American Airlines AA99 London Heathrow Terminal 3 to Chicago O’Hare Terminal 5 (Main Cabin Extra)
Indirect Travel Fun
- How much is it this time???
- Early Morning National Express, Mid Moring Terminal 3
- Elegantly Lounging around Terminal 3 (Cathay Pacific and American Airlines Lounges)
- American Airlines AA99 London Heathrow to Chicago (Main Cabin Extra)
- Into the USA, Crowne Plaza O’Hare
- Hyatt Regency O’Hare
- Airplane Art Extra: From the Hyatt Regency O’Hare
- Chicago Classics: Mannys Deli and Cafeteria
- Bench Test and First Impressions: Canon EOS R50
- Back to Central Camera Chicago
- Back to O’Hare, Swissport Lounge Chicago T5
- Finnair AY10 Chicago O’Hare to Helsinki Vantaa
- A quick ground-side visit, and an even quicker stop at the Finnair Lounge
- Finnair AY1337 to Helsinki Vantaa to London Heathrow
- An Unexpected Coach Home
- Expect the Unexpected
American Airlines AA99 London Heathrow to Chicago O’Hare International
Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner
Seat 12L (Bulkhead), Main Cabin Extra
3953 miles flown, 20 Tier points earned, 2,965 Avios Earned
I was welcomed aboard the Boeing 787-9 and asked to head down and turn right. It seemed the cabin was very full – in all classes of travel. That’s good for American Airlines’ bank balance, but this could impact the passenger experience with a full load heading out to Chicago.
I headed to the first row of Main Cabin Extra… and found the mother and a toddler in the middle, seat… welk the toddler on the seat, the mother kneeling down on the floor as they entertained the toddler.
I placed my items in the overhead compartment – resigning myself to zero chances of work for anything to be done and took my corner in the window.
The aisle seat filled in eventually… although someone swapped so the two parents could sit together with the toddler (and no, they didn’t ask me to move).
As for the seat itself – it’s a Weber/Safran seat. I’ve done this one many times before, noting it’s more than a little tight, thanks to the compact seat widths American Airlines went with when they selected a 3-3-3 configuration on the 787. It’s compounded with fixed widths of the seat dividers in the bulkhead row.
At least the legroom was more than passable.
As for the toddler – what’s the nicest term I can use – they were a grabber. Thankfully the parents were more than apologetic, which can make up for a lot of things. It’s not easy to travel at the best of times, so understanding is required on all sides
I could handle that, even if this had the makings of a very long flight. Thankfully I had my earbuds in my pocket to help cut down the ambient sound. Score one for me this time.
Boarding continued apace, and eventually, we went to boarding complete on time and before departure.
That’s a first at Heathrow for me – which leads me to the thought that it probably isn’t Heathrow Airport is a total dumpster fire – it’s just Terminal 5 and the occupants in it that is.
We’ll explore that thought on the way home.
With the aircraft secure, the safety video began playing.
It was paused halfway through as someone in the cabin decided to stand up, and the crew made us watch the video again from the start once they sat down.
This is a new variant of the AA safety video – gone is the cheering, but a much more simplified version of the AA safety video.
Hey, it’s new to me. I would have seen this months ago if there had been an early morning flight from Heathrow in March to Chicago, I wasn’t stuck on a British Airways A380…
With the video complete, we had completed our initial pushback and were on our way around the Heathrow complex. We would taxi past the bussing row, the Terminal 5 complex and finally onto the runway.
Interesting to note, that when the parents asked for a lap belt for the toddler, the advice from the cabin crew was to hold them in place.
With a roar, the General Electrix GEnx-1B’s roared into life to people the 787 into the sky.
The aircraft departed towards London, banking as it climbed to give a view of Heathrow Airport. It then ascended into the sky, making for the transatlantic tracks.
With the aircraft passing through 10,000ft, the welcome video appeared, informing passengers of services onboard, as well as wi-fi availability.
Well, that’s an open invitation if I ever saw it.
Wi-Fi on these Boeing 787-9 aircraft (and much of the long haul fleet) is provided by Panasonic Avionics (which provides the IFE system on this aircraft).
Pricing has been changed to two tiers – and expensive for what it is – $25 for 2 hours or $35 for a full flight. Compared to British Airways which uses the Intelsat solution to charge £14.99 for a full flight… that’s expensive for what it is.
Nonetheless, the price of connectivity is high, as well as my sanity.
$35 later (and paid via my PayPal Account) I had whole-flight access access. I could have paid by Card… but that was not in an easy place to get to – to put it politely.
The rules of the game indicate I have to run a speed test before using the inflight Wi-Fi, so off we go.
Not brilliant – but not bad I suppose for Ku-based connectivity. Let us dive in a little with testing and give it to YouTube.
Amazingly that loaded without any issue – although the phone thought it was now in the USA. You’re quicker than me, phone.
