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.
Ramon is the creator of Travelling Companion. He focuses on flight reviews, hotel reviews, and helping stretch your travel dollars, miles, and points further.
My first flight on a 777-200 was the best American Airlines I have ever taken. My experience reinforces how stark the differences are in equipment and service American Airlines offers at its various hubs and aircraft. Pros- Great in-flight entertainment, good food, friendly flight attendants, mood lighting, widely available power plugs, efficient boarding. Cons- Low quality wine selection
Trip Overview: European Adventures 2018
Flight Review: American Airlines A330-300 Economy CLT-LHR
Hotel Review: London Marriott Regent's Park
Food in London
Flight Review: British Airways A319 Economy LGW-BCN
Hotel Review: AC Hotel Irla Barcelona
Train Review: Renfe Clase Turista Barcelona-Valencia
Exploring Life in Valencia
Exploring Life in Barcelona
Flight Review: American Airlines 777-200 Economy BCN-JFK
Flight Review: American Airlines A321T Business Class Seats JFK-DCA
After our terrible stay at the AC Hotel Irla Barcelona we eagerly checked out of the hotel and headed to the Barcelona El Prat airport (BCN). The airport is located on the western edge of Barcelona and we took a taxi to the airport which cost about 41 dollars (35 euros). Barcelona El Prat has two terminals and Terminal Two primarily serves low cost carriers. Our flight departed out of Terminal One which was built in 2009 and I was impressed by the bright, beautiful, and modern terminal. We checked in at the American Airlines desk which was manned by contract workers. As was our experience at London Gatwick, the priority line was longer than the standard check in line but this time we waited in the priority line. After checking in we headed to security. One note of caution, once you clear security at this airport you once again need to pass through passport control to get to your flight at gate C or Gate D.
Joan Miró VIP Lounge
Barcelona El Prat has four VIP lounges, three of which are in Terminal One. These lounges serve many of the travelers flying in business or first class leaving on flights in their respective terminals. However, these lounges are all also accessible to passengers with Priority Pass membership. I am going to talk about the benefits of Priority Pass in future post but for frequent international traveling companions it is a potent membership.
We had access to the Joan Miró VIP since we departed on an international flight. We took an elevator down one floor from the departure level to second floor to access the lounge. The check-in agent scanned our boarding passes and we quickly entered the lounge. This was the nicest lounge I have ever been to though I don't have much to compare it to since most of my lounge experience has been Admirals Clubs in the U.S.
The lounge had a rest area which was dark and quiet. This was a great place for a weary traveller to take a nap. The lounge also had a small kid's play area with pink and blue chairs though no kids were in the lounge during our visit. Other amenities in the lounge included a shoe shine machine, the first time I have ever seen one, and shower stalls. The main part of the lounge featured worn but comfortable large black leather chairs. This part of the lounge also had views of the terminal and lots of natural light.
The lounge had a separate dining area which had several food stations. These stations featured cold items such as Iberian ham, various cheeses, bananas, oranges, chocolate cookies, and chocolate croissants.
The lounge's drink selection was particularly impressive and included a variety of alcohol and alcoholic drinks such as beer, wine, juices, soda, and chocolate milk.
My biggest disappointment was the lounge did not have any hot food items. However, I was able to piece together a decent breakfast from the variety of cold food items. Overall, the lounge was comfortable and a good place to spend time waiting for our flight. The meal and drink selection was extensive enough that we did not buy breakfast or any drinks in the terminal. I would recommend that anyone with a Priority Pass membership departing on an international flight from BCN visit the Joan Miró VIP Lounge.
Our flight departed out of D21 the closest gate to the lounge which was very convenient and allowed us to maximize our time in the lounge. Boarding for our flight began two minutes late and was very efficient even though one boarding machine was broken. No one boarded when group one and two were called and after a small group three we boarded very quickly in group four as this flight was very elite lite in economy.
Plane and Seats
We boarded the plane through the second door on the left side of the plane walked straight and turned right and passed through the rear business class cabin. I was immediately impressed by how modern this plane felt compared to the A330-300 we flew to London. The business class seats were lie flat and very impressive and I hope to try them on a future flight. We passed through the business class cabin and took our main cabin extra seats 14 J and K on the right side of the plane. The economy cabin had five lavatories. Three of these were at the center of the economy cabin and two were at the rear of the cabin while the business class cabin had two bathrooms at the center of the cabin and one at the front. This design was much more intuitive than the A330-300 and meant that the closest lavatory to someone at the front of the cabin was in the economy cabin and not in business class.
