Ramon is the creator of Travelling Companion. He focuses on flight review, hotel reviews, and helping stretch your travel dollars, miles, and points further.
American Airlines recently announced plans to accelerate the retirement of their 767s and after this flight I can see why. Flying this plane in economy was like being transported back in time. Our flight was a terrible experience and if you are flying in economy you should do your best to avoid these planes until they are retired. Pros- Good seat padding and good layout for travelling companions, amazing legroom in exit row seats. Cons- No individual IFE monitors, only DC power, loud and cold plane, limited overhead storage, poor service, and non-functional Wi-Fi.
San Juan Condado Trip Report
San Juan Condado Trip Overview
American Airlines Boeing 767-300 Economy PHL-SJU Review
AC Hotel San Juan Condado
Avianca VIP Lounge
American Airlines Boeing 737-800 Economy SJU-PHL Review
American Airlines A319 First Class PHL-DCA Review
Terminal and Boarding
After we landed at Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) on our uneventful flight from D.C. we headed towards our flight at gate A 23 in the International Terminal. As we walked through the older American Airlines Terminals B/C at PHL I remembered how much PHL is in need of renovation, something we would be reminded of on our return trip through PHL. We saw parts of the airport with open ceilings and really did not like the 1980's esque signage and poor lighting.
Then we reached the International Terminal (Terminal A) and all of a sudden it was like entering another airport with modern signage lighting, and even artwork. Even though we were flying domestically we left out of Terminal A-West which primarily services international flight. I assumed this was due to the flight utilizing a wide body Boeing 767-300 aircraft.
Boarding began a full 20 minutes early and there were very few elites in economy so we were the first ones to board the Economy Class cabin. The lack of elites in economy was likely due to everyone clearing the upgrade list on this wide body aircraft. Unlike domestically configured aircraft the 767s have 28 lie-flat premium seats sold as Business Class on flights to Puerto Rico providing a great upgrade opportunity for elites.
Plane and Seats
As we entered the plane our first impression was positive as we saw the lie-flat seats which looked like they would make for a comfortable ride for the three hour flight to San Juan. However, this impression quickly changed as we entered the old economy cabin. American Airlines has about 24 Boeing 767-300s in their fleet and with an average age of 20 years these are oldest planes in the fleet. AmericanAirlines recently announced plans to accelerate the retirement of these planes and phase them all out of the fleet at the end of 2021. In the meantime these planes fly a variety of routes including to Europe and Latin America. American Airlines retrofitted these planes in 2016 to add lie-flat beds and power in Business Class but largely left economy cabins in tack which meant that we were in for a jarring surprise when we got to our seats.
Economy Class is laid out in a 2-3-2 cabin which is ideal for travelling companions since you don't need to worry about disturbing a neighbor. Christina and I also appreciated this because neither one of us had to give up the window or aisle seat to sit next to one another. The cabin also has a small mini-cabin in rows 13 and 14 designated as Main Cabin Extra. Christina suggested we select these for free when they opened check-in but I convinced her to go with the legroom provided by the exit row seats in row 21. I later regretted this decision since the main Economy Class cabin was full our loud screaming children and I would recommend the quiet of the mini-economy cabin. As we sat down in our seats we noticed that the seats window shades were cloth, the overhead lights were turned on and off with dials, and that the overhead bins were small. There was so little overhead bin space that there was a struggle for passengers who boarded late to find space to fit there bags into the overhead bins without turning them sideways which made it harder for all the passengers to find sufficient space for their luggage.
Another major problem with this plane was the climate control. There were no individual air vents and the flight attendants kept the cabin freezing during the flight. This made no sense for a flight headed for the Tropics which had most people dressed for a warm climate and made for a very uncomfortable flight. I was also shocked when I tried to plug into the power plug and realized that the plane only had DC power plugs in economy! Furthermore, the plane was very loud and as we took off and landed the plane shook to the point were you wondered if it would make it through the take off and landing. This is definitely a flight were you want to bring your noise cancelling headphones. One positive part about our seat selection was the amazing leg room provided by the exit row.
This flight had no individual in-flight entertainment (IFE) monitors and instead had overhead monitors in the main cabin that feature NBC on American Airlines. The monitors were very low quality and when the flight attendants made announcements one of the speakers made an uncomfortable squeak. During one announcement a flight attendant noted that we were an "older plane" which I thought was a significant understatement. To make matters worse we were unable to get the American Airlines Wi-Fi, which offers an expanded number of entertainment options, to function correctly. So I switched between listening to my own music and watching the poor quality overhead screen which made this flight seem even longer.
Meal and Service
Since we had a short connection and boarding began early we did not have a chance to grab breakfast in the airport and ended up buying breakfast onboard. Christina bought the breakfast platter for $8.99 and I bought a turkey and cheese croissant for $8.79. While I found both of these prices to fairly high we were hungry and I knew that we would get a 25% discount with Christina's American Airlines credit card. I thought that the sandwich was decent for a cold sandwich and I would probably buy it in again in the future if I was in a pinch. Christina was less impressed with her breakfast platter which came with eggs, cheese, grapes, apples and almond butter. The only item she really enjoyed was the almond butter which she loves.
After we ordered our breakfast the flight attendants came for the standard beverage service and offered Biscoff cookies. The only other time the flight attendants came through the cabin was with water about 30 minutes before landing. We did not interact much with the flight attendants on this flight but the limited interaction we did have was not impressive. After taking our beverage order the flight attendant forgot what drink we had ordered and had to correct her. Also, on another occasion a flight attendant passed through the cabin saw garbage on the floor and left it there. As we approached landing I was happy to see beautiful San Juan, Puerto Rico in our sights and that the flight was almost over.
This was not an impressive flight and again showed the inconsistency of American Airline's fleet. The flight offered a terrible passenger experience including a loud ancient plane with bad in-flight entertainment, no overhead vents, no AC power, and bad overhead storage. I was able to survive flying on this plane because it was a relatively short three hour flight but American Airlines flies these planes on flights to Europe and South America which would be a miserable experience in economy. If you are an American Airlines elite flying on this route it does present a good opportunity to upgrade to lie-flat seats on a leisure route. However, if you flying in economy in particular on a long haul flight I would avoid this plane.