American Airlines Economy: Kansas City-Shanghai


American Airlines Economy - Kansas City/Chicago/Shanghai

Grand Hyatt Shanghai

For a person that normally flies United, it was a real shock to me that I would have to fly out of a different terminal in Kansas City. At the KC airport, United is in Terminal A, while American is in Terminal C. Since the airport was built around the TWA "drive to your gate" concept, none of the terminals are connected, so each one has their own parking garage.

I had also pulled an all-nighter (why sleep for three hours when I've got a fourteen hour flight ahead of me?), so I almost started to turn into the United garage when I was reminded that we were flying American.. Oops.

image from www.metafares.comimage courtesy of


American Airlines Flight # 410
Kansas City (MCI) – Chicago O'Hare (ORD)
Thursday, November 10pp
Aircraft: MD-80
Seat: 21A - Exit Row

image from friendlyskies.smugmug.comOur MD-80 waiting to depart for Chicago

I've flown this route at least 100 times on United, so there wasn't much to report. I fell asleep ten minutes after I boarded, and woke-up as we were pulling into the gate in Chicago.

American Airlines Flight # 289
Chicago O'Hare (ORD) – Shanghai-Pudong (PVG)
Thursday, November 10pp
Aircraft: Boeing 777-200
Seat: 23J

While I've done several international round-trips on United in Economy Plus, I had never done one of American. My first impression was not so good. The legroom in our section of Economy was horrible, especially for somebody who is 6'. This photo gives you a good idea of my legroom for the next fourteen hours.

image from
Thirty minutes after our scheduled departure time, the Captain announced that there was a small mechanical issue that was being dealt with. Fifteen minutes later, the door was closed and the safety video started. On that front, I've got to hand it to American for having one of the worst safety videos. It's as if the person reading the script says the whole thing without taking a breath. Althought the following video is something that would make me rip out my hair, I'd rather have it on my AA flights.

About an hour after take-off, the flight attendants started the meal service. The choices consisted of "beef or chicken", and being adventurous, I went with the chicken.

image from
image from friendlyskies.smugmug.comChar Siu Pork on Shanghai Noodles

image from
image from

Oddly enough, the food was half-way decent. Well, it was decent, compared to a United Economy meal. The meal was also pretty filling, even though the portions were fairly small. I had thought about asking the flight attendant for a second one, but pulling an all-nighter had it effects on me.. Moments after they collected the trays, I fell asleep.

Well, I thought I had slept for the entire flight... Until I saw the time remaining on the IFE. Oops. Back to sleep for me!

Six hours later, the flight attendants came around with our pre-arrival snack/lunch. Once again, this meal was much better than the slop served on a United international flight. Considering we had departed from Chicago, I was pleased to see that they chose a meal that most people would eat.

image from

The meal also included several pieces of fruit, some cheese and crackers, and a bottle of water. Once the flight attendants came around to pick up the meal trays, we only had about three hours until we landed.. I figured it was not enough time to sleep, so I pulled out my iPad and Bose QC-15s, which turned out to be a life-saver!

On a fourteen hour flight, electronic aren't always expected to last through the whole flight. Even my iPad 2, which is supposed to have a 12 hour battery life, seems to have issues with running for a full 12 hours. American has DC power sockets installed in Economy on their 777, which were nice to have on this trip. Using my iPhone car charger, I was able to get enough of a charge to keep my iPad & iPhone fully charged throughout the flight. And during the last three hours, I had plenty of battery life to drown out the crying toddler in the bulkhead row. Thank you QC-15s!

Power sockets are not installed at every seat, so choose carefully if you need battery power on a long flight!

image from

Moments later, we began our final approach into Shanghai. This was my first trip to China, so I was pretty excited to hit the ground. Little did I know that it would take us another three hours to get to the Grand Hyatt.

image from
After a fairly smooth landing, we began the fifteen minute taxi to the terminal. I've flown almost half a million miles on several carriers, and I find American to have the slowest pilots, when it comes to taxiing. If we had been on United, our 777 would have gotten to the gate about fifteen minutes earlier.

image from
One of my favorite parts of international airports is seeing the various aircraft that never visit the US. Some of the carriers parked at the gates surrounding ours do fly to the US, but they stay away from Kansas City.. I've never figured out the reasons behind that... ;)

After twenty minutes in line for passport control, my passport was stamped, and I had officially stepped foot into China. As a collegestudent, often traveling along, I've had some "interesting" experiences with customs, especially in Australia. However, China was painless! The clerk even smiled at me.

Once through customs, my friend and I met up with two FlyerTalk members that had also flown in for the China DO. Multiple people had recommended taking the Maglev from the airport into town. The train, which travels at speeds upto 286MPH, took less than ten minutes, while the drive would have taken over an hour. Unfortunately, we made the mistake of taking a cab on the return trip.

image from friendlyskies.smugmug.comour train appears to have hit something

Stay tuned for a report on the Grand Hyatt Shanghai!