Review of American Airlines flight Washington Los Angeles in First

Airline American Airlines
Flight AA1275
Class First
Seat 6F
Aircraft Boeing 737-800
Flight time 06:10
Take-off 14 Dec 18, 07:05
Arrival at 14 Dec 18, 10:15
AA   #78 out of 130 Airlines A minimum of 20 Flight-Reports is required in order to appear in the rankings. 394 reviews
KévinDC
By GOLD 1140
Published on 14th January 2019

Introduction



Happy New Year and welcome to a new short series of flights,

For the better part of a decade since I've been on the airline status hamster wheel, the month of December has often meant a last minute mileage run to maintain status or reach a new level. At the end of 2018 I was a little under 10,000 status miles short so, like many previous years, I decided to take a quick day trip to the west coast. The routing this year was not particularly sexy and didn't involve any interesting or new aircraft types–the routing was purely determined on price and destination. I decided I would fly to San Diego, where my spouse was on a business trip, and we would fly home to DC together.

Domestic First class tickets yield at least 2 EQMs (Elite Qualifying Miles) per mile flown, so a transcontinental itinerary with over 5,000 flown miles would yield enough EQMs to reach the 10,000 I was missing.

The routing was DCA-LAX-SAN-PHX-DCA of which the first 3 segments will have reviews…after that, redeye-zombie-mode hit.

photo routing


Reports in this series:

Washington Reagan DCA ✈ Los Angeles Intl LAX | American Airlines, B737-800, First class
Los Angeles Intl LAX ✈ San Diego Intl SAN | American Eagle, E175, First class
San Diego Intl SAN ✈ Phoenix Sky Harbor PHX | American Airlines, A320-200, First class

Pre-flight & Check-in



I'd checked in on the American Airlines app 24 hours before the flight. The morning of the flight, I got an Uber and arrived at DCA about an hour before departure. As I didn't have any bags to check, I just went straight to the security checkpoint.

A busy early morning at DCA

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The beautiful main hall decorated for the Holidays

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With TSA Pre-check I was through security in minutes and arrived at the gate just before boarding began.

American Airlines had been running mostly B737 MAX 8 on the DCA-LAX route; however there are still some 737-800s operating the route. Although it would have been cool to try the new MAX, despite its bad reputation for a cramped cabin and no IFE, the 7AM flight was operated by a 737-800 that day.

photo img_4422

Boarding



Boarding began a few minutes early with Concierge Key, then First class. As usual, it was a challenge navigating through the wall of people crowding the boarding queues. Boarding domestic flights in the U.S. is hardly ever a pleasant experience.

Two very cheerful cabin crew warmly welcomed First class passengers on board.

Upon entering the aircraft, I immediately saw this 737 had Boeing Sky interior so I automatically assumed there would be individual IFE…

photo img_4423

…but nope! This aircraft was one of the earlier 737s delivered to AA with Boeing Sky Interior but no IFE. The cabin had been refreshed with the new interior style with leather seats, but as we all know by now, AA are not only stopping install of IFE on the narrowbody fleet, but planning to eventually rip out IFE from aircraft that currently have PTVs. Thanks Dougie!

When available, I tend to prefer seats in the last row of the premium cabin for more privacy, and also the ability to recline with no one behind me. I also like to sit on the right side on departures from DCA for views of the city in case of a take off to the north.

photo aa seats dca-lax

My seat

photo img_4424

Legroom is good with a seat pitch of 40"–the best in Domestic First of any U.S. carrier. It's unfortunate that pitch has been reduced to 38" in the brand new B737 MAX 8 fleet.

photo img_4425

Shortly after getting settled in, the friendly lead FA came through to take coats. He also offered a full choice of pre-departure beverages from the bar. I must say, these past few months PMAA FAs have gotten much better at offering PDBs consistently, whereas less than a year ago, it was very hit or miss.

I went ahead and ordered a healthy breakfast drink–a mimosa!

photo img_4426

The Flight



Boarding was completed early and the aircraft pushed back 4 minutes ahead of schedule.

The safety video played on the overhead screens as we pushed back from the gate. As you can see there are no seatback PTVs.

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Flight time from takeoff to touchdown was announced as 5 hours and 10 minutes. The taxi time was on the long side as we waited in the conga line for takeoff during this busy morning rush period.

