Ramon is the creator of Travelling Companion. He focuses on flight review, hotel reviews, and helping stretch your travel dollars, miles, and points further.
This non-stop Delta flight from the Washington D.C. area which has now moved from IAD to BWI provided a comfortable and convenient ride to Cancun, Mexico.
Pros-Non-Stop Service to Cancun, Newly Upholstered and Comfortable Seat, Friendly Crew
Cons-Slow Boarding Process, Old IFE System, Limited IFE Selection, No USB Power
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After a visit to the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse my traveling companions and I took a long walk from the lounge down to our departure gate B78 at the far end of the B terminal. As we walked I was happy to be traveling with two friends even though it was strange to be traveling without Christina. We were traveling during the federal government shutdown and there had been reports of long lines at security around the country but all of us made it quickly through security. On the way to our gate I ran into an alumnus of my college who was headed with her family to vacation in the Cancun area. It was nice to randomly run into someone I knew at the airport.
At check-in the flight was full in economy but ended up having two empty First Class seats even after all upgrades were processed. This was not surprising because neither Dulles or Cancun are Delta hubs and Cancun is primarily a leisure destination making this a rare non-hub to hub flight for Delta. Since I flew this flight in the winter of 2019 Delta moved the flight from IAD to Baltimore Washington International Airport (BWI) which makes sense since BWI is a more leisure focused airport. I was annoyed that I did not have Delta status since I could have easily ended up with a First Class upgrade.
Because of the empty First Class cabin I was offered a $169 First Class upgrade at check-in which I would have gladly accepted if I was flying with Christina. However, I declined it since I was flying without her and my friends were flying in economy. Despite the 7:50 am boarding time boarding did not begin until 8:10 am because of large number of passport checks and gate-checked bags. Despite the late start boarding was completed in 25 minutes and economy ended up going out with empty seats which I assumed was due to passengers missing the flight.
Plane and Seats
On this flight I was flying a Boeing 737-800 arranged in a standard 3-3 economy configuration with approximately 17 inches of width and 31 inches of pitch. As I headed to my seat 20C, a standard economy aisle seat on the left hand side, I noticed the fresh and stylish blue upholstery on the economy seats. Delta clearly had recently replaced the upholstery and I appreciated the updated look. The seat was nicely padded and comfortable but did not have a headrest which would be annoying on a late night or early morning flight when a passenger is trying to rest.
Once passengers completed boarding the captain announced that we could not depart because of a maintenance issue. Once the issue was fixed we still didn't move because we needed a driver to move us back from the gate since there was a ton of ice and snow on the ground. We ended up departing at 9:05 am about 20 minutes late for our approximately 3-and-a-half-hour flight. As we took off we saw the ice and snow and I was very happy to be escaping the Washington D.C. winter for Cancun, Mexico.
Amenities and In-Flight Entertainment
After boarding was completed the flight attendants came through the economy cabin with complimentary headphones. This is a staple on Delta's international flights. The headphones Delta offers are cheap headphones so I always bring my own noise cancelling headphones, but they are still better than nothing in the era of cost cutting and fees. The area where Delta was really weak on this flight was in-flight entertainment (IFE). This 737-800 featured an old Delta IFE system with a small screen and poor resolution. The IFE also did not have USB power and economy passengers had to rely on the two shared AC power outlets for every three seats. Finally, the IFE selection on this flight was not strong and it had relatively few new releases. I ended up watching Mission Impossible Fallout.
Food and Drinks
The start of the flight was quite bumpy and the captain asked that the flight attendants and passengers remained seated. This delayed the start of the flight food and drink service. Despite the turbulence passengers continued to walk about the cabin and flight attendants continually asked passengers to remain seated for their safety. After about 30 minutes food and drink service commenced. There was no complimentary food served in economy on this flight. However, there was a buy on board menu which included a choice between a Protein Box and a Turkey Maple Sandwich. Since I had already eaten in the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse and I was headed to an all-inclusive resort I decided to pass on buying a meal. However, the flight did include Delta's standard complementary snacks including Biscoff cookies, Kind bars, snack mix, and peanuts.
Service on this flight overall was friendly. There were a total of four flight attendants working economy. The flight attendants were firm but not mean making sure that passengers sat down during turbulence. When they came by for snack service the flight attendants offered two snacks and chatted in a friendly manner with passengers. The flight attendants made several announcements to keep passengers informed and were friendly each time. While the cabin was kept dark for most of the time during this morning flight the flight attendants did come by with a water service with about 20 minutes left in the flight.
My flight on Delta's 737-800 non-stop from Washington Dulles to Cancun provided a newly upholstered and comfortable seat coupled with friendly service. However, the boarding process was slow, the IFE system needed to be refreshed, there was no USB power, and the IFE selection was limited. Despite several drawbacks including the age of the plane I would choose to take this flight because of the convience of taking a non-stop versus a connecting flight.
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.
This flight showed American Airlines' ability to deliver a competitive domestic economy product too bad American Airlines is focused on making their economy product worse.
Pros-Relatively Smooth Boarding Process, Good IFE and Power, Well Padded Seats, Complimentary Alcohol in Main Cabin Extra , Early Arrival, Non-stop DCA-LAS service
Cons- Indifferent Service, Uncomfortable Bulkhead seat
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The Club at LAS
After passing through security at Las Vegas McCarran International (LAS) I took the train to the D Gates in Terminal 1 where all American Airlines flights depart. Terminal 1 has two lounges the American Express Centurion Lounge and The Club at LAS a Priority Pass lounge. Since I did not have access to the American Express Centurion Lounge at the time I headed to the Club at LAS. This was my second visit to this lounge and I left last time very unimpressed but I thought I would give the lounge one more chance and ended up regretting my decision.
