lower. Having such an old plane for such a long flight is beyond ridiculous. I know it won’t get you anywhere but if I were you I would send them a nasty letter complaining about being deceived. As you said if you knew this was the plane you would probably not redeem miles for it.

  3. I fly DFW/HNL AND They often do an equipment change without notice. That can change your seat assignment also, that’s a long flight to fly with a stranger.

  4. I would send a message to CS and ask for some miles back as compensation since you received an inferior product. Nothing guaranteed but sometimes they will give them to you.

  5. The flight home from Hawaii can be such a tough one to book. When we fly home to Colorado from the Big Island each year I prefer to stop on the west coast for the night and fly home the following morning (usually using Avios and then Southwest.) Not only do I like these flights better, but the boarding process at Kona has always been much more streamlined and civilized during the daytime. I’ve flown the overnight nonstop from Kona to Denver many times in coach and one time got the lie flat seats on United (with miles) but the 15-month-old behind us cried all night so nobody in the cabin got any sleep. (It certainly wasn’t the parents fault as this is just a tough age for travel, but truly, I wanted to cry with him by the end of the flight.) This past Christmas I used Korean Air miles to book Delta coach RT for our family of 4. We originally had a daytime flight back to the west coast, but Delta cancelled the flight and rebooked us on their overnighter. Ugh. At the last minute they also got rid of our seat assignments. I ended up sitting apart from my middle-school-aged children next to a 16-year-old who stayed up all night playing video games. I was SO tired upon return. It’s a good thing Hawaii is such a spectacular vacation spot, because it is all worth it, I just wish there were more daytime flight options on the return!

  6. AA prioritizes the lie flat 767 on Trans-Atlantic flights, while assigning the “leftover” 767s on the flights to Hawaii. AA would be better off showing 2-2-2 for the 767 flights to Hawaii then change to the 1-2-1 config if such aircraft flies to Hawaii. That way people book first to Hawaii expecting the older angled flat then either get what they expect or are pleasantly surprised if they get the 1-2-1 lie flats.

  7. I’ve been stuck on one of these birds 4 times in the last year for flights to HNL or LHR. Moral of the story: I don’t book AA 767s anymore, because I have the worst luck.

  8. “Factor in having a seven year old and one year old to take care of no matter how tired you are when you land, and it can be a little painful. To ease the transition, we purposefully booked seats that had the highest probability of at least decent rest on the overnight flight home.”

    Somehow I thought you mentioning that you left the one year old home with the grandparents and only 3 of you made the Maui trip? Am I mistaken?
    Looking at Josh’s face, he doesn’t appear thrilled with the seating arrangements ——-

    • Correct last minute decision to leave the toddler. What I was trying to say was we can’t just rest when we get home as the two kids won’t care that we are tired.

  9. Wow, that is horrible. I would try and see if you can get some of your miles back. I would be really upset if I saved up all the miles and splurged and for good seats and then got something totally different.

    Something to think about and be aware of, so thank you for the lesson. Let us know if you are able to get any resolution from this.

    • Hard flight? Really? What can one complain about? Summer and gang were given seats in the class they booked. Is there a written contract between both parties guaranteeing lie-flat seats? Chalk it up to lesson learned —-

      • Yes, a hard flight. If I buy an iPhone 7 only to open the box to find an iPhone 5, I’m gonna be pissed. It appears they advertised the 1/2/1 config up until departure. That’s total bait and switch.

          • It kinda makes sense…both were business class seats, both were going from Maui – Dallas, both reclined to some extent. However, mine was old, outdated, and not nearly as comfortable as the new one. The older iPhone would still make calls, take pictures, run most apps, etc. However, it would have less memory, not as high of quality photos, wouldn’t be as fast, not optimal for some newer apps, etc. In other words, both are luxury items to come extent. Both would serve basic functions. However, when you are paying for what you thought was the newer version and you get the older not as good version, it would be a disappointment.

  10. I can’t wait to read your Maui vacation rundown. We’re taking my 7 & 9 year olds in June & flying American from Austin with an overnight on the return. It’ll be their longest flights to date. I’m really hoping Maui is worth it!

