Review of American Airlines flight Washington Madison in Economy

Airline American Airlines
Flight AA5221
Class Economy
Seat 19A
Flight time 01:48
Take-off 26 Apr 24, 12:32
Arrival at 26 Apr 24, 13:20
AA   #71 out of 95 Airlines A minimum of 10 flight-reports within the past two years is required to appear in the rankings. 598 reviews
By 147
Published on 30th April 2024

pre-flight/at the airport

After having not flown for almost five years before this month, it was time to embark on my second plane journey of April 2024. My younger cousin from Wisconsin was getting married in Madison, and I knew we would be there no matter what. It would be my first time flying into MSN since 2006, when I was 7 years old–back in those days Northwest Airlink (RIP) operated their Avro RJ85 between DCA and MSN. Nowadays DL and AA have regional flights to MSN from DCA, but for vacations we had usually driven. Since this was just a weekend trip, however, flying it was. AA had the better schedule for us, so that's what my mom ended up booking. 

My mom, dad (who now works in India and who had arrived from BOM via DXB the day before on EK) and I parked in the economy lot at DCA at around 9:50 and caught the shuttle to the terminal. Interestingly the shuttle dropped us off on the arrivals level, meaning we had to go upstairs to security. I get that it probably is more efficient for there to just be one route, but that wasn't advertised ahead of time. This was my first time flying out of DCA since 2018, and the departure experience has now changed quite a bit since the 2020-21 lull in travel. Security is now on a mezzanine between check-in and the arrivals level, and it wasn't super busy at this time of the morning. We were through in about 15 minutes and into the main hall, which is now completely airside.

Our flight was set to depart from the brand new regional pier, which replaced the infamous gate 35X in 2021, and I was very excited to try it. Gone is the bus station and boarding via stairs, and in is this new pier with several places to eat and shopping options (including a P.F. Chang's, Elevation Burger and Timber Pizza Company, the latter two local chains). But I would be eating at none of those today because I was counting on having a big lunch in Madison, so I just got a Clif bar and used the water bottle fillers to fill my water bottle. Our plane that would take us to Madison soon arrived from DTW, and we waited patiently for boarding, which happened exactly half an hour before our scheduled departure time. Hard to beat that.

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Economy lot at DCA–keep in mind that the shuttle may not go to the departures level and you may have to do a little walking from where it stops

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Mezzanine level before the north security checkpoint–the ticket counters are still upstairs but since we had already checked in and we were only doing carry-on bags, we headed right through to security

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Post-security at DCA

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The corridor to the E-gates–the whole addition is very airy and beats the chaos that was gate 35X any day of the week.

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This E75L was headed off to ALB as AA3922

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The morning/afternoon's departures–American essentially has a hub at DCA now for their regional operations and the new terminal very much helps that

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For anyone wanting to bring home a taste of the D(M)V

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Our ride to MSN on the left and the plane on the right was going to ICT

the flight

Boarding was quick and easy–we had our carry-on bags valet-tagged and took our backpacks with us on board. A cool moment happened when I got near my seat. I was wearing a sweater of my favorite soccer team, the Washington Spirit of the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) and another 20-something guy and his traveling companion were also wearing Spirit shirts. I let out a "Go Spirits!" to them as I passed and they both returned the favor. The flight attendant was interested as well, so that was a fun way to begin the flight. Once I sat down in 19A, however, the fun was over as I got my 6'3" frame into the very tight CRJ-700 seat (with kind of a large guy next to me, to boot). I kept my backpack with me, which probably was not the bet idea in hindsight as all I really needed from there was my water bottle, wireless earbuds and phone with podcasts downloaded. Nonetheless, we pushed back soon after the door closed and took off just a minute late–big thanks to the ground handling staff at DCA for nailing the turnaround!

As we were ascending to our cruising altitude, we experienced some serious turbulence, and then again as the crew did their beverage service (so much so that they had to pause the service). The captain had warned us about that during his pre-flight announcement, however. It was a very beautiful day as we made our way up out of DCA to the northwest, over western Maryland and Pennsylvania. Looking out the window combined with a podcast I had downloaded was the perfect IFE, even though our plane did have the stream-to-your-device entertainment system (which I tried on the return flight–more on that in that report). When the FA came through with the drinks service, I opted for cranberry juice, and there was no choice for snacks–just the Biscoff cookies were available, which was fine by me. The flight attendants weren't done, however, as they got back on the PA system to try and get people to open new American credit cards and get 50,000 miles on just a simple purchase. No thanks. 

The rest of the flight was spent just looking out the window as we began our approach into Madison over a very cloudy Lake Michigan and eastern Wisconsin. It was a very windy day there as well, but the pilots did a superb job of landing as smoothly as possible from the north at Dane County Regional Airport, well ahead of schedule. 

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Our route took us on a U-turn north after leaving DCA, and then northwest over Pittsburgh, Akron, central Michigan and Milwaukee before landing at MSN.

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Cabin shot post-boarding

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N506AE was on its way to PWM

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Hains Point and Buzzard Point, where Audi Field is (home of the aforementioned Spirit)

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Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington

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Mason Neck, a wildlife reserve right on the Potomac

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Opted for cranberry juice and Biscoff cookies

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Monongahela River south of Pittsburgh–the town right below is the town of Monongahela

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Ohio River between West Virginia and Ohio (I believe Steubenville, OH is the town right below)

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Akron-Canton International Airport (CAK)

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Sandusky, OH, the home of the famous Cedar Point amusement park

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Toledo, OH and the Maumee River (the town of Maumee is where we usually stop for the night when we drive to/from Wisconsin–on this day it was the halfway point of a roughly two-hour flight)

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Off in the distance there is the Michigan International Speedway near Jackson, which hosts NASCAR events

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Beginning our descent over Milwaukee–from central Michigan to this point it got very cloudy


After landing right at 2:20, it was a pretty short taxi to our gate, which was at the very end of the concourse at one of the brand new gates that had just been added the previous year. We waited for a short while at the top of the jetbridge while our carry-on bags were put on an elevator up to where we were (very fancy!) and I had a nice chat with the two other Spirit fans as we waited about how gutted we were to be missing that night's home game. Once my parents' and my bags made it up, we headed out through Madison's revamped airport (more on that in the report on the return trip) and my older cousin was there to pick us up and whisk us downtown for what would be a fun weekend!

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The small first class section

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The southern end of the MSN concourse where AA's gates are situated

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The art-deco gate podiums are a nice feature

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Main airside area at MSN

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We're in Wisconsin, all right

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American Airlines

Cabin crew6.0

Washington - DCA


Madison - MSN



Nothing out of the ordinary for AA's domestic regional product–an on-time departure and early arrival on a trip like this is honestly all that matters. I do hope that the crew hwaking to meet quotas for credit card applications isn't something that happens on every one of these flights, but meeting those other Spirit fans made the flight memorable. I'll have a lot more to say about MSN and other AA regional inflight services in the return report, but my expectations for this flight were met and that's enough for me.



If you liked this review or if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to post a comment below !
  • Comment 650487 by
    KévinDC TEAM SILVER 6859 Comments
    Madison's a cool town. Nice to see there are nonstop flights from DCA.

    It's a bit of a long flight on a CR7 though...but at least it wasn't a CRJ-200, which is even tighter and just unbearable.

    I do hope that the crew hwaking to meet quotas for credit card applications isn't something that happens on every one of these flights

    Yeah...they's very annoying.

    Thanks for sharing!

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