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

American, Trip Reports

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

  1. Glad to see MIA looks better after the refurbishment, the excessive cost notwithstanding. I flew through MIA once, about 7 years ago, before the renovations really got going. AA’s terminal was such a hole, and the airport personnel I encountered so rude, I swore never to fly through there again. And the security was terrible even then, so looks like that part hasn’t changed.

  2. I’ve seen stickers before on airplanes saying something was inspected and ok. With some old planes still around, I wonder if there are any airplane with more stickers then skin showing….lol

    Sounds dumb that two cabins of people had to get off the plane so a ladder could be brought on.

    Anyone know if there are still areas of MIA that smell like mildew? That used to be the smell in the PanAm and Eastern gates. Nothing like stepping off a flight and smelling your aunt’s basement at an airport.

  3. I frequently fly AA and never consider myself stuck with them. People at every airline have good and bad days, and all airlines have maintenance issues.

    1. AA just has far more ‘maintenance’ issues that take much longer to fix than other airlines recently, right?

  4. Did any of the Montitors at the gates at least flash messages about the new American Branding?
    Two weeks ago (February 7th) I was flying out of SLC (on the JetBlue red-eye) and the monitors at the closed till morning American gates were on a continuous loop about the ‘new’ American look.

    1. SubwayNut – Nope, no mention of the new branding at the gate. The only place I saw it was on the flight status screens (FIDS) where it flashed briefly in rotation on one of the empty screens.

  5. last week i was houston(sad/tackyB terminal) to jax via united and when we touched doen at the end of the runway a woman jumped up and opened her overhead and grabbed her bag the FA said please take ur seat and she got up and closed the over head ??? whqat is up with these people? once on united this happened and the capt pulled off and sat there i guess to punish all of us???

  6. Took American from ORD to LHR over Christmas/New Years. We had a 2 1/2 hour mx delay leaving ORD. The 7.5 hour trip took 10 hours and we were on the plane the whole time. I had booked their 777 both ways, but they flight rescheduled ts moved to the 767-300 both ways when they downgraded the original equiptment. First plane tickets purchased since I am another airline employee. Not exactly the best experience.

    1. Funny how 10 hrs on an airplane with some of that just sitting on the ground can seem like forever, but add some more time to that 10 hrs and that’s the nonstop time from California to London, but because you are moving the whole time it doesn’t seem as bad :-)

    1. drybean – I’m not gonna hold my breath on that one. I know people who were invited on the DFW – Sao Paulo inaugural but nobody who they might think would be critical. Maybe they’ll invite me when they put it on LA-London this summer. (Probably not.)

  7. Old or new a plane on the ramp is a target! We had a plane hit by a garbage truck! Its listed on NTSB site. Driver was told to stay put till the plane was gone. His and our gone must have been different. Imagine the conversation with the insurance company. Always said I wouldn’t die in a midair, run out of fuel or have structural failure. I would get hit by a truck! Came awfully close a number of times.
    As for deplaning, would you want to carry a ladder down the aisle and avoid wacking someone with it Brent? You should arrange a ride along with the rampers and/or maintenance sometime. Just make sure its a cold rainy off schedule day.

    1. Donald – I’m pretty sure they could get down the aisle without smacking us with the ladder. It would have saved a lot of time getting everyone on and off. But I just thought it was funny that they said they had to bring a “machine” on the airplane when it really was just a ladder.

      I would love to spend a day with rampers. I’ve actually tried to set that up with Delta but the timing hasn’t worked out with them before. Might be time to send a follow up. Heck, I’ll go do Phoenix in the summer or Buffalo in the winter just to see the extremes.

      1. CF, So was it the former or latter that caused the delay. Well what ever the answer, at least your responce will be Crystal clear. LOL

      2. With two people carrying the ladder it should be possible to carry it wile ensuring no one gets hit. But in the past probably someone sued the airline for bodily injury and now they just offload people. The same people who already got whacked a dozen times by fellow passengers’ backpacks and while be run over by drink carts later.

        Funny story though, and loved the trip report.

  8. “(In Miami, there is no hotel shuttle stop. You just stand at the curb and wave.)”

    Actually, they have been set up in the middle curb with “bus shelters,” but with all the rain we get, people were getting wet walking out to them. Also, the number of hotel shuttles to airport area hotels is so great, there is not enough room under them to house all the people. The future plan that I heard is that all of this will be transferred to the new Intermodal Center when it is finally completed. Passengers will have to walk on the third level to the MIA Mover and take the tram to what is now being called the Rental Car Center to board these shuttle buses as well as all public transportation except taxis and SuperShuttle, the shared ride service.

