Flight-Report

Review of American Airlines flight Philadelphia Ithaca in Economy

Airline American Airlines
Flight AA4830
Class Economy
Seat 5F
Flight time 00:55
Take-off 06 Aug 16, 14:10
Arrival at 06 Aug 16, 15:05
AA   #77 out of 129 Airlines A minimum of 20 Flight-Reports is required in order to appear in the rankings. 386 reviews
Menzenski
By 1284
Published on 15th August 2016
Background:
After a quick trip to the DC area, it was time to head home. This routing was a much more tame DCA-PHL-ITH routing versus the double connection two days prior. This would be an interesting travel day. One mainline flight and one Dash-8 flight, but the Dash-8 flight was scheduled to be twice as long in the air.

Ithaca, NY to Philadelphia, PA (ITH - PHL) | CRJ-200 [REPORT HERE]
Philadelphia, PA to Boston, MA (PHL - BOS) | A321 [NO REPORT]
Boston, MA to Washington, DC (BOS - DCA) | A319 [REPORT HERE]
Washington, DC to Philadelphia, PA (DCA - PHL) | A319 [REPORT HERE]
Philadelphia, PA to Ithaca, NY (PHL - ITH) | DASH-8 [THIS REPORT]

The day's flights, all of 311 total miles:


Story:
I will begin this flight report where I left the last one (link above): just after landing at Philadelphia.

Before leaving DCA that morning, the American app was showing that my connecting flight to Ithaca was leaving from gate F23, at the end of Terminal F in Philadelphia. On landing at Philadelphia on runway 27R, I saw clear as day that the Piedmont retro Dash-8 was parked at the end of Terminal F. Not sure if it was actually sitting at my gate or not, I checked Flightradar24 on my phone to find the registration of my flight, and sure enough, my flight to Ithaca was to be operated by N837EX.

My heart sank, however, when I realized how unlikely it was for me to make it to the gate before departure. Because my flight in from DCA was full of connections to the Caribbean, we parked at the very end of Terminal A-west, the farthest possible gate from F23. We parked at A24 at 9:18, and with a scheduled departure of 9:45am I'd need a herculean effort to get off of our A319 and all the way to Terminal F in 15 minutes.

While waiting in my seat to enter the terminal, I tweeted to @AmericanAir to see if there was any delay with my flight to Ithaca. I then left my seat, grabbed my roller bag and quickly headed up the jetway into the unknown.

I entered the terminal just after 9:25. I immediately started running with my backpack and roller bag all the way down A-west, through the central part of Terminal A (right past a Qatar A350 that was boarding for DOH, would've loved to snap a picture of that one), past A-east and to the transfer bus stop between A-east and B. I went down the escalator and joined the long line behind the door at about 9:29. The shuttle bus arrived a few minutes later, and I immediately knew I would not be making my flight. The driver of that bus was clearly a new driver, and had an instructor riding shotgun. I received a reply from @AmericanAir on twitter saying that in case I missed my connection, they had confirmed me on the next flight to Ithaca.

I began to expect that I'd get to the gate out of breath to see the retro Dash-8 pushing back, but hoped for a nice 10 minute delay allowing me to make the flight. However, as we passed the end of Terminal E, I saw the cold hard truth.

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I had definitely missed the flight. My heart sank because that was probably my one chance to ride on the retro Dash-8 before it's retired.

N943HA was my ride ITH-PHL in early May this year.

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I checked the American app on my phone to see at what time the next flight departed. 2:10pm, or in four and a half hours. Having already missed my flight, I let everyone else on the bus exit before entering Terminal F.

I made my way down to gate F23 to get a new boarding pass from the gate agent. Because of my twitter work earlier, the agent was able to print me a boarding pass straight away. Another person who had been on the same flight from DCA that morning appeared just as I was leaving and was told that the flight was oversold, and she would be put on stand by. I guess I got the last open seat.