For this test, we’ll run Crab Rave and see how the frame drop is. The answer is … not bad at all.
Yes, it’s streaming at 720p, but to be honest, that for a small screen is fine.
It would help as I couldn’t extract the IFE arm. Given the crew were getting ready to start the inflight service I decided to deal with that post-service.
The service started with a drinks service, with a pack of Biscoff biscuits. Because there’s a rule that flights must have Biscoff biscuits.
I might be generalising, but I’m sure it’s a rule
Shortly after, the main meal was offered. Considering it was around 10ish, I was expecting breakfast at this point.
Nope. We had a lunch service of Pasta or Chicken and Rice. I went for the Chicken and Rice.
Here’s the tray:
On it, we have a roll, wooden cutlery (an ESG move), a brownie, cheese, crackers and our main – a Black Bean chicken with Rice and Kidney Beans – with a bottle of water on the side. Shame the ESG moves are tempered by the amount of plastic on the tray.
Beans upon beans here.
The chicken was warm and flavoursome – although the kidney beans weren’t needed. The salad was fresh, if a little tasteless (a little dressing packet would have helped). As for the brownie – that was consumed on the ground. The water bottle was also pocketed – as that would come into use a lot later.
With the dining I had earlier, I was relatively full, so I was more than happy to skip the rest of the tray.
I did wind up holding some extra trays through during the service, as the family were constantly adapting. With the toddler being too old for a bassinet, we had a wriggler. I helped the parents by holding onto their trays whilst they tried to settle the toddler down.
It’s a small thing, but if it gives them two minutes of peace… it’s a win, isn’t it?
With the trays coming for collection, I asked about the IFE screen. The flight attended noted it was jammed and they would be back with a hammer
Wait. Did I hear that right? A hammer.
Sometime later, they came back, with an ice hammer and whacked the release mechanism of the IFE arm to unlock it and release it from its trapped prison
Maybe I was right. Violence does solve some things.
With a pair of earbuds given, I was free to watch the IFE system.
The content was a mixed bag, with the usual mixes of films, TV comedy and of course, the most useful thing – the map. This was using the older Panasonic Voyager 3D system – which is good enough to watch the maps as the world went by.
I put something on – honestly- I forgot what, and went to sleep.
I think I managed around 3 hours – waking up somewhere near the Canadian coast. About par for a flight for me.
I did wake up briefly enough to notice the ice cream service was in progress but fell asleep seconds later. I guess my body wasn’t in the mood for ice cream.
I woke up at another point, and rather than head to the IFE system, I left it on the map and enjoyed streaming stuff off YouTube instead.
I digress. If I wanted to fall asleep again, there’s always the option of listening to Single Line working.
The fact I was able to stream mostly without issue during the flight was a highlight for me.
About an hour before arrival, the pre-arrival service started. This today would be an option of a pesto wrap or a chicken wrap, with drinks.
And when I say wrap, I mean half-wrap. It’s something that a certain German airline would have loved to give out… when they gave out food in short-haul (rather than making you pay).
The wrap itself had a little bit of flavour, although it was demolished way too soon.
As the flight was closing in on its destination, the arrivals film started to play. Gone are the days of TSA Bob, but a generic animation that walked you through the immigration progress.
With the movie over and limited time before the flight ended, I took to FlightRadar24 to track the flight. Whilst Voyager. FlightPath3D, Airshow and ARC are great at showing the location of “your” flight, they can lack context – in terms of what is going on around you in the world.
Thus, using FlightRadar24 could give me insight into what flights were arriving at O’Hare and how long the immigration queue could be.
With the long haul map looking decidedly empty, it looked like I might have an easy run through immigration. It also looked like we would be making our approach with the city to the left of me and the northern suburbs to the right.
Our aircraft weaved its way through the traffic, finally lining up for the far north runway.
With ease, the 787 approached Chicago O’Hare and landed safely at one of its bases.
The aircraft peeled off the runway, and began its taxi across the O’Hare field, taxiing past the Central Terminal Area, before taking the bridge to cross the over-approach road finally towards Terminal 5.
There was a short taxi to find an appropriate gate but eventually, one was allocated.
With a final push, the Boeing 787 arrived at its gate.
As the seatbelt sign was extinguished, everyone got up to get their items – myself included.
I squeezed past the family – mainly as I wanted to let them finish up what they were doing without me looking distantly on.
Eventually, the doors were opened – it was time to enter the USA.
I headed out, thanking the crew as I exited and having a good old stretch on the way.
American Airlines service was passable this day, with some bright points (using a mallet to release an IFE arm is inspired, with “good enough” service over the pond.
Although the economy class seats could do with optimising (to put it nicely – newer generation seats which can offer greater comfort in the same footprint are now out), the price of Internet connectivity needs to drop to be as competitive as other airlines across the Atlantic.
And a less packed plane next time would be lovely.
Who put this construction site in an airport?
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