Hello, and welcome to the 3rd review in this new series of Flight-Reports.
After almost 10 months of not flying, as we'd been riding out the pandemic in France, I needed to get back to the US for the closing on a new house (Yay). As it wasn't possible to do the signing remotely from overseas per California law, I had no choice but to fly. To complicate matters, France was in the midst of a second strict lockdown and technically French residents were restricted to within a 1 km radius from their home, with some exceptions. Unlike in the US, the lockdown in France is enforceable by police and can lead to fines of 135 EUR minimum. Luckily, as a citizen of both France and the US, I was one of the few people actually authorised to travel between the two countries with the current restrictions in place.
Although, I had some anxiety about flying during the pandemic, I was also happy to finally take to the skies again. I don't think I'd ever gone 10 months without flying since early childhood.
For months, most airlines have been making great efforts to reassure those passengers who can fly, that the experience is safe, with strict sanitary measures in place and touting several academic studies supporting the low incidence of Covid-transmission aboard aircraft.
I was certainly curious to see if reality matched the talk.
Though I ultimately needed to get to San Diego, prices to LAX were much better–as they often are–especially when buying tickets at the last minute. With so few transatlantic flights operating, there weren't many AA/oneworld options, so I went with a simple routing through AA's Dallas hub. The other option was to fly BA via London Heathrow, but I preferred the option that would take me directly to the US in these times of ever-changing travel restrictions.
Flights in this series:
To avoid driving from San Diego in the early morning hours, we had gotten a room at the LAX Westin for the night before the flight.
Overall the stay was unremarkable with hotel restaurants closed and room service unavailable due to Covid. However, the location is convenient, the price was right, and there were some decent views from the room.
Downtown L.A. and the San Gabriel Mountains
The Hollywood sign was also visible from the room.
It was even possible to do a bit of planespotting, though there wasn't much traffic in the early morning hours.
The terminal was just a few hundred metres up the road from the hotel and traffic was pleasantly light, which is rare for LAX.
I arrived at American Airlines' Terminal 4 a little under 2h prior to departure. The terminal was already bustling, by Covid-era standards, anyway.
There was no wait for the Priority check-in lanes, and I was able to drop off my bags and get on my way relatively quickly. I say relatively, because checking in for an international flight in times of Covid is more time-consuming given that agents have to look up entry regulations for the destination country and verify documentation, like Negative Covid-19 PCR test results and other required paperwork to enter France in my case.
TSA pre-check security was a breeze and I was through to the airside in minutes. It was nice to find the convenience of Pre-check again after a year in Europe.
Airside, the concourse was even busier than the landside check-in area.
I headed to the lounge to pass the time before boarding. Since the onset of the Pandemic, many American Airlines lounges have been closed due to lower demand. Notably, AA's excellent premium Flagship Lounges have all been temporarily closed. All passengers with lounge access are accommodated in the Admirals Clubs, which were already bare bones prior to the pandemic, and haven't gotten any better since.
Luckily, the Admirals Club was mostly quiet that day with a decent amount of seating available.
Whereas food and drinks in Flagship lounges was plentiful and of good quality for International First/Business and Status-holding passengers, the complimentary offering in the Admirals Club is very basic with only a few pre-packaged crudités, fruit, or cereal available.
Everything else was for purchase, which I find to be a shame when flying long-haul Business class. In the days before Flagship lounges or in cities without Flagship lounges, International premium cabin passengers received 2 complimentary premium-drink coupons…those don't appear to be a thing anymore.
There was at least a complimentary house red wine, white wine, or beer….Oh how I miss the free champagne in the Flagship lounges!
At least I had a quiet corner of the lounge to myself!
Views from the lounge…mostly AA aircraft.
I left the Admirals Club and headed to the gate a few minutes before boarding was due to begin, passing by the LAX T4 Christmas tree that it seems I see every year.
Judging by the crowd in the gate area this was going to be a full flight.
Right as pre-boarding was called, I received a push notification from the AA app, that boarding was beginning…pretty fancy
The message included Covid-related info about aircraft cleaning and mask mandate.
Although widebodies on domestic flights have become more common since the beginning of the pandemic–as these aircraft have much less long-haul flying to do–787s have operated on the LAX-DFW route for years. I'd previously reviewed this route on a 787-9 in 2017.
There was some semblance of social distancing during boarding, which backed up the jetbridge pretty quickly.
If available, when travelling alone I like to book seats in the last row for the extra privacy.
8A and 8L are window seats with no direct neighbour.
As the cabin began to fill up it was evident it would be a full flight in both cabins.
Empty flights during a pandemic? Not in the domestic US market!
I was pleasantly surprised to find that the long-haul Casper-branded bedding was provided for this 3h domestic flight.
The in-flight entertainment remote control, AC power outlet, and USB port are located under the side console. The space is perfect for storing small items like phones during the flight.
