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Tuesday 3 September 2019

Flying American From Dallas To Los Angeles

Welcome to my trip report on American Airlines!

Photo: Jonathan Rankin


Since young, I always wanted to fly with American Airlines because of the branding and its unique chrome livery with the 3 stripes as the cheatline for the airline’s former livery. I have seen the airline’s old aircraft such as the DC-10 and MD-11 around in the U.S on my previous trip there. I may have missed the chance back then but I am not going to miss the chance now. Because of the budget, I set myself for this trip, I had to miss out on the chance to fly the airline’s MD-80 before it’s retirement. Yes, I am pretty strict on this, and furthermore, I have already flown on FAT’s MD-80 aircraft several times, so I decided to save the money. Besides the airline was charging exorbitant prices on the MD-80 routes I was looking at, flying out of DFW airport. 

This is an American Airlines DC-10. 

Personally, I love this livery

Photo by T.Laurent

Beautiful Fokker-100

Photo: Groningen Airport (Username)

American's Boeing 727-100 

Photo: EricG

This is EX-U.S Airways Airbus A330-300

Photo: Andreas Fietz

Choosing the DFW-LAX sector with this airline, I had choices of many flights flying on this route daily, all except one were operated by Airbus A321. If the Boeing 757-200 was operated on one of the flights, I would have picked it ahead of the 787. The Boeing 757 is an aircraft I won't be able to catch it in Asia, so at this time, I need to fly on the rarer types first. 

Since its down to between Airbus A321 and Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, picking the wide-body aircraft was the obvious choice. 

I find out later that the flight I picked was more or less safe to be operated by 787-9 as sometimes the aircraft would fly to LAX on this flight and connect to Asia and also help to connect Oneworld partners’ passengers to LAX and transfer to their flights. (Cathay Pacific and Qantas) 

In the end, I was disappointed with the airline, though it was only a domestic flight. Among the 3 airlines, United, Delta and American, the latter is easily the bottom in terms of ranking. Why is that so? Please read on to find out. 

About American Airlines

This airline is one of the oldest airlines around, set up in 1930 with a union of 80 small airlines joining forces back then during those days. Currently based in Fort Worth, Texas. Dallas Fort Worth DFW Airport is the major hub for the airline's operation. This airline started operation in 1936 and has been flying on both domestic and international routes, competing with other rivals, seeing some of them fail, while taking over a few of them along the way. U.S Airways and TWA are examples of this airline's take over.

This airline is one of the founding members of the OneWorld Alliance and has an impressive network in the U.S, helping fellow members of the alliance to feed their passengers on the domestic flights. Of course, the airline has non-alliance partners such as Air Tahiti Nui, El AL, Fuji Airways and others. 

The hubs for American Airlines are Charlotte, Los Angeles, Dallas Fort Worth (DFW), Chicago (ORD), Miami, New York (JFK), New York (LGA), Philadephia, Phoenix Sky-harbour and Washington National.

With such a massive network, the airline is operating almost 1,000 aircraft consisting mainly of both Airbus and Boeing aircraft. For wide-body, Boeing aircraft is dominant. Sadly, we won't see the Airbus A350 in American's livery. The Boeing 787 and Boeing 777 are the backbones of the airline's long haul fleet.

About Dallas DFW Airport

Dallas Fort Worth Airport 

This airport is a major hub for American Airlines, which dominate this airport with both domestic and international flights. Consists of 5 terminals, A to E, this airport served up to 250-260 over destinations with domestic flights, of course, taking a bigger role at this airport. There are also plans to construct a 6th terminal, Terminal F which is likely to start operation after 2025. There are plans to renovate terminal C, as it is currently the oldest looking terminal among the 5. 

The terminal I was departing from is Terminal D, currently the newest. The departure hall features restaurants, lounges and shops. There is also ample resting area and even your connecting flight is long, you can rest at one of those armchairs or do your work at a working table, without issues. These terminals at the airside are connected, so you can walk from Terminal A to E (airside) without issues. 

For terminal D lounges, the following lounges are available: Korean Air, American Airlines Admirals Club, American Airlines Centurion, Lufthansa, Qantas

Another thing to note about this terminal is there are a couple of A380 gates catered to Qantas' aircraft. Gate 15 and 16 are used for the airline's long haul flight from Sydney. 