We finally took off after 30 minutes as the sun began to rise over DC.

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The Jefferson Memorial and Tidal Basin

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The Washington Monument and National Mall

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My house is somewhere in that morning fog

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The Watergate and Georgetown waterfront

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Georgetown

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Pretty soon we were crossing over the Appalachian Mountains

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As we began to level out at cruising altitude I took out my tablet, thinking to myself that the lack of PTVs would be ok since I could access AA's streaming IFE from my personal device.
But…nope! The WiFi was not working–go figure!

I could hear several passengers around complaining about the WiFi to the cabin crew. The FAs made several attempts to re-start the WiFi but did not have any luck…womp womp.

Very disappointing, but at least there were overhead TVs and I had my noise-cancelling headphones. The movie on the screens was Christopher Robin–it wouldn't have been my personal choice, but it helped pass the time.

photo img_4441

Had I been on one of the new 737 MAX 8 with broken WiFi, I would have been bored out of my mind since they don't even have overhead monitors! I mean, what am I supposed to do on a 6 hour flight…read?! ?

On this flight, cabin crew began taking meal orders from the last row. The lead FA confirmed my pre-ordered choice from AA.com

photo aa meal dca-lax_li

Breakfast:

Smoked Fontina Cheese Omelette
served with peppadews, herbed potatoes, and Italian chicken sausage

Fresh fruit and Greek yogurt


photo img_4440

A selection of breakfast breads was also available, including bagels, buttermilk biscuits, and croissants–I had a bagel.

Overall, it was fine. Breakfast is never the most exciting meal when travelling in a premium cabin, and I've seen more creative breakfast options from AA in the past, so I found the whole omelette and sausage thing a bit disappointing and boring.

Luckily it was a mostly clear day and one of the best things about flying transcons on clear days is the view!

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Here comes the Nechus-esque portion of the report ?

The views get much more interesting the further west you fly.

The Front range of the Rockies as we flew along the Colorado-New Mexico border.

photo img_4444photo img_4446

Unsurprisingly for a month of December, there is a lot of snow covering the Rocky Mountains.

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Miles and miles of snow and highland forests.

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As we continued our route in the southwesterly direction, the scenes became more desert-like

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The cockpit crew announced that we were near the Grand Canyon. You could tell they were also enjoying the gorgeous views.

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Ah, America the beautiful!



The desert southwest is full of interesting geological formations and colours…

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Like these snaking cracks and craters

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Beautiful bright colours

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More striking colours and formations

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As we began to make our descent into LAX, the skies became progressively cloudier.

There were some breaks over the snow-covered San Bernardino Mountains

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San Bernardino and the San Gabriel Mountains

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Flying just south of Ontario Airport

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Downtown Los Angeles in view

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The new Rams' Inglewood stadium under construction

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Arrival



After a 5 hour 6 minute flight, we landed on the south runways about 30 minutes before scheduled arrival time. As luck would have it, our gate was actually available and we blocked in at the stand over 20 minutes early.

photo img_4487
Taxiing past TBIT

Welcome to LAX

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For those who are interested, this was our routing:

REBLL4 OTTTO COLNS J134 HNN J134 CAROL J134 DRK J231 HIPPI GABBL HLYWD1

photo aa route dca-lax

Thanks for reading!
See more

Verdict

American Airlines

6.5/10
Cabin6.5
Cabin crew9.0
Entertainment/wifi4.5
Meal/catering6.0

Washington - DCA

8.6/10
Efficiency8.5
Access8.5
Services8.5
Cleanliness9.0

Los Angeles - LAX

7.6/10
Efficiency6.5
Access7.0
Services8.5
Cleanliness8.5

Conclusion

Overall, it was a disappointing premium cabin transcon from a passenger experience perspective. While Delta flies Internationally configured 757s with lie-flat seats in the premium cabin on this route, American flies an un-competitive 737 with a domestic F cabin and no IFE. Prior to the introduction of the 737 MAX on the DC-LA route, AA was at least running mostly 738s with PTVs. Now it seems that this has become inconsistent. I imagine that AA feels no pressure to match Delta on passenger experience as they have a huge frequent flyer base out of the DCA hub and transcons have little competition due to DCA's 1250 mile perimeter rule and the lack of beyond-perimeter slots.

