Three days ago, American debuted their Boeing 787-8 on a flight from Dallas to Chicago. While much of the fan-fare was covered in that post, and in others by Sriram and Rocky, I wanted to talk a bit more about the best seats in the business class cabin. American chose an all-new product for their Dreamliners.
Going forward, all of American's longhaul fleet will be configured so that each seat has direct aisle access. The Dreamliner is no exception.
Forward Business Cabin
The forward cabin offers 20 seats in a 1-2-1 configuration. Unlike the rear facing seats on United, American has configured the 787 so you aren't looking directly into the eyes of the passenger across the aisle.
My only complaint about the seats is the fact that you are not allowed to store anything below the seat for take-off or landing. Passengers who choose to seat in seats 1A/1L/5A/5L benefit from a storage area built into the top of the seat, though all of those seats are forward facing.
Forward facing seats do have a retractable armrest, allowing for a bit more space around the middle of the seat. They also have a side storage pocket, a feature that the rear facing seats do not have.
Though the rear facing seats lack the retractable armrest, they do offer more "counter space", which is useful if you want to have your laptop out during a meal service or you just want extra work space.
As a person with wide shoulders, I did not feel cramped when in the lie-flat mode in my rear facing seat (3D). As I said in my post from the inaugural flight, a few minutes doesn't give an accurate representation of a 13hr flight, though I wouldn't hesitate to book the rear facing on a longer flight to really get an idea of the comfort it offers.
With only eight seats in the mini cabin, there are some expectations that the experience is more intimate than a seat in the main cabin. However, I did not get that feeling during the time I spent in the cabin.
Just like the forward cabin, seats 7A & 7L offer the in-seat storage compartment, which is large enough to fit a small backpack or similarly sized luggage.
Which to Choose?
On the American 777-300ER, my favorite business class seats are in the mini cabin. Directly behind first class, there is very little noise from the front and the occasional clatter of a dish from the galley behind the cabin. On the 787, however, I would not be inclinded to pick the mini cabin (unless, of course, it was the only thing offered to me). Two bathrooms, a small galley and the walkup snack bar separate the two business class cabins. Behind the eight seat cabin, you've also got the noise of close to 100 economy passengers.
Though hard to tell from the photo below, I was surprised to already see parts of the business cabin looking as if hundreds of passengers had sat in the seats. Around my seat, I observed several scratches and bent plastic.
In my opinion, the better seats to choose are those that are rear facing in the main business cabin. Seating aside, the cabin is much roomier than the mini cabin and you have a better chance of not being disturbed by the noises from the lavatories, economy cabin or the galley.
If traveling by myself, I would select a rear facing window seat.