My Spectacular American Airlines Flight

Filed Under: American, Travel

Yesterday evening I flew American Airlines from Miami to Los Angeles, and my flight was spectacular. While I’ve had some “highs” on other flights, this was the most well rounded American Airlines flight I’ve had in months, or probably even longer than that.

American Airlines has a lot of issues — their cabins have become less comfortable, they’ve removed TVs, and their flights are constantly delayed due to issues with their mechanics.

So just as I complain about a lot of my American experiences (even though I avoid them in situations now where there’s another option that’s as convenient), I also want to compliment them for a job well done.

What made my American flight yesterday so great?

My upgrade cleared 100 hours out

I’ve found American Airlines has gotten so much better about clearing Executive Platinum upgrades at the 100 hour mark. It’s not that my upgrade percentage has actually gotten better, but the timing of when I get the upgrades has improved.

Nowadays if I get the upgrade it’s usually 100 hours out, and if I don’t get it 100 hours out I typically don’t get it at all. I appreciate being able to plan around whether or not I’ll get an upgrade, so that’s awesome.

My flight was on-time

My flight boarded on-time. My flight departed on-time. My flight arrived on-time. Someone pinch me!

I was on a non-Oasis plane

My flight was operated by an A321 featuring American’s “old” first class cabins. That means the seats had decent legroom, each seat had a personal television, and there was both a 110v and USB charger at each seat. Yay!

I was actually comfortable for the five hour flight, unlike when I’m flying an Oasis plane, where even in first class I feel like I might as well be sitting on a park bench.

My flight had high speed Wi-Fi

This is something that American does really well. My flight had ViaSat Wi-Fi, so I was able to work for the entire flight. It’s so nice to have Wi-Fi that’s comparable to what you’d get on the ground.

I had a friendly crew

The crew was super friendly. They served pre-departure drinks. They didn’t have an attitude. They checked on passengers pretty frequently. They even smiled.

You know, they treated customers like they actually valued them, rather than as an inconvenience.

Elevated service between Miami & Los Angeles

American seems to be confused about what they’re trying to do on their Miami to Los Angeles route:

  • Back in the day this was considered a “premium” transcontinental route in terms of the soft product and lounge access
  • Now only the daily 777 flight qualifies for Flagship Lounge access, while the other flights don’t

Nonetheless, American seems to quietly offer elevated service on this route, including bottled water, amenity kits, printed menus, pillows and blankets, coursed meals (even if they’re not great), etc.

Is my excitement about this flight sort of sad?

No joke, when I got off the flight I thought to myself “wow, that was the best American flight I’ve had in such a long time.”

But then I thought about the experience and it made me sort of sad about my expectations.

I’d say this was a great flight. Why? It was on-time, it had high speed Wi-Fi, the crew treated me like a customer rather than an inconvenience, and the plane’s interior was designed by someone who values comfort (on some level), rather than exclusively a bean counter looking at a spreadsheet.

The “premium” service on the flight, referring to amenity kits and a better meal service, didn’t matter much to me, but was a nice added bonus.

Bottom line

It’s only fair that I praise American when I do have a good flight, and this was one of those cases.

But more than anything it can’t help but make me want to remind American management how close they are to being competitive. The airline has the Wi-Fi down. Now if only they could get their employees to consistently treat customers like customers (especially ground agents), and get better operationally, they’d actually be decent.

That should be pretty easy, right? šŸ˜‰

  1. I’ve never flown American Airlines first class, but I have flown Delta first class a bunch. I’ve always had a bottle of water at my seat on both mainline and regional jet flights in first. I am surprised American wouldn’t do the same on all first class flights.

  2. Heh, never thought I would see Lucky happy about seeing “old” seats! I don’t think that’s a good thing for American. Also, you really think that entree looks good? I hope it tasted better than it looks…

    Also, AA made sure to clear him well in advance given all the recent bad press he has been giving them :).

