Flight-Report

Review of American Airlines flight San Diego Phoenix in First

Airline American Airlines
Flight AA480
Class First
Seat 4A
Aircraft Airbus A321
Flight time 01:20
Take-off 15 Dec 18, 19:25
Arrival at 15 Dec 18, 21:45
AA   #74 out of 128 Airlines A minimum of 20 Flight-Reports is required in order to appear in the rankings. 373 reviews
KévinDC
By GOLD 1036
Published on 26th March 2019

Introduction


As some of you know, the joys of being a new dad have kept me a little busy these past 2 months, so I've fallen behind in posting. After much delay, welcome to the 3rd and last sector in this short series of flights in Domestic First.

Some background:

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 have reviews…after that, redeye-zombie-mode hit.   


photo routing

PRE-FLIGHT


After arriving from LAX, I headed to the Gaslamp Quarter of downtown San Diego where I met up with my spouse and some good friends from DC who had recently moved to California.

Despite being winter, the temperature was pleasant, in the low 70's, so we enjoyed drinks at a rooftop bar. Gotta love Southern California! 

#RoséAllDay 


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We enjoyed a beautiful West Coast sunset before heading back to the airport to fly home.


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I've always liked Southern California. Funny enough, I will soon be moving to San Diego, though I didn't know it at the time!


boarding


Being that the airport is so close to downtown, we maximized our time with our friends enjoying the San Diego weather and headed back to the airport at the very last minute. 

With no bags to check and mobile boarding passes in hand we got through TSA Pre-check in two minutes and arrived at the gate just in time to be among the last to board.

We were greeted by a super friendly lead Flight Attendant at the door. 


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Despite cutting it close, we still boarded with enough time to have a pre-departure drink. On this pre-merger US Airways bird with a PMUS PHX-based crew, there was no doubt that PDB's would be served. Though, as I've mentioned in previous reports, PMAA crews have also been very consistent with PDB service lately 👍

A round of Gin & Tonics in fancy plastic cups…


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Legroom is OK on these PMUS A321s with a pretty standard 38" in First; however, PMAA A321 First is more spacious at 40" (At least for now).


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Aside from new black leather seat covers, new bulkheads and carpets, PMUS A321 cabins haven't really changed much since before the merger. There is still no in-seat IFE, despite these birds doing transcons regularly, and there is still no power, which is a real shame in an age when everyone has multiple electronic devices that need charging.

Nevertheless, the seats are comfortable. 


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the flight


We pushed back from the right on time


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Taxiing past a United 737 MAX 9–who would have thought that a few months later all MAX would be grounded


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We took off towards the Pacific Ocean with a view of Terminal 2


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Looking back towards the airport as we begin to make our turn back inland.


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As this was a very short flight, the lead FA sprang into action as soon as we reached 10,000 feet bringing drinks to the cabin. Orders had been taken on the ground prior to takeoff.

I had a mimosa, because why not… 


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Soon after, the friendly lead FA came through the cabin with the snack basket, which is never particularly exciting, but you can't really expect much on a 45 minute flight. Though it would be nice to have more variety and perhaps some healthier options, such as fresh fruit. 


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I barely had time to finish my drink before we began our descent into Phoenix Sky Harbor Intl Airport


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The lights of Phoenix and suburbs glowing in the desert night


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We landed and arrived at the gate a few minutes early.


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arrival


I was at least able to get a shot of our bird on arrival, since we were rushed on departure.


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I've never really been a fan of PHX. It's a surprisingly huge for a mid-sized city, owing to the AA (former US) hub.

Distances between concourses is annoyingly long, in my opinion.


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Christmas decorations helped to brighten up what is normally a pretty drab airport in the middle of the night, albeit in a tacky way.


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As we had about 3 hours between flights we headed to the only Priority Pass lounge at PHX, only to find that it was closed, despite the Priority Pass app information stating it was open until 11PM.

Clearly the information on the app was out of date (it's since been updated). 


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Also, at this late hour, there were very few restaurants and shops still open in the terminal. You would thing they would stay open until the last departure bank…more negative points for PHX.

