Delays on the Old “New” American (Trip Report)

I had been planning to attend Farelogix media day in Miami for quite some time, but when news broke that the American/US Airways merger might happen that day, I wondered if this event would happen or if it did, whether I should go. Fortunately, it did happen and I decided to make the very worthwhile trip despite lengthy maintenance delays (or shall I say, delAAys?) on both ends. (And as we know, the merger announcement slipped a couple days anyway.)

Farelogix paid for flights and hotels, but I got to pick the flights I wanted. Since it was in a hotel right near Miami Airport, I was definitely going into Miami and not Ft Lauderdale. And to do that nonstop, it means you’re pretty much stuck with American. There actually is one daily Delta flight from LAX, but it’s a redeye out so I wasn’t interested. I would have preferred the Delta return, but it was $150 more to mix AA out with Delta back and I didn’t want them to have to pay for it. I stuck with American.

The good news is that my return was on a 777, and I had about 16,000 miles in my AAdvantage account. I figured for a flight over 5 hours with an international business class offering, there was no better use of 15,000 miles and $75 out there than to do an upgrade. The seat may not be great for international travel, but for domestic, it’s good.

But let’s start with the flight out first. I went to check-in on my mobile and had the link to the boarding pass sent to me (much better than how Virgin America does it). I was on a 757 and found that only 20 percent of that fleet has wifi. I checked and sure enough, my plane was one of the other 80 percent. Shoot.

I got to the airport a little early and went up to security. The line looked short but it was deceiving. They just had 4 different lines set up to spread things around. After about 15 minutes, I was through and off to my gate. I was expecting some of the new American branding around, but I didn’t see it anywhere in the airport or on the airplane.

I figured while I was waiting to board, I’d ask the gate agent if there were any windows with empty middles since the seat map looked pretty open previously. She didn’t even look up and said no, it’s full. Only when I said, “Couldn’t hurt to try, right?” did she look up and squeezed out a little smile. Still, no. After that, I just got onboard.

February 11, 2013
American 200 Lv Los Angeles 8a Arr Miami 350p
Los Angeles (LAX): Gate 46A, Runway 25R, Depart 1h31m Late
Miami (MIA): Gate D45, Runway 12, Arrive 57m Late
N602AN, Boeing 757-223, Silver livery, ~95% Full
Seat 34A
Flight Time 3h57m

The interior was in decent shape, though it was clearly old. At least the overhead monitors had been retrofitted with flat screens to make for a better picture, even if it was a partially-obscured view from the window seat. The only surprise was the wifi sticker on the door. My lucky day! They switched airplanes on us since last check. That was great for wifi, but there was some bad news with this airplane as well. (And no, fortunately, it didn’t involve seats coming loose.)

American had robotic announcements every few minutes telling people that as soon as bags were stored and everyone was seated, we’d be on our way. That wasn’t to be the case. I got an alert a couple minutes after departure time saying we’d been delayed 15 minutes. The pilots came on and said the same thing.

Another 15 minutes passed and I got an alert saying it was delayed another 15 minutes. The pilots came on and gave a little more color, saying that maintenance was looking at something outside the airplane. Another 15 minutes later I had an alert saying we’d been pushed another 30 minutes to make it a full hour. The pilots came on a few minutes later to explain that this was about a 15 year old airplane (actually, 18) and it has been bumped around a lot over the years by carts, etc. When they were doing the walkaround, the noticed a ding that didn’t have a “sticker” saying it was ok. So, they had to call maintenance to make sure it was fine.

Interesting way to put it, but it did the trick. At a little more than an hour after original schedule, we were told we were good to go and we’d leave soon. This was good because I had burned through the American Way magazine, SkyMall, and even Nexos, American’s Spanish-language magazine. The pilot mentioned that we had a lot of extra fuel onboard because of some fuel shortage in Miami, so he was going to use that to put the pedal to the metal and get us there as quickly as possible.

Then 10 minutes later, another announcement came. We were now waiting for the ground crew to show up to push us back. Fun. He said it would just be a couple minutes, but about 15 minutes later, we could finally see the ground crew slowly ambling over, in no hurry.

