This series of Flight-Reports will cover flights from the summer of 2017 that I hadn't gotten around to posting previously.
For the past several years, it has become a tradition to take a yearly international trip with a group of 6-7 good friends. That year, we'd decided on a trip to Costa Rica, as I'd always wanted to go and, as luck would have it, there were some good First/Business fares from D.C. to San Jose.
As I'm usually the one who organizes the trips, I get to pick the carrier so, as a oneworld loyalist, I naturally chose American Airlines. Though United serves San Jose, Costa Rica with two daily non-stop flights from Washington-Dulles, American offered good connection through Miami. Of the big 3 U.S. carriers, American has the most service and frequencies to Latin America.
Four of us arrived at the airport a little over 2 hours before departure, while another friend would meet us in the lounge a little later on. Yet another friend was coming from SFO and would meet us in MIA.
A line up of JetBlue E190s and an A320 at Terminal B. BTW, how exciting that JetBlue announced recently that they'll be starting transatlantic service from JFK and BOS! Too bad it will be in 2 years…
We didn't have any bags to check, as we all just had carry-on baggage for the long weekend in the tropics, so we headed directly through security.
Our flight was departing from Terminal C, so we headed to the Admirals Club in that Terminal. There are 2 Admirals Clubs in DC, one in Terminal B (the pre-merger AA Admirals Club) and one in Terminal C (The pre-merger US Airways Club).
The DCA clubs have really good tarmac views
There are also views of DC monuments just on the other side of the Potomac River
As usual, the food offering in the Admirals Club was pretty mediocre
I just had a bagel and a hard-boiled egg.
We left the lounge just a few minutes before boarding was due to begin. One nice thing about DCA is that the concourses are relatively short, so the walk to the gate is never very long.
Despite a crowded gate area, there wasn't anyone in the Priority lane so we were among the first in the queue when boarding began.
This was the last time I would see these older blue checkered seat covers. They have all since been replaced by grey leather.
My seat 6A
Boarding was completed on time. As usual, the First class cabin was completely full.
40 inch seat pitch, the best legroom of any standard US domestic First class cabin.
The overhead screens showcase AA destinations during boarding.
The aircraft at the adjacent gate pushed back right before us
Then it was our turn
The safety video played on the overhead screens as we taxied to the runway.
Nice view of the U.S. Capitol as we reach the end of the runway.
One more takeoff before it's our turn
Lining up on RWY 19 for takeoff facing south
Takeoff with views of Crystal City, Arlington County, Virginia
The new Amazon Headquarters will be just to the left of this photo
Historic Alexandria, Virginia
The George Washington Masonic National Memorial in Alexandria, modeled after the famous Alexandria Lighthouse of antiquity.
I-495 aka the Capital Beltway
The Potomac widens as it runs towards the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean
Rural waterfront Virginia
Although we were flying towards the Atlantic Ocean, it was a clear enough day to see Richmond, Virginia in the distance, which is located towards the center of the State.
Soon after reaching cruising altitude, the meal service began.
As usual with AA, it started with warm nuts and an apéritif. As it was still morning, I had a mimosa (sparkling wine & orange juice)–a healthy breakfast drink!
I had pre-ordered the main dish on AA.com well before the flight
Stuffed with queso fresco, Monterey Jack cheese, and caramelized onion in a red chili sauce.
It sounded good online, but it wasn't. Not only did it look like a hot mess, it tasted like it was 3-day-old gas station food. And the salad was just pathetic, with a tiny wedge of lettuce, 2 sad cherry tomatoes, and a lonely slice of cucumber. The only way I could describe this meal was cheap. The cost-cutting at the time was evident. Luckily, things have improved a bit since this flight in 2017.
The saffron Orzo salad with shrimp was more appetizing, but notice that there is no appetizer, unlike the Enchiladas option…again, cheap.
On these shorter flights, dessert is a warm chocolate chip cookie.
I accompanied the cookie with a coffee and Bailey's–Yes, I drink a lot on vacation ?
NBC/Universal programming was played on the overhead screens. Notice that this aircraft has the newer Boeing Sky Interior, though an older AA interior, meaning it was among the aircraft delivered to AA with BSI just prior to the merger and the cabins being updated to the "New American" look with grey leather.
Wi-Fi was available as on most AA mainline aircraft, though I find the prices to be a bit high. I've only paid for WiFi on long-haul flights where I find it to be more worth the price.
The American Airlines website and apps are available for free without purchasing a Wi-Fi pass. This is especially convenient when there are delays to check on connecting flight and gate information.
You can also find Terminal maps and the location of Admirals Clubs
Beautiful scenery outside as we fly along the Florida coast.
At the time, free wireless streaming IFE was relatively new so I decided to check it out. There was some good content, but the WiFi connection was a little spotty so there was quite a bit of buffering when I tried to watch Rogue One. Note that your device must have the American Airlines app in order to use the streaming IFE service.
Miles and miles of agricultural lands in the middle of the state
And never-ending suburbia as we approach South Florida.
Beautiful water around Fort Lauderdale
As we began our descent into MIA, the head Flight Attendant working First came through the cabin to thank each passenger by name and handed out a piece of candy. This is always a nice touch.
Flying past Fort Lauderdale airport - FLL
Highrise condo buildings dominate the South Florida coast.
Making a turn inland
Over the Everglades
We passed through a tropical rain shower on final descent into MIA.
We landed a bit early and had a short-ish taxi to the gate.
We parked next to this B757. I personally love how 757s look in AA's new livery…the inside is another story ?
Thanks for reading!
Overall, this flight was fine. Having watched AA evolve over the years since the merger, I would say that they've made some improvements since this 2017 flight. Most notably, catering has generally improved in the premium cabin on domestic flights and Pre-merger AA cabin crews have become much more consistent about serving pre-departure drinks--notice there was no PDB on this flight, which was typical at the time. The catering on this flight was mediocre at best--Luckily, I've had much better meals since. I guess I can give AA credit for serving a hot meal on a 2.5 hour flight, while others do not and pre-merger US Airways certainly didn't.
This was one of the first times I'd tried AA's streaming IFE as it had only recently been introduced at the time. I was happy about this option in addition to the overhead programming, but the wifi connection kept cutting off, which made it difficult to watch a movie--this has also improved since, in my experience. While AA has many 737s and A319/A321s equipped with seat-back IFE, sadly new aircraft are being delivered with no PTVs and AA plans to eventually remove PTVs from the domestic fleet. Though DL has PTVs on most mainline aircraft, AA and UA are moving away from PTVs so streaming IFE on personal devices is the future whether we like it or not...make sure to bring your tablets next time you fly just in case.