American Airlines AA99 – London Heathrow Terminal 3 to Chicago O’Hare Terminal 5 (Main Cabin Extra)
Fall fun in the Windy City
In this adventure:
- Still trying to keep it different
- Great. A Broken Down Coach…
- Cathay Pacific Lounge, Heathrow Terminal 3
- AA99 London Heathrow to Chicago O’Hare (Main Cabin Extra)
- Into the USA and the Avid Hotel, Chicago O’Hare
- Hyatt Regency O’Hare
- Airplane Art from the Hyatt Regency O’Hare
- Night-Time fun with the iPhone 14 Pro
- Trying a different Deep Dish Pizza (Pequods)
- Return to O’Hare Terminal 5
- BA296 Chicago O’Hare to London Heathrow
- Where’s the coach?
- Not the end, for 2022… maybe.
AA99 London Heathrow Termina 3 to Chicago O’Hare Terminal 5
Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, Seat 13L, Main Cabin Extra
3953 miles flown, 20 Tier Points Earned, 2,965 Avios Earned
Down we go.
I was welcomed onboard and directed down the Main Cabin, where I would sit for this flight.
Passing the Premium Economy cabin on the way.
The Main Cabin
Home for the next 8 hours.
Unlucky for some
This 787-9 was configured so that the business class cabin was to the left of the entrance doorway, whilst I would pass the premium economy to Main Cabin on this flight.
Arriving at my row, someone was already occupying the aisle seat- so after chucking my stuff into the overhead bin, they kindly moved so I could sit down.
In terms of the seat, welcome back to the Safran/Weber long-haul economy seat that we all know and love. Whilst there was reasonable seat pitch at 35”, seat width is constrained on the Boeing 787, with airlines loving to install 3-3-3 seating on an aircraft that was designed for 2-4-2 seating.
At least they had air distributors.
I can understand why airlines went 3-3-3 – more bums on seats at the end of the day, but that magical 18” seat width starts to make sense (along with shoulder space too – never forget about that).
Virgin Atlantic Airbus A350-1000 parked next door to us.
At the seat, there was a blanket and pillow set, all in a poly wrap. Whilst blankets and pillows get recycled, there is still a lot of plastic in the cabin – if we like it or not and there has got to be a better solution than flow-poly wrapping blankets and pillows for sanitary purposes.
I settled into a very familiar environment – the AA seat (by Safran) and I have done many miles across the pond – and I suspect many more in the future too. It’s reasonably comfortable, but that leather is seeing the miles now.
In terms of comfort, it’s “good enough” for a medium to long-haul leg. The seat is even better when no one decides to occupy the middle seat.
And my luck held for the two of us – we had boarding complete, giving us both shoulder, leg and storage room. It’s not a premium economy seat with the extra leg space – but it’s good to lounge for a transatlantic leg, having the middle seat free (the only upgrade to that would be having a whole row to myself – which makes a passable bed as I found on my last long haul trip).
You are here.
Departure from Heathrow was delayed as we had a few people meeting the aircraft late, along with a missing person from the reconciliation, the aircraft eventually pushed back at 8:15 – half an hour late.
With that, the American Airlines safety demonstration played. We have all seen it before, with this one adapted for the 787-9 changes (namely, the safety belt and the exits).
Of course, the cheering at the end has been long deleted from the audio.
The aircraft taxied out of Terminal 3 as it began a trundle around the airport, finally lining up for a runway for departure.
British Airways Airbus A320
British Airways 787 on tow to Terminal 5
Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 parked
British Airways Boeing 777-300ER on tow
Star Alliance tails at Terminal 2
Spot all the airlines
British Airways Airbus A350-1000 at the maintenance hangers
Passing Terminal 2
Small aircraft (Air Canada Boeing 737-8) and Big Aircraft (Singapore Airlines A380, along with Air India and another Air Canada plane…), although not at small as the FlyBe Dash8.
With a roar, the GE engines spooled up and lifted the aircraft into the sky.
(There was a video originally, however, my alarm went off during take-off, pausing the video. Thanks, Apple.)
Mother nature gave a wonderful morning display too.
With the aircraft in the air, I settled in. The priority was to explore the IFE system. American Airlines have utilised the Panasonic ex3 system – and it was a little sluggish at the touch to use.
When there’s trouble you know who to call…
In terms of content – I was in for my first shock – it seems that licencing “The Big Bang Theory” costs a lot more than it did in the past – with no episodes loaded on the system.
That’s a first.
In the end, I decided to settle on Teen Titans Go and then watch some Minions do minion things.
There’s no need to feel down.
I decided to set up in-flight Wi-Fi for the trip. American Airlines utilises a Pansonic Ku System, which costs $29 to use for the flight – or $20 for two hours.
Whilst high priced, it was easier to pay $29 and be done with it, which would allow me to switch between the phone and the laptop to work on bits and bobs – rather than pay $20 for 2 hours.
As well as make arched eyebrows at coworkers at 35,0000ft. Well, I needed to be entertained by sending pictures out of the cabin whilst in the air.
The first pass from the cabin crew was the drinks service. I went for a Coke Zero of some sort. It touched a spot.
