Flat Beds on the American 767-300, Then Coach Home (Trip Report)

As I wrote yesterday, it’s a quiet Thanksgiving week, so I’m posting my recent trip reports to get them out of the queue. There’s no post on Thursday. I’ll be back on Monday with a regular post.

Two days after my Mint experience on JetBlue, it was time to move on. I had to go straight to Chicago for a bachelor party. With no reason to trudge back to Ft Lauderdale this time, I did the wise thing and flew out of Miami since the hotel was right there. I was really excited to find that American had a morning flight on the 767-300ER, especially since the company that flew me out would put me up front on this flight as well. I hadn’t flown the new flat beds yet, and I was eager to test them out, even if for a mere 3 hour flight.

Upon arriving at the airport, I found the usual Miami chaos. People were just scattered everywhere, blocking entrances to the checkpoints, and generally arguing with others. Welcome to Miami. The line-minder who usually just checks to see if you have Pre Check on your boarding pass was also policing carry-on sizes for some reason. A traveler in front of me was pretty angry when told she had to go check her bag at the counter.

It only took a few minutes before I was through security and on my way to my gate. Miami is a nice-looking airport on the inside (better be considering how expensive it was to build), and it wasn’t all that crowded.

I found my gate, a strange one with no windows, and waited until it was time to board.

November 10, 2017
American 334 Lv Miami 835a Arr Chicago/O’Hare 1053a
Miami (MIA): Gate D16, Runway 8R, Depart 1m Early
Chicago/O’Hare (ORD): Gate K15, Runway 10C, Arrive 36m Late
N395AN, Boeing 767-323ER, Ugly Flag Tail colors, ~95% Full
Seat 3J, First
Flight Time 3h10m

The last time I flew on an American 767 up front, I was on that miserable angled torture chamber of a seat that is thankfully gone. As I walked onboard the aircraft this time, I was immediately impressed by the change.

The new seats look nice.

They do make for an awkward aisle position and people were clipping carry-ons a lot on the way in, but that’s a minor issue.

I found my seat and kicked myself for somehow choosing the one that’s closer to the aisle unlike the ones in front and behind. (The staggered layout alternates positions by row.) But that’s ok, I still had a good view.

There was overhead bin madness on this flight. People apparently tried to lug everything on the airplane (again, welcome to Miami), and the flight attendants, instead of forcing the bags to be checked, tried to find room even in the premium cabin. One flight attendant asked a woman near me if she could move her purse from the outside bins to the center bins (which are much smaller but plenty big for her purse). Incredibly, she refused. I ended up volunteering to squeeze my bag into the center bins. The flight attendants were appreciative even though they’d already found some room elsewhere by the time I shoehorned my bag.

We pushed back on time and wandered out to the runway for our eastbound departure.

We got above the low scattered clouds quickly and pointed north. It was a downright beautiful morning to fly, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. The flight attendants came through with drinks, but I just had water to start. (Later, I gave in and had a screwdriver.)

My biggest complaint is that these 767 business class seats do not have in-seat video built in. On long flights, they hand out personal tablets, but on domestic flights they don’t. This tray (below) is supposed to hold the tablet, and that power outlet behind is supposed to keep it powered.

The only entertainment we had was the looping NBC stuff on the overhead monitors. There was no wifi or streaming video to be found. Talk about old-school. There were also, unsurprisingly, no noise-canceling headphones given out as on longer flights.

I found the seat really comfortable, and lounged much of the way up. Food was served, and I opted for the fruit plate.

The fruit wasn’t very good, but the granola was tasty. I found the tray table really challenging to use; it kept getting stuck. The flight attendant said she could never get them to work either and called someone else over to help. Later I decided to lie down.

It’s not the longest bed in the world (not a problem for me), but I found it really comfortable. As an added bonus, the overhead monitor was right above my seat in the aisle, so I could lie down and watch the video… sort of.

Other than being further from the window, I found a reason to really dislike the aisle seat. My arm kept slipping out to the side of the seat, and if someone rolled by in a cart my elbow would have been hit hard. Maybe I was somehow not set up properly, but I know that on the window, that doesn’t happen.

