American Airlines 787-8 Business Class Chicago to Beijing

I still get a kick out of flying the 787 in business class or economy.  The electronically dimmed windows that block light but still allow outside visibility are still a novelty.

787 window electronically dimmed

Purchasing the Ticket and Upgrading to Business Class 

I purchased an economy ticket for $570 round trip Chicago to Beijing.  The Fare Deal Alert website notified me of this great price.  I subscribe to that website and receive a daily email announcing three to five flight deals for travel within the US and abroad.

I receive American Airlines System Wide Upgrades (SWU) as Executive Platinum (EXP).  Prior to this year making EXP earned eight SWUs.  Now its only four.

Eight SWUs was a big reason for my switch to American from Delta Airlines.  With other changes to American’s frequent flyer program, American has largely destroyed just about every advantage it had in frequent flyer benefits.

At any rate, When I booked this trip I was able to use one SWU to upgrade the return trip in business class. For the outbound trip I was told that no seats were available for a SWU upgrade.  I opted not to go on the wait list and was prepared to fly from Chicago to Beijing in coach.

On the day of departure while waiting in the Flagship lounge in Chicago, the American rep said that SWU upgrades were available.

Chicago Flagship Lounge

That was a surprise because just a few days before, Expert Flyer was showing zero upgrade availability.  I agreed to use a SWU and was upgraded on the spot.  I assume no one was on the waiting list.

American flight 187 from Chicago to Beijing 

This flight was scheduled for 12 hours and 15 minutes to cover a great circle route of 6,571 miles.

787 -8 Business Class Seat

On this flight I had seat 3L a forward facing seat.  Business class is arranged in a herring bone fashion with forward facing and rear facing seats.  Forward facing seats have a shoulder harness.

Seat 3L American 787-8

I always appreciate flying business or first class versus coach.  On American’s 787-8 though the business class seats are nice but nothing to celebrate.  The seat was comfortable though not very wide.  For me, a big part of the problem with this business class (and other US carriers) versus many foreign carriers is the lack of pizzaz.  It is like 50 shades of gray.  Compare this to business class on a Qatar A350 that I flew from Philadelphia to Qatar.


Seat controls were simple.

Seat control

The video screen is a reasonable size.  It folds out for viewing.  Sometimes flight attendants require the screen to be stowed for takeoff and landing. They didn’t on this flight.

Video screen

There was plenty of legroom.  My feet weren’t squished into a small space like on Delta 767s.

A small but welcome attribute of the american 787-8s is the ability to control ventilation at each seat.  Most wide-body aircraft do not have ventilation controls at each seat.

Ventilation controls for each seat


American provides a Cole Haan amenity kit.  The kit contains socks, eye shades, headphone covers, ear plugs, tissues, a pen, mouthewash and C. O. Bigelow lime and coriander hand lotion, and lime lip balm.

Amenity kit

American proides a large pillow and blanket for rest time.20160603_172557_resized

Slippers are also provided.20160603_174308_resized

Headsets were Bose noise-cancelling.20160603_174327_resized

Departure from Chicago

Departure was scheduled for 5:50 p.m.   Push back from the gate was on delayed about 20 minutes.  We taxied to runway 28R and held short.  When the plane in front of us rotated on its takeoff roll, the tower cleared us onto the runway.

Runway 28R ORD  at the end of the runway just above the centerline is the plane departing before us

We took off at 6:15 p.m.  The projected flight time was 12 hours and 31 minutes putting us in Beijing at 7:48 p.m.  That was still comfortably ahead of the scheduled arrival time of 8:20 p.m.


The projected route for this flight looked like we would fly directly over the North Pole.20160603_184145_resized



The Chicago based flight attendants on this flight were outstanding.  They were attentive, courteous and helpful.  I wish I had them on my return trip, but I was coming back through Dallas.

I liked the food and beverage offerings.  Alcohol included Woodford Reserve Bourbon and Glenlivet 12 year old scotch.


The menu for meals was passed out just after boarding.20160603_173009_resized20160603_173003_resized20160603_172942_resized20160603_172938_resized

After takeoff i started with the Woodford Reserve although the Glenlivet was also tempting.

Woodford and warm nuts

Shortly after drinks, the flight attendants began the dinner service.20160603_193040_resized

Tomato tart and mixed green salad

I had duck for an entree.20160603_194405_resized

I had the ice cream sundae for desert.  When it was time for a snack, the flight attendant prepared the cold shrimp plate.

Lemongrass shrimp and fruit

I opted for the American breakfast.

Scrambled eggs, potatoes and Canadian bacon along with salad and desert


When I’m not watching a movie ot TV, I like to have the in-flight entertainment system “tuned” to flight following.  The 787 IFE system has a nice heads-up display that simulated what the pilot would see out of the windscreen.

787 heads-up display

The HUD simultaneously displays info on the aircraft’s heading, altitude, airspeed, attitude as well as info on arrival time and distance traveled.  The only information lacking is the position of the aircraft in latitude and longitude.  With that information, I know when we cross the equator, go from east tot west longitude or go over the pole.

Japan Airlines Jakarta to Tokyo crossing the equator and lat and long data below


Thanks to the food and great service from the crew, the 12 hours flying time went fast.  We landed ahead of schedule just after 7:30 p.m.

The next post will cover, the Beijing Airport Express, the return on American flight 262, and first class on an American 777-200 from Dallas to Chicago.




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