My wife and I were wanting to have a small vacation before the summer ended and decided on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. I watched COVID-19 related travel restrictions daily and saw about a week prior that some states were encouraged not to travel to Maryland. Luckily, North Carolina was not on that list.
Airline: American Airlines (AA)
Aircraft: CRJ 900
Flight Number: AA5286
Departure Gate: E36
Departure Runway: 36R
Scheduled Departure Time: 4:30
Actual Departure Time: 4:54
Scheduled Arrival Time: 6:04
Actual Arrival Time: 5:53
Landing Runway: 10
Arrival Gate: C4
Scheduled Flight Time: 1 Hour 34 Minutes
Actual Flight Time: 59 Minutes
I checked in around 24 hours prior to departure via the AA app. The process was easy and included an extra bit on how to stay safe during your travels and the regulations on face masks. When you first go to check in, a page on COVID-19 related travel appeared for review.
I had booked my wife and I's flights on different tickets so in order to ensure we were going to sit together I prepared for seats in the first row of Main Cabin. On the CRJ-900 these seats include pretty much infinite leg room, however only 1 place for under seat storage due to the 1-2 layout of business if you are on the port side as we were.
We had originally been scheduled to fly to DCA on a later flight but once I learned my wife had a half day at work, I took advantage of the AA 1 time flight change policy. Luckily the fare to BWI was the same as DCA so it was totally free and we saved 2 hours or so of waiting at home in CLT.
We arrived via the hourly garage which is connected to the terminal. Its still crazy to see all the empty parking lots at CLT. Landside was empty. Hardly anyone checking bags or waiting for security. We chose security B as is our go to. It creates a big more of a walk to the E gates but we had time.
Security was fast and even with a check of my large bottle of sanitizer, I was through in less than 5 minutes using my Pre-check privileges. Regular security looked to be 10-15 people deep so not too bad either.
First thing I noticed, was how empty the main food court was. Beyond the food court a large glass window opened to an empty tarmac. Typically, at CLT, plans are lined up on all available taxi ways but not today and not during COVID-19.Today, my flight was departing from the E gates (the regional wing of CLT). American operates out of B,C,D and E with mainline jets at B,C and D. Lufthansa operates out of D and all other airlines out of A. I had a medium 5-10 minute work to a somewhat crowded E concourse. I would venture to guess regional flights were still fairly full overall. It was hard to social distance in such a small concourse as seats were not blocked. I was at CLT in June and I can say that they have not expanded COVID-10 safety measures at all.
I hold an AMEX Platinum card but due to COVID-19 the new Centurion club was closed. Woe is me.
As we had over an hour to kill, my wife and I chose the famous rockers of CLT to sit and relax. I had a nice view of a AA CRJ that blocked what would have been a great 36R view.
Even with the purchase of seats in advance ($39 each) we boarded during Group 9 due to our Basic Economy ticket. I was ok with this as it limited our time on the aircraft. Boarding began at 3:58 and group 9 was called shortly after. I was able to find overhead storage for our bags without too much fan fair.
AA did pass out a small sanitizing wipe for everyone. This was a small but much much appreciated gesture.
The bird was clean enough. It had just flown in from GSP not an hour prior. The width of the seat was standard. It was fine for a short flight but would have been tough on a 2+ hour flight. American does use CRJ900s on flights to the Midwest (yuck!). Row 8 does have pretty much unlimited leg room on CRJ-900 aircraft so if you are stuck on a longer leg or are tall then the fee to reserve would be well worth it.
Each pair of seats does sport a universal plug with USB. American has equipped its CRJ900s with WIFI, however, I did not connect. The seatback contained just a safety card. YAY for safety (this is not a new AA standard but rather an exception).
This short sector typically includes a drink service so from this perspective a change was noticeable. It's my understanding that beverages would be available upon request. In order to be as courteous and as safe as possible I did not test this theory with the flight attendants. I believe 900 miles is the point where AA begins in-flight beverage service for main cabin.
A few passengers did request a drink and the FA was more than happy to accommodate.
Boarding was complete at 4:15 with what appeared to be a full load in Economy and about 5 passengers in domestic first. Push back was at 4:29 and we began what was a long journey to 36R. I have used CLT a lot so I knew what was most likely coming…. a lot of stop and go's on the taxi. I was correct and wheel sup on 36R was at 4:54.
The flight was uneventful and smooth. Flight time was announced at 50 minutes but approached 1 hour in reality. The approach into BWI seemed to go on and on and according to Flight Aware did too just that. In any event we touched down on 10 at 5:53. The taxi to gate C4 was very quick.
AA deplanes by rows and all but a few honored this request.
Terminal C was all but empty and I did not see any hand sanitizing stations…BOOOOO!
The main Southwest gates seemed busy.
We took the bus to rental car pick up which took for ever and was a nightmare but I'll give it a pass as we are in rare times.
This was a good experience. I wish AA blocked seats but we came prepared. I would fly them again during COVID-19 but try to avoid 3-3 aircraft seating.