After leaving F23 to go exploring, I checked the American app one more time. It was displaying the inbound flight as coming from Ithaca. My heart jumped. There was still a chance of flying on the retro Dash-8 as long as there wasn't a last second change.

Feeling a bit better with my situation, I decided to lay eye balls on the two Terminals at PHL that I hadn't seen before, Terminal E and Terminal D, where airlines other than American and its partners operate.

The view from the F / E connector looking back towards the expanded central part of F. I believe that all passengers arriving in terminal F have to walk through this connector to get to baggage claim while work is done on Terminal F. In this picture, you can see what I believe to be the biggest issue with the current Terminal F setup. If an aircraft pushes back from a gate, it blocks all the transfer buses until it leaves the aisle. I've almost missed the last flight to Ithaca several times because of this. You can see four buses waiting behind a Dash-8 here.

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Terminal E is primarily used by Southwest, JetBlue and Frontier, while United, Delta and Air Canada are the primary users of D. My first impression of the both concourses is that they were old. Low ceilings and poor lighting were the theme. One interesting thing is that each gate seemed to have a stair case down to ramp level. I don't know the history of D and E, but it looks like they may have been commuter terminals in the past. I didn't take any pictures in D nor E for some reason.

I made my way to Terminal C and boarded the shuttle bus back to Terminal F.

The bus gets very close to gate C17.

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When I made it back to Terminal F, I still had about two and a half hours to kill before departure. I spent the time drinking coffee and eating Chipotle, as well as tracking the inbound flight from Ithaca. Sure enough, the retro Dash-8 landed and parked back at gate F23. The gate agent had told me earlier that the next Ithaca flight would also be leaving from F23, so I was feeling pretty confident I'd get the retro plane at that point, but it was still a great feeling to see Ithaca, NY show up on the departure screen for gate F23.

A couple of comments on Terminal F. Since it was redone a few years ago, the amenities and common areas are fantastic. It is probably my favorite regional terminal in the United States, just ahead of Detroit's B/C concourse. However, the end of Terminal F has six gates (F18-F23) sharing a common area. There is no where near enough seating for six flights worth of people, and there were five or six flights departing at about the same time so people were sitting on the floor and standing. Second, because there are six gates very close together, the PA system for all six gates uses the same speakers, making it hard to distinguish one announcement from another. The gates located away from the very end of the concourse have none of these problems, however.

Boarding for flight 4830 to Ithaca began at 1:50, just after a flight to Scranton (AVP) departed from F21 about four feet away from F23. Boarding was more orderly than it had been in Ithaca a few days prior, with all groups and status levels being called. I boarded with group four.

As soon as I stepped outside, I was met with a great view of N837EX, and I cracked a big smile. I was still kind of in disbelief that this plane was doing back-to-back Ithaca turns giving me a second chance to fly on her.

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I handed my larger carry on bag to a ground handler, then climbed on board.



The shade of blue used in the livery is very nice. Boarding was completed and the flight attendant closed the main door just before scheduled departure time. Even though earlier in the day the gate agent had said the flight was oversold, there were eight or nine empty seats, including the one next to me. I hope that there weren't really eight or nine more passengers who had missed their connection.

We pushed back right on time at 2:10, and made a very quick taxi to runway 35 at taxiway K, and executed an intersection departure from there. Departing from here definitely saved us time, as we avoided a lengthy taxi to runway 27L.



Gear up.

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Climbing out above I-95 with downtown Philadelphia in the background.



Some slight turns over some northern Philadelphia suburbs.



Retro inside and out!

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Cruising.

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Over Allentown.

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The flight began to get turbulent as we passed through the clouds.

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The Piedmont safety card matches very well for once.

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The turbulence subsided as we cruised over central Pennsylvania.

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Nearing the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton area.

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You can just (I really do mean just) make out AVP airport in the center of the frame, just above a cloud.

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We began our descent near the border with New York.

