Category Archives: American Airlines

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Feature LaGuardia

InFlight: “Welcome to LaGuardia” American Eagle to Toronto

Route: New York (LGA) to Toronto

Flight: AA4644

Carrier: American Airlines / American Eagle

Class: Economy

Terminal: I arrived at New York’s LaGuardia airport’s American terminal about 90mins before departure after catching the Go AirLink shuttle from downtown.  The online booking engine for the shuttle insisted that I arrive 3 hours before departure, and not wanting to wait around at LaGuardia for too long, I decided to fudge my flight departure time by an hour so I could get on a later shuttle. I can understand why they insist on getting you there so early as my first impressions of LaGuardia is that it is an interesting affair indeed.

The check in area seems relatively organized with several dedicated desks for the main cabin, more desks for gold equivalent frequent flyers and then a few more desks privately surrounded in a frosted glass room for “Premium” check in guests. Despite this orderly layout, the place is seriously jam packed with people, mainly in the main cabin line, but it sure makes the place look and feel extremely busy with the queues stretching to the doors and almost out onto the cold New York curb.

Fortunately for me, the premium check in is definitely the way to go as it’s reserved for first class and one world emerald members, which I think equates to Americans Platinum and Executive Platinum members. If you’re traveling without status I can understand the need to arrive at the airport 3hrs early as the lines weave out the door. Within the relatively comfortable confines of the premium check in room, check in is much more orderly, although I did get quite a few “you don’t look like you should be here” looks considering I look like a backpacker (minus the smell) when travelling.


I enquired as to the location of the lounge, to which the agent informed me that unfortunately my flight was departing from the C concourse and the admirals club was in the B concourse. They were in the process of building a new lounge in the C concourse, however for the meantime I could use the lounge if I was willing to clear security twice.

As clearing security twice wasn’t exactly an attractive proposition to attend a lounge that I presumed would be as disappointing as other Admirals Club’s I’ve visited, and given I only had about 90mins till departure anyway, I decided to just go straight to the gate, wander around that concourse a little and wait out my time there catching up on a few reviews. I proceeded to the security checkpoint and was the last passenger to use the priority lane before it was closed. Security was relatively pleasant with the TSA agents actually being friendly.

Unfortunately, my decision to skip the lounge and wait out my time here was a serious mistake.  My tweet to American at the time sums it up “@AmericanAir I love airports but seriously LGA concourse C is horrible. Could you fit any more people in this tiny space? Lounge Soon?”. What a fresh little hell this concourse was; It was hot, crowded with people and cluttered with the ridiculous amounts of carry on baggage that people bring along. The airport could probably add a few more chairs by removing the “check your carry on bag size here” stands as they seem completely irrelevant.

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Departure: I found my way to gate C4 pretty easily and noticed the board had quite a few flights listed for Toronto, some of which should have departed quite some time ago. The arrivals didn’t look that much better either, with several flights running significant delays. The mood at the gate wasn’t good, and I couldn’t help but think that TV shows like “Airport” or “Airline” might have been lurking around to capture some of the heated discussions between the ground staff and delayed passengers.

Despite my flight being listed as “On Time” it doesn’t take a genius to work out that if the two flights before your flight haven’t departed yet, its unlikely yours will. With no seats available I decided to wander the length of the concourse to see if the chaos was isolated or widespread and to try and find a snack to eat. There weren’t that many options available for decent food, so settled on a cookie and a sprite, which were also easy to eat on the go. The remaining gates all told a similar story, delayed flights, angry passengers and lots of overcrowding, so I decided to wander back to my gate, where I was fortunate enough to get a seat next to the podium for the neighbouring gate.


Being unsure if this is the usual Monday situation here I decided to go online and have a look at Flight Aware for what was going on. Without any mobile broadband on this trip I paid for a few hours of airport WiFi and quickly found that some poor weather had resulted in delays this morning, combining that with an equipment failure at LGA, delays were sitting at an average of 1:47mins.

