Review of American Airlines flight Washington Los Angeles in First

Airline American Airlines
Flight AA1339
Class First
Seat 6F
Aircraft Boeing 737-800
Flight time 05:35
Take-off 17 Jun 19, 19:00
Arrival at 17 Jun 19, 21:35
AA   #71 out of 133 Airlines A minimum of 20 Flight-Reports is required in order to appear in the rankings. 410 reviews
KévinDC
By GOLD 1241
Published on 17th July 2019

background - Moving to socal


2019 has been a crazy year for me so far, which has meant very little flying…at least in the first half of the year. As if a new baby wasn't a big enough life change, we'd also been planning a cross-country move from DC to Southern California–San Diego area to be more precise. Now that we've been here a few weeks and are getting settled in, I can finally get around to posting this FR of the move over. On the bright side, the lack of flying for a few months means my huge backlog of unpublished reports didn't get any longer 🤣

A cross-country move can be very logistically complicated…especially with a 4-month-old, a dog, a cat, and two large 75 gallon fish tanks on top of a house full of stuff. That being said, we shipped all of our household items with movers but doing a transcontinental drive with a baby and animals just wasn't going to be feasible so, as painful as it sounded, flying was the best option.  

This report will be on the short side due to the circumstances, but hopefully some of the information on flying with a baby and pets in cargo can be helpful to someone.  


booking & pre-flight


I booked First class on a nonstop from DC to LAX for several reasons, but mainly because, as an AA frequent flyer, there are no nonstops to San Diego from the DC area and I didn't want to deal with a connection with a baby and animals. Other reasons for booking F were that I usually only risk the elite upgrade lottery when flying alone and also I'd assumed we would get a higher baggage allowance with Platinum Pro status. Normally, Platinum Pro gets you two free bags in domestic Economy, where normally there is no free baggage allowance. So my logic was that, in paid First class, the baggage allowance would be at least 3 (2 free bags with First class ticket and at least 1 extra due to status). Of course, I checked with AA to see what the actual policy was as it wasn't clear on the website…and nope! No extra baggage allowance on domestic itineraries (only international). Womp womp.


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What a silly policy…so basically with my status, on domestic flights, I get 2 free bags whether I'm on the cheapest Economy fares or on the most expensive First class fares….sure, that's logical! It's unfortunate that having status technically brings no additional benefits when flying in paid First class. 

I rarely travel with a lot of baggage, but I wanted to be safe…we were moving after all, and having a kid automatically means more things to check-in (i.e. car seat base, pack & play, etc).  

I also called AA to add an infant in lap and 2 pets in cargo to the reservation, neither of which can be done online. I wanted to ensure that I had all the information I needed for travel with pets in cargo as the Pets page on AA.com is generic and incomplete, mixing up international and domestic travel guidelines. For example, the site mentions a "health certificate" from a vet, but no more detail; logically, I figured I needed at least rabies vaccine certificates, but this isn't mentioned anywhere on the site. Luckily the AA Platinum Pro desk agent confirmed it was indeed required. I also asked about heat restrictions as I know most carriers have restrictions to/from certain cities in the summer. The agent looked it up and advised that checked animals could not travel through LAS, PHX, or PSP after June 1st…makes sense, as it gets well over 100F in those cities. OK, great…so I'm all set!
 
Or so I thought… 


check-in drama


Being that we needed to take the DC Beltway during rush hour–otherwise known as the 10th circle of Hell–I made sure we left the house plenty early in order to arrive at the airport between 2 and 3 hours before departure. With 6 bags to check and the animals, I wasn't taking any chances. We ended up arriving about 2.5 hours before departure and thank goodness we did, because the shenanigans that ensued almost lead to missing our flight. 


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So here we at at the AA Priority check-in counter with our 6 bags, 2 animals in kennels, stroller, car seat, and a partridge in a pear tree…

I presented the required paperwork for the animals and I'm told…"Oh no, it's too hot to check animals"…WHAT!?!?!??!??

