A side effect of the pandemic-induced dearth of international travel is that U.S. airlines have reassigned widebody aircraft to some domestic routes that would rarely if ever merit the use of such large aircraft. The final leg of our 10,000 mile Alaska trip took advantage of that fact. The short flight from Dallas to Charlotte was on a 777-200 where every seat in business class (domestic first class) was lie-flat and had direct access to the aisle.
Other posts from our Alaska trip in May 2021.
Those who appreciate a bit of adventure should view Three Days and Zero Nights, Hunting The Bowhead Whale, Best Things To Do In Talkeetna and the upcoming final post on flightseeing in the Alaska Range.
9,753 statute flight miles (15,695 km) roundtrip and only the 936 mile (1506 km) flight from Dallas to Charlotte gets a widebody.
Better than no widebodies though. And this was the best flight of the bunch to be blessed with the benefits of a widebody, business class seat except for the red-eye flight from Anchorage to Dallas. That was the only American Airlines flight where we didn’t receive a complimentary upgrade.
We were in coach and I had a middle seat (horrors! 🤣). Alex had the window and a very nice lady was in the aisle seat. She respected the unwritten rule that the middle seat gets both armrests. That and being in the exit row (airline status at least provided these extra legroom seats for no additional cost) made the six-hour flight on a new A321nx reasonably comfortable. Scroll photos for captions.
The less than comfortable flight to Dallas was just a bad memory as we boarded the 777. The flight monitor in the DFW Terminal A Admirals Club notified us of a delay in departure, and we adjusted our time in the lounge accordingly and arrived at the gate just outside the lounge as boarding began.
The priority boarding lane was more crowded than usual because the 777-200 had 37 business class seats which are classified as first class seats on domestic routes. I received a complimentary upgrade based on my frequent flyer status and used two free 500-mile upgrade coupons to secure a seat upfront for Alex.
These seats were manufactured by Zodiac Aerospace. This version of the 777-200 used them with some seats facing rearward. It appears that American’s replacement of these seats with Collins Aerospace Super Diamond seats is complete because the seating configuration on our flight is no longer listed on American’s website.
I had a forward-facing seat in the last row of the forward business class cabin.
I prefer Collins Super Diamond seats primarily because of additional secure storage compartments. Super Diamond seats always face forward.
Rear-facing Zodiac seats had one advantage over the Super Diamond seat. Zodiac seats had a console by the aisle that provided additional flat surface area and some separation from traffic in the aisle. These seats also didn’t require a shoulder harness as well as a seat belt.
Having the extra room of a business class seat was very much appreciated because we wound up spending almost five hours on the plane on a flight that was scheduled for just over 2.5 hours!
The original departure time was 10:30, which became the boarding time with the delay posted in the lounge. Once on board, the pilots ran their normal pre-flight checklist and discovered a hydraulic issue. The estimated time for the repair was repeatedly pushed back. The repairs were complicated by the presence of lightning in the area that necessitated closing the ramp and employees sheltering indoors.
In spite of the delays and a fully boarded aircraft, flight attendants provided no pre-departure service. I passed the time viewing the inflight entertainment system and keeping up with things on my phone. Having a large video screen seemed like a luxury considering American has removed all seatback screens on its narrow body fleet.
Alex used the time to catch up on more sleep. He had a rear-facing seat in the center.
The flight finally departed on Runway 35L at 12:54pm.
Inflight service was the same as on any other domestic American Airlines flight at the time – very minimal. A cold cheese platter or sandwich were the choices. At least they were still serving Woodford Reserve bourbon.
The flight was uneventful with my time spent perusing the inflight entertainment system. We arrived at the gate in Charlotte at 5:04pm (17:04).
American’s use of a 777-200 on a domestic flight probably saved money because it could use one flight to serve the diminished demand that normally would require two 737 or A320 series aircraft in pre-Covid times. It also worked out great for us for waiting out the delay as the lie-flat seats were even better than standard domestic first class seats much less coach or even the premium economy seats on this 777-200.