The boards still showed my flight as on time, despite the departure time passing. Another quick search for the inbound flight showed it hadn’t left Toronto yet, thus I was going to be here a while, but nowhere near as long as the two gentlemen travelling from Nairobi, who I gave up my seats for after hearing how long they had been waiting – 2 days! I figured they probably needed the seat more than I did as they waited on Standby for flight after flight.

After watching a few other flights board, and one in particular grumpy and arrogant gentlemen miss his flight after being told only minutes before to wait in the gate area as they were about to board, it was my turn to board. The boarding scrum developed very quickly, and despite numerous attempts by the agents requesting people to board when called, it turned out being a free for all, so instead of waiting to be pushed to the back, I reluctantly joined the scrum too.

Once at the door of the aircraft, my bag was tagged as First Class “Valet Baggage” and sent down a chute as I was told there was no longer room on board for carry on bags; a very familiar theme I’ve seen on almost every flight I’ve taken in North America. The final door was closed and we pushed back about two hours late, joining a long queue of departing aircraft before throttling up and climbing out into the busy New York skies. The girls in the seat behind me were commenting on how many planes lights they could see as we climbed; some passing under, some over and some off into the distance. It’s definitely a cool sight to see while at the same time you consider how much work those ATC guys are doing to keep us all safely apart right now.

Seat: 6A.  The second row of economy on this aircraft was pretty clean and comfortable. Each seat is leather with an adjustable headrest, and a slight amount of recline. As it’s a regional jet, the 2-2 seating configuration removes the middle seat so it’s just you and your seat buddy without the uncomfortable person in the middle. The window was also well aligned to the seat, with the extra side panel cut out making the window feel slightly larger and giving the window seat passenger a sense of having more space. Despite the overhead bins being smaller (comparable to an E-190), they were relatively empty as most bags were checked at the gate.


Aircraft: CRJ-700 (N539EA). This was my first time on this type of aircraft, and my first real regional jet experience. Unlike the mainline American fleet, this one is painted instead of polished (although soon the polished mainline fleet will also be painted after American Airlines launched its new look livery). The interior is relatively clean and is fitted out with three rows of first in a 1-2 configuration followed by 13.5 rows of economy in a 2-2 configuration. I wouldn’t want to be sitting in the half row at the end (Row 18) as it appears to be pretty much pinned between the toilet and the left engine. From where I sat, the noise level was ok, nothing like the super 80’s and the flight was relatively smooth and uneventful despite crossing some weather around Toronto.


IFE: If you’re looking for IFE, you’ll be disappointed, as this bird contains no audio, video or any sort of electronic fun gadgets in the passenger cabin. It’s a strictly BYO entertainment affair. I’ve spoken before about the pros and cons of wanting or needing IFE on small planes before (even down to Porter Airlines Dash 8), and although it is a cost, it would be cool to have. I’m not saying its needed or justified, but it would look cool to have an IFE screen in the back of each seat.

Meal: No food offered on today’s flight just a choice of soft drinks, water or juice. By this point in my travels around North America I was getting used to the lack of any food on flights, so my usual can of sprite with some ice goes down well.

Arrival: It was a cold rainy night on arrival into Toronto and due to the extensive use of the Valet Baggage in New York, everyone was forced to wait in the cold open walkway while the baggage crew unloaded a mountain of valet bags. I’ve departed out of Toronto International Airport before but never arrived here. I found the Customs and Immigration halls to be well laid out and well staffed with no wait at all, with the addition of Canadian border control staff being their usual welcoming, friendly yet still efficient selves.

The purpose of my trip to Toronto was to catch up with a friend for dinner that night, before heading back to Washington the next day. A short trip indeed, which would later require some explaining when trying to enter the USA the next day, but in the grand scheme of things, an hour flight here and there is nothing when you love planes, and you’ve already invested so much time in the flight over here. Unfortunately due to the delayed arrival, our catch up time was reduced to a quick dinner after arrival but definitely worth the trip.


