The airline with the best average rating is American Airlines with 7.2/10.
The average flight time is 4 hours and 50 minutes.More information
Hello and welcome to this series of American Airlines domestic First class reviews. Note that these reviews are pre-Covid, with the flights taking place over the Thanksgiving Holiday week in November 2019–the current groundings having allowed me to catch up a bit on previously unpublished reviews.
Obviously, airline service protocols within the US have temporarily changed in times of Covid, with greatly reduced food and beverage availability on board. The current measures are, of course, precautionary in order to avoid physical contact. Hopefully service levels will return to pre-Covid levels once the crisis has been contained.
As I'd mentioned above, these flights took place over Thanksgiving week, which is traditionally the busiest period of the year for domestic travel in the US. Normally, we avoid domestic US travel like the plague over Thanksgiving and have taken advantage of flight deals to far-away destinations each year for the past decade, including Brazil, Greece, and Peru just the previous three years. You'll find those flight reviews, and many more, on my profile page.
Having a kid changes everything of course, so this year domestic travel was finally in the cards over the dreaded Thanksgiving period. As we'd just moved to Southern California a few months prior, we headed back to DC to spend the holiday with family. Though flying domestically with a 10-month-old over the a busy travel week isn't ideal, having TSA pre-check and flying in a premium cabin help to make the experience a bit less stressful.
The best prices for the outbound trip were on the red-eye from LAX to IAD. An overnight flight with a baby might not sound like fun, but I've actually gotten to prefer red-eyes since becoming a parent for one simple reason–the baby sleeps….the entire flight.
He's generally a good sleeper on planes, but overnight flights are almost a guarantee of peace and quiet, in my experience. The one downside of travelling domestically with an infant is that US airlines don't offer bassinets on domestically configured aircraft (i.e. narrowbodies).
We therefore selected seats in the last row of First, rather than the first row, had there been a bassinet.
Reviews in this series:
We arrived at American Airlines' Terminal 4 about 3 hours prior to departure. While there was a long queue for the standard check-in kiosks and ticket counters, there was no wait for the Priority counters, reserved for passengers flying in premium cabins and those holding oneworld Sapphire and Emerald status.
TSA pre-check makes for a smoother experience at security as we didn't have to remove liquids such as ready-to-eat baby formula from bags ourselves; however, those items' containers are tested by TSA officers after they pass throught the X-ray machine, which can take some time, especially if you have multiple containers, which is often necessary for transcons and long-hauls.
A word of caution for new parents - Some TSA officers may not be aware that opening ready-to-eat travel formula containers will ruin the contents, which can only be used up to an hour after opening. If a TSA agent asks to open your sealed liquid baby formula to test the contents, do not hesitate to advise them of this fact and that it is not required to open a sealed container of baby food. This has happened to us on several occasions and is easily cleared up with a supervisor or a look in the procedures manual. As expensive as ready-to-eat baby formula is–it would not be acceptable to let it spoil.
As we still had over 2 hours before boarding, we decided to take the quick 10 minute walk over to Terminal 6 to head to the Alaska Airlines lounge.
At LAX, airside underground tunnels connect all terminals from TBIT to T8.
For those not familiar with domestic US travel, premium cabin passengers on purely domestic itineraries do not have access to airline lounges, unlike essentially everywhere else in the world. As major US carriers sell lounge access through annual Club memberships and day passes, they limit entry for domestic flyers–the only passengers able to access American Airlines lounges on domestic itineraries are holders of oneworld Sapphire and Emerald status from other frequent flyer programmes (i.e. not AA).
That being said, I was in possession of some unused day passes to the Alaska Airlines lounge that I had received as part of my MVP Gold 75K status welcome package earlier in the year.
I could have entered the Alaska lounge with priority pass, but as is often the case at LAX, there was a long wait-list for entry for Priority Pass members, while there was no wait for Alaska First class and lounge pass/membership holders.
I was a bit surprised that the lounge was so empty upon entering, considering the long Priority Pass wait-list.
I've read about others having similar experiences here at LAX. I'm certainly glad I had these lounge passes to burn before the end of the year and definitely won't complain about the peace and quiet.
The Alaska lounge is on the small side, but it's well designed and pleasant. The food offering is a bit above average by US lounge standards. There were some hot soups and artisanal breads, which I enjoyed.
I had a clam chowder, that I found to be decent.
Note for parents of small children: There is no children's play area, as the lounge is on the small side, but there is a changing table in the men's room, which is not a given in all lounges.
