This is my first flight on American Airlines. Of course, the main reason I chose it over ANA or JAL was the price. But anyway, with the inspection of the standard of the exemplary competitors, let's see how AA's doing on this one.
Overall, this flight was not that bad, but not any good that you could tell. The highlight was the newspaper service, which you can merely find on other transpacific carriers. Other than this, the memory in my mind was only the delay and the probably second or third worst meal I've had on a flight that they served it.
The outside of AA's terminal 3 in ORD.
Inside Terminal 3.
Look out from Terminal 3.
Unlike ANA or JAL, American Airlines is using a small 788 on this route. However, the seat size also shrinks, with 31in of pitch and 17in of width, it is the smallest you can find on transpacific routes. With fewer premium seats and much smaller seats in both Business and Economy, AA's 788 manages to accommodate 226 seats in itself, while Japan Airline's 77W that is used on this route only has 244 seats (AA's 77W has 310 seats, in comparison). It was a new plane, but the interior was already worn and not very clean.
N804AN. The plane for the flight.
The flight was delayed for about three hours, due to aircraft maintenance. The registration number was N804AN, very early one of AA's 788. This plane had come to Chicago for almost one whole day before this flight, and no one noticed the tire was broken (this was the reason they announced)? The arrival delay was about 2 hrs, one hour in the terminal and one hour in the cabin. When we were sitting in the plane, the cabin attendants delivered snacks and beverage. When we deboarded at Narita, there was many Japan Airline's ground staff holding signs like "Transfer to Taipei" etc at the gate. It could be tricky for most connection flights that day. It got assigned a gate at satellite terminal at Narita. No compensation or anything like water were given at the gate. The update of the delay was a lot though, both by announcement and emails.
Mid-flight snack with cheeseburger and ice cream.
Noodles for breakfast.
So let's start with the seats. To be honest, this size is really way too small, even for me (I'm only about 120 lbs and 5'9). It does come with everything that you'd expect on a seat, like USB pod, universal power, etc. But the tray table was too low and the angle of the screen was not adjustable. When the guy in front of me laid down his seat all the way back, it was not really comfortable to watch my movie. And thanks a lot to the short pitch, the screen was just like touching my face. And it's never a good idea to put 9 seats in a row in a 787, but unfortunately only Japan Airlines still has 8 seats in a row in its 787 (ANA used to have these in its initial 788s, but just changed the configuration by 2016). In this flight good luck for me it was not really a problem, but if your neighbor's BMI is beyond the suggestion value, then both of you will suffer throughout the 10+ hrs. And it doesn't matter who you are when you are at the emergency exit row with the AVOD retractable in the armrest, the width is really too narrow (I was there on my way back to Chicago, really, it was not a good seat). The pitch is also a problem. If you end up in Main Cabin Extra (most of these seats will be assigned for free at check-in or selected by high-level members), the pitch is great (~35 in). but in most normal seats, 31in is really too short. I got the aisle seat so I could get out to the galley to take a rest very often so it was not that sufferable, but if you got trapped inside then it could be a nightmare. It's good that American Airlines has finally renewed its fleet. This 788 does come with some good features. However, they could've done better rather than just try to squeeze the room for each passenger.
The meal service was also not good. I got chicken rice for lunch (which was served at around 4:00, so call it lunner may be more appropriate?) and noodles for breakfast, but I got to say these were really not good. Really. The chicken rice didn't have much chicken, and way too salty. The sides were no good too. The breakfast noodle just looked like the picture, and the taste was, really, disgusting. I really regretted that I got this rather than scrambled eggs. The catering on the way back from Tokyo was much better. Hopefully AA can increase the catering level at Chicago, anyway it's American Airline's hub. However, the cold cheeseburger and the ice cream in the "here's a snack" box were really good, especially the ice cream. AA also had snacks in the middle galley and those pepperidge farm cookies were good too.
Cabin attendants on this flight were OK. The IFE system froze when I sit there for 10 min. I pushed service button and one cabin attendant quickly came to help. They were generally kind and helpful (one gentleman served in my aisle was excellent and he was just the one showed up in safety video (the old one in 2016)). The thing is probably we were too late to get to Tokyo, and no one said goodbye to me on my way out of the plane, even no one at the door. Another thing is they obviously didn't clean the lavatory very often and you could find the toilet be dirty at times. I didn't notice any water was distributing except for the snack service, but they did go through the cabin to collect trash like every 2 hrs (not very frequent, but considering they got one snack service and refill things in galley often it's acceptable).
However, if you don't compare this flight to ANA's or JAL's, rather United's, you can find AA's better in most aspects. Considering its competitive price and good time slot to transfer to other asian cities by Japan Airlines, this is not a bad choice after all. It has everything you need, just not excellent, but in many ways it's totally worth it.
Chicago - ORD
Tokyo - NRT
Definitely not the best choice on this route. But considering price, it worth a try especially when you are connecting to other Asian cities.
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