American Airlines is an airline that a seldom fly, being based primarily out of the Pacific Northwest I don’t get to fly them all that often. While they don’t have much of a footprint at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport you can get some great flights to their hub cities. I found myself recently needing a flight from Los Angles to Denver and decided to checkout their domestic first class product.
The big three legacy carriers have very similar domestic experiences and I’ve not yet found one that I enjoy over the other. Each of the carriers offer large comfortable seats, some sort of meal on longer flights. I believe each airline has it’s own moments where they don’t provide the best of experiences. While I haven’t done the hard match I haven’t found one with significantly more problems than the other. In the long term they even themselves out and what you could really focus on is price and connivence
Booking was a simple process, for me this was a award flight booked through American Express. When shopping around for my flights found that American Express’ travel portal was offering an Insider Fare for this route and quickly hopped on the deal. With my American Express Platinum Business card I will end up getting 35% of my points back within a couple weeks for booking a first class fare. You can also get 35% on economy fares for your chosen airline credit airline when you book through the travel portal.
I vastly prefer the American Express travel portal as it allows me t do everything while I’m checking out. During the checkout process I was able to pick seats, add my TSA PreCheck number, and even attach my frequent flier number. For most other credit card reward portals one of those things you can’t do and will have to get the confirmation number and input the information manually at the airline’s website.
It’s worth a mention as well, I’m still earning the very valuable qualification dollars and miles for status with the airline. Unlike using airline miles to purchase your ticket, I can redeem credit card points that will go towards me earning status at my favorite airlines.
Check-In & Boarding
Check-in wasn’t extremely exciting, I did have an issue with the American Airline’s iPhone application that wouldn’t recognize my confirmation and what seemed to work was reinstalling the app. After that minor inconvenience my boarding pass was in my Apple Wallet and ready to use.
The app kept me updated throughout the day when my flight was delayed then not delayed then changed gates five times. American seems to have some space issues at the Los Angles airport judging by what I was seeing with the app updating me.
When it was finally time to board it took quite some time for the flight crew to get all setup. Their flight had arrived at the next gate over and they were seen quickly moving from one plane to the next. As someone who was traveling in first I was apart of boarding group one and we were the first ones to board the plane.
I was actually surprised that this being a completely full flight the gate agents tried to get even the first class passengers to check their baggage. If you didn’t know the A319 has only two rows of first class seats for a total of eight people. I suppose they were afraid that they couldn’t even accommodate eight first class passenger’s bags. Luckily all of our luggage fit with room to spare.
The seat was very wide and comfortable to relax in except for that one spring in the back of the seat that seems to have popped out of place. It was pressing against my back the entire flight and felt incredibly awkward to lean back and feel as I was trying to rest up on my even flight back. Besides the one thing in the back of my seat poking into me it was a very comfortable seat. If I had to rate it against other domestic first class seats for padding and comfort it’s somewhere ahead of United and behind Virgin America.
The in-seat power was in a perfect place between the arm rests allowing for even the shortest cables to reach up and rest on the armrest. Seat pitch was on par with the rest of the industry and comfortable enough that I didn’t have to recline my seat too far back to find a good position.
With the Airbus A319 being such a small plane there are only two rows of first class seats leaving a much more personalized service with the flight attendant serving a maximum of eight people. Usually the bulkhead row has less recline space for the seats to recline, however on this plane there was a notch in the bulkhead wall that allowed the seats to get a full recline.
My experience with American was a bit lackluster in the food department. I had a great rum and coke, easy on the coke and heavy on the rum, that was served pre-depatrture. However, once in the air the promised dinner offering from American turned out to be a to-go mean from one of the airport’s food establishments. I had the unfortunate luck of flying with American only a week after Listeria was found in their catering’s food supply. Since then American has been struggling to setup alternate contracts to feed all of their passengers in the mean time.
This lead to our to-go meals which wasn’t half bad. It was served to us still in their to-go bags. The food option was a steak standwhich with a salad, and assorted confections for dessert. The steal sandwich was quite good all-be-it a little soggy from sitting in the to-go container for an extended period of time.
Obviously not the optimal outcome for American but I respect their quick actions and being resourceful to keep their passengers fed. The food option was generous on the portions and really liked the macaroon in the little teat bag. The flight attendant was very apologetic for the situation when he came around to offer the meals.
Now for what ever reason American decided to serve us our meals still packaged up in the to-go bags which was awkward to fumble with and get them out. They could have been presented a little better, even if it was the to-go items just placed on to a tray it would have made them infinitely better to handle.
Entertainment options for our flight were surprisingly poor. One place where United comes out on top is their Private Screening service which allows you to stream movies and TV shows from your mobile device. Our only options offered on this service was inflight wifi which was decent enough for browsing around. For wifi service I have to hand it to American for offering GoGo Inflight Wifi, I make use of the maximum amount of my free internet passes overing having to pay for United’s proprietary service.
There isn’t really much else to say about the entertainment inflight other than watching out the window, which was quite good when departing over Los Angles and watching the lights of the massive city exit into view. Once over the mountain there’s seldom a good enough grouping of lights that offers good views.
Because it had been an incredibly long day for me I spent most the flight resting my eyes and suppressing the headache I had developed from a long day.
When traveling domestically in first class I don’t tend to look for anything else other than a good departure time and reasonable price. I can’t say with certain fact that one first class has been better than another over my last year of flying. In general I’ve never had an extremely bad experience one way or another. The seats were very comfortable and offered a nice experience to get from point A to point B. I feel like I need to reevaluate my experience after American sorts out their catering mess and see what their inflight food really has to offer. If they can beat a microwave cheeseburger they’re already a leg up from my recent United experience.