It was a loooong 3 hour wait for that redeye back to DC! 


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Thank you for reading this short report.

See more

Verdict

American Airlines

6.0/10
Cabin6.0
Cabin crew8.5
In-flight Entertainment5.0
Meal/catering4.5

San Diego - SAN

8.5/10
Efficiency8.5
Access8.5
Services8.0
Cleanliness9.0

Phoenix - PHX

7.0/10
Efficiency8.0
Access6.5
Services6.5
Cleanliness7.0

Conclusion

It was an OK flight--luckily, it was short. As often with mediocre products, a cabin crew can make of break the experience, and in this case, the cheerful and attentive lead Flight Attendant made the experience pleasant. It is really a shame that in 2019, pre-merger US Airways A321s still don't have in-seat power. On a short flight like this, it's fine, but I've had these birds on 6-hour transcon flights before. With no PTVs and no in-seat power, it's difficult to enjoy the streaming IFE on personal devices on longer flights.

Regarding catering, as I'd mentioned earlier, it would be nice to see more options, and especially healthier options, in the snack basket on these short flights.

Related

11 Comments

  • Comment 494951 by
    ThomasDutch SILVER 239 Comments

    While in terms of comfort, you definitely receive a better treatment in the US compared to Europe, I'm still shocked about the meals delivered over there. Even BA Cityflyer manages to give you a proper meal and choice on a flight that is barely 30 minutes long in terms of actual flying (LCY-RTM).

    But better late than never to finish your trip reports, right? Hope the kid is doing well 😉

    • Comment 495319 by
      KévinDC TEAM GOLD AUTHOR 4666 Comments

      Hi Thomas, thanks for your comments!

      While in terms of comfort, you definitely receive a better treatment in the US compared to Europe, I'm still shocked about the meals delivered over there.

      Definitely agree. U.S. carriers have much better seats than Euro J empty-middle-seat, but European carriers usually shine with catering on similar length flights.

      Hope the kid is doing well 😉

      He's doing great, thanks!

  • Comment 494961 by
    sotto 69 Comments

    American Airlines! First class! Welcome drinks in plastic-cupd. Packed unhealthy "snacks"! A true first class service?!?!?!

    • Comment 494984 by
      ISTFlyer GOLD 150 Comments

      Yes it's a true First Class service 😁. At least they are better from Amtrak First Class 😩.

      Just kidding, until the people in US asks for a better First Class, they won't change anything. That's so sad but it's the reality.
      In addition, they only serve the same snack basket and some heated cookies on overnight transcontinental flights as well. This situation is better than that.

    • Comment 495320 by
      KévinDC TEAM GOLD AUTHOR 4666 Comments

      Agree with you sotto. The catering is definitely below par compared to European/Asian carriers on short-haul Business. The seats are much better than Euro carriers, though. U.S. carriers traditionally call the premium cabin "First class," but it's definitely a regional Business class product. This "First class" branding causes confusion in the U.S. since domestic and international products are so different, and even on some premium domestic routes like NYC-LAX where there are internationally configured aircraft with a better "Business class" than domestic "First class" and true International First class. I don't suspect U.S. carriers will ever give up the "First" appellation

  • Comment 494981 by
    ISTFlyer GOLD 150 Comments

    Hi KévinDC and thanks for sharing this report,

    Despite cutting it close, we still boarded with enough time to have a pre-departure drink. On this pre-merger US Airways bird with a PMUS PHX-based crew, there was no doubt that PDB's would be served.

    - You are lucky that a pre departure drink is being served. A 5* airline rated by SkyTrax removed their pre departure drink service on J class on their short haul flights. It would be on one of my upcoming FR's.
    Legroom is OK on these PMUS A321s with a pretty standard 38" in First; however, PMAA A321 First is more spacious at 40" (At least for now).