They started up the left engine at the gate (guessing our APU was out), and finally we were on our way. The pilots reported that we would fly low for an hour to stay below the turbulence. Then we’d climb higher and head to Miami. Sure enough, there were some bumps on the way out, but it didn’t keep the flight attendants from peddling drinks and flipping on the movie, Here Comes the Boom. (Did I mention how glad I was to have wifi?)

Since I was in the back, it took well over an hour to get the drink cart to me. The flight attendants had drinks and food but the food wasn’t appetizing. They had some pre-packaged snack pack along with a couple other things. So I passed. The only other service was a water and OJ tray that came through about an hour before arrival.

I was worried about wifi giving out over the Gulf since it’s a land-based system, but it was my “buy 2 hours, get 1 free” deal that ran out first. Soon enough I could see the west coast of Florida and it was time to descend.

I haven’t been to Miami Airport in awhile, and sure enough, it’s pretty nice. It really better be considering how expensive this place is. After I landed, I had the chance to meet a client who was waiting two gates down for his flight. Then I headed out to the hotel. (In Miami, there is no hotel shuttle stop. You just stand at the curb and wave.)

After a good trip, I was ready to get back home. I took the shuttle from the hotel to the airport and then got in line for security. Security was pretty brutal. The elite line (which I could use because I was in business class) was longer than the regular line. And then some traveler just decided to lift up a rope and create a second priority line just for the heck of it. So it split people up only to have everyone merge back again. One of the two millimeter wave machines wasn’t operating, so they funneled us all into one place. It took about 20 minutes with people cutting in line and all kinds of shenanigans.

Once through, I walked over to the gate. We boarded on time and I took my business class seat. So far, so good.

February 13, 2013
American 299 Lv Miami 825a Arr LAX 1110a
Miami (MIA): Gate D10, Runway 8R, Depart 1h31m Late
Los Angeles (LAX): Gate 41, Runway 25L, Arrive 1h25m Late
N783AN, Boeing 777-223ER, Silver livery, Full in biz, coach unknown
Seat 10A
Flight Time 5h15m

I was checking out my seat when I realized it was time to depart… but we weren’t moving. Then the captain came on. It was a maintenance issue. Oh boy.

On this one, we apparently had some water leaking from the ceiling back in coach. Now, it was over 80 and humid in Miami, so it sounds a lot like the condensation you normally see on an airplane, right? Apparently they wanted to be safe, so they called maintenance and had them come out. And maintenance had to bring some “machine” onboard, so to do that, they had to get everyone off in business and coach. Great. So off we shuffled back into the terminal.

We finally got back on at 930a or so after all was cleared. While I waited to board, the guy next to me said, “I guess they fixed it.” I jokingly said “that, or they decided it was good enough.” The woman in front of me turned around with fear in her eyes saying that wasn’t funny. It was, however, true. We later found out that it was just condensation, so there wasn’t anything to fix. When we got onboard, we saw the mechanics carrying their “machine” out. It was a ladder.

Finally on our way, we launched to the east and then looped around to head back toward LA. It was a mostly smooth flight except for some bumps at the end. Meanwhile, this was my first opportunity to try out the old angled flat business class seats. The verdict? For a domestic flight, it was great. But I would hate it on an overnight. The bed simply isn’t comfortable because of the angle. I tried to lie down and gave up on it pretty quickly. Instead, I watched a couple of movies and ate some food.

We had great service from our flight attendant Crystal onboard the flight. I had used the online ordering system to pick a breakfast quesadilla. She brought it right to me, though she said that she’s been on flights where the orders don’t show up. On this one, she said 4 or 5 people ordered. The food was pretty good. A couple hours later, we had a fruit and cheese plate with some sparkling water. Then at the end we had a warm cookie with a glass of milk. I definitely couldn’t complain about the food at all.

We got toward LA and it was time to descend. We landed and while we were taxiing, a woman took her bag and just walked up to the front of the airplane. I swear, are there no rules in the world of Miami? They made her sit back down, but soon enough, we were at the gate and I was heading home.

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