The saving grace for this flight was the fantastic cabin crew who were super friendly, proactive, and attentive throughout the flight.

Information on the route Washington (DCA) Los Angeles (LAX)

16 Comments

  • Comment 483836 by
    atco SILVER 94 Comments

    Thanks for helping to lower my expectations even more in preparation for my first Legacy US carrier flight in May Kevin!
    That's a pretty woeful product for what should be a premium trans-continental route.
    Those landscapes though........Incredible, wow

    • Comment 483903 by
      KévinDC TEAM GOLD AUTHOR 4780 Comments

      Hey Atco, thanks for you comments!

      "Thanks for helping to lower my expectations even more in preparation for my first Legacy US carrier flight in May Kevin!"
      - My pleasure! I wouldn't want you to be in for a rude awakening!

      "That's a pretty woeful product for what should be a premium trans-continental route."
      - So true! Apparently DL have deemed this to be a premium transcon route, but AA figure it isn't. It's definitely not the NYC-LAX market with all of the Hollywood and Broadway contracts supporting the premium cabin. And as we all know, the U.S. government can't seem to keep itself funded, so that part doesn't drive premium traffic. DC does have tons of tech traffic though, much of is gov't contracts but private sector (who buy F/J), so AA are leaving money on the table and sending the most high-end customers to DL. Especially with Amazon HQ2 coming to DC soon, AA will do well to begin treating the market as more premium.

      "Those landscapes though........Incredible, wow"
      - I always love flying over the Western U.S. for that reason!

      Thanks for stopping by!

  • Comment 483874 by
    YGeorgeW 78 Comments

    Thanks for the report KevinDC!

    “Legroom is good with a seat pitch of 40"–the best in Domestic First of any U.S. carrier. It's unfortunate that pitch has been reduced to 38" in the brand new B737 MAX 8 fleet.”
    -It might be the best pitch, still incredibly unpleasant for a transcontinental flight.

    “Shortly after getting settled in, the friendly lead FA came through to take coats. He also offered a full choice of pre-departure beverages from the bar. I must say, these past few months PMAA FAs have gotten much better at offering PDBs consistently, whereas less than a year ago, it was very hit or miss.”
    -I feel like it was just recently you were saying UA and DL do a better job than AA with pre-departure beverages.

    “I could hear several passengers around complaining about the WiFi to the cabin crew. The FAs made several attempts to re-start the WiFi but did not have any luck…womp womp.”
    -Did AA offer compensation? I know that UA offers vouchers/miles for a broken WiFi.

    "Ah, America the beautiful!"
    -Seems like you got at least some IFE from a beautiful landscape.

    "While Delta flies Internationally configured 757s with lie-flat seats in the premium cabin on this route..."
    -If only Delta did not have the most worthless miles :(

    • Comment 483904 by
      KévinDC TEAM GOLD AUTHOR 4780 Comments

      Thanks for your comments YGeorgeW!

      "It might be the best pitch, still incredibly unpleasant for a transcontinental flight"
      - So very true! Fine for up to 4 hours of so, but 6 hour transcons are getting into TATL-length territory.

      "I feel like it was just recently you were saying UA and DL do a better job than AA with pre-departure beverages."
      - Indeed, only during the latter half of 2018 have I observed LAA crews consistently offering PDB...and full bar at that. Prior to that, just being offered a PDM on LAA metal was pretty hit or miss, and getting a choice of full bar was a rare unicorn. I think the integration of the LAA and LUS cabin crew seniority lists later in 2018 may have had something to do with it. Though we still don't see too many mixed crews since the crew bases are historically LAA or LUS in most cities (DC is one of the few exceptions), I think the integration, at least on paper, may have made a difference.

      "Did AA offer compensation? I know that UA offers vouchers/miles for a broken WiFi."
      - Hah! Yeah...not so much. This is AA we're talking about. I don't think I've ever seen AA offer comp proactively like DL or UA when service issues like this happen. Nothing was offered on my recent GIG-MIA where the IFE didn't work at all, and that was a 9 hour flight. And knowing AA, I didn't even bother writing in for a measly 2 or 3K miles that they may throw my way.

