The 787 Dreamliner is truly a game-changing plane. The advances in technology make it much more passenger-friendly. I’ve only been able to fly it a handful of times, but when I get off a long-haul flight operated by a 787, such as the inaugural Boston-Tokyo flight I was lucky enough to be on, I’ve suffered significantly less jet lag than a traditional wide-body.
American Airlines is already operating the 787, having launched service with the 787-8 last year. Passengers can enjoy the ride on a 787-8 to such cities as Beijing and Buenos Aires.
And now, American has announced new routes for the 787-9, soon to join the fleet. The first two cities will be Madrid (MAD) and Sao Paulo (GRU) starting on November 4th. Here’s what the flight times look like:
American already operates a 777 on the DFW-MAD route. I’ll be curious to see if they replace the existing 777 or add a frequency. If I was a betting man, I’d say that they’ll operate just 1 flight a day and move that 777 somewhere else. The time is a bit later than the current 4:40 pm departure. It’s only a 9 hour flight. For business travelers, it probably works very well to get a full day of work in the US before heading to Europe and arriving late morning. From a leisure standpoint, I always prefer my redeye flights to leave later so I can get a solid night of sleep.
The timing of Sao-Paulo looks good in both directions, especially since the time zones are pretty close.
I was able to fly on American Airlines’ inaugural 787 flight last year. I was pleasantly surprised by the economy seating (well, at least the extra legroom Main Cabin Extra seats). That being said, these 787-9s will be the first planes to roll out with the new Premium Economy product American unveiled late last year. Here’s what we know a bit about proper seat selection already in that cabin.
What About Upgrades?
The news here from Gary isn’t good. It starts out good, in that elite members will qualify for free upgrades to premium economy until American actually begins selling premium economy in 2017.
The bad news is the quote that “for the time being” elites will be upgraded from economy to business class. Reading the tea leaves, I’m guessing that means at some point they’ll drop the bomb that systemwide upgrades on route served with a premium economy product will only work to upgrade from economy to premium economy or from premium economy to business class.
While I completely understand why the airlines seem headed this way, it’ll be a huge disappointment to have systemwide upgrades be so much less valuable on these routes. Executive Platinum members already had the number of SWUs they receive cut in half (from 8 to 4) starting with qualification this year.
Prepping For Take-Off
While I’m excited for the 787-9 to enter American’s fleet, I’m cautiously pessimistic about premium economy and how it’s likely to impact SWUs and mileage upgrades. We’ll have to wait and see, plus it’ll be quite a while before premium economy is rolled out on all the international configurations.
It matches my belief that the domestic US carriers will eventually move to a model on domestic flights similar to that of most European carriers, where “business class/first class” is the same seat as coach, but with a blocked middle seat.
I’ll hope to catch one of the 787-9 inaugural flights and wait for news on the rest of the open items.
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