American Plans to Make Its 767s a Little Less Terrible

Feb 8, 2018

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Hands down, American Airlines’ worst wide-body aircraft is its Boeing 767. In economy, there are no personal entertainment screens (only a few overhead screens) and only a few seats have DC power plugs. Most seats don’t have any power at all.

In business class, the recently remodeled cabin has lie-flat seats and power plugs — but still no installed personal entertainment screens. Instead, flight attendants hand out tablets with entertainment installed. However, the entertainment selection is very limited compared to the standard IFE systems. Also, flight attendants often collect these tablets well before landing, leaving business class passengers without entertainment options for the last hour (or more) of flight. And, without any Wi-Fi connection, business travelers remain disconnected the entire flight.

There's no built-in in-flight entertainment screens in business class.

These aircraft are long overdue to be retired. But, we just found out recently that the airline plans on keeping all current 767 in the fleet at least through the end of 2020.

These aircraft aren’t just being used on short-haul flights, either. AA is launching new routes from Philadelphia (PHL) to Budapest (BUD) and Prague (PRG) using the 767s, meaning economy passengers were facing having to go without power and limited entertainment for up to 9 hours on these new routes. Grim.

Well, finally we got good news regarding AA’s 767s. The airline is finally planning to make them a little less terrible — and the improvements are coming in the next few months.

In American Airlines’ internal “Tell Me Why” podcast, Senior Vice President Marketing, Loyalty & Sales Kurt Stache (partially) answered my inquiry about why AA doesn’t offer entertainment and power on all of its transatlantic flights.

First, there’s good news to report on the entertainment and connectivity front. Kurt responded that “we are absolutely committed to having WiFi and in-flight entertainment across the entire wide-body fleet.” He went on to share the good news that:

By May of this year — so in the next four months — both the 767 and 757 fleets will have satellite wifi installed. And so, not only will customers have the ability to stream online at 30,000 feet in these long-haul fleets. But will have wireless entertainment available as well so that customers can consume a lot of variety of content through their devices as well.

In just a few months, all of AA’s 757s and 767s will have satellite Wi-Fi and will use that connection to allow passengers to stream entertainment. In addition to movies, TV shows and music, passengers will also be able to watch live TV: CNN International, CNBC, BBC World News, Sport24 and Sport24 Extra.

I was appreciative of the DC-to-AC converter the cabin crew let me borrow, but it didn't work well.
American Airlines stocks a few DC-to-AC converters on its 767s, but the one I tested didn’t work well.

Now, for the bad news: An airline spokesperson responded that there are still no plans to install AC power outlets in economy on its 757s or 767s. This means that the 767s and 757s will be BYOD (“Bring Your Own Device”), but you better board with a full battery — and an extra battery pack for long-haul flights.

So, while the in-flight experience still won’t be nearly as pleasant  entertainment, power and connectivity-wise  as the carrier’s other wide-bodies, at least the 767 experience won’t be as terrible as it’s been.

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