This would be my first trip back home to the US in two years. Normally I’d fly EY
/AA through FRA
because it’s on my own dime and I like their J class offerings. However, I couldn’t make the EY
portion from AUH
to either FRA
work within my travel dates and budget, so I chose the BA
option so I’d still at least get my AA
J class is not my first or second go-to airline, having flown with them on this routing last time I flew to Dallas in 2014. I was left with the impression that it was “sardine J class”. This trip however, it was the only option for the date I could get, and the price was much better than Etihad’s flight.
Two years ago, BA
with a 777-200, so I was pleasantly surprised to see it’s now a 787-9. After reading all the 787 press over the years, I was looking forward to experience myself what all the flying public is talking about.
I did my research on Seat Guru to see which seats on BA
’s fwd/aft seating arraignment have direct aisle access from a window seat, which turns out to be rows 7 & 13, A & K. What I didn’t like is how BA
charges you to pick a seat in advance. I wasn’t willing to get stuck in a seat where I had to or some one else had to climb over me to get to the aisle, so I ponied up the dough to the tune of $217 for seat 13K outbound and 7A inbound at the time of booking about a month before the flight. I think it’s free of charge once you are in the 24 hr departure window.
Abu Dhabi International has changed its procedure since I’ve flown last (7 months ago). While in the check in line, its now procedure for you to have an eye and passport scan before you get to the ticket counter. There is an official stand set up just for this at the line entrance. Seeing how it was now midnight for a 0145 departure, the line was short. My bags were tagged all the way to DFW
, and I received both my boarding passes and a voucher for the lounge. The agent informed me that boarding time was 0100. My boarding pass was again scanned at the entrance to passport control (used to be a single official at a desk, now its three scanning stations with people there to assist if needed). Less than 30 feet away is the airside passport/boarding pass scan just before security. Once security was cleared, I headed to the Al Dhabi lounge. It was pretty crowded, but seats were open. It’s a very basic lounge, with basic offerings, so I just helped myself to the tried and true staple of chicken and rice. Sandwiches, soup, and fruit are also available. No surprise that the bar was at near capacity.
At 1250, I left the lounge for the short walk to gate 9. This gate is part of the original terminal gates, which I call the flying saucer gates because of their shape and appearance inside and out.
The gate opened at 0100, and once again, my boarding pass was scanned, and then I had to go through an additional screening because of the size of my backpack. I took the laptop out, powered it up and the gate agent swabbed it and ran the sample through the analyzer.
The actual aircraft boarding started at 0115 in the typical order. Cheery smiles greeted me at the door and I was directed to my seat (13K), which was the last row of J seats. Seat access is through a small gap (like 18” small) formed between the back of seat 13Js shell and the business/premium economy partition. Also, that particular area has a raised section of the floor that’s about 1.5 “ high and starts right at the aforementioned gap. Hard to see in the dark, quite easily to stumble over. The footrest is also a trip hazard because its mounted to the floor, and narrows the access even more. Also, you have to stoop over because the curvature of the cabin won’t allow typical sized adults to stand up straight. The blanket, pillow and headphones were on the seat. Once settled in, I noticed that with the seat in the upright position required for t.o./landing, my shoulders were squeezed like I was in an economy middle seat with sumo wrestlers on either side of me. The FAs came around to check on everyone and hung up my jacket.
It didn’t look like a full flight, but there were only 3-4 unoccupied J seats that I saw, and Y+ looked full
I had three windows, but I was right over the wing, so the downward view was pretty much non-existent, and the upper portion of the seat shell blocked a good part of the closest window to me. The FA
’s came around with pre-departure beverage shortly afterwards, along with menus and breakfast requests. Pushback was at 0140, and we were pushed back a good ways back in order to clear a construction area (road tunnel for the mid-field terminal). Something I noticed that probably other a-nutters would also have noticed is that once the a/c started down the taxiway, it was constantly in motion until pulling into the gate at LHR
. We turned left onto the runway, and took off with out a single brake application. Once on the ground at LHR
, we didn’t have to stop at any intersections. Facing backwards for takeoff, I did have the sliding-out-of-my-seat, hanging-from-the-seat-belt sensation. Not unpleasant, just different.
After about 15 minutes, hot towels were handed out, and the breakfast requests were collected. Fifteen minutes later, snacks were served (Arabic Mezzo shown here).
The IFE had a nice selection for multiple cultures and preferences. The hand controller does require you to really twist around in your seat to get while its in the upright position, not so much with the seat reclined. The screen is also a touch screen. The headset jack is the single prong type, so no adaptor is needed to plug in the provided headset or your own personal headset. I didn’t try the provided set, but I will on the return trip back for commentary’s sake.
Storage was limited to a drawer by your feet, and was big enough to hold a 15” laptop and an iPad, but it was not deep enough to put my camera in even with nothing in it. The USB port and A/C outlet is located right next to the drawer, and the drawer itself has a cutout so that power cords wont get pinched.
Now with a belly full of food and booze from the lounge & on board, coupled with being awake for 23 hours straight, I reclined the seat fully and lowered the 2-position footrest to catch some zzz’s. The cabin temp was right in the zone where I didn’t even use my blanket, but I suspect middle age body fat had something to do with that as well ; )
The seat width was good once reclined. There are separate controls for adjusting the headrest and lumbar support. Overall cushion firmness was great for my 250lb self.