      "If only Delta did not have the most worthless miles :("
      - I know! Being Franco-American, DL was my obvious go-to preferred airline for domestic, being in SkyTeam and in a JV with AF, but the SkyPesos just got too worthless and impossible to use so I made the switch to AA a few years ago. But from a passenger experience perspective I sooooo miss DL.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  • Comment 483992 by
    757Fan 510 Comments

    Great to see a new report from you, Kevin. Happy New Year! Sorry to hear about the rather disappointing flight with no wifi. I'm sad to hear AA is ripping out the IFE from their smaller aircraft. Delta is installing it - and for those that don't have personal ipads or computers on a plane, it seems a bit unfair to not offer something for those passengers. Breakfast looks pretty average.

    Thank you for sharing.

    • Comment 484130 by
      KévinDC TEAM GOLD AUTHOR 4780 Comments

      Hi Matthew, thanks for your comments as always and Happy New Year to you as well!

      "I'm sad to hear AA is ripping out the IFE from their smaller aircraft."
      - Me too! It's such a dumb cost-cutting move! When I first switched from DL to AA 4 years ago, my first Domestic F flight was DCA-ORD on a brand new 737 with IFE. I was really impressed at the time...not so much anymore.

      "Delta is installing it - and for those that don't have personal ipads or computers on a plane, it seems a bit unfair to not offer something for those passengers."
      - I totally agree. Can you imagine a big family travelling--they would need an iPad for all of their kids. That's just nuts to me. AA is just trying to save a buck at the expense of passenger experience.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  • Comment 484134 by
    vinzbg GOLD 390 Comments

    Thanks for the report Kévin and the stunning views over the country! It made my day :)

  • Comment 484268 by
    hometoyyz SILVER 498 Comments

    Hello Kevin, and happy new year to you too!

    Ah yes, the mileage run. Nice that you were able to put it together to join your spouse, so it doesn’t feel like a “no other purpose than mileage running mileage run.”

    Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

    I’ve always kinda liked the look of DCA, and it looks really nice there in its Christmas finery. Doesn’t DCA have a range restriction like LGA, or is this one of the “exception” routes due to its importance?

    Since AA started discrete first boarding for Concierge Key, how many of them do you usually find on a given flight? I’m curious how many people are in that select club.

    It really is a shame to not even have IFE in First Class on birds doing routes as long as this.

    “When available, I tend to prefer seats in the last row of the premium cabin for more privacy, and also the ability to recline with no one behind me. I also like to sit on the right side on departures from DCA for views of the city in case of a take off to the north.”
    - You’re really got this all reasoned out, don’t you? And it paid off with very nice shots on departure.

    I’ll give you that the pitch is indeed better than what I’m used to on Delta.

    “As we began to level out at cruising altitude I took out my tablet, thinking to myself that the lack of PTVs would be ok since I could access AA's streaming IFE from my personal device. But…nope! The WiFi was not working–go figure!”
    - Oh no! A double whammy. I mean…. IFE fails sometimes. It’s just what it does.

    “Had I been on one of the new 737 MAX 8 with broken WiFi, I would have been bored out of my mind since they don't even have overhead monitors! I mean, what am I supposed to do on a 6 hour flight…read?!”
    - Start a riot?

    Breakfast at least looks okay, even if it didn’t excite. But then, as you say, airline breakfasts seldom do.

    Lovely views of the Rockies and Grand Canyon. One of the benefits of the failed IFE is that more people got to enjoy them, I dare imagine.

    Looking forward to the rest of the series, and thanks for sharing this — even if it didn’t really live up to expectations.

    • Comment 484312 by
      KévinDC TEAM GOLD AUTHOR 4780 Comments

      Hi HometoYYZ, thanks so much for your thoughtful comments!

      "so it doesn’t feel like a “no other purpose than mileage running mileage run.”
      - Yep, I usually try to do that. Back in the day when I did long-haul Y mileage runs, it was always over a long-weekend mixed in with tourism. Those don't make sense anymore with the advent of revenue-based status earning, though.

      "Doesn’t DCA have a range restriction like LGA, or is this one of the “exception” routes due to its importance?"
      - You are absolutely correct and I do mention this briefly in the conclusion section. DCA has a 1250 mile perimeter rule. There are only about of dozen "exception" out-of-perimeter slots.

