Why Are American’s 777s So Unreliable?!

Filed Under: American

No, I’m not even talking about how American’s 777 interiors are straight out of 2004.

A lot of us have been traveling to/from Beijing lately thanks to the mistake business class fare American has published between Washington and Beijing. Regardless of whether you route through Chicago or Dallas (a route which is launching today), you’re stuck on a 777-200 for the time being.


I’ve been monitoring the flight status of the Chicago to Beijing flight pretty closely the past couple of weeks, and it has now been twice in less than two weeks that the flight has incurred a 14+ hour delay.

Most recently, yesterday’s flight between Chicago and Beijing was delayed by over 16 hours, and is scheduled to depart this morning. I do wonder what causes an airline to post a 16 hour delay. Is the assumption that the plane will be out of service and they can get a new one in 16 hours, or is that an actual estimate or how long it will take to fix the plane?


I know because I’m supposed to fly that plane in the other direction, from Beijing to Chicago, and it posted an over three hour delay more than 24 hours in advance.


I’d expect this from United’s 747s, which have the dispatch reliability of rickshaws, but what excuse does American have?

Has anyone been booked on one of these seriously delayed flights to/from Beijing? If so, what was the cause?

  1. Interesting… even the 773 is having issues. Check out the flight delays on AA963 DFW-GRU. I was scheduled to fly on 5MAY, delayed 11 hours. I cxd my trip. But when I looked up the stats this flight is only 55% on time. What’s going on?

  2. It’s more likely also due to restrictions of Chinese airspace – as 90% of Chinese airspace is under military control, therefore severely limiting commercial traffic. Just like everything else in China, “guanxi” extends to everything. So if the pilot is on good terms with the control tower, the flight has a significantly better chance of leaving on time! True story!

  3. I had one of these flights three weeks ago, from ORD-PEK and ours was only a 3 hour delay, however our original plane went out of service and they needed a replacement aircraft. Although they stated overhead it was a mechanical issue, a concierge key employee constantly updated a concierge key passenger and overhearing a few words, it seemed that the pressurization system was having difficulties. But no one trully provided the actual reason to everyone. Frustrating though.

  4. I’ll be on this flight on Sunday. Think there’s any way they’d let me go through Doha on QR is there’s a huge delay like this?

  5. Yeah I’d go with landing slot was overshot, so they had to reset. It’s like SYD flights that can’t arrive after a certain time in the evening because of noise. So if the flight is late departing by even a small margin, they have to reschedule when at slot reopens within the restrictive landing rules.

  6. Straight out of 2004? You lose credibility Lucky when you make statements like that. Yes they are dated and uncompetitive, but the interiors were redone in the 2007-2008 timeframe with a then dated and uncompetive product. I know you are still fairly new to AA (having started flying as your primary carrier in 2011) but come on man.

  7. @ Josh G — Right, that’s my point, the product was outdated even when it was introduced. British Airways had flat beds in business class starting in the 90s, so American introducing angled seats in 2007 was hardly “with the times.” I actually preferred their old business class recliner seats to the current angled ones.

  8. @ Kyle — It’s unlikely, but you never know. If they reoroute you on another carrier, chances are it would be on Cathay Pacific or British Airways.

  9. @ JL — Sorry, wasn’t clear in the post, but my “data points” weren’t limited to these flights specifically. Have been noticing a bunch of 777 delays lately.

  10. I was on one of those 16 hr delayed flights that departed the following morning. Our delay was because the flight crew timed out. ORD has unpredictable weather patterns which cause delays. Because this flight is 15+ hrs long, this means that it doesn’t take much for the crew to time out. Once this happens, you are looking at a following am departure. The last time this happened to me, all the area hotels were booked out…so I had to spend the night on an ORD cot positioned directly next to security with glaring lights and public service announcements all night. Lots of fun while traveling with a cranky six and eight year old!

  11. Second the comment on the 773s to South America. I was delayed 12 he’s to GRU, and the SCL flight was too. Crazy thing is that the inbound arrived well on time and then was apparently swapped within 3 he’s of departure.

