My second (revenue) journey on American

Filed Under: American, Travel

I’ve gotta say, my quest towards Executive Platinum has been rather painless thus far. I flew up to New York on American through Chicago in first class last Friday, which I reviewed here.

Then next month I’ll be flying to London and Paris on a discounted business class ticket, which is upgraded to first class, finishing up my Executive Platinum challenge. Certainly not too painful of a ride to top tier status!

I know I was overly-thorough reviewing my outbound journey, so figured I’d just note a few things that stood out to me for my return journey from New York to Tampa via Chicago on Monday. I once again purchased “stickers” for $120 (they’re $30 each, and four are required for New York to Chicago and Chicago to Tampa). The upgrades confirmed immediately, which was surprising, which makes me even more excited about becoming an Executive Platinum member.

My flight from New York to Chicago was to be operated by an MD-80. I briefly stopped in the Admirals Club, where I overheard one of the agents tell a passenger that their flight was oversold by six people. Hmm, maybe it’s my flight? I hopped on ExpertFlyer and my flight was indeed sold out, so I asked the agent if she could add me to the list. She did, and said I should check again at the gate.

Once at the gate I got in line just to let the agent know I was on the list, and she indicated they wouldn’t need volunteers. Oh well. What I found interesting was that they were undersold in first class and oversold in coach, so instead of operationally upgrading passengers, she called up some elite members and asked if they wanted to use their miles or stickers to upgrade.

I used to love the days at United when they still had “500 mile upgrade certificates,” since most elites seemed to have no clue how to use them. The same still seems to be true at American. The agent called up a Platinum member who was in a middle seat in coach, and asked him if he wanted to upgrade. She explained that he had 129 (!!!!) stickers. Confused, he said “I have more than 129 miles, don’t I?” It took her at least two minutes to explain to him what stickers were, as he had never heard of him. He just kept asking her “so you’re sure this won’t deduct miles from my mileage balance?”

She then called up another elite who had about two dozen stickers in his account. Yow!

The flight from New York to Chicago was a “snack” flight. The choices were a chicken salad or cheeseburger (only in the US is a cheeseburger considered a snack, eh?). I went with the salad.

MD-80 first class

Service started with hot nuts.

Hot nuts and Diet Coke with lime

The salad itself was delicious, though I do wish American would sometimes serve a dressing healthier than ranch/ceasar/creamy something-or-another. While I like Stacy’s Pita Chips, American seems to serve them on every lunch flight. Bleh.


For dessert was a chocolate chip cookie. At United they used to proactively serve milk with cookies, and I always found it entertaining to watch middle aged business travelers dunk their cookies in milk. When I asked for a glass of milk the flight attendant looked at me as if I was from another planet.

Chocolate chip cookie and milk

The flight from Chicago to Tampa was operated once again by a 737-800, which is a great plane. There were about five open seats in first class, including the seat next to me, which was nice. What I found interesting is that I saw commuting flight attendants and pilots head back to coach while there were empty first class seats. Does American charge their flight attendants and pilots for domestic first class? That surprised me a bit.

Dinner service started with hot nuts.

You guessed it…

For dinner was the option between chipotle chicken and pasta. I was going to go with the chicken, though after seeing it asked for the pasta instead. The pasta was surprisingly good, and served with a side salad, dinner roll, and slice of cheesecake.




Service on both flights wasn’t quite as spectacular as on the outbound (where I thought I was flying an Asian carrier), though still quite good. Certainly by US standards they were both above average crews.

American has a solid domestic first class product, plain and simple.

  1. I can’t believe you enjoy that Stauffer’s Pasta.

    It’s amazing what people will eat if it is free.

    I keep lamenting that all I want is a Wolfgang Puck sandwich or Salad that they serve for $8.99 in most airports but, as an AA flight attendant explained to me, “they only budget $4 for lunch/dinner for first class so Puck is out of our range.”

    Quite depressing!

    Many times I have asked for the Boston Market sandwich they sell for $7 in coach and often the attendant will bring it up for me gratis, which is very kind.

  2. two dozen stickers in his account

    Enough for two r/t coast-to-coast upgrades. Hardly “yow!”

    When I asked for a glass of milk

    I almost always get offered a glass of milk with the cookie

  3. I know that AA charges their employees fairly modest prices for non-revving, even in coach (e.g., about $10 one-way from ATL-DFW, I believe). First (and business) class is an additional charge however, even domestically, so that is probably why the FAs and pilots headed back to coach.

  4. @ Michael — Hey, it was as good as the Macaroni Grill!

    @ foosion — It was more the fact that he seemed to have no clue he even had them.

    @ DiscoPapa — Interesting, I had no clue. That even applies if they’re commuting to work? I was under the impression that most majors have an agreement whereby FAs/pilots can commute on any airline for free, provided there are seats. Guess that would make sense, though.

    @ mark — I hadn’t realized it till now, but there were no mints on the return. Frowny face indeed.

  5. @foosian– plus on AA’s transcons (JFK-lax/SFO) you van actually use segment upgrades (unlike UA!).

  6. Not sure about commuting, per say. I would believe that you would non-rev when commuting, as you aren’t officially ‘deadheading’. Pilots/FAs can fly on any airline in the jump seat for free, and I’m pretty sure back in coach as well. I just know that AA’s policy for employees non-revving is that it costs money. Once you hit a certain threshold of years of service (5, 10, 20?), coach becomes free.

  7. I just had same exact dinner on my flight tonight from ORD to PHL..
    @Mark: I wasn’t offered mint either on my flight today.. makes me wonder if they stopped serving mint after dinner :/

  8. For a while people at United acted like I was from another planet when I asked for milk with my cookies, but they eventually caught on. Aloha was the only airline that got it right from the very beginning.

  9. Talk about acting like your from another planet:

    once i over heard someone ask for milk on a Southwest flight. The response was basically, “whats milk?”.

    In all seriousness, if Southwest could figure out how to get milk in to a can (like they do with the tap water), they probably would have it.

  10. I don’t understand what makes hot nuts so special. I don’t get why they are considered fancy, why they deserve to get served in something called a “ramekin” instead of just “small bowl”, etc. I just don’t get the fascination with them.

  11. As an ex-AA’er, the one thing I can comment on about F Class on American. They treat it like its First Class… unlike UA and others, who will fill it up with Elites on every flight! AA is not in the business of devaluing their product.

    Its incredibly tacky for uniformed staff to sit in either F or J class…. so yes, send them to Y! If one is off duty and dressed in civilian clothes, then by all means, they should be allowed to enjoy F or J.

  12. In perspective… It is a shame that few readers remember the days when a *Coach Meal* was better, more extensive than this pasta offering. I don’t know what the upgrade *really* cost, but that is not worth half (one for seat, one meal) of the $60 that it probably cost. If they want two stamps/coupons for the upgrade, too bad that you cannot offer one for the seat and beverage and then bring you own food (BYOF?). Cookies without cold milk: A felony!
    Commuting staff paying a fee for “F” seats? More an more common: More and more common but probably subject to interline agreements that are always under revision. I suspect that some lines give a lot more non-rev seats than their own staff recieves. Route structure… Yes, the costs can mount up!

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