Tour the Aircraft AA is Flying to Casablanca, Tel Aviv and Other New Transatlantic Routes

Aug 9, 2019

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

American Airlines announced five new transatlantic routes on Thursday, with the first of those starting in May 2020. If you’re one of the travelers excited about these new routes, you might be curious what the experience is like on-board.

There are three different aircraft operating these routes. The interior and features are similar on two, but are very different on the third. Let’s take a look inside and tell you what you need to know:

In This Post

Boeing 787-8: Chicago to Budapest, Krakow, Prague

In May 2020, AA is launching new routes between Chicago O’Hare and three Central European destinations:

  • Budapest, Hungary (BUD), 4x weekly from May 7 to Oct. 24
  • Krakow, Poland (KRK), 5x weekly from May 7 to Oct. 23
  • Prague, Czech Republic (PRG), 5x weekly from May 8 to Oct. 24

All three of these destinations are going to be served by American Airlines Boeing 787-8 aircraft. AA currently has 20 of these aircraft, but another 22 are coming thanks to its massive April 2018 order. All 22 of these aircraft are scheduled for delivery by the end of 2021 — with 12 being added in 2020 and another 10 in 2021.

Flagship Business Class

A recent retrofit stripped out 8 business class seats to add premium economy seats on all of the existing 20 Boeing 787-8 aircraft. That leaves these aircraft with 20 lie-flat business class seats arranged in an all-aisle-access 1-2-1 arrangement. The Zodiac Concept D seats alternate between facing forward and facing backwards.

A look inside an American Airlines first class cabin.
Business class on American Airlines Boeing 787-8 aircraft. Image courtesy of American Airlines.

These aren’t the best business class seats in AA’s fleet, having earned the reputation as “rocking chairs” due to the unstable mounting and way the seats are connected together. I’ve been woken numerous times while trying to sleep in these seats when my neighbor’s movements have rocked my seat.

Thankfully, not all seats have this rocking issue. TPG‘s Kevin Song put together the following to show which seats are connected. Note: rows 6 and 7 were removed in a retrofit since this image was created. So, you’ll want to stick to 1D, 1H, 5A or 5L if you want a restful night of sleep on the overnight flight.

Be careful — the seats outlined in red are connected with each other, meaning that passengers can feel the movements of the adjacent seat, which can be quite annoying.
Image by Seat Guru with edits by TPG’s Kevin Song to indicate which seats are connected with each other.

Mercifully, American Airlines cancelled its contract with Zodiac after supply issues delayed delivery of these business-class seats. That leaves us in limbo about what the business class seats will be for the new order of 787-8 aircraft.

TPG asked an AA spokesperson about which business class seats would be used on the new 787-8 aircraft. However, AA isn’t ready to make this announcement yet. It would be logical for American Airlines to install B/E Aerospace Super Diamond seats to match what it’s been doing on its 787-9 aircraft.

Premium Economy

American Airlines just recently finished retrofitting premium economy seats onto its Boeing 787-8 aircraft. The premium economy section is arranged in four rows of 2-3-2 seating for a total of 28 seats. While we haven’t had a chance to review this particular aircraft type, the seats are identical to the premium economy seats that American Airlines is using on all of its other widebody aircraft: the Rockwell Collins MiQ seat. And the service should be the same as other US-Europe flights.

Photo of the American Airlines 787-9 Premium Economy seat by JT Genter / TPG.
Photo of the American Airlines 787-9 Premium Economy seat by JT Genter / TPG.

Economy

The economy seats on American Airlines’ Dreamliner seem to be designed for a much smaller-than-average person. While 3-3-3 arranged Dreamliner aircraft are known for their tight seat width, the armrests on AA’s seats seem unnaturally low and legroom isn’t spacious at just 31 inches of pitch.

Economy seats on American Airlines Boeing 787-8. Photo by Katie Genter / TPG.
Economy seats on American Airlines Boeing 787-8. Photo by Katie Genter / TPG.

The good news is that the armrests almost fully raise up. If your flight has a light enough load — like a flight I recently took from Chicago to Beijing — you might be able to make a short “poor man’s business class” seat:

Image of American Airlines’ 787-8 economy seats by JT Genter / TPG.

Each economy seat has a 9-inch in-flight entertainment screen with around 284 movies and 294 television episodes. There’s a universal power outlet conveniently located under the IFE screen and a USB outlet built into the bottom of the IFE screen.

Boeing 787-9: Dallas to Tel Aviv

Starting Sept. 9, 2020, American Airlines is launching a 3x weekly route between Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) and Tel Aviv (TLV) using a Boeing 787-9. After taking delivery of two aircraft this year, American Airlines has 22 of these aircraft and will maintain that fleet through the end of 2021.

The experience on the Boeing 787-9 in premium economy or economy is almost identical to what you’ll find on the 787-8. However, the business class cabin is a notable improvement from the -8.

Flagship Business Class

American Airlines’ Boeing 787-9 has 30 business class seats in a 1-2-1 arrangement. There are seven full rows and an eighth row that has only window seats. All 30 seats have aisle access.

Instead of the half backward-facing Zodiac “rocking chairs,” AA installed B/E Aerospace Super Diamond on its Boeing 787-9. These are arguably either the best or second-best business class seat in AA’s fleet.

Photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy
Business class on American Airlines 787-9. Photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy

These seats aren’t perfect though. The tray table folds in under the inflight entertainment screen and reduces the height of the foot well. That makes it hard for some that want to sleep on their side to fit comfortably. Also, AA opted not to pay for the movable privacy divider between the middle seats, so solo travelers might want to opt for the window. I’d recommend skipping the window seats in row 6 as they’re missing a window.

