Review of American Airlines flight Santa Ana Phoenix in Domestic First

Airline American Airlines
Flight AA548
Seat 3F
Aircraft Airbus A320
Flight time 01:15
Take-off 24 Feb 16, 16:30
Arrival at 24 Feb 16, 18:45
AA   #50 out of 113 Airlines A minimum of 10 flight-reports within the past two years is required to appear in the rankings. 483 reviews
socalnow
By 1753
Published on 4th March 2016
Hello Flight Report community and thanks for stopping by this review, the first installment of my latest journey.

It has been clear for several years that the American Airlines Advantage frequent flyer program was out of sync with the other major US carriers. It has remained very generous on the redemption side while the others have had significant devaluations. Smart money was on a correction coming sooner before later. It was with this in mind that I decided to structure a grand adventure and cut deeply into my AAdvantage miles inventory.

Always keen to enjoy a new (to me) airline experience I decided to build the trip around American's two Middle East miles partners Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways and specifically the First Class cabins on each carriers' A380. I secured a seat on EY's AUH-JFK flight but for the same 90k miles I could extend this so I made it DEL-AUH-JFK-LAX with the last leg on American Airlines. To get to DEL I found CDG-DOH-DEL on QR with the CDG-DOH on the A380. The final piece was how to get to Paris. I had read a lot about BA First Class and almost none of it was positive but I had to find out for myself. I was able to find SNA-PHX-LHR-CDG on American and BA with the PHX-LHR segment in First on the 747.

Of course all of the above routing took ages and many searches to come up with the best match that put me away from home/work the least. After I book an award I'm always going back to tinker and see if I can improve the experience. I was fully expecting some Z inventory to open on one of the BA LAX-LHR flights but it never happened. At one point I was very close to abandoning BA for an LH award in First ex. SFO but I decided to stay with BA and form my own opinions.

The final tally was SNA-PHX-LHR-CDG for 62,500 AA miles, CDG-DOH-DEL for 40,000 AA miles, and DEL-AUH-JFK-LAX for 90,000 AA miles.So 192,500 AA miles lighter, I was off.

The reports will be broken down as follows:

Admirals Club SNA and American Airlines SNA-PHX (A320) (First)(This Report)
The Club PHX and British Airways PHX-LHR (747) (First)http://flight-report.com/en/report-13504.html
Concord Room LHR and British Airways LHR-CDG (A319) (Business) http://flight-report.com/en/report-13518.html
Salon Lounge CDG and Qatar Airways CDG-DOH (A380) (First) http://flight-report.com/en/report-13533.html
Al Safwa First Class Lounge DOH and QR DOH-DEL (787) (Business) http://flight-report.com/en/report-13671.html
Plaza Premium Lounge DEL, EY DEL-AUH (77L) (First), and EY Arrivals Lounge AUH http://flight-report.com/en/report-13722.html
Etihad Airways Premium Lounge AUH, EY US Lounge AUH, and EY AUH-JFK (A380) (First) http://flight-report.com/en/report-13756.html
American Airlines "Flagship" Lounge JFK and AA JFK-LAX (A321) (First)http://flight-report.com/en/report-13809.html

It is quite a luxury to fly from my backyard airport, John Wayne Airport - KSNA. A $7.00 Uber to the airport is a great way to start a trip. I usually son't include the connector flights in my reports but I decided to give it a try this time.

For some reason AA.com wouldn't check me in online. Upon arrival at the airport I attempted to use the kiosk and also received an error to see an agent. I approached the First/Premium check in position and there was no wait. I said hello to the female agent and presented my passport and confirmation email. She didn't great me in any way. After a long pause of typing she said, "You're on some kind of watch list." I was able to check in for my BA flights so I thought to myself that this was incredibly specious information. Eventually, and with no other communication, she presented me with my boarding pass(es) for SNA-PHX and PHX-LHR. Ah, it's great to be back on American Airlines, what service!

With pre-check I was through security and in the Admirals Club in 5 minutes time. It was at this point that I heard one of the best airport announcements I can remember, "Attention in the terminal, if you just left checkpoint A and you're missing your shoes please return to checkpoint A." My goodness.

The Admirals Club is very compact and quite crowded but it's quite bright and airy.

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The food offering are as meager.

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Nothing at he bar really appealed to me so enjoyed a cold beer.

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I went down to the gate to get a look at the aircraft.

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The gate louse were in full force.

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Boarding for First was called and I negotiated my way to the front and made my way down the jet way.

