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Review: American Airlines Business Class 787-8 Chicago to Shanghai ( Updated with Video Review )

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AA Business Class 772 and 787-8 Zodiac

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So what did you do this weekend?

Going halfway around the world for a weekend seems like a crazy idea, but if you can do it in comfort ( like American Airlines Business Class), the world becomes within reach. That’s exactly what the #weekendwarrior attitude is all about, and what spawned this trip. Life is too short to punt the trips you’ve always wanted to take. Take them now. Plus, what’s cooler than answering the question, “What did you do this weekend,” than “Oh, I went to Shanghai.” Or some other far off destination that is an incredible ice-breaking, jaw-dropping, insta worthy convo starter.

We just posted a fun and quick YouTube review.While I realize AA no longer operates this route…The ORD Flagship Lounge and 787-8 business class represented is accurate regardless of what route you’re taking.

 

Having Executive Platinum status puts me in a very fortunate position. I can use System Wide Upgrades to upgrade my class of service from economy to business, business to first, etc. In this particular case, I upgraded two tickets purchased through American Express for $330 to business class. With confirmed upgrades prior to departure locked in, we were excited to check out American Airlines Business Class 787-8.

The Deets:

  • When: November 2017
  • Route: Chicago ORD to Shanghai PVG
  • Seat: 6D and 6L
  • Status: AA Executive Platinum
  • Cabin: Business

Booking

SWUs weren’t available at the time of booking, but only 6 out of 28 seats in business were occupied. The odds were good.  Since I was taking this trip with my buddy Dave and we booked our tickets separately through Amex ( this way we’d get a consolidator fare bucket vs the revenue based AA), I phoned into AA to tether our tickets together

Tethering allows Dave to upgrade as if he were Executive Platinum as well. Had I just applied an SWU to his itinerary without connecting it to mine, he’d have to fend off lower levels elites who may clear before him.  It should be noted that I believe the policy untethers that status, but still connects the reservation, within 24 hours of departure. So the goal was to clear in advance of that time frame.

To clarify, I stipulated to the AA rep that I didn’t want to clear exclusive of Dave. We were either be upgraded in unison, or not at all. The 24 hour rule would have kept this stipulation in place, but made it more difficult for Dave to clear without status being recognized on his PNR.

Clearing the SWU

Luckily we cleared roughly a week prior to departure. BYAH! At this point I was SUPER stoked.

a screenshot of a computer

Check in

Terminal 3 is mayhem at O’hare. There is a designated area for Priority, Business, First, Elites, and it still took 15+ minutes to get through check-in. We slipped through with TSA Pre and were off to check out the new Flagship Lounge between H and K

Lounge:

The new Flagship lounge is drop dead gorgeous. This is a must visit, and I’d arrive early to enjoy it. You’ll find it straddling H and K gates.

Boarding:

We enjoyed the lounge a little too much 😉 We ended up boarding the plane with group 8. I wouldn’t advise this.

Seats and cabin:

I started off in 6D, the first row of the Mini cabin and in the middle. It’s attached to 6H and faces forward. The design of the cabin is such that the middle seats are bolted and attached (aside from 1D, 1H) 1D is often reserved for pilot rest tho. A lot of people complained that they could feel movement from their companion’s seat and is was disruptive. Ultimately, AA chose to stop installation and replace future 772 retrofits, and 787-9 with Super Diamond seats from B/E.

a stuffed animal on a seat

My seat, 6D had an issue with the armrest on the aisle. This must be lowered for egress during take off and landing and as a result I moved to 6L, a rear facing seat on the window. I prefer the window seat as it’s more private and provides more arm rest room than the middle seats.

a stuffed animal on a window sill

Comparing this to AA’s other offerings: I’d rank it third behind the Cirrus seats found on the 77W and the Super Diamond’s found on some retrofit 772s and 787-9s. Storage is minimal, and while they lie flat, they are quite narrow. I’m 6’ and 170lbs and I couldn’t really find a position where my feet didn’t hit the end and my shoulders weren’t touching the sides. All that being said…it’s still quite comfortable and very solid product that I’d fly again without question.