 It turns out, AA has a policy against checking animals whenever it's over 85F…it was…get ready for it….86F!!!!! Seriously? Two AA Platinum Pro status holders on paid First class tickets and they were not going to make an exception for 1 degree Fahrenheit. I expressed my anger over not having been told of this policy despite calling specifically to ask about heat restrictions. This policy is buried on the AA website…but it is there so shame on me for not reading everything I suppose. So if you ever plan on flying on AA with animals in cargo anywhere or anytime it can get over 85F…which is basically the entire Southern U.S. after April….you've been warned!

I insisted and would not take no for an answer, and debated this issue with the agent and supervisor for well over an hour. And it turns out I was right to do so…storms were moving through the area–like basically every summer afternoon in DC–and the temperature dropped to 84F. I was given the go ahead by the supervisor, who had been very patient with me, I must say, if just a little rigid. He was on the phone with HQ in Dallas, who signed off on it. 

We'd wasted so much time arguing over 1 degree Fahrenheit that it was only a few minutes before boarding time by the time we were finished at the counter. 

So we had to RUN!

Luckily TSA pre-check was really fast, even with a baby, and we were through to airside in less than 2 minutes. 


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You know you're at Dulles when you see all those moon-buggies lined up!


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boarding


We were lucky to get a train to Concourse B right away, but having to take multiple elevators up to the concourse instead of escalators (because of the stroller) did slow us down a bit.


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We made it to the gate a good 10 minutes before door close. 


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There was still a long queue on the general boarding side, but we were able to walk up to an empty Priority lane where a very friendly gate agent tagged the stroller. The gate agent also offered to check in our roller-boards as we already had our hands full with baby stuff. Gladly! We already had bags checked, so we'd need to get our bags anyway.

I was pleasantly surprised to receive a call from the supervisor who wanted to make sure we'd made it to the gate on time and to confirm that he's seen the animals loaded into the hold. I really appreciated that! He'd really turned a bad situation around and I made sure to send in a compliment for him. 


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We were welcomed on board by a friendly lead FA who let us know right away to let her know if we needed a break because she loved holding babies. Very sweet of her!

Legroom is always good on the non-OASIS 737s with 40" seat pitch in First–the most legroom of any U.S. domestic First.  


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We actually narrowly missed being "Oasis'd"–the evening before during online check-in, our seat assignments had changed from row 6 to row 4, but were still in the last row of F…that could only mean one thing…swap to an Oasis cabin 737! Doh!

Luckily, that morning the seats changed back to row 6, so back to a traditional 737 cabin…that was close!

For those who don't know what an Oasis cabin is–"Oasis" is AA's internal project name for the densification of their 737-800 fleet to match the VERY tight configuration on their 737 MAX 8 fleet. Oasis 737s have 37" pitch in F as opposed to 40" on "normal" 737s. Also, there is no wall between F and Y and MCE and Y pitch have been reduced to 33" and 30" respectively. 

Having boarded so late, we'd missed PDBs, but I had to get one ready for the kid! It seems everyone had the same advice for me on baby's first flight…feed him during takeoff so his ears don't hurt. It was definitely a good call because he didn't cry once! A born frequent flyer like his daddy  😊


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Boarding was completed shortly after we'd gotten on board and we pushed back on time. 


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The Flight


Like I said earlier, giving the bottle right at takeoff worked like a charm. No fussing or crying…just a wet diaper…so off we went to test out the baby changing table in the First class lav.

Wow…it was tight. I can only imagine what it's like on the 737 MAX with those tiny lavs. My 5 month-old barely fit on the table and I had to contort myself in all kinds of ways to change a diaper.  


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The Lego Movie sequel was playing on the overheads. I was glad because the flashy colours entertained the baby and kept him calm.


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Each seat in F is equipped with a power outlet. The 737s with PTVs also have USB chargers. AA used to consistently put 737s or A321s with PTVs on these long DC-LAX flights, but for the past year it's been a total crap-shoot. 


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It was a pretty cloudy and stormy summer evening on the East Coast so not much to see out the window and by the time we got out West, where the scenery is always spectacular, it was nighttime. 


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Shortly after takeoff, the lead FA came through to bring pre-dinner drinks and warm nuts.


