This past week I flew on American Airlines first class from Honolulu to Las Vegas. I had two redeye options:
- HNL to LAX to LAS: Departing at 10pm, this itinerary would get me to Las Vegas at 9am, but I would fly narrowbodies on both legs.
- HNL to DFW to LAS: This itinerary would add several hours to my trip, but the HNL to DFW leg was serviced by a 787. The trip started at 8pm in Hawaii with arrival at 10am in Vegas.
The second option was an easy choice for me. Although I spent three hours more in the air, most of this time would be in American’s excellent domestic first class on a relatively new 787. Also, since this flight was a redeye, the longer HNL to DFW leg would give me more time to catch up on sleep.
The HNL to DFW flight was surprisingly full. There were only a couple seats open in first, and I’d estimate that the economy cabin was 80% full.
American Airlines’ domestic first class seat on the 787 is a solid product. It doesn’t compare to international first class products, of course, but it’s a huge improvement over typical 2 – 2 first class configurations on domestic narrowbodies. It’s also far superior to United’s 2 – 2 -2 domestic 787 layout. American’s lie-flat seats were particularly valuable on the redeye. A Casper brand comforter and pillow was provided, and the seat, while narrow, was comfortable enough for six hours of sleep.
I was interested to see how American’s food and beverage service has been impacted by COVID. The good news is that things haven’t changed much. Menu options were presented on a single-use paper menu. The menu was designed by local Hawaiian-favorite chef Sam Choy.
Instead of presenting each course individually, the entire meal was delivered on a single tray. No table cloth was provided. The whole experience was definitely less formal than normal, but the benefit of a single-tray service is that the meal service was fast and completed in less than an hour. A full drink menu was available as well. I went with the sparkling wine, which was serviced in a single bottle with a plastic cup.
As you can see the presentation of the meal was far from stellar. It’s never impressive to have food presented to you wrapped in foil or saran wrap. But other than presentation, everything tasted quite good and I appreciated how American’s serving process minimized interactions between FAs and passengers.
The flight between Hawaii and the mainland is at least five hours, and American continues to offer full first class service on this route. On shorter routes, the experience is quite different.
The DFW to LAS route, which was serviced by a 737, had barely any interaction between FAs and passengers at all. There was no drink service, and this route was too short to have any food service. Passengers were simply presented with a paper bag containing pretzels and water when they boarded the aircraft.
American’s shorter first class service has definitely evolved to be a no-frills offering due to COVID. The lack of any sort of beverage service was disappointing, especially since it’s clear from the HNL to DFW route that American can make this work with single-serve beverages.
This was my first trip on American since the COVID outbreak, and overall the experience was seamless. While it was a bit uncomfortable to see cabins so packed, the 1 – 2 – 1 configuration of American’s 787 was so spacious that I never felt unsafe.
American’s narrow-body experience first class experience left much to be desired, however. The sad bag of water and chips was disappointing, and the full flight was disconcerting indeed.