Each seat has a large 18-inch diagonal inflight entertainment screen with hundreds of entertainment options. And the shaping of the seats provides a nice feeling of privacy when you’re sitting down.

Business class seat on American Airlines 787-9. Photo by JT Genter / TPG.
Business class seat on American Airlines 787-9. Photo by JT Genter / TPG.

Premium Economy

American Airlines debuted its premium economy product on its Boeing 787-9 in October 2016 before expanding the product to other widebody aircraft. Like the -8, the -9 is arranged in 2-3-2 seating, but there are only three rows (21 seats) on the -9 instead of the four rows (28 seats) on the smaller -8.

The Premium Economy cabin onboard the American Airlines 787-9 Dreamliner.
Premium Economy on American Airlines 787-9 Dreamliner. Photo by JT Genter / TPG.

Economy

As with the 787-8, the AA Dreamliner economy seats seem designed for a smaller person — between 17-inch wide seats and awkwardly short armrests. Economy on the 787-9 is split into two sections of seats. The front cabin begins with three rows of extra-legroom seating featuring 35 inches of pitch.

(Photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy)
Economy on American Airlines Boeing 787-9. Photo by JT Genter / TPG.

There are 198 standard economy seats with just 31 inches of pitch. That’s going to feel pretty tight for the nearly 7,000-mile long flight between DFW and Tel Aviv.

Economy on American Airlines 787-9. Photo by JT Genter / TPG.
Economy on American Airlines 787-9. Photo by JT Genter / TPG.

At least there’s an in-flight entertainment screen at each seat with a universal power outlet and a USB power outlet.

Economy seatbacks on American Airlines 787-9. Photo by JT Genter / TPG.

Boeing 757-200: Philadelphia to Casablanca

From June 4 to Sept. 8, 2020, American Airlines is operating 3x weekly service between its transatlantic hub in Philadelphia and its first-ever destination in Africa: Casablanca, Morocco (CMN).

That’s the good news. The bad news is the aircraft it’s operating on the 3,700-mile flight is one of its oldest and worst-retrofit in the fleet: AA’s Boeing 757-200.

There are no built-in in-flight entertainment screens in either economy or business class. Most economy seats don’t have power outlets. And business-class passengers have the option to straddle or be straddled.

Flagship Business Class

Starting in September 2016, American Airlines begin installing lie-flat seats on 24 of its Boeing 757 designated for transatlantic operations. The other 10 of AA Boeing 757s have standard recliner seats and are commonly used on domestic routes. While AA hasn’t confirmed which aircraft arrangement will be used on the Casablanca route, we can be pretty sure that the route will use aircraft with lie-flat seating.

These aircraft have B/E Aerospace Diamond business class seats installed in four rows of 2-2 arrangement. While the name is similar, don’t confuse these seats with the B/E Aerospace Super Diamond. Instead of offering all-aisle-access, the window seats don’t have direct access to the aisle. When the passenger in the aisle seat is lying flat, this can make it very awkward to get out of the seat, earning these seats the reputation of “to straddle or to be straddled.”

Business class on American Airlines Boeing 757-200. Photo by Katie Genter / The Points Guy.
Business class on American Airlines Boeing 757-200. Photo by Katie Genter / The Points Guy.

Instead of having built-in in-flight entertainment screens, AA’s Boeing 757s are provisioned Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 tablets for business class passengers. These small screens must be mounted inside a space that’s clearly designed for a much larger screen.

The problem with those tablets are many. Due to limited storage space, there are only 94 movies loaded onto the tablets compared with 284 movies on the built-in systems. Also, to prevent theft, American Airlines usually waits until after takeoff to hand out the tablets and always collects them well before landing. That can reduce the time you have with an IFE screen by up to two hours compared with the built-in displays — leading to complaints:

Economy

AA has standard 3-3 seating in economy — making this aircraft similar to what you’ll find on domestic flights rather than on most international aircraft. But, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Instead it’s AA’s retrofit of this aircraft that leaves it far from desirable.

Economy seats on American Airlines 757-200. Photo by Katie Genter / TPG.
Economy seats on American Airlines 757-200. Photo by Katie Genter / TPG.

There’s no in-flight entertainment screen in seat-backs. Passengers will either have to rely on overhead screens or they’ll have to stream to their own device.

Inflight entertainment on AA's Boeing 757. Photo by Katie Genter / TPG.
Inflight entertainment on AA’s Boeing 757. Photo by Katie Genter / TPG.

Complicating matters is the lack of power outlets. While rows 9-18 have universal power outlets between seats (two outlets per row), the Main Cabin seats generally only have power in one of every 3-4 rows. So, you’re not only going to need to bring your own device, but you’ll also have to bring your own power. That doesn’t bode well for a long transatlantic flight.

Featured image of American Airlines Boeing 787-9 business class by JT Genter / The Points Guy

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases within the first three months of card membership. Plus, earn a $200 statement credit after your first Delta purchase within the first three months. Offer ends 7/28/21.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles after spending $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months and a $200 statement credit after you make a Delta purchase with your new Card within your first 3 months. Offer expires 7/28/2021.
  • Limited Time Offer: Plus, get a 0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months from the date of account opening, then a variable 15.74%-24.74%. Offer expires 7/28/2021.
  • Accelerate your path to Medallion Status, with Status Boost®. Plus, in 2021 you can earn even more bonus Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) to help you reach Medallion Status.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
0% on purchases for 12 months
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
$250
Balance Transfer Fee
N/A
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.