Review of American Airlines flight Madison Washington in Economy

Airline American Airlines
Flight AA5221
Class Economy
Seat 11A
Flight time 01:33
Take-off 29 Apr 24, 15:00
Arrival at 29 Apr 24, 17:33
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 213
Published on 18th May 2024

pre-flight/at the airport

Despite bad weather for most of it, we had a fun weekend celebrating my cousin's wedding in Madison and catching up with family that I personally hadn't seen in a few years. All good things must come to an end, however, and it was soon time to head back to DC. We had a nice lunch/hangout with my cousin and her new husband at my aunt's house and then all headed to the airport together, since they were also flying out around the same time back to Denver where they live.

MSN is about a 15-20 minute drive from downtown Madison and there is a bus, but it only runs every half hour. I hadn't flown into/out of there since 2006 when I was 9, but the airport has grown a lot in the last few years and more amenities have been added. My uncle explained  that the operation at MSN is very much based on the activities of Epic, the medical software company whose main campus is in the exurbs of Madison. This was the first day of their annual conference and at our hotel, there were several people checking in the night before who were clearly there for that (my uncle also said that every hotel room in south central Wisconsin was booked for that week, so we were very lucky to get ours!). But since everyone going to that had arrived in town earlier that morning or the night before, the airport was not busy when we got there and since we had no checked baggage, we headed right to security and airside (although I was admonished for putting my wallet and keys in my shoes, which I do almost every time I'm at security these days so I don't walk off without them, but they ran everything through again nonetheless). 

The airside area has improved a lot, undoubtedly because of the demands of Epic and their people. There are a couple sit-down restaurants and bars, a couple shops (where one can buy cheese and Cheeseheads) and near my gate there was a nursing suite for mothers and anyone with young kids. It was kind of a hike from the security checkpoint down to the gates AA uses at the end of the terminal, but when we got there it was almost time to board. One of the gate agents was already coming around the seating area with red valet tags to get those loaded as soon as possible, and right on schedule we began boarding. The main gate agent was also very responsive when people were asking how long until boarding, with up to the minute updates.

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Curbside at MSN

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MSN landside–only a handful of flights were departing at this time of the day with all the Epic traffic having arrived either early in the morning or late the previous night

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Post-security at MSN–those with Precheck will use the southern checkpoint

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For anyone needing any last minute Cheeseheads before leaving WI

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Our plane had already arrived from DCA

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I commented on the art deco gate podiums at MSN in my review of the inbound flight but I'm a fan!

the flight

My seat was supposed to be 19A, just like on the inbound flight, but when I got to my seat, the left part of it was detached from the armrest and that part of it leaned back. Luckily though, there was an open seat in 11A that the FA was able to move me to, which was perfect because I'd be off the plane earlier at DCA AND I would be farther away from the engines. My backpack stayed in the overhead bin above 19A though, so I just grabbed my iPad and wireless earbuds to have with me. I made the mistake of having my backpack with me on the inbound flight and it restricted my legroom, but it wasn't bad without it. We pushed back right on time and after kind of a long taxi, we took off only a minute behind schedule. 

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Boarding in MSN

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Knee shot–definitely made a difference to have my backpack in the overhead bin

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Pretty empty tarmac at MSN except for DL to ATL and UA to DEN, the latter of which my cousin and her husband were on

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The aforementioned UA 737 to DEN and a UA regional jet (not sure where this was headed)

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As soon as we took off, I tried to get the stream-to-your-device IFE system to work, but I kept getting kicked off the wifi. Every time I made it a step further in the process, the wifi would disconnect. Eventually I got an episode of Ted Lasso to play, but it took me half the flight to get just 12 minutes of the episode to play, so I gave up. At least I wasn't trying to do any work on this flight. The flight attendants soon came through with the beverage cart and I had my usual cranberry juice, and the snack on this day was pretzels–unfortunately it doesn't seem like AA gives a choice of snacks on their regional service (unlike DL).

It was quite cloudy early in the flight but the clouds went away as we made our way over Ohio, and from my window I could see Appalachia. Since the IFE was not working, I spent the rest of the flight looking out the window and I'll let those pictures do the rest of the talking.

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My usual cranberry juice–the wifi was not really delivering the IFE. 

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Got about 12 minutes of this episode of Ted Lasso to play

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The airport down there is the municipal airport of Cambridge, OH

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Crossing the Ohio River into WV

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Morgantown, WV, with the Monongahela River leading to it (the highway down there is I-79)

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The Cheat River in WV

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Winchester, VA with I-81 running right past

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East part of Winchester with Winchester Regional Airport

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"Oh Shenandoah, I long to see you…"

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Cabin shot somewhere over the Blue Ridge

In almost no time at all, the exurbs of DC came into view, and we lucked out today with the northerly approach into DCA. 

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Independence HS in Loudoun County

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Rock Ridge HS, another new-ish school in the Loudoun sprawl (with Dulles in the bottom right hand corner)

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Sterling Park, the easternmost area of Loudoun County

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Intersection of Falls Rd and River Road at Potomac, MD

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The Beautiful and Fully Integrated Mount Vernon Campus of George Washington University

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The Foxhall Village neighborhood of DC

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Georgetown University

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The main campus of GWU and the U.S. State Department

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Never gets old


Once on the ground, our arrival gate was still occupied, so we couldn't park right away. The captain came on and said initially that we might have to wait upwards of 10 minutes (not welcome because it was almost 90 degrees in DC), but shortly after that announcement we pulled forward into gate E46. After a short wait for our gate-tagged bags, we made our way out of the terminal and onto the economy parking shuttle to our car to drive home. 

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This A321Neo was on its way to SLC

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This AA 737-800 was headed to DFW

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One last look at our plane, headed to PIT next

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Can't say enough good things about the new DCA terminal, not least of which is the fact that it's not 35X

See more


American Airlines

Cabin crew7.0

Madison - MSN


Washington - DCA



Nothing out of the ordinary on this flight. MSN is a very good small airport (more frequent bus connection to downtown would be much appreciated), although we did not fly out of it at its busiest time. I will say, however that the sloppy IFE connection definitely brings the score down. AA flies these CR7s on longer routes, and it would have been nice if the IFE had been working. But the crew was very good and they accommodated my seat change due to the broken seat without any hassle. Given AA's extensive route network from DCA, I would not be surprised to be flying them again in the future and gladly would do that nonetheless, especially if I get to fly out of that new DCA terminal. Up next for me, however, is a trip on WN to MCI and back for the 2024 Airliners International convention, so I'm looking forward to flying into/out of that new terminal!



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