  3. @ dmodemd — No, it looked awful, and didn’t taste great either. But like I said, I don’t even care about the food — just give me high speed wifi, an on-time flight, a friendly enough crew, and comfortable seats, and I’m a very happy camper.

  4. Glad to hear the wifi was working. My last 4 flights the Viasat WIFI was totally inoperable and the flight attendants claimed they were tired of complaining about it to management.

  5. I have been eye’ing a redemption on the 77W on that route (well the return actually, don’t feel like burning the points for a 6AM flight), but that doesn’t look bad at all. Same bedding from international PE, serviceable meal, menu is a nice touch, and those LAA 32B F seats are some of the most comfortable seats in the sky.

  6. @lucky – which flights are “Flagship” – I was on a A321 from LAX-PHL in First and all i got was blanket…

  7. What happened to the credit card pitches on AA? I heard none on my four flights with them last week.

  8. I “inherited” American (lots of FF miles) when they acquired another airline and I avoid them at all cost. The flight and ground crews are simply awful.
    Recently I had no choice but to fly two round trip international flights on American (Business/First Class) – I have never been treated as badly as I was on those flights.
    I am one person but I vote with my pocketbook…….

  9. Well duh u weren’t on an Oasis configured plane, the only planes with Oasis are 737s and those 737s are now grounded due to american switching back cabins.

  10. I flew DCA to ORD in an Oasis first class configured plane. It was Saturday morning and boy it sucked. No IFE, the first cabin was super tight, but their was more overhead bin space!!!

    Iā€™m going to requalify for PLT Pro and switch to Delta. Iā€™ve got a few paid J trips to Asia soon. Might be the perfect trip to finally break-up with AA.

  11. Since Im sitting in Atlanta waiting to board a Delta flight after AA canceled on me for the 5th time in 5 weeks, I find this article accurate, hilarious, and spot on. ā€œAA didnā€™t suck today! Hooray!ā€ Well done. Now go suffer through the next 99 flights

  12. So basically, you had a standard Delta experience and it was so out of the ordinary that it warranted a fresh post. That says a lot!

  13. @surfer Flagship flights are all long haul international flights, as well as those from LAX/SFO to JFK/BOS on the 3 class A321T transcon aircraft, and now again the routes from LAX-MIA. Perhaps also the flights from SFO-MIA?

  14. @sam I hope DL will follow AA and get rid of the plastic bottles! Those small single use bottles are really an environmental disaster.

  15. It’s sad that the bar is so low that flights like this qualify as spectacular lol. The only thing I care about is the Flagship Lounge, food quality and IFE when it comes to AA first class.

  16. How long does it take for long haul flights to clear for an SWU on AA?

    I’m an Executive Platinum flying from DFW to NRT on AA in coach on Thursday and have 4 systemwide upgrades applied for my family. It still hasn’t cleared yet and there are about 12-14 seats still for sale in Business Class.

  17. I was in MCE on a 788 yesterday. Everyone was pleasant, the food could be swallowed down and did not come back up, and there were lots of movies on the IFE. Out of Paris there was no “what’s your father’s shoe size” type questioning, in fact no security theater at all. So, can’t complain.

  18. My ViaSAT on Alaska Airlines has been hit and miss. Quite variable during the flight to almost unusable. When it is working, it is nice and fast. On the other hand, the 2nd gen Go-Go I find to be faster but also somewhat variable depending on the flight.

  19. I was on PHL to SFO in first on an AA A321v2 on Friday. This version of the A321 has no IFE or power (even in first) and only regular WiFi, but the crew was friendly and the plane was operated on time, both of which were unusual for my American experiences of late, so I was pleasantly surprised. American has given us all ā€œAmerican syndromeā€ā€”like Stockholm syndrome but we are all captives to bad service, crappy planes and late and canceled flights. When we get something approaching ā€œnormalā€, we are elated.