Here’s where I talk about the windows. I’ve always been a skeptic of how effective they really are verses the traditional sliding shade, so this was my first chance to really find out. I woke up shortly before breakfast (the nose knows) and looked out to see the sun starting to come up. About 20 minutes later, the sun was in position on the horizon to really shine into the cabin. You can see how well the windows kept the cabin dark. Through the window, the sun is a bright dot. The windows seem to be a second-gen upgrade because they were a purple-haze color instead of the mint-green color I’ve read about and seen images for. Also, the dimness controls at any of the three windows by my seat controlled all three windows in unison. The windows don’t respond instantly to any control input, so its press and hold (one potato, two potato…) while the window dims or brightens.
The cabin noise level was definitely on the quite side, even without the headsets. I normally double up (foam earplugs and a Bose QC
headset) to block out as much engine/airstream/carbon-based life form noise as possible, but given this was a red eye, I just went with the Bose and it was good.
The cabin atmosphere was as good as advertised. I’m a contact lens wearer, and my eyes never dried out as they typically do.
Breakfast was served while we flew over the Czech Republic with about 90 minutes remaining before arrival. I had preordered the English breakfast.
Decent into LHR
started while breakfast was being cleared. ATC has us do 4 complete holding patterns from about 0555 to 0606 local, and we were on the ground pretty much on schedule. Like I mentioned, it was one continuous decel and taxi to the remote gate at T5
Stepping out onto the airstairs was an absolute joy, given the 50 deg drop in temperature from AUH
. The first two buses carried the F&J passengers on the short ride to the terminal.
After a security screening, a quick check of the boards to see which terminal I was connecting with (T3) for the scheduled 0930 departure to DFW
, I hopped on another bus for the winding drive to T3
. On checking into the AA
lounge, the agent informed me that there was going to be a two-hour delay, with departure pushed back to 1130. He said that an announcement would be made when the flight would be ready for boarding. I was in full vacation mode, with no hard time-line to follow, so I just ate surfed the web for a few hours. I still checked the boards from time to time in case anything changed and it wasn’t announced. Which is exactly what happened. The board changed from “delayed” to “go to the gate” without any PA announcement. It was still an hour from the revised departure time, so I was in no panic. Upon getting to the gate, there was a crowd of people milling around the entrance, so I just grabbed a seat after I noticed the cabin crew for the flight sitting around waiting themselves.
After about an hours wait at the gate, the cabin crew got up and boarded the a/c. I just bided my time, no rush. About 15 minutes after that, the gate agents opened the gate via a verbal announcement to the first people in line, which had the effect of everyone crowding the gate. The staff didn’t get control of the situation for about short while, and then made the typical boarding calls by pre-board, F & J, etc. I went through the additional security questioning at the gate, but it seemed all the connecting passengers did also.
After that, boarding went smoothly. I was warmly greeted and directed to seat 10J, and I settled in for the 9-hour flight. Last time I flew AA
from Europe two years ago, these J seats were only available on 773s out of LHR
, but this was a 772, so I guess in that time, other aircraft have been retrofitted. Not unexpectedly, every seat was occupied. The herringbone pattern gives you plenty of room to stand up, and there was a storage area at the bottom of the seat and a small cabinet that held the Bose active noise cancelling headsets. Be aware that the headphone jacks for these seats are INSIDE the cabinet (seems counter-intuitive). The headsets have a three-prong jack, so if you use your own headset, you’ll have to use an adaptor.
The seat was on the firm side and didn’t have any lumbar support. The hand rest on the aisle side could be retracted flush with the seat, which made getting in and out easier. After about 5 hours, I noticed I was squirming around in the seat a lot more that I did on the 789.
Travel tip, there are lavs in the fwd and aft section of J. Everyone seemed to migrate to the larger lavs up front by the snack bar, but there are smaller lavs at the very back of J, and were separated by a curtain from Y+. These rear lavs never had a line, unlike the fwd lavs.
Warm nuts and a beverage were distributed shortly after departure. A snack was then served about an hour after that. Our main course choices were then taken (went for the duck) and served about three hours into the flight.
Desert was a chocolate sundae.
I settled in and just watched movies until the late flight snack was served about 90 minutes from arrival, this time a flatbread pizza.
I’ve read that there was help yourself snack area by the galley, but when I looked towards the later part of the flight, it was totally empty. It looked the exact same way when I boarded, so I’m wondering if the ground/cabin crew ever restocked it at all.
During the flight, there was some turbulence encountered which caused the seat belt light to remain on for about an hour. However, this was after the main meal service was completed, so it didn’t affect anything that I saw.
Decent & arrival into DFW
was normal with the exception of the two gate agents in place to assist passengers who were making a connection and were behind the timeline because of the two hour delay leaving LHR
I was wondering if I would have a problem using the Global Entry kiosks because of my extended time outside of the US, but the process went smooth as butter. I collected my printout and went downstairs to the luggage carrousels. The bags didn’t take long to show up. I grabbed my bags and headed for the dedicated Global Entry checkout point. It was a short wait, less than 5 minutes. The TSA
agent collected my printout when I got to the desk, looked at my passport, asked me if I came off the London flight (yes), and where was I headed to next (done traveling for the next few days). I took the provided shuttle bus to the consolidated rental car center, got my vehicle and headed out into the city that I called home for 12 years.
Overall, both cabin crews were warm, friendly and helpful, the BA
seat was more comfortable than the AA
seat, the cabin in the 789 was more comfortable than the 772, herringbone beats out fwd/aft any day of the week.
Next stop in a few days time will be DFW
, and then a week after that, MCO
for some Caribbean sunshine and the return hop back across the pond in about a month. Stay tuned.
Ish 2 Da Choppa