I’ll also mention that the cabin was kept at a very pleasant and cool temp. Another tip: the middle seats are far more exposed than the rear-facing window seats. As you can see in the pics below, the window seat has counter-top space on either side.

Food:

Here’s a look at the menu. Nothing particularly special, but I was happy to see Lanson champagne, and the vinaigrette was spicy and tasty.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The food is fine. Nothing outstanding, but light years better than what used to be served. I failed to request a meal in advance, and would recommend doing so.

There was also a snack bar set up in the galley between business class cabins.

 Overall:

I’ve found that routes between the States, Beijing, Shanghai, and Tokyo have the most award availability. The first two of those routes are serviced with 787-8 dreamliners. I had a very pleasant flight, and the product is holding up very well. I was a very comfortable, solid way to travel 14 hours.

two men sitting in an airplane

Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.

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17 Comments

  • Peter Olden October 14, 2021

    Hi Just wondering how you booked the AA flight through Amex? dont think they are partnered anymore? I’ve some miles racked up with AA and I am going to apply for a a new credit card, apologies if this is a silly Q, I am new to credit cards.

    • Miles October 14, 2021

      Hey Peter – great question! I actually purchased this fare via Amex Travel so it acted like a cash fare. Usually I transfer points, but in this case it I booked in the travel portal

  • Angel July 15, 2019

    Best way to make sure your companion inherits your status when moving to the airport upgrade list is to remove his/her AA # from the reservation. Once at the airport, ask an agent to add the number back. Otherwise, as you noted, their status will prevail. This can also be fixed by a competent agent but it proves sometimes a little difficult hence just remove their AA # 🙂

  • 02nz July 12, 2019

    I see this flight was from 2017, but not sure why you end by talking about award availability and aircraft, since AA has dropped all flying between Chicago and China. Even Tokyo is down to 3x a week.

    • Miles July 13, 2019

      Hey – i didn’t update any other part of the post aside from adding video so it applied then, but doesn’t anymore

  • Jeff July 12, 2019

    Did your trip post as a special fare and distance based since you booked through amex or revert to fare based since your SWU cleared into C?

    • Miles July 13, 2019

      Hey Jeff – back then all amex was posting as special fare…my understanding is that is very YMMV now, but i ended up crediting it to Alaska

  • […] had a couple System Wide Upgrades. They cleared ( about 5 days prior to take off), and we flew on AA’s 787-8 from Chicago to Shanghai. Originally, I had planned to spend 2 nights at the Intercontinental Shanghai Ruijin using a BOGO […]

  • […] amenity kit, etc. When you compare these compartments to those that are offered by Air France, AA ( 772/788, 772SD/789, 77W), EVA, United Polaris, it’s no wonder why Lufthansa ranks so low when it […]

  • […] American Airlines Business Class 787-8 ORD to PVG […]

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  • […] a great flight on American’s retrofit 772 ( with Zodiac not B/E Super Diamond seats) we were ready to hit the MagLev and high speed train […]

  • […] weeks ago, I flew on American’s 787-8, in the mini cabin, from Chicago to Shanghai as part of a #weekendwarrior trip to China. It was a fantastic buddy trip. The #weekendwarrior is […]

  • […] few weeks ago I flew from Chicago to Shanghai with my buddy Dave on a #weekendwarrior trip. I purchased the ticket via Amex.com, had two SWUs […]

  • Frank December 2, 2017

    Wait, but you only got 330 x 9 eqms? So I guess it was more about burning a SWU rather than a mileage run?

  • David December 2, 2017

    Hi! What is the price difference on the Amex travel than AA? Would that be the same as buying with the ultimate rewards from chase?

    • Miles December 2, 2017

      David – great question. I’ve found them to be either the same or marginally more expensive, i.e. – $5-10 more on Amex, but mostly the same.

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