Christina and I once again were able to score complimentary main cabin extra seats at check in thanks to our American Airlines Gold status. The main cabin extra seats had about 5-6 inches of additional pitch on the 777-200. The additional legroom made a huge difference on this eight and a half hour flight. However, unlike our flight from Charlotte (CLT) to London Heathrow (LHR) we chose seats in row 14 and not the bulkhead which I think was definitely the right decision on this aircraft. While bulkhead seats offer additional legroom they do not have moveable armrests which prevented us from putting up the armrest on our flight from CLT. This is an annoying feature if you are traveling with a traveling companion. Also, the bulkhead seats had in-flight entertainment (IFE) screens stowed in the arm rest which means that the seat width is reduced and you are unable to watch the in-fight entertainment gate-to-gate. I think we made the right decision choosing row 14 main cabin extra seats.
However, a word of caution if you fly on a future American Airlines 777-200. American Airlines is streamlining its fleet of 777-200 aircraft and plans to install premium economy on all 777-200 aircraft. This means that row 14 will no longer be Main Cabin Extra and instead will have premium economy seats. While it is positive that American Airlines is giving customers a choice between economy and business class on international flights this mean a reduction of the number of main cabin extra seats for elites and other willing to pay for additional legroom. If you fly the 777-200 the plan is to start the economy cabin start at row 17 and feature this seat map.
In Flight Entertainment
Our seats featured seat back in-flight entertainment (IFE) monitors with one USB and one standard charger below the screen at each seat. This allowed for the charging of multiple devices at each seat and did not require sharing outlets which is common on American Airlines domestic flights.
These monitors were touchscreen and similar to the monitors you will find on some American Airlines A321s and 737-300s with a few enhancements. First, they had a remote which could be used to scroll through and select media on the touchscreen. I found the touchscreen easy to use and very responsive so I primarily used the touchscreen to control the IFE but I appreciated having the option to use the remote. Second, the selection of movies and TV shows was significantly expanded over what is an already impressive selection on American Airlines' domestic IFE. Third, the screens allowed for a second person to plug into your IFE monitor and watch the same movie, TV show, or listen to the same music. The ability to share entertainment on the same screen with a traveling companion was a very cool feature.
Lunch meal service began with a bag of mini pretzels. Before the entree was served the flight attendants announced the entree choices in English, Spanish, and Catalan. The choices were turkey chorizo meatballs in tomato sauce or pasta penne with yogurt sauce. I appreciated that the flight attendants actually announced the ingredients in the dishes unlike the flight from Charlotte where they simply said chicken or pasta. Given my experience with the pasta dish on the flight from Charlotte I chose the turkey chorizo meatballs and it was a very good decision. The meatballs came with a serving of rice and vegetables including carrots, corn, and green beans. This was a very good entree particularly for an economy meal on a U.S. airline. The meal service also included a side salad which was boring and a piece of bread which was okay. The meal also came with cherry crumble cake for dessert which was good.
As I mentioned previously, on flights to Europe and select international destinations American Airlines offers free wine and beer in the main cabin. On the flight from Charlotte I selected red wine and I did not enjoy it so this time around I chose white wine and it was just as bad. The wine was way too sharp and after two fails I have learned my lesson in economy on American Airlines flights don't order wine. About four hours into the flight the flight attendants served a snack of vanilla bean ice cream which of course was very good!
The biggest surprise of this flight was the great service by the flight attendants. I am so used to dismissive if not mean service from American Airlines flight attendants in economy that this service surprised me. The flight attendants were very efficient and completed meal service for the 215 seat economy cabin in less than one hour. They also worked really hard and passed through the cabin for three drinks services and two snack services. Also, the flight attendants were actually friendly. The flight attendant working our aisle noticed that Christina was cold and asked is she wanted another blanket. I believe that a significant factor in the improved service was that we were served by a New York John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK) based crew. JFK is a legacy American Airlines hub while Charlotte is a legacy U.S. Airways Hub and nearly four and a half years into the merger the flight scheduling for the flight attendants has not been merged. This means that legacy U.S. Airways flight attendants can only work legacy U.S. Airways aircraft and vice versa. I believe this really shows up in the service provided by the legacy U.S. Airways versus legacy American Airlines crew. American Airlines plans to merge it flight attendant scheduling system in October 2018. However, until then I would strongly encourage you to connect through legacy American Airlines hubs to improve your chances of getting better equipment and service. However, flying through JFK in American Airlines is going to be more difficult as American Airlines continues to reduce their presence at JFK.
This flight showed American Airlines at its best and I would definitely take this flight again. I really enjoyed my first flight on the 777-200 and the plane was modern, had ample power, and great in-flight entertainment. The crew surprised me with their friendly and efficient service. This further reinforced the inconsistency of American Airlines fleet and service. I would recommend that you take the flight out of JFK if you are flying to or from Barcelona.