      "Since AA started discrete first boarding for Concierge Key, how many of them do you usually find on a given flight? I’m curious how many people are in that select club."
      - Concierge Key boarding isn't discrete at all as it is announced, haha. The most I've ever seen was 3 CK board on JFK-LHR. I'd say about half the time there aren't any (or they're not at the gate for pre-boarding) and it's rare to see more than 1 in my experience.

      "I’m curious how many people are in that select club."
      - No idea..maybe a few thousand, if I had to guess. It's an invitation-only status and the criteria for getting an invitation seems to be pretty arbitrary. From data points I've seen throughout the years there seems to be a mix of big spenders and "influencers" (social media or otherwise). For example, travel managers at big companies with big AA accounts, some that personally spend (or their companies pay) high amounts like over 50K in tickets/year for one person (I'm making that number up because I've read data points of people spending over 100K on themselves and not getting an invite), and some AA fanboys/girls with high social media following. And as quick as AA giveth, AA taketh away...there's no criteria for maintaining CK status...so AA can take it away whenever if they decide you're not as valuable of a billboard as you were before, lol.

      "You’re really got this all reasoned out, don’t you?"
      - Haha, yep, I try anyway. On routes and airports that I'm not familiar with, I try to research the most common landing and takeoff patterns to decide where to sit, and, depending on time of day, avoid being on the side of the sun, which screws up pictures and makes for a hot window lol

      "I’ll give you that the pitch is indeed better than what I’m used to on Delta."
      - At least for now...sigh. All 737s are getting retrofitted with 37-38" pitch like on the MAX and having IFE ripped out...grrr

      "Oh no! A double whammy. I mean…. IFE fails sometimes. It’s just what it does."
      - I must give off an electrical field that short-circuits IFE and WiFi systems because it seems every other flight I take either the IFE or the WiFi is down! That or AA cost-cutting...yeah, probably that

      "Start a riot?"
      - Too much work...probably would just drink myself into a stupor ?

      Thanks for stopping by!

  • Comment 484288 by
    loukas SILVER 292 Comments

    Hi Kevin, thanks for this report! The aerials are stunning! I keep wondering why some of the fields have this round shape? I don't like narrow bodies on long flights, I suppose that 5 hours onboard a 737 can be tiring even in business class (especially with no IFE). DCA "gothic" terminal is among my favourites!

    • Comment 484313 by
      KévinDC TEAM GOLD AUTHOR 4780 Comments

      Hi Loukas, thanks so much for your comments! Glad you enjoyed the report!

      "I keep wondering why some of the fields have this round shape?"
      - It has to do with the irrigation of the fields in these mostly desert-like climates. The irrigation structures branch out from the center to water the fields and have wheels to spin around the field so it makes circles in the dessert :-)

      "I don't like narrow bodies on long flights, I suppose that 5 hours onboard a 737 can be tiring even in business class"
      - I avoid long flights in narrowbodies when flying in Y, but in J I don't mind.

      "DCA "gothic" terminal is among my favourites!"
      - A beautiful glass cathedral!

      Thanks for stopping by!

  • Comment 484436 by
    ISTFlyer GOLD 188 Comments

    Hi KévinDC and thanks for sharing this report,

    As DC to LA is the most frequent route that I use in the US, it was nice to have an idea of First Class onboard American Airlines.
    "American Airlines had been running mostly B737 MAX 8 on the DCA-LAX route; however there are still some 737-800s operating the route. Although it would have been cool to try the new MAX, despite its bad reputation for a cramped cabin and no IFE, the 7AM flight was operated by a 737-800 that day. "
    - I don't know what's going on with this route but sometimes I also see A321's on this route, but AA does a lot of last minute aircraft/cabin change so I also had several times that the aircraft type of my flight was changed from the newer 737-800 cabins to the older one.
    "AA are not only stopping install of IFE on the narrowbody fleet, but planning to eventually rip out IFE from aircraft that currently have PTVs."
    - I didn't know that they are removing PTV screens from the aircrafts that actually has them. I've heard that they would use the 738 that have IFE on the South/Latin America routes.
    "But…nope! The WiFi was not working–go figure!"
    - I really hate when an advertised product is not being presented/active. Unfortunately, some people would need Wi-Fi for their work on a Friday morning.
    " Breakfast:"
    - I really think that AA should start considering their WAS-LAX route as a PS route like their MIA-LAX route. It's really annoying to have a breakfast that is prepared for a 2-3 hour regional flight on a transcontinental flight. Even BA offers more on their TLV & AMM flights dure less than this flight. I have learnt that Delta is offering a full transcontinental service on this route ( even on Economy ), but I also prefer American due to my OWS status and it's privileges.
    "As luck would have it, our gate was actually available and we blocked in at the stand over 20 minutes early. "
    - I hate to be stuck at one of the taxiways and wait for one of the gates to be available. I have difficulty remembering a flight that we had directly went to the jetbridge after landing. Of course this is valid only for AA flights arriving to LAX. I think that AA should rent remote stands from the airport and park their aircrafts there when there is no available slot at T4 or T5.