    Brett, a question to ask: Why do people prefer to pay more for a taxi, then take a shared ride service that can be up to 50% off? Do people realize that close to half the time they are the only ones on the shuttle?

    1. “Why do people prefer to pay more for a taxi, then take a shared ride service that can be up to 50% off? Do people realize that close to half the time they are the only ones on the shuttle?”

      The problem is that actually getting home in a reasonable amount of time (compared to driving yourself or getting a taxi) is a hit-or-miss proposition. I often take the SuperShuttle from DFW back to my house. The drive takes about 35-40 minutes with no traffic. I’ve had SuperShuttle rides take up to 2 hours (more typically, it’s on the order of 60-90 minutes). The big culprit is that if there’s only a couple of people in the van when I get picked up, the driver will circle the airport for another half hour to try and get more fares to fill the van up. That’s not particularly fun when you’re landing at 9 P.M. after a day full of business meetings and just want to get home.

    2. TC – Thanks for the background. I couldn’t believe it when I asked. A skycap told me to just go to the center island. I figured he didn’t know, so I asked an airport cop who said the same thing.

      As for shared rides, people just don’t like the uncertainty. You never know where you’re going to have to go and whether you’ll be first or last. You could get lucky and never have anyone else onboard, but there’s no guarantee.

  9. Loved the report. After billions of dollars and years in the making, I would say the new MIA is “okay” — a little less third world than before but nothing special at all.

    Welcome to Miami (two to three more years until I get out of this hell hole). AA has without a doubt the rudest ground crew anywhere on their system. You would simply not believe the experiences I have had here, and that is with either Platinum or Exec Platinum and Admiral’s Club membership for the past 11 years. Was sooooo looking forward to retirement and getting somewhere with another airline to choose from. Too late — going to AZ so will now get the “new” AA.

    Since we seem to be sharing AA horror stories — Last October 10 of us were on AA to Madrid connecting on IB to Venice. Long story short, one of us made it to Venice (me!), of the other 9, all arrived in VCE a day and a half late and 3 without bags. AA/US integration should just be a blast.

    I have been gold, platinum and executive platinum for over twenty years now and they have screwed up this airline to a fare-thee-well with their arrogant management and indifferent customer service. I’m done.

  10. I’ve never had a true “horror story” on any carrier, but when I’ve flown AA thru MIA I’ve ALWAYS had some kind of delay, with Eagle delays longer than mainline. Maybe MIA is jinxed somehow —- ;)

    1. I kind of have to agree! My opinion of American has been formed around the MIA hub and the Latin American Division and it is not a good one, sadly.

      On the other hand, the Miami International Airport Hotel is a lot of fun, as is spotting the world’s airlines coming and going from MIA. I really enjoy MIA, to be honest…


  11. I presume that Brett quickly apologized to the woman, and thought carefully about how easy it is for highly competent person to make a horse’s rear end of himself.

  12. from the picture of the gate monitor for your outbound flight, it looks like that was your first tip-off that you’d have wifi. unless i’m misinterpreting that symbol.

  13. I saw the new branded 777-300 at DFW once from the obersvation plaza. That striped tail was clearly visible from a solid mile away.

    What I wish someone would explain to me, though, is how the 777-300 has 10-across in coach while the -200 only has nine?

    1. SA*AD There’s nothing special about the 777-300 vs the 777-200. If American was ordering 777-200s today, I imagine they’d put 10 across. It’s just that back when they first ordered, everyone was installing as 9 across. Now, in order to pack people in, most carriers seem to be opting for 10 across. Not a great development.

  14. It’s been maybe 3-4 years since I was MIA and where I was it sure didn’t look like that. Whatever gate SY flew into looked like it was 40 years old retro.

  15. And here was I thinking that the US was the last sanctuary of queue etiquette.

    We had occasion to go through MIA on AA a couple of months ago, and were in First (using 500 mile upgrades), but it was confusing – apparently, there are 2 or 3 security entrances to the terminal, but only 1 of them has an Elite line, I think. So I was directed to the Elite entrance by the TSA gatekeeper at the entrance closest to where I checked in, and after walking to it, realized that I would have been better off just going through the original entrance, where the line was shorter anyway. Also, after going through the Elite entrance, I then had to walk back to where I would have been after entering the original entrance, to get to my gate.

    The gate area was nice, but getting to it seemed like having to walk through older sections. Not at all like the very nice JFK AA terminal.

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