Review of American Airlines flight Beijing Chicago in Economy

Airline American Airlines
Flight AA186
Class Economy
Seat 29A
Aircraft Boeing 787-8
Flight time 12:26
Take-off 07 Aug 18, 09:58
Arrival at 08 Aug 18, 09:24
AA   #75 out of 142 Airlines A minimum of 20 Flight-Reports is required in order to appear in the rankings. 452 reviews
Aaro
By 1107
Published on 8th May 2020

One last time



This was an archived report that I had documented, but I never published it in the end. It was the end of my trip to China in 2018, and I was to return from Beijing to Fargo via Chicago, a route which I had flown on many times before. The day before departure, I took a high-speed train from Wuhan Railway Station to Beijing West Railway Station where I stayed the night. The next day, it was time to wake up and head to the airport.


free airport bus


First, I had to figure out how to get to the airport. Fortunately, the Beijing Capital Airport Bus is a express public bus service that provides rides from points in Beijing to Capital Airport. One of these stops was right outside the hotel. According to Wikipedia, As of November 2019, there were 18 airport shuttle bus routes from the Capital Airport and the city proper, and six routes to Tianjin and Hebei Province. One way fare on routes to the city costs between ¥20 to ¥30 and ¥40 to ¥140 on routes to Tianjin and cities in Hebei.


The bus was comfortable enough and we made a couple more stops to pick up more people. Eventually, we got on the airport expressway and headed in that direction. The bus first stopped at Terminal 1, where HNA Group domestic flights depart out of, and then to Terminal 2.


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China Southern A320


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China Southern A321 in Skyteam livery. The airline has since departed the alliance and B-6553 was repainted in the default livery.


After American and China Southern decided to become closer after American's $200 million investment in CZ, AA moved from Terminal 3 to Terminal 2 to allow for easier connections. American joined SriLankan Airlines as the other OneWorld airline in T2. I took the same American flight out of Terminal 3 back in 2017.


Terminal 2 isn't as large or nice as Terminal 3, but it gets the job done. There's a walkway that connects to Terminal 1, and shuttle buses also connect all three terminals. After arriving in the terminal, you have not quite reached the check-in desks yet. To reach the international check-in desks, it involves going through a quick passport check. 


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The line at American's desks looked pretty long.


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Check-in area


After waiting around half an hour to 45 minutes, I was finally able to check-in. Afterwards, it was time for customs and security.


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FIDS


Security was unremarkable, as usual, and I was soon in the departure area of the terminal. After exiting security, you walk through a hallway that's aligned with shops on both sides. 


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International flights out of T2 use the right side of the terminal, domestic flights use the left. The interior of the terminal is pretty small and dark, but it was nice that it wasn't as crowded as T3.


The lounges operated in T2 were the Air China lounge, the BGS Premier lounge, and the Hainan Airlines lounge.


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The gate of my flight was Gate 17, which as you can see from the map is located the end of the terminal. In 2016, I took a Hainan Airlines flight on the same route that departed from one of the four remote stand gates located on the lower level.


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When I arrived at the gate, my plane was already there, having arrived the previous day, and spending an overnight at Beijing. N809AA was the fifth Boeing 787-8 in American's fleet, and it was delivered in August of 2015.


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a quick interlude


I had flown between Chicago and Beijing the most times out of any international route. At the time of the flight, the route was served by three carriers: United Airlines, American Airlines, and Hainan Airlines. American and United operated the route daily and Hainan Airlines operates it 4/5x weekly.


United previously used 747-400s but switched to legacy 777-200ERs. American used to operate 777-200ERs but switched to the 787-8. Hainan Airlines flew A340-600s but now uses 787-8/9s. I had previously flown between the two cities on the two other airlines that fly between. United Airlines 747s from ORD - PEK in 2015 & 2016, and Hainan Airlines on a 787-8 in J from PEK - ORD in 2016.


This would be the last time I would fly American on this route as they had announced they were canceling flights between the two cities on May 2, 2018. The last flight from Beijing to Chicago would be operated on October 20, 2018. This was part of their plan to reduce Asia flights from Chicago and increase them from LAX. Flights to Shanghai-Pudong were also canceled and Tokyo-Narita was reduced to 3x weekly.


Now, back to the report.


american airlines flight 186 beijing-capital to chicago-o'hare


After arriving at the gate, I took a look out of the windows. I could see some planes parked in the distance such as the Austrian 767, a Cathay Pacific A330, an Air China 777, and what is most likely an ANA 787.


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On the other side the view faced the rest of Terminal 2. There was a Hainan Airlines 737, a China Eastern A330, and a China Southern A380 parked at the only A380 gate. HU operates their international flights out of T2.


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I went to fill up some water and then went back and sat down in the gate area. After only a couple of minutes, boarding soon started, and I was able to board the plane.


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My seat for this flight was 29A, one of the few pairs of double seats located on the 787. My seat was the middle seat in the second to last row in the rear economy cabin, on the left side. There was an empty space where the window seat was supposed to be.


The 787-8 is otherwise arranged in the industry standard 3-3-3 configuration.