    Although, this report make me learnt that I would not spend 75000 Avios ( roundtrip ) for a F class award ticket from DC to LA and stick with the Main Cabin Extra seats by paying the $30 difference from Basic Economy. My only First experience in AA was an upgrade on a MIA to BNA due to my companions AAdvantage status and there were no actual meals, only a snack basket and choice of drinks. So, I'll avoid paying American the extra money/miles for transcontinental flights. But, yes I know that AA transcontinental F class are good for mileage runs, on all OW FFPs.

    Thanks again and hope to meet in the next reports in the serie.

    • Comment 487484 by
      KévinDC TEAM GOLD AUTHOR 4780 Comments

      Hi ISTFlyer, thanks for your comments and sorry for the late reply!

      "I don't know what's going on with this route but sometimes I also see A321's on this route"
      - I know the A321 is doing IAD-LAX, but I haven't seen it on DCA-LAX (maybe just last minute swaps). Had there been an A321 on the route, I would have preferred that since it would have been one of the PMAA A321s with PTVs (that's what they run from IAD anyway, as you know).

      "I didn't know that they are removing PTV screens from the aircrafts that actually has them. I've heard that they would use the 738 that have IFE on the South/Latin America routes."
      - Sadly, it's true--it's part of the project "Oasis" plans. They haven't started ripping out PTVs just yet, fortunately. The plan is to initially overhaul all of the 738s with older cabins to the new 737 MAX cabin standard (new seats but no IFE) which also crams in another 20 seats into the 737. Some of that space is gained from removing the bulkhead wall between F and Y (which I'm not happy about!). Once all that is done, then the PTVS will be ripped out of the newer 738s.

      Actually, AA is going to be running 737 MAX 8s to some Northern South American destinations...very tight 30" pitch in Y and no PTVs. Can't imagine that flight in Y on the 6 hour MIA-BSB!

      "I really think that AA should start considering their WAS-LAX route as a PS route like their MIA-LAX route."
      - Totally agree! As mentioned in the report, DL considers WAS-LAX a premium route.

      "Even BA offers more on their TLV & AMM flights dure less than this flight."
      - Exactly. That reminds me, I really want to try those flights in J before those birds are retired

      "But, yes I know that AA transcontinental F class are good for mileage runs, on all OW FFPs."
      - They used to be even better, especially for BA Executive Club members like you. Domestic First used to be coded F (like international F) and earn First class tier points on BA...that changed last year to be coded as J to earn Business class tier points.

      Thanks again for your comments!

      • Comment 487485 by
        ISTFlyer GOLD 188 Comments

        Hi again and thanks for the reply,

        "Had there been an A321 on the route"
        - In October 2018 and November 2018, they were operating one of the DCA-LAX flights before the 737-MAX-8 had been introduced in this route. However, nowadays all four of the AA flights on this route are operated with Boeing 737 series aircraft. In addition, American would also introduce the MAX service on their IAD-LAX route, this may.
        https://www.routesonline.com/news/38/airlineroute/282761/american-expands-737-max-8-los-angeles-miami-network-in-may-2019/

        Hope to see you again in the last flight of your series.

  • Comment 487486 by
    KévinDC TEAM GOLD AUTHOR 4780 Comments

    "In October 2018 and November 2018, they were operating one of the DCA-LAX flights before the 737-MAX-8 had been introduced in this route."
    - Ah yes, I do vaguely remember that. Too bad they weren't still running them in December

    "In addition, American would also introduce the MAX service on their IAD-LAX route, this may."
    - Nooo! That's not good. AA clearly hasn't gotten a clue about what a bad passenger experience the MAX is, despite so much public outcry, much of it from their own employees!

    Thanks for the info.

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