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Once dinner was ready, the lovely FA figured it would be difficult for both of us to eat at the same time with the baby so she asked if we wanted to take turns if that would make things easier. How thoughtful! She mentioned she's love to just hold him, but she had to serve the cabin…haha well, of course,

So I went ahead and had dinner first. I had selected the Braised shortrib with mac n' cheese and green beans on AA.com. It was simple but surprisingly delicious. The meat was super tender and the mac n' cheese very cheesy and tasty.


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The appetiser was an interesting take on a summer classic: Tomato and mozarella salad  


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The main course


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Several warm bread rolls were offered. I went with pretzel bread. 


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Another round of drinks was served immediately after the bread service. I find that this is an important part of the service protocol, because so often I've experienced cabin crews who will only do the pre-dinner drink service and that is supposed to last through dinner….ummm…no. 


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For dessert the options were a cheese plate or an ice cream sundae made to order. 

I had the cheese plate. 


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And here is a look at the ice cream sundae.


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After dinner the baby slept the whole time until landing, so that's where this report ends as I had my hands full. 


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A successful first flight with baby! No crying and no subsequent angry stares from fellow passengers…what a relief.

Let's see if he keeps it up on the next flight  🤞

See more

Verdict

American Airlines

7.5/10
Cabin7.0
Cabin crew9.0
Entertainment/wifi6.5
Meal/catering7.5

Washington - IAD

8.0/10
Efficiency8.5
Access6.5
Services8.0
Cleanliness9.0

Los Angeles - LAX

7.4/10
Efficiency7.0
Access7.5
Services8.0
Cleanliness7.0

Conclusion

It began as a terrible ground experience in a situation that was already stressful to begin with. Having worked in airline management in the past, the rigidity of agents and supervisors these days is a huge disservice to customers (especially loyal frequent flyers and those who spend more than double the price on premium cabin fares!). In my opinion, as a former manager, if all you know how to do is read from a list of rules and never make any judgment calls (I mean 1 degree F for crying out loud!), then what is your role as a supervisor? Again, I will say the supervisor was patient with me and I knew he felt bad. He also turned the situation around and made it work, but it wasn't without a lot of unnecessary stress and 1.5 hours wasted. I really blame corporate for this kind of culture of rigidity which makes for robotic and often bitter employees because they aren't empowered to do their jobs in order to best serve their customers.

Aside from that it was actually a very good flight. And since I'm not grading the ground experience here, the rating for the flight itself reflects a good flight. The cabin crew were awesome and super attentive and doted on the baby the whole flight. The catering was surprisingly good. The sore spot being IFE--including time on the ground, we spent over 6 hours on this plane, so it would have been nice to have seat-back IFE, but those are unicorns in the AA 737 fleet. I mean yes, I have a tablet and the WiFi was working fine, but I still much prefer PTVs over having to use my own device.

In the end, I was just glad I didn't get OASIS'd...

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

24 Comments

  • Comment 511867 by
    Harry_He SILVER 42 Comments

    Nice report! Welcome to cali! I assume that SAN will be your base airport from now on?

    • Comment 511869 by
      KévinDC TEAM GOLD AUTHOR 4901 Comments

      Thanks Harry! I love it here so far...the weather is so beautiful...and the landscapes are too! Yes, I think SAN will be my main base airport, but there will definitely be some LAX thrown in as there is more choice at LAX and better deals usually. But so far, my next few trips are planned from SAN.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  • Comment 511878 by
    Leadership TEAM GOLD 4316 Comments

    Hi Kevin, thanks for your report, that was not an easy moving till the very end!
    Meal looks pretty good especially the main and the sunday.
    All the best to you three at SAN ;)

    • Comment 512132 by
      KévinDC TEAM GOLD AUTHOR 4901 Comments

      Thank you! Yeah, it was rough and I'm really sick of AA's bad customer service. I'm glad I live in SoCal now and have more choices, notably Alaska, who just matched me to their highest status.

  • Comment 511933 by
    sotto_Deactivated 83 Comments

    Hard to believe: There was actually once on a American airline in First Class something "clever" to eat.
    Stunning!

  • Comment 511961 by
    atco SILVER 122 Comments

    Welcome back Kevin!

    I can't even begin to imagine how stressful that day must have been. I don't envy you at all.
    I moved across the Atlantic 15+ years ago (My one and only trip on a DC-10 - NWA LGW-DTW) and I can certainly relate to the logistical nightmare. My daughter was almost 2 at the time though so it was a lot easier with her on the plane at that age.

