The flight: I flew in the Economy cabin with American Airlines on flight AA47 from London to Chicago O’Hare on a Boeing 787.
The check-in: My ticket was sold as a British Airways Basic Economy fare on a flight operated by American Airlines. The online check-in felt unnecessarily complicated, in part because of the British Airways’ website flipping me over to its American Airlines’ counterpart.
Several days ahead of the flight, I made an effort to book a special meal – simply to test the process of doing that rather than because of dietary or religious requirements. I thought that I’d secured a Hindu meal until attempting to check-in the day ahead of the flight. At that point it was clear that no special meal was reserved for me and it was too late to order the one that I wanted. Inevitably, that was disappointing and an insight into the complexities of booking special meals.
I’m a broad lad and my shoulders protrude beyond the width of Economy Class seats. I like to sit by a window to avoid inadvertent but frequent knocks by cabin attendants, trolleys and passengers as they head back and forth along the aisle. To my surprise, reserving a window seat for the flight was priced at a minimum of £12.40 during the online check-in. I paid that to ensure I’d be comfortable and relaxed during the transatlantic journey.
Though I had reserved my seat, I was unable to complete the check-in process online. That would have been ideal for peace of mind ahead of heading to Heathrow Airport. The stumbling point in the process was the system accepting my COVID-19 vaccination details, despite me attempting to enter them in a variety of ways.
Because of that, I arrived at the American Airlines’ check-in desks at Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 3 well ahead of my flight. They were not busy and just a couple of people stood in the queue ahead of me. With the assistance of a member of staff the formalities and check-in process were completed in a matter of minutes. Checking a suitcase through to my final destination was priced at £60.
Snaking through the security line took approximately 15 minutes from start to finish, leaving plenty of time to view the duty-free offerings in Terminal 3.
Boarding: The flight departed from Gate 23, where I was able to get a seat and read the news while fellow passengers converged. My Basic Economy ticket resulted in me being assigned to Boarding Group 9, the last of the groups to board the American Airlines flight to Chicago. That meant waiting several minutes after the first of the passengers boarded the Boeing 787.
Boarding itself was orderly and straightforward. There was still plenty of room for my backpack in the overhead bins when I reached my seat. It was in a neutrally coloured cabin, dominated by greys, with variable mood lighting above the luggage bins.
Rather than having pull-down window shades, the cabin featured windows whose tinting could be controlled.
The seat: My window seat (32L) was already occupied when I reached it. I politely pointed that out that I had reserved it and the occupant duly moved to the middle seat. Once boarding was complete it became clear that nobody was going to take the aisle seat and they moved again. This gave us both a bit more room during the seven-hour 35-minute flight to Chicago.
The seatback in front of me included a screen for inflight entertainment with a removable console. It featured a 110V/60Hz power point with a socket that could take both US- and UK-style plugs. It also had a folding tray and pocket with aircraft safety literature and a sickness bag.
A blanket and small pillow were supplied on the seat, which formed part of the three-three-three seating configuration across the cabin.
The grey seat was a relatively comfortable with a textured leather finish. Even for me at 6’4”, there was ample legroom in the Economy Class cabin. Reclining a few inches, it was possible to nod-off for a snooze mid-flight.
The service: I was greeted with a smile upon saying hello to the flight attendant while entering my assigned cabin. Contact remained impersonal as the cabin crew performed their jobs professionally and efficiently.
The tailored onboarding video was informative and lucid. However, it referred to the American Way inflight magazine which was not in the seat pocket in front of me and not accessible via the inflight entertainment system on the seatback in front of me. The woman’s smiling face in the section of the video that showed oxygen masks dropping seemed incongruous and I hoped that I wouldn’t have to find out my reaction in such circumstances.
A main meal was supplied with the choice of main dishes being beef meatballs with mashed potato and broccoli or a pasta-based vegetarian option. I opted for the meatballs and was pleasantly impressed by their flavour. The cutlery provided with the meal was made from renewably sourced softwood.
The inflight entertainment screen provided the option of purchasing soft drinks, canned fruit juice, beer and miniature bottles of spirits between services. It also facilitated seat-to-seat chat. The connect feature with news articles was not available during the flight and apologies were offered. A Voyager 3D flight map showed the route of our aircraft over the Republic of Ireland, the Atlantic Ocean’s broad expanse and then eastern Canada before entering American airspace. While still at the stand it informed us that the journey ahead was 4,075 miles (6,558 kilometres) in length and that we were already at an altitude of 104ft. Later, I learnt we were cruising at 556mph at an altitude of 40,000ft. The application included maps of airports around the world; that was useful for visualising where I needed to go to find the gate for my connecting flight in Chicago.
The inflight entertainment included options for kids plus games designed for adults. I tested my general knowledge during a handful of games of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire and sank a fleet in a game of Battleship. From the choices of audio, television and film entertainment I opted to watch the Terry Steiner International, Inc. film Facing Nolan, a 102-minute documentary about the long-serving baseball pitcher Nolan Ryan, who broke numerous records during his career. It was informative and entertaining.
Shortly after that movie ended were offered drinks and a tub of Beckleberry’s Vanilla Bean ice cream. I opened that while settling down to watch the quirky British film Brian and Charles, about an awkward inventor living in rural Wales.
With a little more than an hour of the flight remaining the cabin crew offered a choice of warm vegetarian or non-vegetarian snacks. I chose the non-veg option and was handed an Orchard Barn meat feast folded pizza. The 120-gram snack featured cheese, pepperoni, ham and mushrooms.
The verdict: There was adequate food and drink supplied and plenty of inflight entertainment to occupy me during this comfortable transatlantic flight with American Airlines.