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The entire descent was quite turbulent, I pretty sure the hot afternoon and the very hilly topography were to blame for that.



Passing over Owego, New York.

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Looks like it will be a runway 32 arrival, so no fantastic views of Ithaca for me today.

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Gear down.

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NYSEG regional offices and Route 13.

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Short final for runway 32.

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Freshly painted piano keys reflecting off of the lovely blue engine.

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Floating…

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…and touchdown. I just missed the puff of smoke.



A view of the terminal while taxiing in.

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On stand a few minutes early.

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One last look at N837EX after deplaning.

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A view of the control tower and the Taughannock Aviation ramp, including a few unusual visitors. There were two Elite Airways planes, a CRJ-200 and a CRJ-700, as well as the two Hendrick Motorsports E145s. They were here for the NASCAR race at nearby Watkins Glen. The next day after the race had finished, there were several chartered MD-80 and Miami Air 737-400 flights out of Ithaca back to North Carolina. In hindsight, I probably should have gone spotting. Who knows if an MD-80 will visit here again? Oh well. The primary airport used by the NASCAR jets has traditionally been Elmira (ELM), but in recent years more of the traffic has used Ithaca.

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The single baggage carousel in Ithaca.

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The outside of the terminal.

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Verdict

American Airlines

7.8/10
Cabin8.0
Cabin crew8.0
Entertainment/wifi9.0
Meal/catering6.0

Philadelphia - PHL

7.4/10
Efficiency7.5
Access7.5
Services9.0
Cleanliness5.5

Ithaca - ITH

9.0/10
Efficiency9.5
Access9.0
Services8.5
Cleanliness9.0

Conclusion

Missing my connection was pretty annoying, as it more than doubled my journey time. However, the delay was caused by a ground stop, so there's not a lot I can complain about on that front. American Airlines was prompt in rebooking me on the next flight. The flight itself was great, made even better by the retro livery and the lack of a seat mate. Service on the flight was as expected, pretzels and water for me.

I will be watching to see what happens with service to Ithaca when Piedmont retires the Dash-8 in the coming years. The loads on my American flights have been on the light side, so I'd imaging a reduction in frequency would accompany an aircraft change.

Related

4 Comments

  • Comment 363012 by
    757Fan 505 Comments

    Great photos from your trip! Looks like a nice flight on the Dash 8. I've flown Alaska Airlines a lot for work recently, and always enjoy flying on one of their Dash 8-400's. Definitely a great airplane!

  • Comment 363434 by
    KévinDC TEAM GOLD 4742 Comments

    Thanks for sharing this report on an exotic route. What a stressful ordeal, but you handled it well. I definitely try to take to Twitter when things go wrong. I find the AA twitter team very responsive and often time more efficient and friendly than the Executive Platinum desk.

    I've had many connections between A and F at PHL in the past. It is sooooo far! I haven't been to Terminal F since it's been redone, though. I used to hate it! Probably because I spent so much time connecting there.

    " Another person who had been on the same flight from DCA that morning appeared just as I was leaving and was told that the flight was oversold, and she would be put on stand by. I guess I got the last open seat."
    - Good thing you tweeted!

    The light blue Eagle/Piedmont livery looks really good on this Dash-8.

    • Comment 363447 by
      Menzenski AUTHOR 25 Comments

      - Oh yeah, I guess it is an exotic route! Seems common place to me but it's not like another JFK-LAX flight or LGA-ORD, or something. AA's twitter team is definitely one of the better ones, although I've only interacted with the Delta and American ones. The American one was definitely more proactive, as I didn't even ask them to get me on the next flight, they just did it.

      - It really is. Now that E and F are connected its possible to walk to F. However, for my connection it would've been 1.3 miles (2.1 km) gate to gate, which is pretty incredible actually. I think the only time I was in the 'old' Terminal F was when I very young, but I remember it being pretty terrible. Now it's pretty great actually.

      Thanks for the comment.

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