  20. Pretty much sums up the overall travel experience in the USA in a nutshell – when things actually go according to the way they are supposed to (on time, normal service, no hidden surcharges, etc) it’s a miracle and considered “luxury” worth paying triple for…

  21. I actually find the elevated experience to be a great bonus, because it is a longer domestic flight, and having the coursed meal, casper day-bedding, and especially the sundae, makes the time pass, despite not having lounge access, which if you have an Amex Plat or higher, is not that important after all. You really get an appreciation for the elevated service when you take the same flight to SFO instead, and you realize that the standard meal and cookie just isn’t good enough on a 5+ hour flight.

  22. @RJ – I get bottled water on all my AA long haul flights. As for the environmental impact, AA and DL have been seriously recycling for decades, long before household recycling was in wide use. Itā€™s the height of hypocrisy to target single use bottled water while ignoring all those soda cans, styrofoam cups, plastic utensils and booze bottles.

  23. I wonder if this upgraded meal service will find its way on other transcons like IAD-LAX, JFK-SEA that used to have that before the merger cuts.

    Would be a big win if the non flagship transcons get this back. Really big if CLT and PHL transcons get it.

    And time for UA to match back. Maybe yield suffered with the cuts.

  24. Sad when simply receiving checkmarks for the minimums equates to “exceptional” because not falling short all over the scorecard is an exception.

  25. Is this a joke?
    Come to Australia and try the service here. Fast wifi, comfortable seats, amazing(really) service in all classes. And international(read best) business class on domestic transcontinental routes. Qantas has in the bag over here

  26. It all depends if you get a USair or American plane and crew. USair, or as we know them “USeless air” are entrenched in American. Fly United, Delta, or British.

  27. The bar has fallen so low that just a smile and “hello” from airline employees makes the difference.

  28. Delta isnā€™t what it used to be either. I flew first class yesterday from Albuquerque to Vancouver with a ā€œchange of planesā€ in SLC. First off the flight was delayed an hour prompting Delta to send out a text about rebooking flights for the following day. Boarded the aircraft and my seat had.a band around it saying DO NOt OCCUPY. I asked the attendant where I should sit. She acted surprised and wasnā€™t aware there was a problem. She had me stand near the door where all the passengers were boarding until they could get a ground attendant to figure it out. Ground attendant came down, acted annoyed and told me I would have to sit in the rear of the plane. At this point the plane had fully boarded. I told her I paid full fare for my ticket and I had a very tight connection. She didnā€™t care. Finally she told me they could como me $200 for the inconvenience and to serĆ” red jacket Delta rep when I arrived in SLC. I told her $200 wasnā€™t going to cut it and she offered me a $500 voucher. I really wanted a seat in First Class but at this point I had no choice. Got to SLC and spotted a red jacket Delta Rep and asked for my voucher. She said red jacket Delta reps are not authorized to issue more than $100 credit vouchers and I need to contact Delta via their website to get a voucher. First I had to stand for 2I minutes at the front of plane while every other passenger boarded and then I was given faulty information and crammed into a seat I never would have chosen. I donā€™t think any of these airlines care about satisfied customers.

  29. I’m Exec Plat on American – and what I get for that is basically NOTHING.
    Awful airlines with awful management – and that’s the real issue. When you have a low rent CEO like Dougie Parker, the entire thing gets dragged down to his level.

  30. This is a paid article. Wondering how much you got from AA for posting this flowery article…SHAME!!

  31. Just booked two Economy seats today for my hubby and I with 30,000 points each that we’ve been scrimping and saving for in every way possible for two years now to fly one-way back from Amsterdam a year from now. And we are THRILLED! Spectacular first-class flight? I guess everything is relative…

  32. Occasionally, one gets a good experience – but other times not. My flight last night from DFW-DCA was delayed 3 hours arriving at 2am. As an EXP – I was #11 on the upgrade list. I was #8 on the out bound flight.

    My whole exit row was EXPs (all getting the free sandwich).

    I find it hard to believe you have such a high upgrade percentage. What is you rolling 1 year EQD?

