With my previous Irish experience being a mere hour connecting in Shannon, I was doubly excited to be invited to the CAPA Airlines in Transition conference in Dublin courtesy of Travelport (they paid for the flights and hotel). Not only was this a new place for me, but it came with the added bonus of an interesting conference. I flew American both ways via Chicago and the overall experience was pretty mediocre. In fact, the last flight home was one of the worst I’ve had in a long time.
I was ticketed to fly on American both ways, but it was one confusing ticket. The domestic flights were booked in coach as American flights. The overwater flights were booked as an Iberia codeshare and I ended up in business on those so that made for some real confusion. The American reservation I was given had my American domestic flights in there but it only showed the international flights as being Iberia and AA.com did not allow seat assignments. So I called American and ended up on hold while an agent spoke with a supervisor to find that because of the codeshare, it had created a separate American record for my long haul flights. Once we found that, I grabbed seats and we were in business…
… until I went to check in. It would only let me check in for the domestic flights, so I couldn’t get my international boarding passes. I figured I’d just sort it out at the airport. As usual on American, my flight was delayed. This made for 4 delays in a row on my last 4 American flights. At least this time it wasn’t American’s fault. There was weather in Chicago and we were delayed an hour due to air traffic control.
I took my time going to the airport and then went to the premium check-in area to get some help when I arrived around 930a or so. The agent was able to get my connecting boarding passes, but then she pointed me over to the regular security line. Since the flight to Chicago was in coach, they wouldn’t let me use the premium security line in LA. Fortunately, it was only about 10 minutes to get through and then I was at the gate. When it came time to board, the PA wasn’t working, so they trotted out a bullhorn to announce who was boarding and when. Nice. Soon, I was on the airplane.
April 9, 2013
American 1372 Lv Los Angeles 1020a Arr Chicago/O’Hare 425p
Los Angeles (LAX): Gate 40, Runway 25R, Depart 1h13m Late
Chicago/O’Hare (ORD): Gate K6, Runway 4R, Arrive 1h9m Late
N882NN, Boeing 737-823, Silver livery, ~99% Full
Flight Time 3h37m
This was my first time on an airplane with the Boeing Sky Interior. The look and feel was certainly more modern than previous versions. The overhead screens dropping down from the ceiling were much better than the old bulky ones in the aisle. And the airplane just looked cleaner, probably because it was only a year old. But the new seat that reclines into itself didn’t seem very comfortable. It was kind of strange because it felt like it angled too far down when it wasn’t reclined.
We took off into the clear blue sky and then bounced our way to Chicago. A late winter storm was rolling through the plains, so the seatbelt sign was on most of the time until we hit Missouri. Before then, the only time it was off, oddly enough, was when we were over the Rockies. Go figure.
There was one service early followed by another that didn’t get to my row until we had already started descending. But I didn’t care, because I was just plugging away on the internet (which was working pretty fast) and juicing up my computer with the power port.
Soon, we were on our way into Chicago. The frontal boundary remained a bit north so the expected thunderstorms in Chicago never materialized. In fact, the clouds opened up nicely for us the entire way in. As soon as we landed, the boarding music went on. Maybe I was just loopy but it sounded like American had turned pop music into a soundtrack for an old school Nintendo game. Anyone else notice that?
People were slow getting off, but I had just under an hour to walk a few gates over so I had no complaints. It was perfect. Boarding actually started pretty early, so I was only there for 5 minutes or so before getting onboard.
April 9, 2013
American 92 Lv Chicago/O’Hare 635p Arr Dublin 8a (next day)
Chicago/O’Hare (ORD): Gate K15, Runway 32R, Depart 15m Late
Dublin (DUB): Gate 402, Runway 10, Arrive 2m Early
N347AN, Boeing 767-323, Silver livery, ~60% Full in Business Class
Flight Time 6h50m
The crew was very friendly welcoming me onboard, and I went straight to my seat. The seats looked just about the same as on the 777 with one big difference. There is no in-seat video. Instead, they hand out Samsung tablets after departure. I know I’ve waffled on whether in-seat video matters or not, but after this experience, I’d say it really does make for a much better experience.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. We appeared to be heading toward an on time departure, but plans were foiled when they held the airplane for a last minute passenger who I assume was connecting from somewhere else. It was so last minute that they had already played the safety video before he got on. Then they apologized that they were going to have to play it again. That passenger was right in front of me, so he apologized. Everyone else gave him some playful jabs.