Upon entering the lounge, I found a wait at the check-in desk driven by the fact that only one staff person was both checking in guests and working the bar. Once I entered the small space in this lounge I found it to be overcrowded and very hot. On this 101-degree day the lounge was sweltering. The lounge was hot, overcrowded, loud, and the snacks it offered were pathetic. Furthermore, the lounge did not have separate Wi-Fi, or bathrooms, and honestly made American Airlines' Admirals clubs look good. This lounge was by far the worse I have ever visited. It was so bad in fact that I left after about 10 minutes and decided that it was better to wait for my flight in the terminal.
Despite my terrible experience there is good news for Priority Pass holders flying through LAS. Since I visited the Club at LAS in 2018 it's Terminal 1 facility underwent a major renovation which tripled the size of the space. Looking at the pictures and description the space now features separate restrooms with showers, complimentary cocktails, and selection of hot and cold food.
As boarding approached I headed to gate D7 for my flight to Ronald Regan Washington National Airport (DCA). American Airlines operates the only non-stop flight between LAS and home airport DCA. When I arrived at the gate it was very crowded and it was clear that this was going to be a full flight.
I liked the gate agents working this flight. The gate agents had numerous requests including changing seat assignments so that passengers could sit together and they tried hard to accommodate these requests. Moreover, despite a crowded gate area and a five minute late start to boarding the gate agents actually enforced the boarding groups and, on several occasions, stopped passengers from boarding in the wrong groups. As an elite member I appreciated this and it really made the boarding process a lot smoother. I boarded the plane in Group 4 and was one of the first passengers on board in economy.
Plane and Seats
Thanks to my American Airlines Gold elite status I was able to choose a Main Cabin Extra seat at check-in and I chose seat 8D. However, shortly after boarding I switched to 7D a bulkhead seat with more legroom than the standard 34 inches in Main Cabin Extra to allow a passenger to sit with his wife. While I appreciated having more legroom I did not like the bulkhead seat on this plane because the tray table is inside the armrest reducing the seat width by about 1 inch. In addition, the bulk head seats on this plane had airbag seats belts which felt uncomfortable and restricted my movement. I would recommend anyone flying in Main Cabin Extra on this plane choose a seat in row 8.
This plane had large overhead bins, shared AC power between seats, and USB power at each seat below the in-flight entertainment (IFE) screen. I also was flying on a relatively new 737-800 that had not yet been retrofitted by American's Project Oasis. This meant that had several advantages over other American 737-800s including: 1) an additional inch of seat pitch in Main Cabin (31 vs. 30) and Main Cabin extra (~34 vs. ~33), 2) seat-back IFE, 3) comfortable and more padded seats, and 4) larger bathrooms in economy. I really appreciated American's non-oasis 737-800 cabin and think it is quite competitive for domestic flights. It is sad that as the Project Oasis retrofits continue, American Airline's 737-800s will become less comfortable and less competitive.
The IFE system on this plane was very responsive and featured an array of options including movies, tv shows, and music. On this flight I watched both The Darkest Hour and Game Night which were both entertaining. I really like American Airlines IFE and usually find it more than sufficient for a domestic flight. However, this was my tenth American Airlines flight in the span of less than two months so I was running out of movie options.
Main Cabin Extra Beverage and Snack Service
As a competitive response to Delta's Comfort Plus American Airline's announced a few new benefits for Main Cabin Extra passengers in June 2018. These benefits included Group 5 boarding, dedicated main cabin extra overhead bins, and complimentary beer, wine, and spirits. I experienced the complementary alcohol benefit since I flew shortly after the implementation of these new benefits. When the beverage and snack service started, about 1 hour into my flight, I was served a Biscoff cookie and I ordered a Sam Adams Boston Lager, which would have been $7 dollars and now is $8 in the Main Cabin. The flight attendant never asked for a credit card and instead just looked at the label above my seat to confirm I was sitting in main cabin extra. The beer was served very cold which I appreciated. I really enjoyed this benefit and think it is positive for American Airlines elites. As a Gold elite the vast majority of the time I am able to select a Main Cabin Extra seat at check-in allowing me to take advantage of these additional benefits.
The flight attendants passed through the cabin again later in the flight for a second beverage and snack service. They served pretzels and offered water to passengers. During this four-and-a-half hour domestic flight I had a few opportunities to interact with the flight attendants and thought they provided indifferent service. The flight landed 2 minutes early into DCA and I really appreciated the ability to have a non-stop flight to DCA from LAS.
I liked my flight on American Airline's non-oasis 737-800. On this relatively long domestic route I was able to have a non-stop flight to my home airport, a smooth boarding process, AC and USB power, large overhead bins, well-padded extra legroom seats, complimentary alcohol in Main Cabin Extra, and an early arrival. Despite the indifferent service and uncomfortable bulkhead seat American Airlines offered a solid and competitive domestic economy product on this flight. However, it is sad that as American Airlines progresses with Project Oasis the airline will make economy on the 737-800 worse and lose some of the competitive advantages it had with its domestic economy product.