Ramon is the creator of Travelling Companion. He focuses on flight reviews, hotel reviews, and helping stretch your travel dollars, miles, and points further while traveling in comfort.
In this series of five reviews I focus on the experience flying American Airlines in First Class domestically and Business Class on flights to the Caribbean. The posts compare American Airlines First Class and Business Class across four different aircraft on medium-haul flights between 3-4 hours where meals are served.
American Airlines First and Business Class Reviews
American Airlines CRJ-900 SBA-DFW First Class Review
American Airlines 737-800 DFW-DCA First Class Review
American Airlines E-175 NAS-DCA Business Class Review
American Airlines E-175 DCA-MSY First Class Review
American Airlines A321 SJU-CLT Business Class Review
This was our first experience flying American Airlines mainline (non-regional operated) First Class. The experience came with multi-course hot meals, hot towel service, and very comfortable seats along with the bad service we have come to expect from American Airlines.
Pros-Wide and Well-Padded Seats, Great Legroom, Lots of Power at Every Seat, Good IFE with Remote, Blanket, Multi-Course Hot Meal, Hot Towel Service, and modern Admirals Club
Cons-Apathetic Service, Inconsistent Food Quality, Dated Departure Terminal
We landed about 30 minutes before our scheduled arrival on our flight from Santa Barbara (SBA) but spent about 20 minutes taxing because there was another aircraft at our gate. It was not a surprise that we had to wait for a gate at DFW because it is American Airlines largest hub with over 900 daily departures in summer 2019. While we waited for our gate to clear we at least had the opportunity for some cool plane spotting at DFW. As we rolled by the Qantas A380 I was in awe! Our regional jet looked like an ant compared to the whale of an A380. Christina and I both grew very excited for our upcoming First Class Honeymoon where were we would have an opportunity to fly twice on the A380.
After about 20 minutes of taxing we were finally assigned a new gate. After waiting for our gate checked bags on the jet-bridge we headed towards Terminal C for our connecting flight.
DFW Terminal C Admirals Club
Our flight from SBA arrived at Gate D 8 and our flight to Ronald Regan Washington National (DCA) departed from Terminal C so we took the SkyLink train. Once we exited the train I was surprised just how the dated Terminal C looked. I have flown through DFW several times and this was definitely the worse terminal. Terminal C had ugly flooring, poor lighting, and a dated look. This why I was not surprised when six months after our flight American Airlines and DFW announced an agreement to renovate terminal C in conjunction with building a sixth terminal (Terminal F).
After locating our gate we quickly headed to the Admirals Club located near gates 19/20 in Terminal C. This Admirals Club was a welcomed change from the dated terminal. As we entered the Admirals Club I noticed that it had a modern feel and art work which I enjoyed. We also found the club to be spacious and not crowded.
One interesting amenity of this club was the kids play room which was Universal Studios Orlando themed and was plastered with the minions.
We did not check out the food at the Admirals Club since we ate on our last flight and were about to get another meal on the flight to DCA. Overall, this was one of the nicest Admirals Clubs I had experienced topped only by the Admirals Club at LAX.
As our boarding time approached we headed over to Gate C37 for our flight. The gate area was fairly quiet and only one person was on the gate upgrade list and the flight ended up going out with two empty First Class seats. First Class was so light on this flight that one American Airlines employee cleared into First Class. We boarded first and as we boarded the flight I was stopped by the gate agent who asked that I put my bag into the sizer to make sure it could fit onboard. It ended up fitting into the sizer and were on our way. It annoys me how inconsistently American Airlines enforces their carry-on policy. I am often stopped by agents trying to size my bag and never have had a problem getting it to fit, however, I have seen passengers carrying on bags that obviously were not meant for the overhead bins but were never stopped by the gate agent.
Plane and Seats
On this flight we flew the Boeing 737-800 the most common plane flown by American Airlines. Because of the light load we were actually upgraded to First Class about 26 hours before our flight a full two hours before the Gold Elite upgrade window. Since were upgraded so early we weren't allowed to change seats and were not seated next to each other. However, after the upgrade window passed we changed seats and selected the bulkhead seats 3E and 3F. The 737-800 First Class is arraigned in a 2-2 configuration with about 20 inches of seat width and about 40 inches of pitch.
When I sat down I was immediately impressed by the seat which was wide with a ton of legroom, comfortable padding, and the best American Airlines seat I had experienced outside of the A321T. I particularly liked how comfortable the head padding was on this seat something which I find annoying on many other seats. Each seat had AC power and a USB charger which I really appreciated after my three hour CRJ-900 flight without in-seat power.
Amenities and In-Flight Entertainment
When we sat down at our seats they contained a plastic wrapped blanket. I found the cabin temperate to be good on this flight so I did not use the blanket. Even though I didn't end up using the blanket it is a nice option for the times when the plane is chilly or a longer night time flight where I want to doze off. This 737-800 also contained seat-back in-flight entertainment (IFE) since it had not been retrofitted through American Airlines' project oasis which will result in less pitch and no seat back IFE even in First Class. The IFE system had a remote, contained more options than the streaming service I had experienced on my regional flight, and was much smoother since this plane was equipped with satellite internet. I really enjoyed using the remote since at the bulkhead seats the IFE screen is fairly far away. We ended up watching Oceans 8 on this flight which I found to be a fun film to watch with a traveling companion. I really like American Airlines' IFE system on this plane and it is sad that soon it will be removed from all Boeing 737-800s.
When we reached cruising altitude the flight attendant came around asking for our food and drink order. We had a choice between beef short rib and a falafel plate. I ordered the beef short rib and Christina ordered the falafel plate. About 30 minutes into the flight the flight attendant came around with a hot towel which was steaming but refreshing followed by warm mixed nuts and our drink orders. This was my first time having warm mix nuts or hot towel service on American Airlines and I really liked these aspects of the First Class service.
About one hour into the flight our multi-course meal service with real utensils began. The beef short ribs came with mac and cheese topped with green beans and a side salad. The short ribs were really good and the mac and cheese was average.
Christina's falafel plate came with falafel, toasted orzo, and quinoa along with a side salad. Christina found her meal overall unremarkable and the side salad bland. She felt that the falafel plate needed salt and pepper. Next the flight attendant came around with a choice of multigrain, white, or pretzel roll.
We found the bread quality to be average. I liked that the bread was served warm but it was a bit hard and dry. Finally, for desert we had a choice between a chocolate chip and ginger snap cookie. I chose the chocolate chip and Christina chose the ginger snap. They were both served warm and we really enjoyed them.
Overall, I really liked having a substantial multi-course meal on a three hour flight. The quality of our meals was mixed with some highlights such as the short rib and other parts such as the side salad which fell short.
Our service on this flight can best be described as apathetic. The flight attendant just did the minimum required and did not do so with a smile. One of the best examples of the apathetic service was the lack of a pre-departure beverage, something which is standard on all American Airlines First and Business Class flights. Despite having a light load in the First Class cabin and an early departure the flight attendant didn't serve any pre-departure beverages. Instead she decided to finish her dinner and use her iPhone. She was never rude but it seemed like she really didn't want to be on this flight. Unfortunately, I have found this to be the case on far too many American Airlines' fights even in First Class.
This flight delivered on many fronts including wide and comfortable seats, great legroom, multiple power options at each seat, a multi-course hot meal, hot towel service, and seat-back IFE with a remote. It showed American Airlines' domestic First Class potential. However, the food quality was inconsistent, American Airlines plans to remove the seat-back IFE, and American Airlines' apathetic service continued even in First Class. If I am flying in American Airlines in First Class then the 737-800 would be probably be my choice.