We taxied out and surprisingly took off to the west. We got up quickly and then went north to cut through a hole in the storms that were ahead. It provided some spectacular scenery as the sun set. Service was delayed a little because of expected turbulence, but soon enough the flight attendants were coming through busily.
They handed out the tablets with Bose noise canceling headphones. I love the headphones, but the tablets just aren’t great. There isn’t a place to mount them, so you just rest it on the tray table. And you have to use the one power port (which is a cigarette lighter port, bleh) to charge the unit. Wires are everywhere. On top of that, you can’t hear if any announcements are made, so you have to pause and take the headphones off if you care. Most annoying to me, there is no moving map.
Sure they had the moving map on the overhead screens in the cabin, but the 767s in American’s fleet have only overhead movies in coach. So the moving map disappeared less than an hour into the flight to show the movies. We didn’t see it again until about an hour before landing and even that was a brief appearance.
My hope was to get some kind of sleep on the flight even though that’s nearly impossible for me to do. I asked for the Lemon Grass Chicken with achiote citrus sauce to be served in the “Dine Upon Request” method. Sure enough, they brought out a single tray so I could eat what I wanted and then be done.
I didn’t eat much, because even though it’s dinner time in the US, it was late night in Ireland and I wanted to adjust to the time. It always bugs me that they serve such big dinners on flights out. It’s the breakfast I want to be big.
While everyone else was still on their salad course, I tried to sleep. I couldn’t, of course. And then I had to use the restroom. Holy crap, what a pain. The underseat storage is great except when you’re in the bed position. I hadn’t planned well, so to get the slippers I put there (handed out with the amenity kits), I had to bring my seat up to the sitting position and then slide under the tray table holding my tablet to get the slipper. The seat is pretty temperamental so it’s very hard to get it into various positions. Then I had to get the guy next to me to do the same so I could climb out. He didn’t seem to mind, but it took probably 5 minutes to get out.
After that, I came back and decided to pop a sleeping pill. I still didn’t sleep for awhile even though it was a very smooth ride. The angled bed is just so uncomfortable that I found myself tossing and turning. Then, it happened. I finally nodded off for about an hour. It felt so good to even get that. I was hoping to keep sleeping, but then people started to wake for breakfast. I told them not to wake me up, but when everyone else did, I was up too. I asked the flight attendant if instead of the later express breakfast I had requested, I could switch and have a full breakfast. She said yes.
So I had an omelette with potatoes, sausage, and fruit to fill me up along with some orange juice. It was delicious. We still had over an hour until landing, but I was up for good. The sun started to rise, so I pulled out the tablet and watched a TV show. And that’s when I realized another reason for hating the tablet. An hour before landing, they collected them along with the headphones. You just lose so much time where you could be watching something.
Once we got closer, the purser came by, offered some sparkling water, and thanked each person by name for coming onboard the flight. The flight attendants did a great job. We landed to the east and I was on my way for a fun few days in Dublin. After a lot of Guinness, it was time to come home.
We were staying at the Ritz Carlton far south of town. The airport is on the north side about 45 minutes away so my car was scheduled at 730a for a 10a flight.
Once at the airport, I began jumping through the many, many hoops required to get to the airplane. First I checked in at a kiosk and got my boarding pass. (Naturally I couldn’t check in online beforehand.) Then I had to go through a couple of security questions at the American ticketing area. Once they decided I was ok, they gave me a customs form.
I went upstairs and passed through the boarding pass check and then went through Irish security. The terminal is fairly new and was pretty big so it was easy to get through quickly. On the other side, I had to go through the duty free area before going downstairs to the gates. I made a quick stop at the lounge (American uses Aer Lingus’s lounge) until about an hour before departure when they suggested everyone go through preclearance.
Ireland is like Canada in the sense that you can go through customs and immigration before departure to the US, so when you arrive it’s like a domestic flight. I headed down to immigration and was told “welcome home.” Not quite, but ok. Then I had to go through another security checkpoint where they x-ray your bags and make you take your shoes off but you don’t have to go through a metal detector.
