Review of American Airlines flight Chicago San Diego in Economy

Airline American Airlines
Flight AA1168
Class Economy
Seat --
Aircraft Boeing 737-800
Flight time 04:18
Take-off 31 Oct 21, 15:24
Arrival at 31 Oct 21, 17:42
AA   #29 out of 68 Airlines A minimum of 10 flight-reports within the past two years is required to appear in the rankings. 507 reviews
By GOLD 300
Published on 5th December 2021


Welcome to the next instalment in this new pandemic-era series of domestic American Airlines flight reviews. In these two reviews we'll cover the domestic First class and Main Cabin Extra experiences on board American's recently refurbished 737-800s featuring the "Oasis" cabin, which has become AA's standard narrow-body product.

Unlike the outbound flight where we'd received reasonable cash upgrade offers a few days prior to the flight, that was not the case for this flight as the First class cabin was booked full well in advance. 

As explained in more detail in the previous review, despite all three of us having AA Elite status, when flying as a family I prefer to buy First outright or pay for upgrades rather than taking a gamble on complimentary space-available Elite upgrades. I don't request upgrades as AA's system is unable to process more than two Elite upgrades per reservation, so having 3 Elites requires splitting the record and there's no sense in risking being separated when travelling with a young child.

Luckily, we'd booked early enough that we were able to get 3 seats together in the first row of Main Cabin Extra, which offers the most space outside of the exit rows. 

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reports in this series:


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check-in & lounge

The day of the flight we made sure to arrive earlier than usual for a domestic flight as AA was experiencing an operational meltdown that weekend due to staffing issues exacerbated by storms in Dallas and the Northeast, resulting in thousands of cancelled flights over several days. 

Our flight was showing on-time and Chicago seemed to have been among the least impacted hubs–nevertheless, we arrived early in case there were long lines due to all the cancellations.

Fortunately, the Priority check-in counters were mostly quiet and well-staffed. There were longer queues in the standard Economy check-in area, however. 

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The TSA pre-check lanes were also on the quiet side, so we were through in minutes.
The airside FIDS after security were showing about 20 cancelled flights and about as many delayed around that time. Not a great day for ORD operations, but a far cry than the major meltdowns in DFW, BOS, and NYC that weekend. 

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Pink Ribbon flags up on the last day of Breast Cancer Awareness Month

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I can never go through this part of O'hare's Terminal 3 without thinking of the iconic airport run scene in Home Alone

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Unlike the McCallister family, we'd arrived at the airport 3 hours before our flight so we were in no rush at all!

With more than an hour and a half before boarding, we headed to the Concourse H/K Admirals Club to relax and grab a bite to eat before the flight. 

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I used some day-passes I had saved up as there is no lounge access for AA Elites on domestic itineraries.

The lounge wasn't super busy so we were able to find a quiet corner by some windows.  

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The  blinds were down in the beginning despite it not being a particularly sunny day.

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Soft drinks, teas, coffee, and water were self-serve, while alcoholic beverages were available at the bar. 

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The complimentary food offering was nothing fancy, but improved over the worst months of the pandemic last year. 

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Aside from fruit, crudités and cheese, there were several soups, falafel, and an artichoke dip.

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They finally decided to open up the shades, which let more natural light in and gave nice views of the tarmac.


We left the Admirals Club a few minutes before boarding was due to begin. Our flight was still showing on time and the list of cancellations seemed to get smaller as operations were recovering in the network. 

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O'hare architecture just screams late 80's to early 90's

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Luckily, they've brightened up the concourse a bit since the Home Alone days!

Aside from a different paint, the concourses haven't really changed much. 

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Our aircraft parked at K16

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K16 is kind of hidden away behind a wall–this may explain why there wasn't very much crowding as usual in the boarding area.

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We boarded with group 2 as there was a sudden stampede for the boarding queues. 

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We took out seats in the first row of Main Cabin Extra. A quick check of the seat map on the AA app showed a very full flight. 

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Main Cabin Extra seats are recognisable by the red accent on the headrest. The new denser 737 configuration only has one less row of MCE than the old configuration. 

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The legroom in the first row is great, but legroom in the other row of MCE has been reduced from 35" to just 33" of seat pitch…while above average by domestic US standards, it's only 2-3" more than standard economy and the same as standard seat pitch on JetBlue.

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The bulkhead wall has been replaced by a solid separator fastened to the overhead bins. 

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Combo AC/USB power units are found below the seats in the first row. They are much more accessible in other rows where they are located below the row in front. 

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Flying in this new "Oasis" cabin was déjà-vu for me, as I'd flown in the same seats on the American 737 MAX 8 just a few weeks earlier and the experience was exactly the same.

It was kind of a shame that skies started to clear just as we were leaving after having rained most of our time in the area. 

But it makes for nicer pictures  😊

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the flight

Boarding went smoothly and was completed a few minutes early allowing for an early push-back from the gate. 

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Taxi time was relatively short for ORD with some opportunities to spot some cool wide-bodies, like a HNA group 747 freighter, a Qatar 777-300ER, and a United 787-8

And an Iberia A330, which I'll fly again in a few weeks…if everything goes as planned!

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We took off 14 minutes after leaving the gate.

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The streaming entertainment works from gate-to-gate and has all the same content as seatback units on wide-bodies, minus the moving map. 