    Your encounters are sadly typical IMHO of the World we are living in these days. I've lost count of the number of times like you I've attempted to anticipate problems before they happen and seek answers and solutions only to run into the exact problem at the time. So often people give out bad or incomplete information and at the end of the day the customer is left carrying the can. Drives me crazy.

    At least your onboard experience was a very good one. So nice to see you had such a wonderful member of crew to take some of the stress out of the flight itself. Its nice to know there are still people like that in the industry.

    I'm sure Winter's will be a lot different now! Can't deny that I'm a touch envious :) San Diego is by all accounts one of the best places in the World to live

    • Comment 512135 by
      KévinDC TEAM GOLD AUTHOR 4901 Comments

      Thank you sir!

      I can't even begin to imagine how stressful that day must have been. I don't envy you at all.

      The day started out stressful with rushing like crazy to get the house ready for photographers so that it could be put on the market the next day! And then it didn't get any better once we got to the airport.

      I moved across the Atlantic 15+ years ago (My one and only trip on a DC-10 - NWA LGW-DTW)

      Hah, what a coincidence...my first TATL flight was my move from France to the US when I was a kid (20 years ago) and it was also my one and only DC-10 flight, but it was Continental!

      I can imagine the move from the UK was even more of a nightmare since you're going to a whole other country!

      I've lost count of the number of times like you I've attempted to anticipate problems before they happen and seek answers and solutions only to run into the exact problem at the time.

      That's what drives me bonkers, especially about AA (never had these issues with DL). I have over a decade of airline management experience, much of which was in airport operations, so I'm always careful to anticipate and make sure I know all of the rules and restrictions...and yet I still almost got screwed. I can't even imagine how someone with no notion of airline policies and operations would feel.

      Its nice to know there are still people like that in the industry.

      Back in the day they were all like that, especially with other industry people. We always treated each other like gold. Not so much anymore.

      I'm sure Winter's will be a lot different now!

      Yes, no more blizzards and sad dark days! Granted, I used to live in Minnesota and actually like snow. But hey, this is CA...I just have to drive an hour or so to the mountains to see snow!

      Yes, San Diego literally has the best climate ever...it's 24C/75F and sunny every day...every. single. day.

      Thanks so much for stopping by!

  • Comment 511963 by
    KL651 TEAM 4442 Comments

    Thanks for this FR gurrrl.
    Wow, all that mess for 1°F, that sticking to the rule...
    At least he was helpful towards the end.
    I guess the FA was told about your ordeal but she was probably nice to begin with.
    Nice meal, the preorder really allows to get something more elaborate.
    I bet you caught some nice sleep with T. in your arms.

    • Comment 512138 by
      KévinDC TEAM GOLD AUTHOR 4901 Comments

      Gurl, mama was not happy!

      Wow, all that mess for 1°F, that sticking to the rule...

      That's not just sticking to the rule, that's rigid and illogical and just looks like bad faith and giving a hard time to a loyal customer. I'd already had some crappy experiences with AA despite years of loyalty, and this incident has pushed me to give up on them....Bye FeliciAA

      At least he was helpful towards the end.

      Yeah, but I lost 1.5h just arguing for no reason

      I guess the FA was told about your ordeal but she was probably nice to begin with.

      Maybe, but that would be giving AA too much credit I think. She was probably just a naturally nice person.

      I bet you caught some nice sleep with T. in your arms.

      Haha...ummm...no, of course not, But I did find a reasonably decent position to rest without my arms going numb.

      Too bad domestic flights don't have bassinets

  • Comment 512043 by
    loukas SILVER 304 Comments

    Nice to see you back, Kevin! I must say your son is already a big guy for his 4 months! Congrats on a successful moving despite so many difficulties. We have just a dog and I can't imagine it with an extra cat and a baby :) Thanks for a nice report! All the best!

  • Comment 512107 by
    East African 1507 Comments

    Congrats for your new life KévinDC 😊. It must have been a real challenge to organize everything!
    Meal looks rather good on AA.
    Take care!
    And of course, thanks for the FR

  • Comment 512113 by
    lagentsecret SILVER 10546 Comments

    Congratulations on your new born !
    And congratulations to you three on your new life in SAN.