I took a stroll through the coach cabin, and it did look a whole lot different there — just rows and rows of seats with scattered overhead monitors right down the middle.

That transported me back to a different age of flying. Oh, and so did this…

We started our descent as we approached Chicago. I could still see the lake before a layer of clouds rolled in just outside of town. We got down to 4,400 feet and then we just sat there… for a long time. We headed way west, waved to Iowa, and then finally got back in line to land. After we got on the ground, the captain noted that O’Hare had just closed one runway so we had been routed way out of the way before we could land.

Chicago was getting messy. Those low clouds were actually spitting flurries, and the snow picked up as we taxied. We took a tour of the airport for a long time before finally finding a spot in the penalty box. There’s nothing quite like a 30+ minute taxi before finally getting to the gate. Just before we pulled in, I saw a lot of deicing going on, as evidenced by the green wings on this guy.

I hadn’t been back to Chicago for a long time, so it was good to be able to visit some of the old haunts from my United days. I have fond memories of the place, but the weather was not one of them. By Sunday, all the gloominess had me longing for sun.

My friends and I left our friend’s house in Bucktown at 11:45am. They hopped out at United’s terminal first, and then I was dropped off at American’s Terminal 3. I had Pre Check so I got through quickly and had about an hour to kill. I have to admit, I love the distinctive look of American’s O’Hare terminal.

A friend at American offered to put me on the list to check out the Flagship Lounge since it was newly-redone. I accepted just so I could see the place. It looks good and has a ton of space (carved into smaller rooms), though admittedly this was an off-peak time.
I’m not sure how full it gets later in the day.

On the far side, there’s a nice buffet area.

I didn’t take advantage of any of that. I just sat there and stared out the window watching the traffic move back and forth on the ramp. It was mesmerizing. (I was also hungover, so there’s that.)

I saw my airplane pull in (the one in the front left of that photo above) and then another one came behind in the old silver colors. It’s amazing to me how shocking it is now to see one of those silver birds. Kind of sad, actually. I wandered down to the gate and boarded my flight.

November 12, 2017
American 1491 Lv Chicago/O’Hare 135p Arr Orange County 403p
Chicago/O’Hare (ORD): Gate K6, Runway 28R, Depart 3m Early
Orange County (SNA): Gate 5, Runway 20R, Arrive 14m Early
N960NN, Boeing 737-823, Ugly Flag colors, 100% Full
Seat 13F, Coach
Flight Time 3h55m

This flight was completely full, so my vaunted strategy of choosing the window in front of the exit paid no dividends. On an American 737, it’s always roulette to see what kind of interior you’ll get. I got lucky on this one and had the whole Boeing Sky Interior with in-seat video setup. I plugged in my headphones, turned on a terrible movie (Baywatch, oh yeah, so bad) and hoped we’d be in the air soon.

Our Captain was female, and I feel bad saying that it’s still something of a surprise (but certainly not an unwelcome one) to hear a woman’s voice come on the PA. She told us we’d be on our way soon, and that was good news. We did, in fact, leave early, and it was a very short taxi to the runway. After a quick takeoff roll, we were up in the soup.

It was rainy and nasty in Chicago, but it was a smooth climb through the muck. By the time we were passing Des Moines, the weather had all cleared and we were in brilliant sunshine. Cruising at 30,000 feet, I could only marvel at the massive windmills which I could actually see turning from such a high altitude.

The flight attendants came through with drinks and food. I had a ginger ale on this flight, and though they offered the whole can, I didn’t want it. I had to use the lav once, and both people next to me looked annoyed. The guy on the aisle only got out a bit into the aisle making the woman in the middle have to get uncomfortably close to him for me to be able to get out. I vowed to drink nothing further so I wouldn’t have to get up and subject her to that again.

Baywatch was done, and I moved on to The House. I clearly hit the bad movie jackpot on this flight. As we approached Denver, some high clouds came back. We sat in those the rest of the way, but it remained smooth.

Once we started descending, the captain said that it might be bumpy so she had the flight attendants sit a bit early. We had some really neat scenery on what was a rare gloomy day.

With the movie over, I flipped on the map and turned on the cockpit view.

That’s a good map on those airplanes. We landed early and had a quick taxi to the gate.

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