My wife and I wanted a quick weekend trip and I have always wanted to go back to San Antonio now that I am older. Its an easy flight from CLT on American and so it begins! I'll add some pictures at the end for both segments as a teaser for this great American city.
Airline: American Airlines (AA)
Aircraft: Boeing 737-800
Flight Number: AA1988
Departure Gate: A6
Departure Runway: 36C
Scheduled Departure Time: 4:13
Actual Departure Time: 4:31
Scheduled Arrival Time: 6:10
Actual Arrival Time: 6:10
Landing Runway: 31L
Arrival Gate: B6
Scheduled Block Time: 2 hours 57 minutes
Actual Flight Time: 2 hours 39 minutes
I was originally in Main Cabin but at check in was offered a seat in Domestic First for only $85.67 Prior to check in it was being offered for well over $1,000!!! So moral of the story… wait it out! $85.67 for a 2.5 hour flight is a steal! Check in via the app was fast and easy and in no time I had my BP! I knew it wouldn't be a traditional Domestic First experience but who can say no to more leg rooms and better snacks!
I arrived at 1:40pm to a more crowded than COVID-normal CLT. Earlier in the week passenger numbers nationwide moved above 1,000,000 for the first time since March. I headed straight for TSA Precheck at Checkpoint B. Regular security had a couple dozen passengers and precheck with about a dozen. One compliant is that little social distancing was being practiced, however, this is most likely due to a really narrow airside concourse at CLT. In any event, I was airside in only 4 minutes.
American operates out of A( just recently),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 would venture to guess regional flights, from E, 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 ,August, and September and I can say that they have not expanded COVID-10 safety measures at all.
I decided to give the new and recently opened AMEX lounge a try. The lounge is between the E and D gates. While not in the most convenient spot, it is close to international flights (D gates) and the ever so popular regional gates (E). My flight left from the farthest gates from the new lounge (A Gates) and the walk was still only 10 -15 minutes.
I entered via an elevator near the E/D Gates. Check in was a breeze and if I was prepared could have been done via my cell phone. My first impressions of the lounge were of how clean and organized it was. Seating was plentiful with a whole wall of tarmac view seating. Every other seat/table was blocked to promote social distancing but this was not always followed. Food was served by staff from a buffet. A coffee machine (Counter Culture) was available to use but all other drinks had to come from the bar. I wish they had simple colas and waters available without having to wait.
I chose the Mashed Potatoes, Coconut Chicken and Lemon desert. Everything was wonderful. The cast iron skillets really added an elegant touch to the plating. You are only allowed to stay in the lounge for 3 years but I left to go gate side and site with some friends.
Boarding began early and as I was seated in Domestic First I had rights to board with zone 1. I was a bit preoccupied when boarding began and ended up getting on the plane with zone 3. The gangway had zero social distancing being observed. This is frustrating but with AA, is typical. When I got to my seat 1A, I found a lady sitting in it and having a very animated phone call. I should have made her move but I'm a bit passive so I just parked my self in 1B. The seat width and padding is fine for up to 4-5 hour trips. Leg room was sufficient. I'm a big fan of winged headrest so points to AA for that. Hand Sanitizing packets were not handed out at boarding.
Wifi was available but I did not try it out. in the seatback pocket was a safety card and a AA Magazine that claimed to be "germ proof". Not sure how I feel about it. The USB Plug for row 1 is in an akward spot along with the universal plug, its under the middle arm rest. If you did not know where to look then you wouldn't find it.
For all non-domestic first passengers a grab bag with Biscoff, water and hand sanitizer was given out. Drinks were available on demand. Domestic First also received these bags in addition to the choice of cheese tray or cold chicken sandwich. I chose the cheese tray and it hit the spot for the flight, hand sanitizer provided again. I also requested a coke and was given a full can with ice cup. Later on I asked for a coffee and was given it in a plastic branded cup. NO PBD for this flight but I always found it hit or miss in pre-COVID times.
4:06 doors were closed with a 4:12 push back from A6. After a typical CLT taxi to the other side of the planet we took off at 4:31 from 36C. About half way in our flight the pilot turned on the seat belt signs and we proceed to do a very southernly turn to avoid bad weather. This route typically goes over the middle of LA and central Texas over Austin, however we turned south and came in from the Gulf. In any event, the turbulance was insignificant and we touched down with a fast landing on 31L at 6:10 Central Time. With very little traffic we docked at gate B6 at 6:15.
One thing of note is that SAT is used by several airlines including Alaska and Air Canada to store jets during Covid; no less than 4 AC787 and Alaska E-jets were on the tarmac waiting until its number is called to fly the skies.
A solid flight in Domestic First. No complaints on service or snacks provided. I'm used to traveling on full plans with AA so that part doesn't bother me anymore.
Stay safe everyone and see you soon in the friendly skies!