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 had 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.
This report will cover the 2nd leg between Miami and San Jose, Costa Rica.
Miami MIA ✈ San Jose SJO : American Airlines, B737-800, Business classYou are here
San Jose SJO ✈ Miami MIA : American Airlines, B737-800, Business classComing soon
Miami MIA ✈ Washington DCA: American Airlines, B737-800, First classComing soon
Transit & lounge
As we had a little over 3 hours between flights, I headed outside to get some fresh air prior to going to the lounge.
That courtyard area in front of the terminals is rather pleasant with lush greenery and palm trees providing shade.
A pretty AA 757-200 on the way to the lounge
As we were in Business class on an international flight, we had lounge access–for those not familiar with US carrier lounge policies, purely domestic First class itineraries do not give lounge access.
At the time the wonderful Flagship lounge (which I've reviewed HERE and HERE) was not yet open, so we headed to what was the "Premium Lounge" in Concourse E. The Premium Lounge kind of served the purpose of a Flagship lounge–it offered an upgraded experience and was used by British Airways and Qatar–who probably found the "normal" Admirals Clubs to be too basic for their premium passengers.
The premium lounge was quite spacious and very quiet. With only a handful of other passengers in such a large lounge, we felt we had the place to ourselves.
And it just keeps going
We found a nice corner to ourselves with awesome views of the tarmac
A mix of hot and cold dishes were available. Nothing spectacular, but certainly much better than an AA Admirals Club.
The best part was a large selection of drinks.
Liquors and spirits
Several different wines
And best of all, real champagne, which is always rare in the U.S.
Taittinger no less.
A little snack to accompany several refreshing glasses of champagne. 🍾🥂
Enjoyed a bit of planespotting from the lounge.
A PAWA Dominicana MD-80 (The airlines has since ceased operations)
Volaris A320 with sharklets
A beautiful British Airways B747-400 parked at the Concourse E Satellite gates.
Cayman Airways 737 classic
American Airlines B737-800 in the alley. That livery looks great when it's sunny like this. Air Berlin in the background R.I.P.
Aerolineas Argentinas A330-200 in the distance
After an enjoyable stay in the Premium lounge, we headed to the gate just before boarding was due to begin.
Gate information displays with destination images at MIA.
Our B737-800 taking us to San Jose, Costa Rica today
Boarding began shortly after we'd arrived at the gate and surprisingly there was no one already crowding the Priority lane so our group was the first to board.
At the time, OASIS cabins didn't exist, so all 737s had the same comfortable seat in the premium cabin with a generous 40 inches of pitch. Only the seats on the 737s with IFE were slightly different–more cushy.
This 737 did not have individual IFE, only overhead TVs, but that's better than the new OASIS cabins, which don't even have overheads.
Seats in the premium cabin (called "First" on domestic and "Business" on international routes) are laid our in a 2-2 configuration over 4 rows. One peculiar thing about AA is that row numbers start as 3 on 737s–so the first row is row 3. This is actually an easy way to tell if your 737 has the OASIS cabin or not–the premium cabin on OASIS fitted aircraft is from rows 1-4 vs 3-6 on the traditional cabin.
Good legroom in the first row. One of the few good things about AA compared to DL in my experience–the bulkhead row on 737s has decent legroom on AA whereas there's less room on DL.
Boarding was completed quickly and we pushed back on time.
Some planespotting during taxi
American Eagle (Republic) E-175LR
A beautiful Virgin Atlantic B787-9 Dreamliner…that's one sexy bird 😍
There wasn't much of a wait for takeoff
View of Marlins Park as we climb out of MIA
Always good views of downtown when sitting on the right side of the aircraft out of MIA
Brickell Key, a man-made island
One last look back towards downtown in the lovely glow of sunset
Soon we were over the Florida Keys
After we reached 10,000 ft, I tried connecting to the WiFi to use AA's streaming IFE service. I was able to start the movie, unfortunately, the WiFi stopped working after only a few minutes. I'm not very knowledgeable about WiFi coverage, but considering the WiFi stopped working almost right away, I believe this means that the WiFi on this particular 737 was ground-based as opposed to satellite based so we lost coverage once we were too far off the US coast–totally guessing, but either way it was annoying. Why have streaming if it doesn't work. Keep in mind this was 2017 so it may very well have changed in the past 2 years.
Nice sunset colours.
Though there was no pre-departure drink service (this was very typical of PMAA at the time), the friendly lead FA working our cabin came through with drinks shortly after takeoff. She had taken the drink and food orders on the ground in order to serve drinks and meals faster.
I had a sparkling wine, which was served with warm nuts.
One nice thing about AA premium cabins is you can pre-order main dishes on AA.com.
I had selected the beef…no idea why! I knew it wouldn't be good…beef rarely is on planes.
Not only was it the smallest piece of beef ever, it was super rubbery and tough and the quinoa was tasteless, as quinoa often is. The salad was simple and boring. Even the wine was weird as it was served chilled…probably a product of being placed close to ice in the catering carts.
An altogether disappointing meal for Intl Business class, even if it is a short flight.
Whatever movie was being shown on the overhead screens, I don't remember it, except that it wasn't interesting enough for me to watch. Luckily there were pretty clouds out the window.
Dessert was a warm cookie…nothing fancy.
After dinner, I had a Disaronno as I enjoyed the sunset.
Dinner had barely wrapped up before we began our descent into SJO.
We arrived at the gate a few minutes early and the queues at immigration were quick. SJO airport is clean and modern–the terminal looks pretty new.
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We stayed in Manuel Antonio, a beautiful region and National Park in the southwest of the country.
The beaches are beautiful and wild and the rain-forest is lush and full of wildlife.
Adorable cheeky monkeys everywhere…they really are cheeky and will try to steal things out of bags, so be careful to close your bags at the beach and on hikes!
More beautiful beaches and lush jungles
See you later Alligator!
Beautiful view at sunset from our hotel room
Premium Lounge (Concourse E)
Miami - MIA
San José - SJO
A mostly enjoyable flight. The highlights were the comfortable seat and the professional cabin crew on this 3 hour flight. This pre-merger AA domestic First class seat is comfortable with good legroom and good recline--much better than the newer seats being installed on some 737s and pre-merger US A319/320s, which are the same model as the long-haul Premium Economy seat.
As far as the IFE, overhead screens are better than nothing, but it's a shame the WiFi didn't work once we were off the coast of the U.S.--so basically the entire flight. Once again the meal was disappointing. I should know better than to order beef on a plane, as it is rarely good, but this one was particularly bad...hard as a lump of coal, and about the same size and shape. The tiniest piece of beef I've ever seen...the cost-cutting was once again pretty evident here. Again, in my more recent experiences, the catering has gotten better, so hopefully this period was a low point.
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