Mobile app

Booking with this airline is not straight forward. I attempted several times before finally getting the booking confirmed. First few times, I couldn't click the payment option as the location didn't recognise Singapore and kept giving me the same error, forcing me to restart. I tried using the web browser on my phone, but the result is the same. It finally worked when I used the Australian's version (mobile website). I did a few checks on my details before clicking the payment option. When I did a check on the overview, it screwed out my name details as shown below.

First Name: Charles 
Last Name: Charles

The question is what happened? I couldn't have been so careless! But whatever it is, I had to make the change. Search for the contacts on the airline's website, only phone numbers are available. I decided to contact American Airline's Twitter team. The previous twitter team was friendly, but not the current one. Fortunately, one of the staff managed to change my name details to the correct one, without charges. 

No doubt to me that this airline has the weakest mobile app compare to United and Delta Airlines. So if you booking using the airline's application, do take extra precaution. 

Fortunately for me, there was a free window seat available, the only one in fact.

Initially, I chose to spend only a day at DFW Dallas, going to LAX on the 19 July, but on the 20 July (Saturday), the airfare was about $40 cheaper so I decided to stay an extra day to take advantage of this offer.

Choose the Main cabin, trust me, it is more worth it than Basic Economy.

Initially, the airfare was $137, but because of the error I was facing, I missed it out and had to settle for the $172 deal.

For the price I paid, it wasn't too bad. 

'Ticketed' status confirms your booking

At first, I thought I had to pay for the name update but it wasn't the case.

Among the bookings of airlines completed so far, this has to be one of the most stressful experience, glad I got it sorted out without any more further issues. 

On the day of departure 

I was at the airport early, at around 2 in the afternoon. Hanging around, checking out the terminals and of course doing plane spotting. When the time was closer, I noticed on flightradar24 that my arrival flight was arriving at 6.15 pm and the application was showing (below).

N834AA was my ride, and she was coming in from Paris. I noticed a lot on Flightradar24, that my flight had a lot of aircraft changes. Originally it was supposed to be operated by N821AA then was changed to N836AA to N841AA and finally settled for this aircraft.

My ride had almost completed flying over the transatlantic ocean 

I was not surprised to see a delay on my flight. The announcement was made for the delay of departure AA2777 due to the late arrival of my aircraft.

I thought I gave it a try, I went for the $250 option. Fortunately for me, I wasn't called up to change my flight. I would prefer sticking to this flight, for the 787 Dreamliner. If I was called up for the switch, I could still change my mind.

At 5.15 pm, the flight had around an hour to go before arrival, the question now was will my flight be further delayed. The flight time you see below excludes the holding pattern if required by the Airport Traffic Control.

Not a surprise that my flight was further delayed. At this point, there was an aircraft at D36, American Airlines Boeing 777-200ER, this aircraft had technical issues and the flight was delayed for 3-4 hours. So when my aircraft landed, it had no assigned gate and had to wait for a while. That was how busy DFW airport at that time.

The aircraft was stuck at this location for quite a while. Once there was an available gate, my ride made its way to it. An announcement was made to shift us over to gate D29.

Finally, this was our departure time. Many passengers were not happy about it, with some of them talking to the gate staff. You can't blame them! Along with the airport staff, I knew what happened to my flight. 

I checked the history of my flight, apparently, there are similar delays too. So if you booked yourself on this flight, do beware. 

From the start of the day 

In the morning, I had plenty of time to spare. I had breakfast near my hotel before checking out, taking the bus to the train station. It was an interesting way to travel by the U.S public transport. The bus driver was nice enough to waive the transport fare for my trip, though I paid $3 for the train ride to the airport. There is no gate gantry to process your ticket, so you riding on the train without a ticket is a risk, if find out by the inspector, you can get fine. I didn't want to take a risk, $3 is affordable.

I was booked to a queen-size bed, but the room had issues, so they put me to this room. It was ok for the short term. 

For a few days, I had a craving for rice. So I settled down at an Asian restaurant for this. (Below)

At DFW Airport 

I took the shuttle bus to terminal D where I check in there before making my way to the airside. 

This is American Airlines' check-in counters. 