Finally, I was on my way to the gate. I was looking forward to hopping on board and heading home. But not so fast. I got to the gate at the far end of the concourse only to get a curt announcement.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are sorry but the flight is delayed. We will have more information at 1030.
Rats. I took my seat and logged on to see if I could find what was going on. I couldn’t. American showed no delay in its system, so I took to Twitter. As someone said to me, the American Twitter team has to be the nicest but most unhelpful Twitter operation around. This was no different. Here’s how the conversation went.
Me: Hey @AmericanAir – just told us flt 93 is delayed but gave no further info – what do you know?
American: We’re currently showing AA93 is scheduled to depart on-time, Brett. Please see a gate agent for additional info.
Me: well, the gate agents just told us we’re on delay – next update at 1030a, so …
American: Our apologies for the delay. We’ll have you on your way as quickly as possible.
As I said, incredibly friendly and responsive but not really helpful. Eventually Sabre was updated to show that it was, in fact, a maintenance delay. I started looking for other options just in case.
Fortunately, right around 1030a we got the announcement that they would be able to fix it and we would board at 1120a for a 12p departure. Only later during the flight did I find out that there was an engine fuel leak and they were lucky enough to find the part they needed in Dublin.
We did indeed board right as expected at 1120a, but first, there was yet another last security check (#4). After they took our boarding passes, we walked halfway down the jet bridge where three people were there to again ask the same questions we were asked at the ticket counter. Once we passed that, I was finally onboard.
April 13, 2013
American 93 Lv Dublin 10a Arr Chicago/O’Hare 1225p
Dublin (DUB): Gate 426, Runway 10, Depart 1h50m Late
Chicago/O’Hare (ORD): Gate K15, Runway 28, Arrive 1h30m Late
N353AA, Boeing 767-323ER, Silver livery, ~95% Full in Business
Flight Time 7h44m
I took the exact same seat I had on the flight out, though this one looked just a bit worse for wear. The early morning sun (first I had on the trip) have given way to low clouds, so we were in the thick of them almost immediately after getting airborne. We stayed in the clouds for probably the first hour as we headed out to sea.
The service pattern on this one was similar to the one on the way out, but I opted for the full meal service instead of the quick one. The salad and bread were decent, but the appetizer and the chicken were pretty bland and I didn’t eat much. At least the ice cream sundae was delicious. I settled in to watch movies for the rest of the flight.
Once again, I had trouble getting in and out of my seat. One time, even though the seats weren’t reclined, I clipped the tray table and smashed a glass on the floor. Oops.
The service on this flight wasn’t quite as good on the way out. They did all the steps as they should, but they weren’t very friendly or interactive. It was much more matter-of-fact. As an example, instead of saying before departure, “Would you be interested in orange juice, champagne, or water before we depart, Mr Snyder?” as happened on the way out, this crew said, “Orange juice, champagne, water?” It certainly wasn’t a huge deal, but it was noticeable.
We had a nice smooth flight and the captain made good time in the air. Chicago had gusty winds, so we bounced the last few thousand feet to the ground, but we taxied quickly and docked 20 minutes before the 215p flight to LA. I was still booked on the 315p, but I hoped I’d be able to squeeze on to the earlier one.
I was one of the first three off the airplane, and since Ireland has customs and immigration pre-clearance, I just had to get to my gate as if I was coming off a domestic flight. Fortunately, it was just a couple gates down.
I got to the counter as the last people were boarding and told the agent I had just come off a 2 hour delayed Dublin flight and hoped they might have room for me. She looked up and frowned saying that it didn’t look like they had any seats. But she put me on the standby list, and I saw my name up at the top.
Apparently there were quite a few seats, because at least two or three other people ended up getting their boarding passes soon after (a couple crewmembers and one other paying passenger). At last, they called me up and gave me a surprise. I was in coach on the 315p, but I had a First Class seat on this one. Sweet. I went right onboard thinking this would be a great way to get home. I was wrong.