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There was a pillow and blanket placed on each seat along with a pair of headphones in the seatback pocket. Each seat had an entertainment control right under the screen with a universal power outlet right next to it. A headphone jack and USB port were also included with the screen.


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The seat pitch was fine, especially with an empty space to put my bag to the left.


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The view from my seat gave a clear view of the ramp along with narrow-looking wing. It was a bit of an annoyance to lean over the empty space to look out but with a pair of double seats it was worth it.


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As boarding went on I looked at the traffic outside.


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CZ A380


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Aeroflot 777-300ER


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The rare Air Koryo TU-204, my first time seeing this unique bird


Shortly after this picture was taken, the safety video was screened on the seat-backs. Our flight time of 11 hours and 51 minutes was announced with a cruising altitude of 37,000 ft. The block time was 12 hours and 50 minutes. At 9:58, the plane pushed back. Luckily for this flight, I would have an empty seat next to me.


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Air China 747-8


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Cathay Pacific A330


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China Eastern A330-300.


We taxied past a bunch of other planes on the taxiway. The pilots announced that we were number five or six for takeoff.


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At 10:32, we began our takeoff roll on Runway 36R.


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Capital Airlines A330-300.


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China Eastern 777-300ER


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Uzbekistan Airways 767-300


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Remote stands


The plane quickly disappeared into the clouds after liftoff.


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At 11:09 AM, I received a bag of peanuts and asked for a Coke Zero.


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The first meal, lunch, was served at 11:28 AM. The options were either chicken with rice or seafood curry noodles. I went with the latter option.


Included on the tray was the main course, a bottle of water, a salad with lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, and radishes, some vinegar dressing, butter, a bread roll, a side dish with what appeared to be potatoes and shredded pork, and a dessert of a cake of some sort. There were also chopsticks included which I didn't use. 


The main dish and dessert themselves weren't bad, there were some congealed noodles stuck to the bottom but that was it. I don't eat salads on planes really, and the side dish was definitely underwhelming. You can't expect that much of catering out of China anyways.


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After the trays were cleared, I could relax and use the entertainment system. Like the other US carriers, American had a vast option of movies and TV shows which would be enough even for a 16 hour flight like from Dallas to Hong Kong. I did not take any pictures, but I have on other trip reports if you're interested in checking them out.


The lavatories on the 787-8 were all located between the two economy cabins. There were four of them and were clean at the time I used them.


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Eventually, the sun would set and the cabin lights were dimmed.


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An inflight snack would be handed out by the flight attendants. Included with the snack box was a turkey or chicken sandwich, three grapes, an Oreo wafer bar, and a packet of Heinz hot sauce. I also received a bottle of water. The snack was decent enough to get through the flight, and with the hot sauce on the sandwich it wasn't too bad.


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I would struggle to get some sleep in the next couple of hours, but I tried my best. The breakfast service would begin five hours after the snack service. The options were either a Chinese dim sum or roast beef sandwich. I opted for the sandwich. The lights were still off when the meal was served.


The sandwich was edible enough and the fruit, well it was just fruit in the end.


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It was nice when the sun went up and I could undim the windows.


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I wasn't able to take any pictures of the descent into Chicago, but here's one below.


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We landed after 9:00 and taxied to Terminal 5, where we parked next to a JAL 777-300ER.


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In the bonus section I'll share my high-speed rail trip from Wuhan to Beijing.


Bonus : Click here display
See more

Verdict

American Airlines

8.5/10
Cabin8.0
Cabin crew9.0
Entertainment/wifi10.0
Meal/catering7.0

Beijing - PEK

8.2/10
Efficiency8.0
Access10.0
Services7.5
Cleanliness7.5

Chicago - ORD

9.1/10
Efficiency7.5
Access10.0
Services10.0
Cleanliness9.0

Conclusion

I was bored and decided to throw together this trip report, as I was originally supposed to publish it after my Dallas to Shanghai flight. While there are missing details, I hope I was able to cover the basics well enough. I was tired after this flight as I did not get a lot of sleep and fell asleep before takeoff on my connecting CRJ-700 to Fargo, only waking up after we had already landed. Thank you for reading this trip report, and I hope to take some more trips in the future.

Related

2 Comments

  • Comment 554302 by
    KévinDC TEAM SILVER 5273 Comments

    Hi Aaro thanks for sharing this retro-report on a now defunct route. AA was pulling down TPAC flying from Chicago well before Covid, so doubt we'll see a return of these flights for a long time unfortunately.

    The one time I was supposed to fly in Y on an AA 788, I chose this same seat, but my upgrade cleared at the gate so I never got to try it out. Nice to see it was a pretty good choice for the extra space, though I guess you can't lean on the sidewall to sleep.

    This was an archived report that I had documented, but I never published it in the end.

    Glad you found the time to post it! I have tons of unpublished reports...I guess that's what I'll be posting now that I can't really fly for a while.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Comment 554316 by
      Aaro AUTHOR 37 Comments

      Yeah they definitely won't be resuming PEK (PKX since they're moving) and PVG as they're focusing on LAX & DFW for Asia. I don't even know if they're still flying 3x to either HND or NRT. That route has already been or eventually will be cut as well I predict. At least United still flies to HND, PEK, PVG, & HKG.

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