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I was among the last F passengers to board and the flight attendant was standing at the divider between First and Economy and she had just closed the bin above my seat that also extends into Economy. I asked if it was full as that is usually why they are closed. She said no, she closed it to save the space for F passengers. I thought this was very thoughtful. I was able to stow my roll aboard near my set as a result.

The cabin was very well broken in.

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Boarding was complete and we pushed back on time if not several minutes early.

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The taxi to 20R is very quick from Gate 8. Holding for a UA A320.

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Strong takeoff and noise abatement maneuver.

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Beautiful evening over Newport Harbor and Lido Island.

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After departure over the Pacific Ocean a 180 degree turn and east heading.

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Beverages were offered promptly with the snack basket to follow.

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The service was very attentive and drink refills were offered but declined. The 40 minute flight leads to decent rather quickly. Sunset over the desert.

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We parked at a high number A gate and the short flight was complete.

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See more

Verdict

American Airlines

4.9/10
Cabin5.0
Cabin crew6.5
Entertainment/wifi3.0
Meal/catering5.0

American Airlines Admirals Club

5.5/10
Comfort5.0
Meal/catering5.0
Entertainment/wifi7.0
Services5.0

Santa Ana - SNA

7.4/10
Efficiency7.5
Access8.0
Services7.0
Cleanliness7.0

Phoenix - PHX

5.0/10
Efficiency5.0
Access5.0
Services5.0
Cleanliness5.0

Conclusion

The horrid AA agent wasn't reflective of the entire experience. The check in area was spacious and not crowded.

The lounge staff was fine and offered standard greetings and smiles. The complementary bar and food offerings are very minimal.

The in flight service was as good as it can be on a 40 minute flight in the US. Drinks and snacks were offered on multiple occasions including pre-departure.

Thanks for stopping by and please stay tuned for my very first BA First Class experience.

Related

6 Comments

  • Comment 159228 by
    jetsetpanda 2294 Comments

    I had read a lot about BA First Class and almost none of it was positive but I had to find out for myself.
    - Sometimes you need to experience things by yourself and formulate your own opinion. Make sure you get plenty of time to enjoy BA's F lounges, especially if you like to drink.

    The final tally was SNA-PHX-LHR-CDG for 62,500 AA miles, CDG-DOH-DEL for 40,000 AA miles, and DEL-AUH-JFK-LAX for 90,000 AA miles
    - A great use of miles if you ask me. I guess I have until Mar. 22 to decide whether I want to burn miles or not. ;)

    Ah, it's great to be back on American Airlines, what service!
    - Tweet your report to AA. After all, we don't want to overlook outstanding customer service moments like these. #GoingForGreat.

    The gate louse were in full force.
    - Where's the can of RAID?

    Strong takeoff and noise abatement maneuver.
    - A very steep climb during take off - probably the most exciting airport to take off from in the U.S.

    Thanks Christian for sharing the first of a series of exciting trips.

    • Comment 336098 by
      socalnow AUTHOR 980 Comments

      Greetings Jetsetpanda. Ireally appreciate the feedback on the FR.

      Make sure you get plenty of time to enjoy BA's F lounges, especially if you like to drink.
      -I do, and I did!

      Tweet your report to AA. After all, we don't want to overlook outstanding customer service moments like these. #GoingForGreat.
      -I usually limit my feedback to compliments but I should have taken note of this sour individual's name and dropped a line.

      A very steep climb during take off - probably the most exciting airport to take off from in the U.S.
      -I agree and the low-angle evening light and great scenery don't hurt either.

      Thank you again for reading and happy flying.

  • Comment 159249 by
    NGO85 1622 Comments

    You're on some kind of watch list.
    - Always a great way to start a trip to the Middle East ;)

    I've successfully avoided human agents at AA thus far just using the kiosk to reprint BPs. The individually wrapped apples in saran wrap would not tempt me, all kinds of mildew growing in there.

    The gate louse were in full force.
    - It's a result of baggage fees, everyone is loitering with their over-sized cabin luggage to get first dibs on the overhead bin space. From my observations, WN boarding looks much more organized. The more they penny-pinch, the worst this phenomena will get.

    The cabin was very well broken in.
    - Most US planes are very crusty, but I was lucky to get some newer cabins on my last routing through PHX. The pitch on the ex-US A319s seems a lot tighter than the other cabins too.

    Flights over the southwestern parts of the US are always visual treats.