Crew: I felt for the crew on this flight as it wasn’t like the plane was full of happy campers on their way to a summer beach holiday. It was full of mostly business types, who’d been delayed for quite a while and probably were heading somewhere for work (Although they were going to Canada – that’s got to be a plus in my book). Despite the less than happy mood on board the crew seemed to have a “make the best out of a bad situation” attitude and were friendly and efficient, helping out where they could. The gentleman next to me requested something that they had run out of on the trolley, and despite him getting an alternative, the crew member later bought his original request from the first galley and apologised for the inconvenience. In my view, the crew were trying their best to lift the mood of the flight, and thus did a great job.

Overall: There’s a few take away points I got from this flight, or more so the experience before the aircraft even arrived at the gate, as after that happened it was pretty routine and uneventful. Firstly in the future I think I’ll avoid LaGuardia airport when flying American. I’m not sure if other airlines terminals or concourses are any better, but the C concourse is a fresh little hell I don’t really want to experience again unless I have to. Despite the overhead display boards proudly displaying “Welcome to LaGuardia”, it didn’t do it for me one bit.

Secondly, and this one is more for the airlines out there; if a flight is delayed, and you know its delayed, don’t list “On Time” on the departure board, especially if that departure time has already passed. All this does is makes people irate as it’s clear that you aren’t being told the full picture. Even an unknown or “TBA” departure time is better than one that’s in the past yet hasn’t occurred. Honesty is always a good policy, albeit sometimes unpopular.

The final point is for the delayed travellers out there. Yes its annoying to be delayed, especially when you have no control over when you’ll be able to get to your destination. However, no matter how much you yell, get angry or be rude to the ground agents, its very unlikely that you’ll get to your destination any faster than if you just take the view, like my flight crew did, of making the best out of a bad situation, and just wait it out – read a book, write the next best seller novel, catch up on some work or just relax. By getting upset, all you’re doing is increasing your own blood pressure and that of those around you, and making everyone more uncomfortable than they already are. Of course, if you piss the agents off enough, they may just crack and make sarcastic fun of you over the loudspeaker, which is somewhat entertaining for those waiting, but at the end of the day, also doesn’t get any of us any closer to our destination.

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InFlight: Chicago to Miami – American First 777

Route: Chicago to Miami

Flight: AA1078

Carrier: American Airlines

Class: First

Terminal: After arriving in on the red eye from Seattle (you can read that InFlight review here) I decided to try out the Admirals club between the H and K concourses which was conveniently directly on the path between my connecting flights. The check in area was quite large and relatively busy but it wasn’t long for my turn, where the agent advised I could use the flagship lounge, but it’s closed until 7am. Thus I took the lift up, armed with my free drink coupon and checked out the lounge.

It’s quite a large lounge with separate sections divided off into small zones for seating and the main bar section. There is also an executive meeting room floor available but I didn’t have a chance to check that out. Unfortunately once inside the lounge, other than some filter coffee and a horrible excuse for orange juice, it’s all user pays – meaning if you want to eat or drink anything, get that wallet out. I know this airline is bankrupt, but really, what is the point of the lounge if really it doesn’t provide anything other than a quiet chair? You still need to leave the lounge to be at the gate before boarding to ensure you get some overhead locker space so you don’t really get much value for money in terms of lounge access in the USA.

Leaving the lounge about 10mins before boarding was due to be called I arrived at the gate to notice that there was no aircraft at the stand, which means one thing only – delays. At the scheduled boarding time an aircraft arrived and an announcement was made that the original aircraft has gone out of service and a replacement had been pulled in. The good side of this aircraft swap was that the new aircraft was much larger than the original 767-300 that was scheduled being upgraded to a 777 so the 35+ people on the standby list had a better chance of getting to Miami. The bad side is that the crew assigned to this flight were not a 777 crew so the standby international crew were on their way from home to the airport.

