The airline with the best average rating is American Airlines with 7.2/10.
The average flight time is 3 hours and 23 minutes.More information
Hello, and welcome to the 2nd review in this new series of Flight-Reports. Yes, finally a series of actual new flights!
After almost 10 months of not flying, as we'd been riding out the pandemic in France, I needed to get back to the US for the closing on a new house (Yay). As it wasn't possible to do the signing remotely from overseas per California law, I had no choice but to fly. To complicate matters, France was in the midst of a second strict lockdown and technically French residents were restricted to within a 1 km radius from their home, with some exceptions. Unlike in the US, the lockdown in France is enforceable by police and can lead to fines of 135 EUR minimum. Luckily, as a citizen of both France and the US, I was one of the few people actually authorised to travel between the two countries with the current restrictions in place.
Although, I had some anxiety about flying during the pandemic, I was also happy to finally take to the skies again. I don't think I'd ever gone 10 months without flying since early childhood.
For months, most airlines have been making great efforts to reassure those passengers who can fly, that the experience is safe, with strict sanitary measures in place and touting several academic studies supporting the low incidence of Covid-transmission aboard aircraft.
I was certainly curious to see if reality matched the talk.
Though I ultimately needed to get to San Diego, prices to LAX were much better–as they often are–especially when buying tickets at the last minute. With so few transatlantic flights operating, there weren't many AA/oneworld options, so I went with a simple routing through AA's Dallas hub. The other option was to fly BA via London Heathrow, but I preferred the option that would take me directly to the US in these times of ever-changing travel restrictions.
Flights in this series:
Having arrived from Paris at the International Terminal D, I came out of customs into the International Arrivals hall on the lower level, and made my way back up to the upper level to pass through security and catch my connecting flight to LAX.
Large plexiglass dividers separated different rows at the TSA Pre-check security checkpoint. I haven't seen this anywhere else, and I'm not sure how effective it is, but "A" for effort–it's at least psychologically reassuring if you're standing in a long slow-moving queue…
Luckily that wasn't the case today and I was through to the airside in minutes.
Unsurprisingly, with the border closures and travel restrictions in place since the beginning of the pandemic, there is little international traffic so the International Terminal was mostly empty.
I made my way to the train to head to Terminal C for my flight to LAX.
View of International Terminal D from the train
Some nice views of the tarmac from the Skylink train
LATAM (LAN) 767-300ER
Arriving at Terminal C, my A321neo to LAX was parked just under the Skylink station
I still had a bit of time to kill before boarding, so I headed to the closest Admirals Club to grab a quick water and freshen up. This domestic terminal was much busier than the international terminal, so it was nice to escape the crowds for a moment.
I wasn't hungry so I didn't grab anything to eat, but I noted that the usual snack offerings were all individually packaged per new Covid-protocol.
The lounge was pleasantly uncrowded despite a bustling terminal outside.
I got to the gate just as boarding was about to begin and I could tell it was going to be a full flight based on the crowds around the boarding area.
After several lock-downs and curfews in the year I'd been living in the French countryside, this was the biggest crowd I'd seen in many months. What a difference from the 787-9 with only 10 passengers I had just flown from Paris! However, I had expected that domestic flights within the US would be full, especially given it was Thanksgiving week, so I was at least somewhat mentally prepared.
And the constant reminders to wear masks were reassuring. I didn't see a single person not wearing a mask or wearing it "wrong" (i.e. under the nose) throughout the journey despite all of the horror stories of anti-maskers I'd heard.
Despite the crowds, boarding went relatively smoothly and people generally respected a 6 ft (2m) distance.
Upon boarding cabin crew handed each passenger a small bag with water, snacks, and disinfectant wipes.
The A321neo sports AA's new standard Domestic First class seat, the Collins Aerospace MiQ model. This is the same seat model used for long-haul Premium Economy, which I'd reviewed in the previous segment.
I had originally booked a window seat in the last row, as I often do when flying alone, but the woman assigned the aisle seat was mistakenly sitting in my seat thinking she had requested a window as well. I was feeling generous and told her that she could keep the window if she preferred.
That was my good deed for the day 😊
Night was falling so there would be nothing to see anyway.
The seat pitch of 37-38" is also similar to the long-haul Premium Economy configuration.
The biggest difference with Premium Economy being that there is no in-seat entertainment on the A321neo. As I's mentioned in previous reviews, American is actively working to remove seatback screens from the domestic narrowbody fleet.
While I find that move to be a shame, given that Delta has been working to ensure all non-regional subfleets have in-seat entertainment, I do appreciate that the new seats have tablet holders and a conveniently located USB port. There are also universal power outlets under the centre armrest.
As mentioned earlier, each passenger was given a plastic bag containing a small water, a snack, and disinfectant wipes to minimise cabin crew interactions during the flight.
Despite a completely full flight, boarding was completed early, and we pushed back from the gate a few minutes ahead of schedule.
The mood lighting was turned on as we pushed back from the gate.
After takeoff I checked out the streaming entertainment offer. There was a decent amount of content including films, series, documentaries, music, and games–mostly identical to the in-seat entertainment content on the long-haul leg. Also like the long-haul flight, Live TV channels were unavailable.
The eye-level tablet holder is definitely convenient and appreciated, though of course I would have preferred a seat-back screen, but I'm old school, I suppose.
In these times of the Covid-19 pandemic, the AA domestic premium cabin food offering has been reduced on most routes, except for the very longest domestic flights and premium transcons.
whereas 3h flights like this were previously catered with 3-course hot meals in pre-Covid days, they now receive a sandwich option, which used to be on the buy-on-board menu in Economy.
I can't complain though, it's fresh food and the portion size was rather generous and included a chocolate chip cookie. There was also a full bar service.
This reduced offering is actually a positive evolution over the first few months of the Pandemic where no meals were served at all in any cabins on domestic flights and alcohol was not available.
Wine in a plastic cup brings back memories of the US Airways days 😁
With the free IFE offering, the flight went by super quickly and before I knew it, we were making our descent into LAX.
With the early departure from DFW, and some favourable winds, we arrived at the gate over 20 minutes early.
I was out to the car by the scheduled arrival time.
Ah…LAX traffic….such a permanent fixture apparently not even a worldwide pandemic can stop it!
Thanks for reading!
Luckily I had been mentally prepared for a full flight during the pandemic and being in the forward cabin helped with having some extra space, since AA don't block any seats.
The new seat isn't as cushy or comfortable as the old Domestic First seats and legroom has been reduced from 40" pitch to 37-38", but it's perfectly fine for a 3h flight and in line with every other major North American carriers' products.
Premium cabin catering has been reduced during the pandemic and doesn't have anything premium about it, but I appreciate that it's fresh food and that the full bar is still available.
As I've said many times, I'm not happy with AA's move to remove seatback IFE from the narrowbody fleet, but the streaming offering is quite decent and there's a conveniently located tablet holder and USB power.
The cabin crew were friendly and came through the cabin regularly to offer refills, which is definitely above average in times of Covid.
Overall a pleasant and comfortable 3h flight and once again an immaculately clean cabin.