  33. Yeh, well take the next flight from yvr to ord. I did yesterday, and it was uncomfortable. Pros: cabin crew friendly. Cons: late departure, late arrival, flight rescheduled 6 times between original book to actual flight, and I had to sit next to a sweaty overweight lady who’s thighs and arms encroached 2″ over to my seat. We shared the sweat for 4.5 hours.

  34. So many people complaining about AA airplanes without IFE (= Inflight Entertainment)…maybe not an inseat screen, but IFE works usually over the wifi and AA app without a problem.

  35. @Theo~ yes, Qantas domestic can be all you say, but it is known for being patchy, especially in catering. On the other hand, Virgin is consistently better than Qantas on comparable routes.

  36. @JB – who stated:
    “Iā€™m an Executive Platinum flying from DFW to NRT on AA in coach on Thursday and have 4 systemwide upgrades applied for my family. It still hasnā€™t cleared yet and there are about 12-14 seats still for sale in Business Class.”

    My take is if it is going to clear in advance, it likely would clear around 25 hours before. But empty seats (I assume that is what you mean – since you can’t see above J9) doesn’t mean anything particularly on Asian flights where many do not have seat assignments.

    That said – I was on a MIA-LHR last month 77W with 52 J seats and there were about 12 seats at this point open in J. But within 24 hours of flight – most got occupied (and coach seats did not open – meaning upgrades clearing did not fill the J seats).

    I sat in coach next to another EXP – I was #11 on the upgrade list, she was #8. About 4 people cleared the upgrade. She said when she called AA a few days ahead, the rep said there were 8 CK’s waitlisted for upgrade in advance. —- why are so many people CK – that aren’t buying J tickets??

    Good luck with clearing 4. Might depend on your rolling EQDs. If you have low EQDs for an EXP – you may not clear. But hang – you just don’t know.

  37. Laughing at the person who thinks Lucky got paid for this. He needs to clearly see all the other posts where people accuse Ben of being too hard on AA.

  38. Over the last 7 weeks I’ve been to Sydney, London and New York in business and first and all flights have been on time. Crews have been 75% wonderful and 25% crotchety.

    International J flights were wonderful with upgrades from PE to J clearing 2 days out (I’m EXP).

    Domestic 737 flights in F were pleasant because they were in non-retrofitted 737’s that still had IFE. If (when) I start getting Oasis planes that will likely be the end of my long relationship with AA. Hoping they walk that back before I make the switch but will definitely vote with my wallet as I have already cancelled one of their credit cards. Just not wrth it to have that passenger experience when there are better and more comfortable options.

  39. These transcontinental flights haven’t changed in years. They always offered this stuff. Now the sad part is going first class on a US Airways plane to Charlotte or Philly. I’m 6’2″ and on a Airbus 321, my knees have 1 in clearance. I have more legroom sitting in coach on an American 737 in economy plus. Oh and did I mention they only have 2 rows first class on a 321? Cheap, cheap, cheap…. As for the 100 hours clearance, that only clears on certain routes. I’m an EP and on certain routes, I get upgraded maybe 20%, and that is at the gate. Safe travels.

  40. What about economy class?? You so funny saying AA does good when you don’t even bother yourself experiencing the class where they really, really underperform even to Spirit Airlines

  41. The three-class 777 leaves early in the day and shuttles passengers from MIA to LAX. MIA has lots of premium traffic to/from South America. It makes sense to have a proper first and business class.

  42. Just returned from a trip to France. I flew AA from LAX-DFW-CDG outbound. I returned on BA CDG-LHR-LAX. I was dreading the AA flights based on so many recent post. The flights were on time and relatively comfortable non oasis planes. The crews were fantastic and the food was decent. I flew economy so was quite happy to arrive in one piece. The return on British Air was a nightmare. First was left on tarmac for 1/2 hour and thanks to awful security check in Heathrow, I almost missed my connection. We left an hour late on final leg. The double decker airbus was ridiculously cramped. The food was awful. The only redeeming feature was the crew although the AA crew was better.
    I was surprised to have excellent organized and efficient TSA and customs in both CDG and LAX. LHR was so horrendous that I vowed never to fly through there again.
    I don’t fly enough to be an expert but realized that it’s pretty much a crapshoot when it comes to flying.
    I did get treated to First Club in LAX. I get why people pay for it.

