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
An operational upgrade led to me flying in First Class and my best regional flight on American Airlines.
Pros-Good Service, Lots of legroom and comfortable seat, Functional AC and USB Power Plugs, and Good IFE Streaming selection
Cons- Mediocre food, No seat-back IFE
American Tap Room
Since I didn't have access to any lounges at Ronald Regan Washington National (DCA) I headed to an airport restaurant American Tap Room for breakfast. Because of the growth in membership, limited lounge space at airports, and overcrowding at airport lounge Priority Pass has expanded access to non-lounge options including American Tap Room at DCA. Through my Priority Pass Select membership I received a $28 credit towards a meal at American Tap Room. I really like being able to use this benefit at my home airport restaurant since it substantially reduces the cost of meals while traveling.
During my visit to American Tap Room, I ordered eggs and waffles for breakfast. The eggs were light and fluffy and the bacon was crispy and flavorful and I really enjoyed them. On the other hand, the waffles were hard and very difficult to eat with a plastic knife and fork. Service at the restaurant was good with the hostess seating me quickly and server taking my order and closing out my check quickly. In the end I owed nothing for the meal because of my credit, I paid the server a tip and was on my way to the gate for boarding. Overall, I found American Tap Room breakfast experience average and would say it is worth a stop if you don't have lounge access. You won't be blown away by the food but you may find it better than some of the meals you have onboard American Airlines First Class.
After finishing my breakfast I headed to Gate 43 C for my departure and the gate area was crowded. I took a look up at the departure screen and saw that I was listed as cleared on the standby screen and thought that was strange since I was flying on a confirmed ticket and already had a bulkhead seat assigned in Main Cabin Extra. My first thought was that I must have been operationally upgraded to First Class since the flight was oversold. I refreshed my app and surely enough I saw that my new seat assignment was 1D in First Class. I was really excited about this development since it meant I didn't need to spend the three 500 mile upgrades required for this route and I would still be flying in First Class. A few minutes later the gate agent called me to the podium for my new boarding pass and confirmed that I was operationally upgraded due to the oversold flight. This was my second time I had been operationally upgraded within four months on American after my first operational upgrade on my flight from Santa Barbara.
A few minutes later the situation grew more complicated when the flight was still oversold by two people despite the operational upgrades to First Class. The gate agents started with an offer of $300 for anyone willing to take a later flight to New Orleans. My first reaction was that this offer was low and since I didn't see anyone else heading to volunteer I waited to see if the agents would increase the offer. However, once I saw two volunteers heading to the counter I quickly got into line. I ended up being the second of three people to volunteer but gave up my spot to allow two teenage friends to volunteer together. I decided that it was easier since there were two of them and I would instead enjoy my experience flying to New Orleans in First Class.
Once boarding got underway I was the first to board the plane and upon boarding I was given a warm greeting by the flight attendant and I knew I was going to receive good service on this flight.
Plane and Seats
Our flight was operated by an Embraer-175 (E175) regional jet. This E-175 was configured in 1-2 configuration with 12 seats in First Class and operated by Republic Airlines on behalf of American Airlines.
I was seated in the bulkhead aisle seat (1D) on the right side of the plane. The seat itself was old and tattered but had great legroom and was comfortable. I really appreciate the large wings on the seat which provide good support of my head.
One big plus of this plane was that it had functional AC and USB power for each passenger in First Class between the seats. This is not the case on many of the narrow body jets American Airlines flies domestically. The captain announced a flight time of 2 hours and 40 minutes and the door closed 3 minutes early. About 20 minutes later we took off with light turbulence on a beautiful morning in Washington D.C.
Amenities and In-Flight Entertainment
As I sat down there was a blanket at my seat something which was not present on my last two American Airlines flights. I find that American Airlines is very inconsistent about proactively offering blankets but I appreciated it on this flight since I was cold. I opened up the package with the blanket and found the blanket to be thin but better than nothing.
As on all American Airlines regional flights there was no seat-back in-flight entertainment (IFE) on this nearly 3 hour flight which I found annoying since I had to stop watching the IFE on my IPAD because I did not have sufficient space on the tray table. However, I was able to access American Airlines streaming in-flight selection which I found to be strong on this flight. There were several new release movies including A Star is Born and Academy Awards 2018 Best Film winner Green Book. I ended up watching Fantastic Beasts Crimes of Grindlewald which I enjoyed.
Food and Drinks
Before I was seated I was offered a pre-departure drink and chose a screwdriver. It was nice to have this service since it is inconsistently offered in First Class on American Airlines flights.
Shortly after take-off the meal service started with a towel and meal selection. The options were a Protein Plate with fruit and Chobani yogurt or a plate with turkey, salami and assorted fruit. I chose the second option which also came with two types of cheese, cucumbers, two soft boiled eggs and tomatoes. The fruit plate included strawberries, green grapes, pineapples, orange slices, one blueberry, and on the side was a cinnamon roll. The entire meal was served very cold and felt like it just came out of the freezer. I enjoyed the turkey, salami, and cheese plate. I found the soft-boiled eggs to be okay and was disappointed with the fruit plate and in particular found the strawberries to be very bad. Overall, the meal was mediocre and my advice if you have an American Airlines regional First Class our of DCA is to eat breakfast before you get onboard.
The flight attendant on this flight set the right tone for the flight when greeting me upon boarding with a smile. This enthusiasm and positive attitude continued throughout the flight which I find to be uncommon on American Airlines. She took my pre-departure beverage order and when I returned from the restroom she had pulled out my drink tray and served the drink. I also liked that the flight attendant moved through service quickly and efficiently while keeping a positive attitude. On this flight the good service wasn't limited to the flight attendant but extended to the captain. Even though we arrived two minutes late the captain kept us updated on the time and said that he continued trying to find smooth air so we would have comfortable flights and avoid significant turbulence. In the end we only experienced light turbulence and I appreciated the captain's communication.
This was the best regional flight I experienced on American Airlines. On this flight I was disappointed by the mediocre food and lack of seat-back IFE but the positives overcame those negatives. The flight had strong streaming IFE options, USB and AC power plugs, lots of legroom, a comfortable seat. Most importantly my flight was made enjoyable by the good service from the flight attendant and great communication from the captain. While American Airlines has a lot of work to do on its in-flight food and drinks if American Airlines consistently delivered multiple functional power options, strong streaming IFE options, and good service it would be a strong contender. Sadly, based on past experience I believe this flight was more the exception than the norm.