After a pleasant stay in the Alaska Lounge, we headed to the boarding gate about 15 minutes before departure.
The American terminal was decked out in Holiday decorations.
We had perfect timing as we were waved over to the podium to pre-board, right as we got to the gate area. In my experience flying AA with our infant son, we have usually been able to pre-board without specifically requesting it. However, technically the official AA policy states that families with children under 2 years old should request pre-boarding at the gate. I had a weird experience with this on the return flight, which I'll cover in the next review.
As if often the case on domestic flights, which usually have tight turnaround schedules, the agents boarded First class literally 2 seconds after us, so by the time we messed around with folding up the stroller, the mad stampede was overtaking us.
I was pleasantly surprised to see that we were on one of the newer 737-800s with Boeing Sky Interior that was equipped with in-seat entertainment.
It's such a shame that these seats, which are only a few years old, are being ripped out and replaced with new, less comfortable seats without in-flight entertainment as part of American's "Project Oasis" cabin densification programme. IFE is always appreciated on longer transcontinental flights like this, and these seats are much better padded than the newer seats.
This older less-dense configuration, naturally has a more generous seat pitch at 39-40" vs only 37-38" for Oasis cabins.
View of an A321 and TBIT from the window.
Pre-departure beverages were offered, with a full choice from the bar. I had a sparkling wine, which was served in a plastic cup per standard protocol on domestic flights. While plastic cups aren't very clAAssy, all US carriers do this on the ground for domestic flights–glass is used once in the air.
Despite a full flight, boarding was completed on time with doors closed a few minutes prior to departure.
A wingleted A321 pulled into the gate as we began to push back.
I imagine it's been a few months since TBIT saw this much action.
Cabin lights were turned off for departure and the cabin was bathed in pleasant blue mood lighting.
The safety video played as we taxied to the departure runway.
As usual for LAX, we took off facing west, climbing over the Pacific Ocean.
Before making an immediate turn heading east toward our East Coast destination.
San Pedro, the Port of Los Angeles, and Long Beach from left to right.
Overflying the LA basin at night never ceases to amaze me. The never-ending sea of lights stretches to the horizon.
Cabin crew were in the aisles shortly after takeoff taking drink orders. I had another California sparkling wine (no champagne on domestic flights), which was served with warm nuts.
I was pleasantly surprised to be offered a light fresh meal on such a late departure. There had been no food until breakfast on the last few red-eyes I'd taken from the West Coast.
The light meal was composed of charcuteries with artichokes, olives, some crudités, and hummus along with a small chocolate. I found the quantity to be perfect for the late hour, especially as we'd eaten a bit in the lounge.
The IFE had a great selection of films, series, documentaries, and music.
Though with so little time to sleep on a short red-eye, I put the IFE on the moving map and slept most of the way to DC.
I woke up with only 19 minutes left in the flight as we were beginning out descent over West Virginia.
A full hot breakfast was served, but I opted to keep resting my eyes. Nevertheless, I was impressed that two fresh meals were served on a short 5-hour overnight domestic flight.
The mood lighting on newer 737s is much less harsh in the early morning hours than the lights on older aircraft.
The soft lighting permitted the baby to continue sleeping for the short remainder of the flight.
We arrived to the gate a few minutes early–deplaning into Concourse B made me feel home. I'd lived in DC for so long and this was "my" airport (along with DCA) before moving to the West Coast.
Home Sweet Home and a beautiful sunrise.
Thank you for reading and feel free to leave questions and comments below.
I was pleasantly surprised and impressed with the decent level of service on this short domestic red-eye flight. I've taken these types of flights many times in Domestic First, but had never seen 2 meal services, much less on a non-"premium" route (i.e. not NYC-LAX/SFO).
The cabin crew were pleasant and accommodating, serving our meals separately as we couldn't both eat at the same time while holding the baby. They came through the cabin regularly to offer drink refills. I also appreciated the expedient service on such a short flight with little time to sleep.
An aircraft equipped with in-seat on-demand entertainment, streaming entertainment, and Wi-Fi...pretty close to perfection. Free Wi-Fi would have made for a perfect score here.
Though the seats are comfortable and spacious with good recline and padding, LAX to DC is only slightly shorter than LAX to NYC, which features full flat seats. Delta flies internationally-configured 757s with full flat seats on the LAX to DC route, so AA falls short of the competition here.
Nevertheless, a very pleasant flight...and to think, I used to hate red-eyes!