  11. I’m glad you wrote about this…I started planning many trips with the nonstop ogg-dfw flight for 67,500 and would be fairly upset if they pulled a switch…though it is a sleeping flight, so as long as the seats were comfortable enough to sleep for more than half the flight, I guess it be ok….I would like to know when they retire the throwback config on that route and book afterwards….the west coast option is something I never considered, I have a bother-in-law in San Diego but since most flights go to lax, it would still be 8 hours of flying….too long for coach, followed by Southwest….We love HI and have been many times, but every hotel rips you off with resort fees and parking fees (understandable in Waikiki, but a cash grab elsewhere in the islands) gone are the cheap mai tais and happy hour specials…we are tempted to go to PVR instead….it is the same latitude as HI with great weather, and great bargains…with the dollar at 20 to 1 vs peso. We have used points for all inclusive hotels there (Hilton and Hyatt) and were impressed by both…best of all it is only a 2-3 hour flight from DFW with avios awards available often.

    • Have you ever considered renting a house instead of staying at a hotel? We have been to HI quite a few times the past few years and never stayed at a hotel. In many cases, you can get a great house with an amazing view for the same money, or less, than you would pay at a hotel. No resort or parking fees. I guess it depends on what you are looking for.

      • Yes! Our trips are generally too short for that to make sense, especially since we enjoy resort pools and have points to use.. Very much hope to stay longer…maybe next summer!

  12. Whenever a miles/points blogger casually mentions that they dropped 200,000+ miles on one half of a trip, I really wish they would explain where the heck those miles came from. Even if 1/4 or 1/2 of those are from credit card bonuses, it is still a TON of miles to have laying around (not to mention the miles used for the other half of the trip).

    • I agree, I think it would be helpful to many to see the origins of the miles you use for each trip. On the other hand, commenters would probably complain that you are just peddling cards, so a tough balancing act.
      As someone who also operates my own business and has been in this hobby for a few years, I can see how such miles can be generated pretty easily, however, to many others, it may seem like a tough hill to climb.
      Just an example from our experience, we just took advantage of the 70,000 Delta miles offers to pick up a card for me, one for my wife, and one for our business, so about 220,000 miles pretty quickly. Used Plastiq for rent payments and paid income tax with the card to meet the minimum spend. All together, a net of about $500 in fees for 220,000 miles, which should have a value of at least $4400.

      • I don’t do anything exciting to earn miles. These are us airways miles from grand slam and their credit card and the 100k AA sign-up bonuses from a couple years ago. None of it really helpful now. I jump on big sign-up bonuses, shopping bonuses, earn some through travel, everyday use, etc. Same sort of stuff I wrote about. I don’t really MS or do anything too creative or complicated.

    • Good question, but sadly my answer is pretty boring. We have big AA balances largely from the old US Airways Grand Slam and 100k AA sign-up bonuses from a couple years ago. Neither really helpful now, but that’s how we got big AA balances. However, because it is a bit harder to earn huge numbers of miles easily now it stings a bit more that we didn’t get what we thought we were getting with these miles.

  13. Thank you for being so transparent about how you earn miles. I am a newbie on this and it gives me hope.

    Let us know whenever there are great sign ups to take advantage of.

    Thanks so much.

  14. I think this is a common swap. I note that they originally load the 1-2-2 seatmap for the updated aircraft but about 24 hours out it gets swapped to the old configuration. For my wife and I, this meant an F seat became available for upgrade so my wife got a bit more comfortable ride home. The flight is so short though it doesn’t matter. The bonus though is if you are in the MCE section there is a ton of legroom.

    • I agree mine isn’t the only time this has happened by a long shot. However, if it is super common to have the 1-2-1 and then have it swapped out routinely at 24 hours out, that seems like an even bigger problem. I’m not sure how they think that is okay? It does have more F seats, so I’m sure there are some happy folks with a surprise upgrade (and that’s great!), but for those who purposefully book F this seems like a very poorly handled situation.

  15. Going to Ireland with two kids (6 and 9) this summer for a very important family wedding. Made the exact same decision about the overnight flight on the way over- the potential cost to having the kids (and us!) sleep poorly is so high (potential days of crankiness and honestly a ruined trip) that I decided to bite the bullet and shell out 110k miles X 4 to ensure a lie-flat seat on the American A332, leaving at 9 PM so we are pretty sure the kids will go to sleep right after takeoff. Got most of the points from the 100K AA cards a few years ago, bolstered by miles from former US Airways cards.

    It’s a lot of points, but what else are they good for if you can’t get true value (to you) out of them?

    After shelling out all those miles I would be livid if they swapped us out for an old US Airways 757 without lie flat seats. It’s about expectations and setting them properly on both side of the transaction. Like you said, things happen and it’s better they sent an old plane than nothing, but they should have let you know about it.

    On the way back it’s a daytime flight so just got economy seats on United.

