Thursday, July 4, 2013

Travel Review: American Airlines

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Good prices and service on the flights
Cons: Cramped seats (just like every where)
The Bottom Line:
Competitive price
And convenient schedules
Pleasant flights as well

Convenient and Almost Always Pleasant

Until a few months ago, my brother and his family lived in Dallas.  That meant flying to see them, especially after my niece was born.  And the carrier I almost always chose was American Airlines.

Frankly, the fact that I would go with them was more a matter of monopoly than anything else. Dallas is one of their hubs (if not their biggest hub).  Other carriers fly in and out, and I could have gone with any of them if my flight experience was truly bad on American.  However, I always had my choice of times flying through LAX, and only once did I have a connecting flight on the trip.  So really, I had no reason to look elsewhere.

Not that I didn't look.  I always went to the travel websites and compared prices.  American was always comparable or slightly better price wise.  Being a price first flyer, that was always a selling point.  And since I was flying from a major airport to a hub, I could get a direct flight for virtually the same price as a transfer would cost me.  If it cost more, it was rarely worth the time and hassle to change flights.  The prices on their web site were always the cheapest prices I would find by looking elsewhere, so I bought the tickets directly from them, and I never had a problem with that.

During the gas price inflation of a few years back, they started charging for all checked luggage on domestic flights.  It's currently $25 for the first bag and $35 for the second per person.  If your flight is international, there is no fee.

Like many airlines, American offers internet check in an hour before your flight.  (Now tell me, what is the point of "checking in" when you aren't really at the airport to check in?  It makes no freaking sense to me!)  As you might guess by the mini-rant, I never used it.  I usually wound up checking a bag plus I have no printer at home.

However, check in at the airport was usually a breeze.  They had plenty of self-check in kiosks at both any airport I flew out of.  I'd enter my itinerary code for my flight and all the info would come up.  I'd have a chance to change seats, but I always stuck with the one I chose when buying my tickets.  From there, I would go to the counter to check my bag.  There were always several people working behind the counter, so I never waited more than 10 minutes for this, although it was usually more like 5.

The exception to the above was the two times I tried to leave LAX in August.  I don't know why, but the lines were always forever to even get to the self-check in kiosk.  And then it took a while to check my bag, too.  It was chaos with no clear line.  The second summer, one employee told me, "It's always like this during the summer because so many people travel."  So why don't you plan for it better with better lines and more employees?  Honestly, I'm not quite sure I bought that, however, since I always flew on the day before Thanksgiving and never had the long lines in did in August.

Anyway, the flights themselves are usually fine.  A few times, I would have something delayed based on weather.  I don't remember ever having trouble with a plane's mechanical difficulties.  But most of the time, my flights were on time.  The flight attendants were always friend and helpful.  Like most domestic flights, they offer a complementary beverage, but all snacks and meals cost extra for those who fly coach.  I never bothered with what I'm sure were over priced items, instead buying something over priced at the airport or eating before or after.  If there was any in flight entertainment, they would sell you headphones for $2, although you could also use any headphones you had with you, like for your iPod, for free.

The seats are close together, so you are fairly crowded, but that's about like always, frankly, on any airline.  I have a large backpack I would use as a carry on, and it took up most of the leg room in the seat in front of me, although I could work my feet in there as they need to move a little.  The seats are just comfortable enough to get me to doze off but not comfortable enough to truly sleep for any length of time.  But I would get plenty read as the flight wore on.

I only once had an issue with my bag.  It took an hour to get it from the plane to the carousel.  Half the flight had their bags in the normal 15 to 20 minutes or less, and the other half of us were waiting.  The employee was apologetic but not really helpful in finding out what was happening.  But the rest of my flights my bag arrived quickly with no issues at all.

As I said, most of my flights with American over the last few years have just been between LAX and Dallas.  However, I did fly them on return trips from Orlando and Ohio.  Everything I said applied to those trips from those airports as well.

Over the years, American Airlines never gave me a reason to look elsewhere for better service.  The prices were good, the flight time convenient, and I couldn't really complain about the service.  I'll certainly consider them when I fly again.

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