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American Airlines Review – 4 Domestic Flights

American Airlines review

English: DFW American Airlines Departure (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve never done an American Airlines review – I don’t live in one of its hub cities, so I rarely fly it.

Then, a few weeks ago, I needed to grab a last-minute flight to Washington, D.C. United and American Airlines were dollars away from each other. From there, my choice came down to fleet versus flight times. And the American Airlines schedule worked in my favor, so it was my choice for these flights (PHX-DFW, DFW-BWI – BWI-ORD, ORD-PHX).

Here are a few thoughts that should give you an American Airlines review that covers more than a few bases, from social media to check in.

The American Airlines Fleet

As I mentioned earlier, fleet is often a deciding factor. And American Airlines does not have one of my favorite fleets; its MD-80 planes are long in the tooth at best – American Airlines may call it the Super 80, but there’s little super about it. I poked some fun at the Mad Dog-80 with this Twitter message.

Justin Schmid ‏@wandering_j23h

.@AmericanAir should dress its flight crews in steampunk clothes to match its raggedy MD-80s. #travel #airlines #avgeek

American Airlines responded with this tweet:

American Airlines ‏@AmericanAir23h

@wandering_j Justin, our fleet is evolving! Check here for more info: http://bit.ly/AAEvolution

American Airlines review

I still haven’t flown a shiny American Airlines 777 for an intercontinental flight. Fodder for a future review?

Fair play to American Airlines for the response, and a friendly exchange of follow-up tweets. I’d like to think that anyone involved in social media got a giggle out of the notion of steampunked flight attendants. Bottom line, though, my recent domestic flight on a United Airlines Dreamliner was a big difference from the American Airlines Mad Dog. Planes change the game for some people, and a few hours of difference in schedule could’ve made American Airlines lose this booking. On the plus side: It’s easy to avoid middle seats on an MD-80 because of its 2-3 seat configuration. It’s also a quiet ride if you’re up front, but a roaring beast in the back.

Where American Airlines Gets Technology Right

When I boarded my flight, I peered into the all-analog cockpit of the MD-80 and noticed that the first officer had an iPad docked on the instrument panel (the captain may have, too, but I didn’t have the angle). I guessed it was a supplement to paper charts. I was close: The iPad is a complete replacement for paper charts and manuals. An article in American Way, the American Airlines inflight magazine, gives some interesting stats:

  • 400,000 gallons of fuel savings from reduced weight
  • 24 million fewer pages printed
  • Electronic updates save hours versus hand-written updates of paper manuals

Before flying, I also downloaded the American Airlines Android app. I hadn’t gotten an email confirmation for my flight, and I wanted to cover all my bases. The app worked beautifully, which scores some points in my American Airlines review. It presented no problems for the TSA agents, nor for the gate agents. It reminded me of last year’s flights in Scandinavia, when upwards of 90 percent of passengers on my flights boarded with smart phones. Also, American Airlines updated the (admittedly paltry) miles in my account quite quickly.

In the Air

I didn’t interact much with the flight attendants. There was no meal service on any of my flights, and I filled my 24-ounce water bottle before boarding each leg. It was mostly just a nap-and-read affair for me. The flight attendant on the flight from BWI to O’Hare managed to get some chuckles for his wordplay during the safety speech (I’ve noticed a pattern lately – some really good FAs on regional jets).

American Airlines Review Bottom Line

The fleet renewal can’t come soon enough for me. American Airlines scores points with a website that I find easy to use, even when cashing in frequent flier miles. A few years ago, I snagged a first class upgrade for AAdvantage miles – and the transaction was smooth as a curling rock’s bottom. Better planes can give American Airlines a leg up against the shiny United Airlines fleet that I’ve enjoyed so much for domestic trips.

I have mixed feelings about the potential merger with US Airways, my current hometown airline. I like the US Airways Star Alliance airlines far better than the oneworld counterparts.

Wrapping it up, I haven’t flown a long-haul flight on American. I have a hard time handing my cash over to a US-based airline for an intercontinental flight when I have a wealth of evidence that foreign carriers trounce them in Economy-equivalent class: Qantas and Asiana Airlines brutally pasted United Airlines in my recent intercontinental flights. Even the relatively so-so SAS comprehensively outperformed United Airlines. So, I can’t say much about what American Airlines offers those riding in the back. Who knows, though? Maybe that’ll be the topic of a future American Airlines review.

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