  12. Well, it could be worse. Try flying their MD-80’s…..or that great new carrier, Envoy.

    I think Alex has a point. There’s no free lunch. Delta for reliability, dependability but lousy rewards; AA for the opposite. Then there’s United……

  13. You sure that you are not reporting on Norwegian and their 787’s Lucky? Story sound very similar?

    Is this “if it’s a Boeing, your not going” thing?

  14. Lucky

    AA launched the DFW-PEK route yesterday with an 11:20am departure from D. They did ceremonies for the 787 and then a few hours later for the Beijing route. Both flights left from the same gate at D25

  15. AA is in the process of refurbishing and updating their 772 interiors; pity it has gone so slow due to seat manufacturer’s issues. (4) 772 are completed; they fly out of Miami.

  16. Wow. We’re scheduled to overnight at Beijing and then connect to an Asiana flight to Seoul. Not Oneworld, but I wonder if AA would rebook us if we missed the flight because of a lengthy AA delay.

  17. I had to cancel my trip last month after ORD-PEK got cancelled last minute because of a mechanical issue.. Will use the remaining flights ORD-PEK-ORD-DCA at the end of the year.

  18. it may be shocking to most Americans lol you have an American airline with an american plane. America isn’t exactly known for being efficient.. Actually nothing in the U.S. when it comes to the gov and transport and infrastructure works particularly well.

  19. Was on AA 137 from DFW to HKG last month, and we were delayed over 10 hours. The first 3 hours were weather related, then the next 2 hours were waiting for a new crew once the original crew had timed out, then another 5 hours because the pilots had timed out, so they had to fly pilots from MIA and JFK to DFW to fly the plane.

  20. Darn lucky looks like I’m gonna miss you by a day! Flying Sunday same route. In the hypothetical situation that flight is severely delayed. If I am already confirmed in F thru system wide up , would they reroute you in F let’s say with Cathay or downgrade you to business class ?

  21. If the last ORD flight to PEK is delayed until the next morning, though you had planned to stay 2 nights/1 day in Beijing, can AA reschedule you to a later date, send you to a West Coast city and on to PEK (if available), or are you essentially going on a mileage run? And what to do if you have positioning flights home on the same carrier?

  22. @Edward-

    Where does your true story came from? I fly well over 50 legs per year in China and I can assure you that only flights with VIP status(ie has government official(s) of Vice-Minister and above have priority. Pilot-Controller relations have nothing to do here.
    Also the traffic volume control has never been known to apply for international flights.

  23. Interesting to hear it’s more than my flight. Just flew 61 to NRT 4/30. There was a nearly 3 hour delay because the inbound aircraft had to be taken out of service (no details on what the problem was). We almost had to overnight… the flight had precisely 20 minutes to board and close the door before the crew was timed out. I’ve never seen a 777 board so fast in my life. Maybe the 772 refurb means they just don’t have backup aircraft available?

  24. Having flown three roundtrips to Beijing over the last six weeks, I can tell you that I was relatively lucky. Of the six legs, I was delayed three times with the longest delay of two hours. Each time, we were informed it was a mechanical problem. One of the delays resulted in a complete change of aircraft. Fortunately, there was a spare 777. I guess that is no longer an option. I have another flight in a week, so we’ll see if my luck holds.

  25. Sucks man! At least you’ll be able to enjoy the ice cream tomorrow morning. See you there!

  26. Ben you are talking about an airport with a rated on time departure record of around 43% (4th worst in the world) in a country where the top 7 worst on time performing (on time departure) airports Globally are located. I have lived in Beijing for the past 10 years and all I can say is be grateful they have ONLY had two delays in two weeks. This is a country with such tightly held airspace under military control that they routinely ground aircraft movements for hours at a time with literally minutes notice.
    Last September flghts were so disrupted for three days due to military exercises that over 3000 flights we cancelled or delayed over 15 hours.

    Talk to me when every second flight you board is cancelled, late or,delayed up to 9 hours with you trapped in the aircraft on the Tarmac.