    - AA Domestic First seats are one of the best, of course after Delta. I hope that they don't change them as I noticed that UA 737's have really bad F class seat pitches with almost the same legroom with their EconomyPlus seats.
    Soon after, the friendly lead FA came through the cabin with the snack basket, which is never particularly exciting, but you can't really expect much on a 45 minute flight. Though it would be nice to have more variety and perhaps some healthier options, such as fresh fruit.

    - I agree to ThomasDutch that USA carriers could improve their First Class meals; at least they could serve a warmed sandwich instead of a snack basket which they fill items bought from discount markets. At least there were beef snacks as an option.
    Also, at this late hour, there were very few restaurants and shops still open in the terminal. You would thing they would stay open until the last departure bank…more negative points for PHX.

    - It's really unacceptable that there are limited facilities at late night for a US airport and a hub. At least there was an Admirals Club option that you haven't used, but they are not worth $59 per entry.
    I will soon be moving to San Diego, though I didn't know it at the time!

    - I wish you the best for you and your family ( especially the new member of your family 😊) in your new home. Hope to see more reports from you in 2019 and greetings.

    • Comment 495321 by
      KévinDC TEAM GOLD AUTHOR 4666 Comments

      Hi ISTFlyer, thanks so much for sharing your thoughts!

      A 5* airline rated by SkyTrax removed their pre departure drink service on J class on their short haul flights. It would be on one of my upcoming FR's.

      Hmmm, really? Wow, I'm curious to find out who it is and looking forward to seeing the report!

      AA Domestic First seats are one of the best, of course after Delta.

      The best seats are on the rare AA 737s with IFE and PMAA A321s with IFE--nice cushy leather seats with 40" seat pitch. In my experience, DL F seats have less legroom at 38", especially bulkhead seats. AA's new F seats on remodeled "Oasis" cabin aircraft (same seats as 737 MAX) where they crammed in more seats are pretty bad, though. I heard that AA is getting so many complaints about the tight space in both First and coach that they are considering taking some rows out to add legroom in both cabins. Hope it's true!

      at least they could serve a warmed sandwich instead of a snack basket which they fill items bought from discount markets.

      I'd take even a cold sandwich and some fruit. They only seem to have fruit (apples and bananas) on morning flights...they should have them all day.

      At least there was an Admirals Club option that you haven't used, but they are not worth $59 per entry.

      Definitely not worth $59 for 2 hours. It's unfortunate paying premium cabin passengers can't get lounge access on domestic flights--cheapens the product.

      I wish you the best for you and your family ( especially the new member of your family 😊) in your new home.

      Thank you so much for the kind wishes! I will miss D.C. very much

      Thanks again for stopping by!

  • Comment 495184 by
    757Fan 487 Comments

    Great report, Kevin and Congratulations on being a new Dad! I love San Diego and my wife and I spent a few days last year in the gas lamp quarter and we also loved it.

    Looks like a decent flight with AA in F. I also don't understand the lack of IFE or power ports on US/AA aircraft. Another reason for me to fly Delta! :)

    • Comment 495322 by
      KévinDC TEAM GOLD AUTHOR 4666 Comments

      Hi Matthew, thanks so much for your comments and kind wishes!

      The gaslamp is really cool. I like that it feels a bit "East Coast"--reminds me of home, haha

      I also don't understand the lack of IFE or power ports on US/AA aircraft. Another reason for me to fly Delta! :)

      Delta's strength is consistency. AA has better F seats on aircraft that do have IFE, but DL wins with a consistent product throughout their fleet with most aircraft having the same seats and IFE.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  • Comment 495589 by
    loukas SILVER 277 Comments

    Hi Kevin, thanks for this report and congrats! I hope you enjoy your new role. Nice to hear you are moving to SAN (that is I suppose a much nicer place to live than DC). All the best to your Family!

    • Comment 496355 by
      KévinDC TEAM GOLD AUTHOR 4666 Comments

      Thanks Loukas! Sorry I didn't see your comment before.

      Nice to hear you are moving to SAN (that is I suppose a much nicer place to live than DC)

      The weather is much nicer, that's for sure, but I love DC and all of the culture (museums, monuments, etc). I will miss DC a lot, but I am excited to move to SoCal!

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