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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American Airlines Boeing 737-800 LAS-DCA Review
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.