  27. Last May I was booked on an American Airlines flight LAX-IAD and got an email 8 hours in advance that my flight would be delayed by 11 hours, turning it from an early afternoon departure with a 10pm arrival into a [email protected]&#*ng redeye. No explanation ever given. I got a full refund on the ticket and flew United instead. (It was a crappy flight since it was United, but at least we took off on time!)


  28. Happened to me last year from Chicago to Beijing. After boarding the plane, the captain announced that the flight would be delayed until the next morning due to mechanical issues, but no further information was given.

    (As a side note, I went to the Admirals Club between concourses H and K after getting off the plane to see if I could be protected on an alternate flight in case the original flight ended up being canceled, and was helped by the most wonderful agent there. She not only protected me on an AA/JL route back to Beijing via Tokyo, but also gave me more than double the food vouchers that I had received at the gate and an upgrade to the Renaissance from the Comfort Inn that was being offered by the gate agents, as well as cab vouchers. Despite this incredible help, she was completely apologetic the whole time about the inconvenience caused by the delayed flight. I was really blown away.)

  29. AA 187 on 5/5 departed without a working IFE system. I wonder if they departed PEK on 5/7 without fixing the IFE…

  30. We boarded our ORD-PEK flight early last week and then the captain said over the PA that there is a fuel pump issue. I was positive that it’s gonna be one of those forever-delayed flights but luckily we left an hour later and arrived on time. Felt like I was touched by an angel, flight back arrived early as well.
    These planes are old, you can feel it, but yeah the line has very unusual delays.

  31. Must the any issue with China Airspace and the incoming delayed flight also affected DFW-GRU. I had never had any delay on my monthly flights MIA-LAX-MIA and MIA LHR MIA

  32. Hey All – Can those of you who have already flown on a ‘mistake fare’ to/from Beijing confirm what sorts of EQM and EQP posted for each particular flight in your routing??

  33. Well I was on the inaugural DFW>PEK flight on May 7 and we arrived 20 minutes early 🙂

  34. One month ago we had a 3+ hour delay ORD-PEK. Two weeks ago it was closer to 4 hours flying DFW-ICN. Both mechanical and both 777-200s

  35. Seems to me that these delays are more likely crew issues vs mechanical. Reason being, at a ORD or DFW there would likely be another 772 coming out of maintenance, or scheduled to remain overnight, etc. So, say they could get another 772 to use in 3 hours. Well at that point the crew will time out, so a 3 hour plane swap delay turns into an overnight delay. I also thought they had standby crews for this very reason, but maybe that’s a thing of the past.

    PS to the people saying to Lucky that he “lost credibility” or other random complaints, this is his blog, he can write whatever he wants. It’s not journalism. I’m sure he’s not losing sleep over someone thinking his credibility is lost. If ya don’t like reading his stuff, stop reading.

  36. @ Joel — They can potentially reroute you, though that does tend a bit complicated, especially given that the flight is already late in the day, making reroutes a bit challenging.

  37. @ Sergio T — In theory you should be rebooked in the originally ticketed class of service.

  38. @Nick – I was non-status with American, signed up for status challenge. By the time I turned on my phone and checked the AA app at the PEK airport (long) immigration line all the points were posted (including bonus) and I already showed up as Platinum.

  39. I just want to chime in to the “soapbox”…. I am ExPlat and I have an amazing history of near perfect AA flights (out of MIA)…. I am in the air twice a month and I never seem to have any issues. Flown on the 777 to PEK and it was near perfect. Wanted to push some positive energy out there.

  40. My mistake fare-flight would’ve taken off from ORD to PEK on 04/27/15 – due to mechanical issues it was delayed till the next day. I begged the concierge at the Admirals Club to help me, and she switched me to fly from ORD to FRA, then from FRA to PEK, on Lufthansa. I can’t complain – from ORD to FRA I was on the upper deck of a 747-8 with a lay-flat seat. 3 hours relaxing in Frankfurt’s Lufthansa lounge later, I was on the upper deck of an A380, again with the lay-flat seat. Both of which would’ve blown American’s product away. Not to mention I had the unique experience of flying around the globe on this trip (the flight home was without issues, PEK to ORD to DCA.)

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