Departure: The gate agents did a great job of changing people’s seat assignments to accommodate the new aircraft and were keeping everyone updated on how many crew were missing and where they we up to. Each arriving crew member was greeted with a round of applause before the last arrived to a few cheers. Boarding began a minute or two afterwards starting with First class passengers so I made my way down and took my assigned seat. The mood with fellow first passengers was pretty high as we found the flat bed seats and spacious cabin on board. Photos were taken and everyone was pretty friendly before the gate agent cam back on board and asked us to deplane – they had got the crew head count wrong and it turned out there wasn’t enough crew on board to meet FAA regulations and thus we were all had to deplane and wait on the jet bridge for the remaining crew to arrive.

We weren’t able to go back into the terminal as we had already been scanned on board – thus the jet bridge was our waiting point for the next 15mins or so until the remaining (and rather unhappy looking) crew arrived. Some passengers speculated that the delays were part of the union action to seek better pay contracts however I think that these were a genuine I just got out if bed and had to drive to the airport delays. I’m pretty sure if that was me I also wouldn’t have been wearing an ear to ear smile either.

The final round of applause signaled it was time to re board our aircraft, grab a pre take off orange juice and get settled in for departure. The captain advised our route and apologized for the delay saying he would try and make up some time in the air before we taxied out and got set up for a very short take off roll for a 777 – presumably no cargo and a light load helped with the very short roll into the skies.


Seat: 4A. The aircraft change did make a huge improvement to the seat option – a fully flat bed complete with guest seating position and if you rotate the chair towards the window, a full work desk setup proving plenty of options for in seat comfort. Covered in dark leather the seat was pretty comfortable and although a huge improvement on the recliner, something just doesn’t feel right about the seat and that’s its cleanliness and age. I’m not sure how old the seats are but they look very tired and well used and the cabin was pretty dirty with spilled chips/crumbs on the floor and seat. As a substitute aircraft I’ll cut some slack and presume that if this aircraft was scheduled to be used it would be in top notch condition but at the same time I wouldn’t be surprised if this is it.

As far as inflight comfort goes it is a comfortable seat when reclined however it might actually be a little too flat when in fully flat mode, feeling a little but upside down so I found a tad short of fully flat was my comfort spot. I managed to get some solid sleep for about 30mins after the meal so its definitely a sleep able bed. Dining is a little difficult as the tray table seems a little flimsy and I found it hard to get into a comfortable spot she eating. I could have tried using the workstation but when everything is already set up it seemed like too much effort to change.

Aircraft: Boeing 777. The 777 is the biggest and thus the flagship aircraft for American Airlines and was a nice surprise from the 767 I was expecting. The 777 have a three class cabin with four rows of first class in a 1-2-1 configuration followed by business and then coach in the rear. Despite the extra space provided and comfortable seat I must say I was disappointed when compared to other airlines first class offerings on premium flagship aircraft in terms of the age and cleanliness of the aircraft. I guess on an overnight flight once the lights are dimmed and your comfortably fully flat and ready to sleep you won’t notice these things but a fresh interior would be nice – although as the airline is bankrupt I don’t see this a happening anytime soon.

IFE: Each seat is fitted with an adjustable monitor that stows in the shelf beside the window which is comparable to the monitor that I had on the Qantas 747 in economy. The touch screen monitor can also be controlled by the handset in the seat arm and mine had a faint grid clearly visible across the screen; presumably to do with the touch sensors. Once turned on there is a selection of movies and tv shows available, not a huge range but enough for this short hop down to Miami. I chose to watch Madagascar 3 again but didn’t make it through all the movie before falling asleep.

Meal: A choice of breakfast was offered being a continental or omelette – I went with the omelette as I always find cereal on a plane to be a very boring prospect. Accompanying the omelette were potatoes and beans in a salsa which was pretty good as well as a side of fruit and a choice between scones or muffins – I went for the scones which I admit were really nice and an unexpected inflight meal addition. Although it was the morning, I had been up all night on my connecting red eye flight so decided to treat myself to a pair of gin and cranberry drinks during the flight – these probably assisted with my ability to nap.

