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As your may have seen, Katie and I recently got to fly in a brand new retrofit aircraft on our way to Europe, and it turns out we also got an AA retrofit aircraft on the way back. The Boeing 767-300s — yes, the same aircraft that recently had an uncontained engine failure in Chicago — are quite past their prime, but American Airlines recently went through the trouble of retrofitting them to squeeze out a few more years of life.
American Airlines currently has 36 Boeing 767-300s in its active fleet. The carrier is quickly paring down these older aircraft though, and by the end of 2016, plans to be down to just 31. You can currently find them on European routes like New York (JFK) to Zurich (ZRH), New York (JFK) to Milan (MXP), Miami (MIA) to Paris (CDG), Miami (MIA) to Milan (MXP) and Dallas (DFW) to Milan (MXP), as well as on certain domestic routes, like JFK-Miami (MIA).
If you find yourself scheduled on a flight operated by this particular 767 model, here’s a special look at the business and economy cabins so you can figure out where you might want to sit.
The retrofitted 767-300 business-class cabin is arranged in a staggered 1-2-1 arrangement. There are seven rows, which, oddly enough, are numbered rows 2-8.
Each seat has a cubby next to the passenger’s shoulder. While this isn’t rated to store items during the flight, it seems the cabin crew doesn’t mind if you use it to hold small items like a phone, camera, passport or wallet. Underneath this cubby, you’ll find an international power plug, a USB plug and a one-prong headphone jack.
Due to the staggered arrangement, the window seats alternate between being next to the window and next to the aisle. The seats closest to the window — 2A, 2J, 4A, 4J, 6A, 6J, 8A and 8J — provide the greatest amount of privacy. Note that seat 8A is blocked off as a pilot rest seat on international flights.
While passengers with reduced mobility might find the window-side seats a bit hard to get in and out of, the aisle-side window seats — 3A, 3J, 5A, 5J, 7A and 7J — are easily accessible.
Thanks to the forward-facing staggered arrangement, the seats themselves are a bit narrow, however they do lie almost completely flat.
There is no built-in in-flight entertainment system in this cabin, which, I’ve heard it said, was due to a power-supply issue although this being a cost-cutting measure seems more likely. No matter the reason, business-class passengers will have to rely on the personal in-flight entertainment tablets handed out by the crew or the old-school overhead IFE screens provided.
The IFE tablets are powered by a plug hidden away in a cubby in front of the passenger — the availability of this power plug somewhat complicates the “power supply issue” argument, but hey, I’m no electrical engineer.
The middle seats are great for traveling pairs, but don’t provide much separation for solo travelers sitting next to a random stranger.
Each seat has a rather difficult to operate tray table that releases from a slot under the seat controls. To release, you’ll need to push the “Table” button behind the seat controls and pull until it slides up and locks into place. To get it stored again though, it’s going to be quickest to just call a flight attendant as the process isn’t straight-forward, and the flight attendants should have mastered the art by now.
There’s really not a clear winner for best seats in this cabin — it’s going to be mostly based on preferences: companions may prefer to sit together in the middle, those wanting privacy will want the window-side window seats and those needing easy aisle access should snag an aisle-side seat, whether it’s on the window side or in the middle.
The only exception is for tall passengers. The majority of the seats don’t provide a lot of space when in the lie-flat position, so you’re going to want to snag a seat in row 2 to get the most legroom.
While the business-class cabin on these aircraft was fully retrofitted, the economy-class cabin seems to have just gotten new cushions and headrests. It’s arranged in 2-3-2 layout and seats are just 17.2 inches wide. On the plus side, the aisles are the widest I’ve experienced on an American Airlines flight in quite a while, so the cabin arrangement itself really doesn’t feel as tight as it seems.
Note that there’s one small “mini-cabin” of Main Cabin Extra seats located in rows 12-13. Like the business-class cabin, these seats received updated overhead compartments.
While the bulkhead seats in row 12 are going to provide the most knee room, you won’t be able to stretch out your legs too much, and the seat might feel a bit more snug due to the tray table being stored in the armrest.
Most of the economy seats are in one large cabin in the back, which features traditional overhead compartments that don’t retract toward the ceiling. Translation: there’s a bit less room up top when getting in and out of these seats, so watch your head!
Row 20 is the bulkhead in the main economy cabin, so snag these seats if you need extra legroom but can’t get row 12.
Exit rows 20-21 are also a good choice if you need more legroom — just be wary of how uncomfortable those window-side armrests look.
With the exception of rows 12-13 and 20-21, the economy cabin pitch has a standard 31 inches throughout.
Note that the backs of the seats in rows 41H and 41J were up against the back wall, so avoid these seats entirely if you want to recline. Interestingly, seats 41A and 41B don’t seem to have this problem.
Each economy seat sports an overhead light, tray table and radio controls — but that’s about it. There’s no Wi-Fi, no in-flight entertainment screen, no individual air vent and most seats don’t have any form of power.
Some seats do come with DC power plugs (similar to a car’s cigarette lighter plug), so make sure to bring a DC-to-AC adapter with you just in case if you need to stay powered up. The crew for this flight actually let me borrow one, as I accidentally packed my own adapter in my checked bag. Be aware that the power cycled on and off when I tried to use it though — I counted 10 off/on cycles within one minute so quickly gave up and unplugged my computer to avoid any possible battery damage.
The retrofit American Airlines 767-300 seems to have two different cabins from two different decades. In business class, you’ve got a decent lie-flat seat with power and personalized in-flight entertainment (even if it’s via a tablet), while the economy cabin is a throw-back to the 90s — you’re going to only have a set number of radio stations to choose from and an old-school overhead screen as provided entertainment, so bring your own. And don’t expect to hit the ground with fully charged batteries.
That said, the 767 a decent choice if you need slightly wider seats, are traveling as a couple or as a family using three seats. With only one middle seat per row, it’s nice that six of the seven seats either have aisle access or a window from which you can enjoy the view.
What do you think about the American Airlines 767-300 retrofit? Let us know in the comments, below.
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