Originally assigned to gate D25. Later on, it was changed to D36 and finally settled for D29.

American Airlines Boeing 777-300ER just arrived from London Heathrow

This terminal certainly looks more modern than the others.

The old and new livery of American Airlines. This MD-80 will end operation on September 2019.

A salute to the MD-80!

American Eagle's aircraft ERJ-145

Shopping area 

American Airlines Boeing 777-300ER resting for the flight later in the evening

The terminal is spacious with selected seats come with power sockets. Of course, this airport provides free Wi-fi.

You can use the bridge to travel to other terminals. 

I glad I decided to check it out

Spotted this beauty being prepared for departure. 

This one as well, at the same timing. What are the odds of 2 special liveries around at the same time? 

Checking the flight schedule, a few flights including mine were delayed. 

All of us waited patiently for the boarding announcement to be made. I don't think the gate agent had an easy time.

Route: DFW-LAX

Miles: 1,235

My ride: N834AA

Aircraft type: Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner

Engines: 2 X GEnx-1B

Configuration: C30 W21 Y234

Delivered on 27 Feb 2018

667th Boeing 787

Born in Charleston 

Photo: Szabo Gabor

Photo: Daniel Dominguez

Date of departure: 20 July 2019
Airline: American Airlines
Flight: AA 2777
Route: DFW-LAX
Seat: 34L
Aircraft: Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner
Registration: N834AA
Load: 100% Y Class
Duration: 2 hours 29 min
Scheduled departure: 1845 (2037)
Boarding: 2016
Pushed back: 2055
Take off: 2110
Scheduled arrival: 1952 (2139)
Actual arrival: 2138
Departure runway: 04L
Arrival runway: 25R

Boarding finally commerced, many of us were glad to be finally on board. I don't think the crew were happy with the situation as well, this set of crew I believed came from another flight, and probably this was their last sector of the day as the aircraft would rest in LAX before performing the trans-pacific flight the following day. 

The flight was unsurprisingly full and I sat beside 2 small kids, with the parents sitting across the aisle. 

The seat cabin looks nice and all that but when it comes to the seats, the seat pitch is terrible. Luckily it is a short flight, for longer flights, my legs would be complaining! United's 777 seat pitch was about the same.

The kid sitting beside me had difficulty pulling out the remote control, so I helped. The control seemed to be stuck, mine was ok though. Fortunately, these 2 kids were well behaved, so for the rest of the flight, it was peaceful. 

Finally boarding my first American Airlines aircraft 

Cabin interior of the airline's Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner

No business class photos but you can view this excellent Business Class 787-9 American Airlines trip report from ThePointsGuy (TPG) over here.

Premium Economy 

Configured in a 2-3-2 seating configuration. Better seat pitch and slightly wider seat width with the remote control located at the armrest, these are the differences between this cabin and the Economy Class seats. 

I won't want to be in the middle seat!

Last row of the Premium Economy seats 

What do I think?

The 2-seater is the one to go for, should be more comfortable than flying on the Economy Class seats. I haven't got the chance to have a feel of these seats but they look more comfortable in my opinion.

Economy Class 

Spotted the red thing? That is to indicate it is Economy Class. 

It was a challenge taking photos at this time as more passengers were flowing in. Many of them were transit passengers, heading to Australia with Qantas. 

For those who wonder how to identify the aircraft type by looking at the cabin photo? For this case, this is the Boeing 787 as it is the only aircraft type that offers electronic dimmed windows. 

What do you think of this cabin? 

What do the 3 main carriers have in common?

 Leather Economy Class seats with tight legroom space 

This is my seat, look at the legroom space! Terrible.

Avoid row 35 if you can. 

This is the last row of the front cabin of Economy Class 

The overhead compartment offers lots of space, however the cabin crew announced that due to the full load, it was advisable for us to leave the smaller bags underneath the seats in front of us  so that there would be enough space for all of us to place our big ones in there.

More photos of Economy Class Seat 

Welcome on board!

The USB port and power socket are available at the back of the seat in front of you. The only bad thing about it is if you are not seated at either the window or middle seat, you have to deal with the wires in front of you, putting them away to let the passengers cross if they have to move. 