Touchscreen seat position controls are located on the side of the console.
Legroom is fantastic, as one can expect from these long-haul full-flat full-aisle-access seats in reverse-herringbone configuration. This Collins Super Diamond model–equipped on all 787-9s and about half of the 777-200ER flee–is currently the best and latest long-haul Business class seat available in the AA fleet.
Like the inbound flight from DFW to LAX in the previous review, upon boarding every passenger received a sealed bag containing a small water, a snack, and a sanitising wipe.
This package is the extent of what is available in Economy on domestic flights as AA suspended buy-on-board service since the beginning of the pandemic, though limited soft drinks are available on request. Luckily, there will be additional food service in the premium cabin on this flight as "fresh snacks" are provided in First/Business on domestic flights over 900 miles.
Boarding went along smoothly with no incidents and everyone wearing masks properly. With all the press-coverage of anti-maskers in the US I'd seen from Europe, I half-expected there to be at least one "Ken" or "Karen" to throw a fit on one of my 2 domestic flights, but nope!
The in-flight entertainment screens are nice and large with crisp displays.
Content is available to play as soon as you step on board.
Content can be selected on the screen or the touchscreen remote control.
You can even view the moving map on the remote screen, while enjoying a film on the large screen, which is a great option for AvGeeks and MapGeeks.
Though obviously, the airshow is much more elaborate on the main screen.
Once boarding wrapped up, the doors were quickly closed and we were out right on time.
We pushed back looking towards the TBIT (Tom Bradley Int'l Terminal) from the left side.
The Air France-esque (but in an awkward way) safety video played as we began to taxi.
I think the AA livery looks great in the Southern California sunshine. Definitely my favourite colours of the major US carriers.
I'm also a fan of Hawaiian's colours.
What a contrast with Spirit's awful school-bus-yellow
While I generally like United's new livery, as it's certainly an improvement over the post-merger livery, it feels like something's missing, though I can't quite put my finger on it…just feels unfinished somehow.
Alaska Airlines special patriotic livery.
There was no wait for departure and we took off as soon as we reached the end of the runway.
It was a lovely sunny and crisp un-smoggy day in L.A.
passing over the scenic El Segundo refineries
Then we turn back inland going around Palos Verdes peninsula
An informational video on Covid safety-measures is played shortly after takeoff.
Looking North flying over the Port of Los Angeles and the massive Terminal Island with the city of Long Beach just to the East.
As mentioned earlier, you can select IFE content right from the touchscreen remote control, which is very convenient.
Especially as the screen is rather far in such a spacious cabin.
Dryer landscapes as we head inland past the eastern suburbs of Ontario, Riverside, and San Bernardino.
As we began to level out, flight attendants came through the cabin to offer one of 2 fresh snack option.
The choices were between a turkey sandwich or a fruit and yogurt box. I went for the latter as a cold sandwich didn't seem terribly appealing in the morning.
Though domestic First/Business catering has obviously been reduced due to the ongoing pandemic, AA's offering is generally better than the competition with fresh options on more flights. For example, until recently, DL was only offering a snack box even on 6h premium transcons like JFK-LAX, whereas AA serves a fresh snack on domestic flights over 900 miles and a full hot meal on flights over 4.5 hours in duration.
The extent of the urban sprawl around L.A. is always impressive. It just goes on and on, even from 30,000 feet up.
Then, once over the mountains, we're over the sparsely populated California desert, no more freeways or strip malls.
Towards the end of the breakfast service, flight attendants dim the lights and the cabin is plunged in pleasant violet mood lighting.
The cabin crew also dimmed all windows, which I never care for on day flights. Luckily, the window darkening mechanism still worked for individual windows so I was able to lighten the window a bit to see out without bothering anyone with blaring light.
The rest of the flight was quiet and I settled in with a movie. FAs made a few rounds through the cabin for drinks.
Cabin lights were turned back on and windows fully un-dimmed as we began our descent into DFW.
Unlike sunny LA, there was a sea of clouds over central Texas.
One of the nice things about the Wi-Fi is that passengers have free access to AA.com and the AA app without needing to purchase Wi-Fi.
With some strong tail winds, we were due to arrive well ahead of schedule.
It was a gloomy late November day in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
We did indeed land well ahead of schedule at 2:05PM
Taxi time was short and we were at the gate over 10 minutes early.
Being in the last row of the Business cabin, just ahead of door 2L, I was the 1st one off the aircraft.
Last view of our aircraft on deplaning.
It's always nice to fly on a widebody within the US, especially such a new aircraft equipped with AA's latest and greatest Business class product. Once again, I found the cabin to be spotlessly clean, like on the 2 previous flights, which does help to boost confidence in flying during a pandemic. Obviously, social distancing is much easier in long-haul premium cabins. While catering has been reduced and simplified in times of Covid, it was perfectly acceptable on a 2.5-3h flight.