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There is a large library of movies, TV series, documentaries, music, and kids programming

One feature not found on the wide-body fleet is Live TV, which was recently re-introduced on the narrow-body fleet this fall. 

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The IFE remembered where I'd left off the movie on the outbound flight. 

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Every seat is equipped with a tablet holder. In the bulkhead row, they are integrated to the tray table while they are in the seat-back in other rows. 

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Good thing we'd been able to eat lunch in the lounge as this was the only service on this 4-hour flight with no option to buy any food. 

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Almost two years into the pandemic, the buy-on-board programme is still suspended, while most other airlines have managed to bring back food for purchase, at least for pre-order. 

The rest of the flight was uneventful. With the early departure from Chicago, we were due to arrive in San Diego 13 minutes early. 

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We began the descent over the desert near the Salton Sea. The sun low in the sky make for some beautiful shadow effects on the desert landscapes. 

As we cross the mountains and approach the coast, there is more and more vegetation.

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We flew past the Otay Lakes right over my neighbourhood. The US-Mexico border can be seen in the distance. 

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My house is somewhere in this picture. 

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We once again managed to land at sunset time with some amazing views and colours. 

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I always try to get seats on the left when arriving in SAN for the fantastic views of downtown.

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We're right at the level of some of the taller buildings.

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We landed about 20 minutes before scheduled arrival time and made it to the gate 16 minutes ahead of schedule 

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My son tried to snag a safety card as we were deplaning and marvelled at the plane depictions–the AvGeek force is strong with this one ❤

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View of the First cabin on the way out. 

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Our aircraft from the concourse. 

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Always nice to be welcomed home to Lindbergh Field by the Spirit of St. Louis replica. 

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See more


American Airlines

Cabin crew8.5

American Airlines Admirals Club (Concourses H/K) - 3


Chicago - ORD


San Diego - SAN



An overall decent flight with the most obvious sore spot being the lack of food for purchase and only one drink and snack service on a 4-hour flight. As far as the cabin comfort goes, it's fine. While the AA 737-800 fleet is now denser and legroom has been reduced in most rows, seats in the first row of Main Cabin Extra has the same or more space than before. The seats themselves are comfortable for domestic journeys and decently padded for slimline seats with the added bonus of adjustable headrests and AC power/USB at every seat.



If you liked this review or if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to post a comment below !
  • Comment 588324 by
    ChrisB GOLD 1198 Comments

    Hi Kevin!
    Thank you for the report with a lot of beautiful pictures and especially the ones at landing.
    Funny looking at your spotting pictures at ORD, there seems to be a lot more Airbuses than Boeings..
    The comparison between Home Alone and the concurses is actually very funny.
    I noticed on the second comparison that even the drinking fountain signs on the top left corner haven't changed...! Blimey!

    The lounge is very bright and seems spacious - a good point.
    I didn't know there was BOB onboard AA ugh..

    Thanks for the report! And btw your neighbourhood looks amazing well done!

    • Comment 588380 by
      KévinDC TEAM GOLD AUTHOR 5653 Comments

      Hey Chris, thanks for your comments!

      I noticed on the second comparison that even the drinking fountain signs on the top left corner haven't changed...!

      Haha yep, ORD is stuck in the 90s

      I didn't know there was BOB onboard AA ugh..

      Yeah sadly it's the norm for US carriers on domestic flights. Most US carriers stopped serving meals in Y on most domestic flights over a decade ago...some after 9-11 downturn, and the rest after 2008 Financial Crisis. I'm ok with BOB on domestic flights since I'm used to it...I just wish AA would bring it back...a tiny bag of snacks is not enough for a 4h flight at lunch time.

      And btw your neighbourhood looks amazing well done!

      Thanks, it's a lovely area, close to the Ocean and the mountains with some nice landscapes. Add to that the weather being usually sunny and between 20-25C most of the year and it's a great place to live. Il fait bon vivre en Californie 😊

      Thanks for stopping by!

  • Comment 588513 by
    Pilpintu SILVER 779 Comments

    the iconic airport run scene in Home Alone

    A reassuring coincidence! I’m including a movie still in my next report, too, and I was fearing there might be copyright issues involved. But I see you even claim the copyright over the Home Alone scenes, so it seems to be OK! LOL

    falafel, and an artichoke dip

    This made me hungry! Well, nothing beats my falafel. Crunchy and herby. Yum! In fact, I think I’ll go and put some chickpeas to soak right away. :D

    it's only 2-3" more than standard economy and the same as standard seat pitch on JetBlue.

    And they’re selling this as something special?? What a ripoff!

    sunset time with some amazing views and colours. 

    Wonderful views of the sunset and the city! Thank you very much!

    Have a nice rest of the week, Kevin!

    • Comment 588516 by
      KévinDC TEAM GOLD AUTHOR 5653 Comments

      Hey Nelson, thanks for your comments!

      and I was fearing there might be copyright issues involved.

      LOL, yeah it's just a screenshot from youtube of a 30 year old movie

      Well, nothing beats my falafel. Crunchy and herby. Yum! In fact, I think I’ll go and put some chickpeas to soak right away. :D

      YUM. Please send FedEx overnight. Thanks!

      And they’re selling this as something special?? What a ripoff!

      Pretty much! Good thing we get it free with status

      Wonderful views of the sunset and the city! Thank you very much!

      Thanks! Those California sunsets are always spectacular! And when coupled with the gorgeous SAN approach, it's a match made in heaven

      Thanks for stopping by :)

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