Arrival: We approached from the west with a few other airports in view on approach, one of which I think was Fort Lauderdale as the crew read out a seemingly endless list of connection gates. My next and final flight for the day was fortunately only a few gates away and there was still plenty of time to connect, unlike a few fellow passengers who, after the 2hr delay in Chicago were down to 10min connections (although since when has a flight in the US left on time anyway). The seatbelt light went out very quickly as we pulled into the gate and passengers were off the plane very quickly afterwards with no troubles getting the jet bridge up to the plane very quickly.


Crew: Despite a few unhappy crew faces when they rushed from home to run this flight to Miami overall the crew were pleasant and efficient on the flight. There were 3 serving in the first cabin which provided a very prompt service. I think the service on American is based on getting the job done efficiently and quickly whereas on some other airlines (mainly in Asia) it’s more about providing a personalized experience in an efficient way. Crew can make or break any flight and although they didn’t break it by any means there wasn’t much extra effort put in to make it a true first class experience.

Overall: The delays at the start of this flight were annoying but at least they were able to get a substitute aircraft that was a lot more comfortable than what it replaced. Those on standby were very fortunate for the delay being accommodated were they would otherwise have been left behind. I feel very fortunate that we don’t have the massive overselling and standby issues in Australia as to deal with traveling standby would be a nightmare. The food was nice, seat comfortable and crew efficient for the flight to Miami however as I said before, the overall feel of the cabin would be a little of a let down if you were doing a serious long haul flight.

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InFlight: American Airlines Redeye Seattle to Chicago (First)

Route: Seattle to Chicago

Flight: AA1866

Carrier: American Airlines

Class: First

Terminal: Tonight’s flight departed out of Seattle’s SEATAC A concourse so my first mission was to find a lounge to relax in before my flight. Alas there is no Admirals club in Seattle however if you have an admirals club membership you can use the Alaska boardroom lounge. Unfortunately this doesn’t extend to oneworld emeralds or first class passengers so I went hunting for another option. The lady in the Alaska lounge suggested the British Airways lounge in the S concourse, so 2 train rides later I was at the door of the BA terrace lounge, to find it closed. I was disappointed that there was no AA lounge but as their access policy for their own frequent flyers doesn’t provide any access without a further payment I wasn’t totally surprised. Thus it was time to find an airport bar to grab some food and drink before departure. It’s a big airport and there are plenty of bars and restaurants available.

Departure: Boarding commenced a few minutes later than schedule and despite the gate agent requesting that people with larger carry on bags could come and check them for free most decided to take their kitchen sink containing bags on board with them. Not surprisingly on this full flight not all of those bags fitted into the overhead bins or under the seat in front, and thus 15mins post departure time we were still checking the last bag that didn’t fit.

Obviously someone much smarter than me has done the maths but from my perspective the paid for checked luggage doesn’t seem to make sense. An aircraft makes money when it’s in the air and when it’s sitting on the ground it’s just ticking up interest costs and depreciating away. Thus all these delays on the ground due to excessive amounts of carry on seems a very wasteful use of a very expensive asset.

Despite the delay there wasn’t much traffic around at midnight so our taxi to the northern end of the field was pretty fast and before we knew it we were racing along the runway and leaping into the Seattle night sky. Shortly after take off the captain advised us of the route we would be taking and expected weather on arrival in Chicago. He also said he would leave the seat belt light on for the full duration of the red eye flight as he didn’t want to wake people up with the ding of the seatbelt light, which he then proceeded to demonstrate.

Seat:  3F. On boarding I walked down the aisle, counted 3 rows and proceeded to get organized only to discover that I was in seat 5F. Slightly confused I walked the few steps back to the front to discover that the rows start at 3. Trick for new players, there is no rows 1 or 2, thus if you get row 3, you’re up front. Strange!

