Los Angeles International to Shanghai was the second flight in our multi-country China and Japan trip. This route was the backup plan when our Xiamen Airlines flights were cancelled due to cutbacks in the frequencies of their flights in and out of Seattle. This Seattle – Shanghai – Tokyo – Seattle booking cost us a total of $625 per person booked into American Airlines economy. I was lucky enough to receive a promotional frequent flier status upgrade to American Airlines Gold which allowed me at 24 hours before our flight to upgrade our seats to Main Cabin Extra. This whopping 4 inches of extra upgrade typically costs $140 ($35 dollars an inch). As the 787-9 we were flying on’s economy was in a 3-3-3 setting arrangement; we chose an aisle and window seat in hopes that no one would be willing to pay $140 for a middle seat on this 3/4 full flight. Our good fortune continued and that seat remained empty.
I had never been on a Dreamliner prior to this flight, so needless to say I was extremely excited to try it out. American Airlines Main Cabin Extra seats in the 787-9 have 35 inches of Pitch and are 17.2 inches wide. Being 5′ 8″, the 35 inch pitch was more than enough legroom for me. I was able to fully extend my legs under the seat. This combined with the empty middle seat allowed us to sit in whatever position we wanted to and still be comfortable. The seats provided sufficient padding and showed very little sign of Wear.
By far my favorite feature on the Dreamliner and probably my favorite feature on any plane I have ever been on, is the electronically dimmed windows. The Dreamliner windows do not have shades, rather, they have 5 electronic dimming settings which allow you to control the light coming in while allowing you to look out the window. Unfortunately AA kept the windows locked on the darkest setting for most of the flight allowing people to sleep.
The American Airlines Boeing 787-9 economy seats have 8.9 inch HD touchscreens built in the back of the seat in front of you. These screens as are massive upgrade to the from the older model screens that are still in some of the 777’s that American and British Airways operate to Europe. These touch screens are extremely responsive (sometimes overly responsive) and the pictures were clear and crisp. The only issue I have with these screen over the older versions of the screen is that the new screen as locked into the fixed position meaning if the person in the seat in front of you reclines their seat you cannot adjust your seat back screen to compensate which can really throw off your viewing angles. As far as content American Airlines had more than 250 movies and over 300 episodes of TV Shows that were available to watch; this included most of the newer release Hollywood movies, several classics, and a lesser number of foreign language films. As someone who typically sees 2-3 movies a weeks there were only a few movies that I hadn’t seen, but for the average person you will find no shortage of quality entertainment and easily be able to keep yourself entertained the entirety of this 13 hour flight.
Food, Drink, Service
Shortly after take off the flight attendants came through the cabin handing out headphones and hot towels, I don’t recall hot towel service on any previous international flights I have been on and found it to be a nice touch. This was followed by the pre-meal drink service where American flight attendants offered various beer and wine at no additional charge. Alcohol included on international drink service has been standard on most international airlines but has been lacking from the U.S. based airlines’ international services. It is good to see that this has been added back in recent years to AA’s and the other U.S. based airlines’ international service.
About an hour and a half into the flight the Lunch Service started. We were given the options of a Pork with Rice or Pasta with Shrimp. Both options came with a Salad, Veggies, a roll, a dessert churro bar, and a bottle of water. As we were heading to Asia I chose the Asian option of pork and rice. The pork turned out to be a breaded pork in a somewhat oily sauce and a sticky white rice. This was far from the worst meal I have had on an economy flight but it wasn’t all that great. Both elements were relatively flavorless and the pork felt a bit heavy. Stephanie chose the Shrimp and pasta which I had a bite of and was significantly better than than the pork option. One notable element of the dinner that was fantastic was the Churro Bar.
Shortly after the Lunch trays were picked up the lights were dimmed and the windows were locked at the darkest settings. At that point the flight attendants would occasionally walk through the aisles with bottles of water for anyone who was thirsty. A little after halfway though the flight the flight attended did another full drink service and handed out a snack box. The snack box contained Harvest Snap Pea Crisps, a small sandwich, and ice cream. These were all prepackaged, but they were all pretty good. I liked the addition of the Pea Crisps as was a nice alternative from pretzels or potato chips.
About an hour and a half before landing the Flight attendants came through the cabin with another round of drink service as well as breakfast/dinner service. They announced the options as a bacon sandwiches or noodles with vegetables. I chose the noodles with vegetables, which actually turned out to be rice and vegetables while Stephanie chose a bacon sandwich. If i knew it was rice, I probably would not have chose it as I was not thrilled with the rice I had for lunch. This was also not very good everything was absolutely flavorless, but was served with fresh fruit which I always enjoy. Apparently, Stephanie was not a huge fan of her sandwich as she only ate about half; I ate the rest of it and it was light-years better than my rice and I felt it was exactly what you would expect from a bacon sandwich.
We got extremely lucky on this flight. Receiving the promotional Gold Status which allowed us to fly in main cabin extra and having an empty middle seat made for an extremely comfortable 13 hour flight. We were able to relax with the extra 4 inches of legroom and didn’t have to worry about bumping elbows and fighting over the armrests. The American Airlines inflight entertainment system contained hundreds of quality movies and TV shows that would keep even the biggest movie buffs content. In reality the only drawbacks of flying american to shanghai it felt like they were constantly interrupting my movies with significant numbers of PA Alerts and the food was incredibly mediocre. For instance any time they turn on or off the fasten seatbelt sign they stop your movie and show a short video alert that the fasten seat belt sign had be changed and prior to landing they played a 10 minute video about clearing US Customs (of course we were landing in China so it was wholly unnecessary). Personally it comes down to price and for what we paid it was absolutely worth it.