  16. Congratulations, you’ve just been DisAAdvantaged.

    A couple of years ago AA did something much worse to us. There was just one flight for the whole Summer that I saw with 2 seat Saver FC availability to Europe, and I only found that by checking every single day for many months. We booked that the day it opened up, which was around 6 months in advance. We didn’t go the day, or even the month, we wanted to go. We didn’t even fly to our choice of destination. We just booked the only FC flight with 2 available Saver seats for the entire Summer, to anywhere in Europe.

    Since the seat map showed the whole cabin booked up within a week, and not a single seat booked the days just before or after that, I’m quite sure it was totally filled with people using miles.

    A couple of months later OMAAT had a post on AA doing route changes, and I checked our reservation on the website under “My Trips”. It still showed us in FC and row 2. But for some reason I felt suspicious, so I did a trial booking for that flight in FC the next day as a paid flight. Nope, 4 MONTHS OUT they had changed that route from a fully lay flat FC 777 to a 767 that didn’t even have a FC cabin. They did not notify us, they did return any miles, they just rebooked us in the same numbered row in J. I’m pretty sure this was true for everyone that had booked up that entire FC cabin.

    They had swapped the 777 from DFW-FRA with the 767 from DFW-CDG. When I called to change our reservation to CDG so we could have the FC seats we had booked, the CSR said “sorry, there is no availability at Saver for that flight”. Well of course not…but so what?

    She said all she could do is “TRY” to get us a refund of the extra miles we paid for FC over J. “TRY”?….

    I demanded to talk with a Supervisor, explained that I had spent months searching daily for a FC flight to anywhere in Europe, had booked the only one they opened up for the entire Summer, and thought it was very disappointing to be now stuck in J. I asked to be rebooked on the CDG flight that was using the plane we had originally booked. I’m Lifetime Gold with AA, and I don’t know whether or not that helped matters, but the Supervisor agreed to let us change to the FC CDG flight.

    I can’t PROVE that this was a calculated bait and switch, but I do know they booked all 16 FC seats within a weeks time 6 months out, which I have never seen them do before or since. So I’m very sure all of those were Saver award reservations. Then they changed the route from 777 to 767, and they didn’t tell us about it, so I doubt they told anyone else. And they kept the “My Flights” designation as FC, so if anyone did go to check their reservation on the website they wouldn’t know about the change until they went to board. And as with you at that point it would be too late to do anything about it. I got lucky, thanks to Lucky, but my guess is that the other 15 people who had booked FC ended up in angled J for an overnight TATL flight.

    I used to be such a fan of AA, and would tell everyone that asked about how great the AAdvantage program was. And I do mean WAS…

    At this point my trust in AA is slightly below my trust level for Vladimir Putin. And when I mention it, I call it DisAAdvantage. 🙁

    • Fantastic reply, thank you for sharing. I’ve been considering switching from Delta (Plat/Diamond) over the years and haven’t been able to fully pull the trigger although I dabbled with United and obtained Silver through BIS. AA sounds like a really shady program given how they treat long term customers like yourself. Dislike.

  17. My recent return from Home from Hawaii included a flight segment HNL-LAX on a United flight on a 777 configured for international flights. They were lie-flat seats though I am too tall to recline them all the way. They were better than I expected which was the standard recliner seats that I had the previous trip in 1st class on United on a Hawaii bound flight. The only bummer at the time was that we were about an hour early so I didn’t get as much sleep as I would have liked. The best part was that apparently because my seat mate complained about the Video remote being stuck and me mentioning that mine was too got at least me 6k miles and an apology email. I didn’t even want to watch TV or use the remote, Sweet!

  18. We are flying from Maui to Chicago in November on United, the seat map shows the herringbone configuration with the lie flat seats but when I looked the flight up on seat guru it shows the recliner style seats, so I called united and they told me it was definitely lie flat seats. This configuration is only available on Saturdays. Has anyone took the Sat. flight from OGG to ORD and if so what were the seats like?

  19. Exactly, any type of acknowledgement, and hopefully a credit of any size would have shown that somebody was thinking considerately. I am very detail oriented when I fly and used to read the OAG North American Pocket Flight Guides back in 1984 when I was 17..
    AA has to much going on and has become a Vague Concept Company and Airline …
    I have an AAward Trip I will take with them and then , that’s it no more AA if I can help it ..
    Peace ,
    Richard L.

  20. Concerned about this exact problem. Flying JFK-CDG and incoming plane (that we’re listed on AA website as using) from Milan is old 2-2-2. Called AA several times to see if we are or are not using the older version coming in from Milan and rep insists that ALL 763s have been updated. So frustrating. Would like to try to rebook via LHR on 777 rather than stay in old 763, but can’t figure out how to confirm if our flight tomorrow is old or new version. Suggestions?

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