    Overall a good shuttle flight with AA, but good generally just means nothing bad happened :) Thanks for sharing this FR!

  • Comment 159275 by
    socalnow AUTHOR 980 Comments

    Hello NGO85 and thanks for taking the time to read and leave a note, much appreciated.

    I agree the crowded boarding areas on the verge of stampede are a result of competition for bin space. Your WN observation is spot on, free checked bags make for a more enjoyable boarding experience.

    Overall a good shuttle flight with AA, but good generally just means nothing bad happened :)
    -I suppose this is the case with all US majors. We have lowered the bar.

    Thank you again and happy flying.

  • Comment 159800 by
    KévinDC TEAM SILVER 5363 Comments

    Thanks for this first report in what looks to be another great series!

    It has been clear for several years that the American Airlines Advantage frequent flyer program was out of sync with the other major US carriers
    - Le Sigh :-( Yes, sadly it was too good to last. Luckily AAdvantage wasn't gutted quite as badly as the UA and DL programs.

    For some reason AA.com wouldn't check me in online.
    - That happens to me about 50% of the time on International itineraries--on both outbounds and returns to the US. No idea why it happens. One time I even checked in for an international flight on the AA app...go figure, like that makes any sense. lol

    After a long pause of typing she said, You're on some kind of watch list.
    - Again, an AA IT #Fail and a customer service fail. If you WERE actually on some kind of watchlist she shouldn't have told you that...idiot, LOL

    I had no idea SNA had an Admiral's club--pretty nice for a small-ish regional airport. I mean SAN doesn't even have an Admirals club anymore so it's a bit surprising. But then again, it's a good thing SNA has one because all the rich beach blonde OC ladies would flip out if they had to wait in the terminal with the common folk, haha :-P

    The gate louse were in full force.
    - Doesn't look terrible, you can at least have a clear view of the line. Usually I have to plow through hundreds of people to even see where the line starts.

    She said no, she closed it to save the space for F passengers.
    - That is super thoughtful. It was quite the opposite on a recent flight I took. I wasn't even the last to arrive in F and there was no room. I asked the FA and he nastily said, well you should have checked it REALLY??? You shouldn't have to worry about having room in F. Turned out, as I had assumed, half of the bags in F were from Y...grrrrr. Full rant to come in upcoming report.

    The cabin was very well broken in.
    - Hah! That's a classy way of putting it! New AA paint on LUS planes = lipstick on a pig :-P

    The horrid AA agent wasn't reflective of the entire experience.
    - Glad it wasn't, but that's my major beef with AA--they are SO INCONSISTENT! Seriously AA, get it together. There's at least one rude grumpy agent or FA on each trip I take. The vast majority are great and do a great job, but the few bad apples can ruin the experience. In all the years I flew DL, they were consistently friendly and courteous.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Comment 336568 by
      socalnow AUTHOR 980 Comments

      Hi Kevin thanks for the comments. I'm really enjoying your reports from dispatches from down under.

      Luckily AAdvantage wasn't gutted quite as badly as the UA and DL programs.
      -Oh but they've only just begun. They're a full two years behind on executing the copy Delta strategy.

      If you WERE actually on some kind of watchlist she shouldn't have told you that...idiot, LOL
      -That was frustrating and totally unnecessary. I thought more about it and I wonder if it was an issue with no return or onward ticket from France? When I'm on these trips with one way segments I'm often asked at check in for flight info for my onward journey. Perhaps this is what the agent was encountering and she just expressed it in an inelegant way? All the segments were on AA ticket stock (various carriers) so she was perhaps able to see me next leg (exiting France) and satisfy the computer without asking me? Just a theory.

      I wasn't even the last to arrive in F and there was no room.
      -This is so frustrating. Our narcissistic society makes me sick to my stomach. The space is for F passengers but of course there are those sad souls who know the rules don't apply to them. I'm sure their parents told them everyday that they were special. I can sympathize with the cabin crew in that policing bin space is a pain at an already busy time in the flight. Perhaps the airline has to issue First Cabin Baggage tags and if your bag doesn't have one and it's in the 1st class bin it's subject to gate check? Again, more time to police those who won't have the common decency to just follow the rules.

      ...but that's my major beef with AA--they are SO INCONSISTENT!
      -Well said. They have many wonderful employees who do great work everyday but I too ALWAYS encounter someone so rude or indifferent that I just have to shake my head in disbelief.

      Thanks again Kevin and happy flying.

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