Plenty of Inflight Entertainment Heading to Dallas (Trip Report)

Last week was the beginning of American’s Annual Leadership Conference (ALC). This is a great event where American brings in thousands of managers from across the system to get a one-day update from the company’s leaders. I’m fortunate to be one of a handful of media folks who are allowed to attend with the understanding that it’s completely off the record. Though I can’t tell you what was said, I can tell you about my flights. American may stop installing in-seat video on short-haul aircraft, but on this trip, I certainly appreciated having the option.

[Disclosure: American provided my flights and hotel]

I knew American had a 787 and 777 flying between LA and Dallas/Ft Worth, but the times didn’t work out for me in either direction. So it was all A321 for me. On this route, American operates the fleet with in-seat video and all the bells and whistles.

On the way out, I wanted to get there around noon and that meant a 7am departure. Normally, that’s not that big of a deal, but I was a little anxious this time. See, LAX is now gridlocked on a good day, but the day before there had been protests against the Muslim ban gumming up the works even more. I decided to leave a little extra buffer and leave home at 5:15am.

It was still early enough that there wasn’t any traffic on the freeways. I parked at QuikPark and hopped on the shuttle. The roadways were empty and I was at the terminal just after 5:45am. There were maybe 3 people in line for Pre Check, and I walked right through.

The terminal itself was empty. I can’t remember the last time I saw the rotunda so barren. As I walked around looking for a shoe shine, I couldn’t help but notice that the signage had been updated quickly. The Eagle remote gates used to be tied to Terminal 6 (for check-in and busing) but the day before, American had moved them to be attached to Terminal 5. The signage already had it right.

I went back to the gate and logged on to do some work while the sun rose. The gate agents started calling people up by name, such as “Mr So-and-so. Please come to the podium for pre-boarding.” I guessed that was a new Concierge Key perk, but I couldn’t get a straight answer on that.

I boarded in Group 1 because I have an American credit card, but of course, that meant more than half the flight had already boarded.

February 1, 2017
American 2453 Lv Los Angeles 700a Arr Dallas/Ft Worth 1210p
Los Angeles (LAX): Gate 43, Runway 25R, Depart 6m Early
Dallas/Ft Worth (DFW): Gate A34, Runway 18R, Arrive 21m Early
N122NN, Airbus A321-231, Ugly flag colors, ~90% Full
Seat 18A, coach
Flight Time 2h31m

I took my seat and surprisingly found a blanket wrapped in plastic waiting for me (and everyone else). How strange. I watched as the sun slowly came up, burning off the fog that had rolled in overnight.

Though I had only my laptop under the seat, it was still cramped thanks to the giant box which powers the inflight entertainment.

I didn’t waste any time. I flipped on a movie right away and that kept me busy while we waited to push back. We did leave early and made our way down to the end of the runway. We took off into the calm morning sky and then flipped around to head east.

There was a discussion here recently in the comments about how many inflight entertainment systems don’t show you the exact route of flight. This one certainly did.

I had a glass of water and snagged a Biscoff for the kids (or as they call them “Delta cookies”) and then I just did some work offline while watching a movie for the rest of the flight.

It was a nice warm day in Dallas and we had an uneventful landing and taxi in to the terminal. I was off for a whirlwind couple of days.

By Friday morning, I was exhausted, but I still made time to go meet an old friend at American’s headquarters. I took the TRE out from downtown Dallas and walked the mile or so to the building. It had turned really cold (in the 30s at that time of day) and it was windy and cloudy. That wasn’t the most pleasant walk. But after a short visit and lunch in the cafeteria, I realized my flight was leaving in an hour and I hadn’t even ordered a ride yet. Oops.

Fortunately there were cars nearby and traffic was light. I was walking in the terminal building only about 20 minutes later. My aircraft had come from LA, so I don’t know why we were in the international Terminal D, but this was the first time I’d had the chance to see that terminal outside of security. The ticket counters seem far more functional than in the other terminals, but then again, they were totally empty when I arrived.

Security was empty too, and I had plenty of time on the other side to walk around. Terminal D on the inside is somewhat overwhelming. The varying layers of height of the different structures makes for an imposing feeling. This photo summed it up for me.

Boarding time came and our airplane (the same one that brought me out two days prior) was ready to go. I hopped on and took my seat with the extra bonus of an empty middle next to me.

February 3, 2017
American 2480 Lv Dallas/Ft Worth 105p Arr Los Angeles 234p
Dallas/Ft Worth (DFW): Gate D36, Runway 36R, Depart 9m Early
Los Angeles (LAX): Gate 45, Runway 25L, Arrive 7m Early
N122NN, Airbus A321-231, Ugly flag colors, 80% Full
Seat 19F, coach
Flight Time 3h05m

Flight time was supposed to be just under 3 hours, and I wondered if I could pull off two movies. After all, since it works gate-to-gate, that might have been possible… and indeed, it was. I wish it wasn’t, because I made the stupid mistake of doing a mini-Galifianakis marathon. First was Keeping Up with the Joneses. Second was Masterminds. I’m not sure what I was thinking.

The clouds had burned off and we took off into the hazy sunshine before pointing west. Once at altitude, we found ourselves in that ever-annoying high cloud layer that prevented me from having much of a view most of the way to California.

I didn’t have much interaction with the crew, but I did appreciate their effort. Joanna came by serving pretzels, but I was hoping to get a second Biscoff for my other kid. I asked if she had any, and she said “I might in the back. Let me check.” I told her it wasn’t necessary to go back — I had just hoped it was in the cart — but she insisted and came back with two packs for me. That was very nice of her.

As my Galifianakis-fest wound down, we were well into our descent. The remains of a storm were still moving through LA, so we had a couple layers of clouds to go through. I’m not sure why, but this out-of-focus video I took makes it look like the storm of the century. In reality, it was just some rain.

We landed very early and then waited awhile to cross the runway. Then, a unicorn appeared. Our gate was NOT occupied!

We pulled in a couple minutes early, and I was at the curb and in my car in no time. The drive home… well, Friday afternoon combined with rain was not a good combo. But I did get there eventually.

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