    Despite the stressful checkin the flight was good.
    The meal looks good for an American food lover.

    See you soon for another report.

    • Comment 512141 by
      KévinDC TEAM GOLD AUTHOR 4901 Comments

      Thank you so much :-)

      I miss DC but I love SAN so far...beautiful place with even more beautiful weather!

      The meal looks good for an American food lover.

      Yes, I love Macaroni and cheese! So simple but yummy

      Merci beaucoup!

  • Comment 512306 by
    jish.b SILVER 246 Comments

    Solid report, thank you so much for sharing! I too remember the stress of transporting animals over: it was an international one for me, at that. All in all, it ended up to be fine, but that temperature policy seems so unnerving!

    Looks like a decent flight overall - the food looked delicious indeed! Good luck setting up in SOCAL :)

    • Comment 512357 by
      KévinDC TEAM GOLD AUTHOR 4901 Comments

      Thanks Jish! Wow, yeah international moves with pets are even worse, especially if the pets need to be quarantines in some cases!

      All in all, it ended up to be fine, but that temperature policy seems so unnerving!

      It is! Because anywhere south of NY if can be 85F easily from April onwards so really you have no idea if you can travel until the day of...so ridiculous.

  • Comment 512313 by
    ThomasDutch SILVER 355 Comments

    It turns out, AA has a policy against checking animals whenever it's over 85F…it was…get ready for it….86F!!!!!

    While ground staff is strictly following the regulations given from AA, It definitely could be bothersome for you if it wasn't told to you by phone.... But I guess AA is just like any other being very consistent about their inconsistenties haha! Praise the heavens on that storm!

    I insisted and would not take no for an answer, and debated this issue with the agent and supervisor for well over an hour. And it turns out I was right to do so…storms were moving through the area–like basically every summer afternoon in DC–and the temperature dropped to 84F. I was given the go ahead by the supervisor, who had been very patient with me, I must say, if just a little rigid. He was on the phone with HQ in Dallas, who signed off on it.

    I can't do anything, but think of those enjoying debates in Airline UK while reading through this text haha!

    A born frequent flyer like his daddy

    At least your family is secured to continue with Aviation! :D
    -
    Thanks for sharing this enjoyable read.

    • Comment 512358 by
      KévinDC TEAM GOLD AUTHOR 4901 Comments

      But I guess AA is just like any other being very consistent about their inconsistenties haha!

      You're so right! Especially since I grilled the phone agent to get her to tell me everything I needed to know...ugh

      Praise the heavens on that storm!

      Yes! Very thankful for that storm, indeed!

      I can't do anything, but think of those enjoying debates in Airline UK while reading through this text haha!

      Haha, yeah it was exactly like that. I don't like having to argue, especially since I've been on the other side of it as a Station Manager, but I was right to stand my ground.

      Thanks for your comments!

  • Comment 512375 by
    ksar SILVER 1030 Comments

    Thanks guys for this FR and congrats for the baby and the moving.
    Hope to see you soon, maybe next year...

  • Comment 512545 by
    JOET73 225 Comments

    Great report
    it's never easy to take that many pictures especially with a baby. How can you do that? I've never succeeded to make one with my kids.
    It's shame that there is no bassinet on a such medium haul flight.
    Traveling with young children is easy until they turn 1 or so when they start walking around. That's when you are starting to get angry stare from other passengers. You will get used to 😉.

    • Comment 512582 by
      KévinDC TEAM GOLD AUTHOR 4901 Comments

      Thank you!

      it's never easy to take that many pictures especially with a baby. How can you do that?

      I'm lucky I have a very well-behaved kid (most of the time) plus I had my spouse to help! But yeah, it was hard...I definitely couldn't do as detailed of a report as I usually do.

      It's shame that there is no bassinet on a such medium haul flight.

      It really is. They could easily at least offer one in J in the bulkhead row...in Y, they are taking the walls out, so there would be more difficult.

      That's when you are starting to get angry stare from other passengers. You will get used to 😉.

      Haha...yes, I have that to look forward to! Yay

      Thanks so much for your comments!

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