Although the caffeine in it did nothing, as I was out cold by the time the catering pass came by. I managed to catch someone between handover and pickup, who kindly asked which option I would like – a sweet pancake option or a full English style. I went for the full English style.
So let us work our way around the tray. And it is… a little sad to put it mildly.
There has been some portion size shrink, with baby everything – baby hash browns, baby sausage, something that might have been bacon a few aeons ago. As for the egg, that’s powered for sure, whilst the mushrooms were a little… yeah.
The fruit tray was a lot better – with fresh grapes, melon and pineapple, whilst the orange juice helped. The pastry was rock hard too.
With the meal finished, a member of the crew kindly picked up my tray. With that, I tried to do the sleep thing again. Whilst some rest was forthcoming, deep sleep was nowhere near in my mind.
I guess the joy of the morning adrenaline was pumping hard through the system still, and I mainly was napping rather than anything. Which under some circumstances would be fine – but after minimal sleep during the day… it was less than ideal.
I woke up in time for the mid-flight service – which had been resumed by American Airlines. This consisted of another bottle of water and a tub of Ice cream.
I gave the ice cream a few minutes to warm up before diving in (because rock-hard ice cream is never a fun thing to have to dig into). Giving it a few minutes to come up to temperature made it rather nice and soft, as well as very chocolaty.
I took the chance to catch up with the world there was zero chance of me falling back asleep. That meant some more emails and a little bit of writing at 35,000ft. Which is always fun and a challenge in the air. But I got a fair bit done – even managed to get the first part of the snapshot written – which for me is a challenge when my brain isn’t working.
I also turned my attention to FlightRadar 24. Whist the Pansonic 3D Voyager system is “fine”(well, compared to ARC it is rather ancient now), for the most part, I needed a lot more data to work out which aircraft was in front of the one I was on – and more importantly – who was behind us.
Why? This would dictate the immigration queue when I arrived at O’Hare. We all know that US immigration can be very much a crapshoot in terms of how long one is waiting to be seen by a CBP agent, so a little awareness on the way is no bad thing (it also dictates things like, should I go to the toilet when I land, or hold until I get to the hotel).
Seeing that whilst there was traffic, most of the big aircraft would have long-landed at O’Hare, I was confident that it would be a reasonably quick transit through the hub.
That would make things easier in some ways, and harder in others. It also allowed me to work out what I left behind at home.
Congratulations if you worked out if it was my iPad. I hope it had a good holiday sitting on the living room table when you should be in the bag.
Oh well. Nothing that cannot be sorted out with a trip to Micro Centre when I landed (and after checking the prices at Target and Apple – it was the best option of the lot with a good $70 off).
With our aircraft closing in on Chicago, it was time for the arrivals service. This has been comedic for some years, as it seems to be odder each time I fly.
Today’s flight would be no different. A choice between a five-bean bun and a Philly Cheesesteak bun was offered.
Yes, dear reader. You read that right. A Philly cheesesteak bun. This is something to behold.
Or rather. Mehhhhhh. Oh dearie me. From individual pizza with pasta down to… a boxed bun with maybe some beef in it and plastic cheese.
That says a lot, doesn’t it? At least it is not the stupid pies they had a few years ago. Those were… stupid. This was offered with drinks again.
From here, I started undimming the cabin window a bit a time – there’s no point flooding the cabin with light until it nears landing.
Considering the view was mainly of cloud, this is one time I was happy to leave the windows dimmed a bit.
Eventually, we had the call to 20 minutes to landing, meaning that everything had to be undimmed and the cabin secured. It was also at this point that Voyager 3D decided that working was no longer a viable option for the software.
If only there were some rather good new drop-in replacement options on the market. Thankfully, the Wi-Fi stayed on long enough to see what was happening.
The Boeing 787-9 approached Chicago via Lake Michigan, with us taking a westward direction arrival – meaning there would be no looping out to deep Illinois, the aircraft had a straightforward approach to O’Hare.
Approaching the shoreline
Cabin during descent
With ease, the American Airlines AA99 landed at its home base, completing the journey.
Even though we had left late, thanks to the schedule padding we were on the tarmac a good 22 minutes early – which was mostly consumed with the taxiing back to Terminal 5.
Our aircraft made it to Terminal 5 and was directed to a suitable gate. Thankfully, the aircraft was docking near the centre part of the terminal, so there would be no long hike (like last time).
The engines powered down. With the seatbelt sign released, the cabin got up and prepared to disembark. Thankfully ground services were reasonably quick on connecting the jetbridge, and soon the aeroplane doors were open.
I thanked the crew and headed out to Windy City.
Overall: The hard product is still passable for the transatlantic leg, even if the seat can be a little tight thanks to the 3-3-3 configuration installed on the Boeing 787-9. Having the spare seat made a big difference, to put it mildly.
Meanwhile, the soft product needs a little work, with questionable portion sizes for the main meal that is served (who remembers full-sized hash browns and sausages?). The rest of the soft service was passable in terms of catering and IFE.
Again, a passable, if uninspiring flight.
Next: Into the USA, The Avid Hotel
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