  43. Happy to hear AA doesnā€™t leave water bottles on seats before departure. Not only are the small water bottles an environmental disaster, but it is an FAA violation to leave handed out service items in cabin during takeoff. Apparently Delta isnā€™t following the safety rules???

  44. As I have mentioned here before , I fly American Airlines out of Charlotte NC every 90 days to Las Vegas . I have always been pleased with the service. The flight is fast and easy . Rarely delayed. I have had very few complaints . In a four hour flight , I’m not looking for luxury . I want to get to my destination safely and on time . Stop trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. Most people (like me ) just want to get from Point A to Point B . I speak respectfully to the crew and I am treated with kindness and understanding . I think it’s pretty simple .

  45. Wendy, Delta most likely applied for and received approval for their small plastic water bottles to remain in the cabin for takeoff and landing, The rules were written a long time ago when real glassware may have been used. (AA used to use glass champagne flutes on transcon predepartures.) Some hard and fast rules apply across the board to all carriers but others do not. I used to think that the exact rules applied to all airlines and in general they do, but if an airline can demonstrate to the FAA a safe alternative and the FAA approves it, that then becomes FAA policy for that airline. Another example of this is AA flight attendants do not point to the exits during their safety demos.

  46. Sure sounds like fake news. Friendly flight crews? AA hates human cargo, and will go out of their way to inconvenience a customer even if it costs AA more money. Forget having adequate space. Forget being able to redeem miles. Forget being treated humanely. It won’t happen.

  47. Nice to be able to travel first class, blog about it and probably deduct the ticket cost. Next time try flying Atlanta to Anchora via AA. 4 hours to LAX, 4 hour layover, 5 hours LAX to Anchorage. They don’t even offer premium economy. We did pay $400 extra for exit row seats. No food on 9 hours flight time except small bag of pretzels, 2 cookies a dining 2 sodas. Coming home we flew Delta, 6 hours direct. Never again, American!

  48. i am lifetime gold and haven’t cleared for an upgrade in at least 5 years. So I didn’t get much beyond the first point of the post.

  49. ::knock on wood::
    I don’t think I’ve had half the problems as all of yous and I’ve been flying since I was a baby. My parents never complained or had reminiscence of terrible AA service. But IMO, all the airlines are the same. My preference is AA because of the one world alliance, which includes JAL. Who doesn’t want to pamper themselves when going overseas and still get mileage!?

    Oh, btw, I opened this article because it was praising something for once! All the articles are well written but it was nice to read something different than a ball of negativity šŸ™‚

  50. All of the things you listed should be routine on a business class or first class flight. The fact that this makes news for American just goes to show how far they have fallen.

  51. i would’ve taken JetBlue out of FLL and laid flat in Mint bed for those glorious 5-6 hours!

  52. I recently decided to try American again after switching from AA to Delta 10 years ago. I fly almost every two weeks on business/first class.

    Yesterday, I was on the AA LAX to MIA Boeing 777 flight. I was looking forward to the flat bed seat but plane was delayed for 10 hours due to aircraft maintainence issues.

    Side note, over the last 60 days with AA, in general, 20% of AA flight attendants are just rude/unhappy so they should just retire. The AA flagship lounge is fantastic. Hope my AA experience gets better the rest of the year starting with my MIA to LAX return flight in a few days on the same 777 airplane.

    P.S. AA did email me proactively and offer me some miles for the 10 hour delay. Is that normal?

  53. Ive flown AA a few times this year. And after each flightvI 0say the same thing…I will never fly with them again. Their flight attendants are wonderful. First class, in fact. But the rest of their employees , not so much! Not even going to get into the crap their airport employees have put me through. Misinformation and ignorance that cost me time and money. Unacceptable at all levels. United has them beat, as does Delta.

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