The first class seats are aligned 2-2 and are upholstered in fabric with leather adjustable headrests. The recline is very generous with the seat base moving forward while the back reclines. There is no cut out in the bulkhead for your feet but the legroom is ok for my average sized legs.  Each seat has a fold tray table and smaller fold up cocktail table. The seat pocket in the bulkhead has so many magazines and promotional material in it that it is barely usable which is annoying as its where I like to stow my iPad.  There is however a small storage section beneath the outer armrest which is useful for the blanket or an iPad but smaller items aren’t the best fit as its too narrow to get your hand in to retrieve them afterwards (American almost got my wallet). The outer armrest also folds up if you feel the need to lean against the wall.

Overall it’s a comfortable seat although as with any North American carrier, it’s rating as a First class seat is more comparable to Australian domestic business class or international premium economy seating.

Aircraft:  737-800. This is the second of this type I’ve flown on with American and both have had the Boeing sky/signature interiors which makes them feel very new (primarily because they are), modern and spacious. The larger overhead bins are definitely used to capacity and the design of the overhead panel, especially the air vent is a nice change from the 737 classic models and the 737 is a huge improvement in comfort over the Super 80’s they replace. The configuration includes 4 rows of first class separated by a thin bulkhead and curtain from economy.

My only gripe is the temperature level – which is set very high especially at the front of the aircraft. I have found this across the entire fleet and I guess it’s just a north American thing where indoors is kept crazy warm!

IFE: There isn’t any seat back IFE available however there are fold down LCD monitors beneath the overhead lockers on each side of the aisle. As this flight is 3.5hrs a movie is shown free of charge (I’m not sure how they would charge if they wanted to?). Today’s film is a biography type thing on  Katy Perry. Additionally this aircraft is fitted with WiFi which can be purchased if you want to stay connected with the outside world. Although I didn’t use it on this flight I’ve tried it before and found the speed to be pretty good and similar to mobile broadband on the ground. If you need to charge something you’ll find a power outlet between the seats in first.

Meal: Prior to pushback tray of drinks including water, orange juice, cranapple  and mini bottles of vodka  were paraded around the first cabin.  Spirits seem a lot more popular in the states than beers or wine. Once we we at cruising altitude a snack/supper service was served on tonight’s red eye service which consisted of a drink, hot nuts and a warm white chocolate and raisin cookie. I decided to have a gin and cranberry which was very strong and did me for the whole flight, with the exception of a sprite later in the flight.

Arrival: Earlier in the flight the captain advised that it would be a little foggy and about 7deg Celsius on arrival. He also went through the calculation between Celsius and Fahrenheit which was kind of cool. Arrival was on time and had a nice view of the expanse of Chicago through the fog. On arrival in the H concourse I checked the boards for my connecting flight which was departing from the K concourse before stopping in at the Admirals Club before my next connecting flight – I’ll give that a review in my next InFlight however I’m not sure it really warrants an entry in the InLounge section.

Crew: The red eye flight meant that the crew tried to let as many people nap as possible and thus there was only a limited amount of walking up and down the aisle. Even so the crew were very attentive amd friendly when serving the light snacks and drinks. There was a little bit of chatter in the galley, not that you could make out what was being said and I doubt it could even be heard past the first row. This didn’t really bother me and I don’t blame them as it would be a pretty boring flight for them otherwise. I stopped by on the way back from the bathroom and asked for a sprite and the crew member began pouring it into a plastic cup, before the first attendant said “Oh no he’s my passenger, we will deliver that to you sir”. Seconds later my sprite arrives in a glass :) Nice touch and was sort of funny the deal that was made over being a first pax.

Overall: Comfortable seat, smooth flying, a friendly crew and movie to watch made the 3.5hr flight go by very comfortably. Although this was a red-eye flight it was pretty comfortable and I arrived feeling fresh despite not sleeping. As this was the first of 3 flights today I’ll let you know if I was still feeling refreshed at the end of the day.