Tight legroom space 

Whatever it is, I am glad to finally add this airline to my flight logbook.

What's inside the seat pocket?

Safety card

A detailed Disposal Bag

In-flight magazine 

IFE System

Touch screen works well, no issue at all at least for my set. The number of programs on this system is adequate for long haul flights, like Delta and United, it shows the recently released movies, so I had a good few choices to enjoy. However, my flight duration is too short to enjoy but still, it does the job. 

The USB porthole and earpiece plughole

Decent flight map display 

This airline offers free earplugs, unlike Delta Airlines.

In-Flight WiFi 

For internet usage, you have to pay for it, just like the other regular airlines.

In-flight snack 

The crew came about with a basket with snacks and allow us to choose. Because of the delay of our flight, it would be nice if they offered us a sandwich for compensation. I bet many of us felt famished then. Surely, you can do a bit of service recovery, right? American Airlines. 

In-flight experience 

The flight from take-off to landing was smooth but the tight seat pitch cause discomfort for my legs, so after reaching our destination, my knee cap was hurting a bit. The crew looked tired but I don't blame them. The service was normal, at least no rudeness or anything bad from any of the crew that served the 2 aisles at my section. 

Later on, before arrival, the crew announced that we be parking at a remote parking lot (But why? We have many connecting passengers on this flight!) and advised connecting passengers to quickly alight the aircraft and catch the first bus to the terminal. (If that is the case, why don't you seat all these connecting passengers together?) Inconvenience for the others, but at least you are showing you are trying your best to help. Furthermore, the crew also mentioned that Qantas would be departing on time and would not be waiting for them, so they had to hurry. A free gate slot should have made available for this flight, to save everyone's trouble. (This is on you, American. Your duty is to fly passengers from A to B according to the time schedule). If the passengers missed the flight, they had to take the next day's flight if there is availability, so this would be sorted out at the transfer desk. Whether this airline would offer accommodation to the affected passengers, is another story.

After arrival, it turned out that the connecting passengers were scattered all over the cabin, so during the disembarkment time, most of them struggled to move to the front door to exit the aircraft. It took a while before the 2 exit doors opened. Luckily, most of the passengers were accommodating, however, the bad news was some of the connecting passengers would not be able to make it for their flights. The waiting time for the bus to arrive and for the bus to fill up, plus the time needed to travel to the terminal. At the arrival, the passengers need to run to the gate and that also takes time. For this situation, this airline has to help the passengers to rebook.

The whole situation could have been handled better, that's for sure.

Window shot photos 

It was around 9 in the evening, when we finally pushed back

I spotted fellow American aircraft arriving in this beautiful weather

As I was not in the hurry, I took my own sweet time to leave. At this point, I was keeping fingers crossed for the connecting passengers. 

One good thing is I got to see this plane up close. 

General Electric GEnx engine

Goodbye N834AA! You deserve a good rest. 

My Flight Report 

This is the popular Tom Bradley Terminal airside at LAX Airport

My rating: 

Airline's mobile application: 3/10
DFW Airport experience: 7/10 (Terminal D)
IFE system: 7/10
Seat comfort: 5/10 
In-flight service: 5/10
Cabin interior: 9/10
Aircraft condition: 7/10
Cleanliness: 7/10
Punctuality: 0/10
In-flight snack: 6/10
Overall rating: 56/100


Now I understand why folks around me had warned me not to expect much when flying on this airline. Lots of disappointment starting from the mobile app to the flight itself. Flight delay is part and parcel of travelling but it is how the airline handles the situation. Perhaps the airline has operation issues not just my flight, but with others as well? Logistic has always been an issue for many companies, not just airlines. I think what most of us like to see is how the company deal with when things go wrong. Service recovery is important especially if your aim is to convince the flyers to continue flying with your airline. This is just one flight so it will be unfair for me to write this airline off.

For the airline's 787, the huge letdown is the legroom space especially if you are tall. I would either go for the emergency row or pay extra for better legroom space upfront of the aircraft.

Despite the negative impression of my experience, I would like to do long haul flights with this airline, together with Delta Airlines soon. I have plans to return to the U.S next year so keep reading my blog for updates.

Thanks for reading.

For the next trip report, click here.

Have a fantastic September!

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