April 13, 2013
American 1305 Lv Chicago/O’Hare 215p Arr Los Angeles 440p
Chicago/O’Hare (ORD): Gate K5, Runway 32L, Depart 6m Late
Los Angeles (LAX): Gate 42A, Runway 24R, Arrive On Time
N933AN, Boeing 737-823, Silver livery, ~99% Full
Flight Time 3h50m
We were ready to go on time, but they waited a few extra minutes to pick up some connections. Even with the short delay, I was on the ground in Chicago for less than an hour. Nice. The captain was pretty chatty and told us that it should be a nice four hour flight to LA. I was ready to be home.
This was a very long four hours. Soon after we got into the air, it turned out to be bouncier than predicted. In fact, the entire flight was turbulent. The seatbelt sign may have been off for a total of 15 to 30 minutes out of the entire flight. And the flight attendants were told to stay seated for the last couple hours, from before we crossed the front range of the Rockies.
Before then, the flight attendant was able to do the meal service which was just a chicken salad, but that was the last service of the flight. It’s too bad, because this flight attendant was really friendly and attentive until she was forced to sit down.
So, I figured I would just hop online and catch up on email, but that wasn’t to be. Gogo didn’t work. How about a movie? Nope. That didn’t work either. I could have played game on my computer, right? Nope, the power ports weren’t working either and my juice had been draining from the long delay in Dublin. I also had no magazines or anything offline to read, and I had been through all the inflight mags on previous flights.
No problem. I’d just watch out the window. Bzzt. Try again. You would think that sitting next to a former Playboy playmate would make for a very good flight, right? Well, she had a real problem with light sensitivity. Even with her massive eye mask covering her face, she refused to open the window because it would let the light in. The people across the aisle were passed out with the windows down as well. At this point, I had nothing to do but stare at the bulkhead as we bounced our way to LA.
But wait, there’s more. Finally, my seatmate woke up and felt bad that I had nothing to do. So she broke out her camera and proceeded to show me videos of her rabbit and 8 cats for the last 30 to 45 minutes of the flight. She must have had quite the memory card, because there were a lot of videos and pictures waiting for me.
Anyone else think this sounds terrible? It was one of the longest 4 hour flights I’ve ever been on. But there was one bright spot. It made me even more glad to be home.
[Click for the rest of my photos]
When do we get to hear about what happened at the conference ?
David – I will be writing pieces of that up once I have the time to put things together. That’s a lot harder to write than a trip report!
After that last flight, did you immediately run to the Apple store to buy an iPad?
Oliver – No, I ran out and bought a rabbit instead. That’s way more entertaining!
Damn, I have a cat that I would’ve gladly sent you.
In flight entertainment seems to be going the way of in-flight meals on domestic; why would an airline pay for something that most individuals already have on hand or can buy before boarding the plane? If I’m on a long flight I can load up entertainment before hand that would be better suited to my tastes than anything on board the plane.
You were on an old 767, so instead of retrofitting, they gave you the tablet, which is better than NO entertainment (like in coach). I always avoid 767s with American on International. The newer planes all have the entertainment built in. And hopefully, with American’s fleet renewal, it will be better in the long run.
Jared – You’re right. And in fact I believe they said the overhead video wasn’t working on the return from Dublin so the people in the back had absolutely nothing to watch the whole flight. As far as I know, none of the 767s have in seat video. It’s just the 777s. I am planning on flying on the new 777-300ER product in June so that should be far better.
Try United’s 747s to Sydney, which still have no individual screens for a flight more than twice as long (by distance) as ORD-DUB.
I used to think the obsession with seat back entertainment was silly. However, just having the screen off the tray table makes a crowded seat much less cluttered, and it’s nice to have a different library to work through than what I already have on my iPad. Matters more for a 14 hour flight than a 7 hour one, though.
I read somewhere a while ago that AA’s 767s cannot be retrofitted with seat back video due to their wiring. Don’t know it that’s true.
I agree with Sean, most people can entertain themselves on a plane with various gadgets such as an iPod, iPad, and a smart phone.
Just be glad you didn’t have to do immigration here in the US. Now THAT is annoying.
The European carriers are so much better. I wonder why they didn’t book you via LHR or AMS? Did you specifically ask for AA to check the product out?
Sanjeev – I definitely did not request AA! My only request was to fly over on a US carrier and back on a European carrier, if possible. Why? I wanted to get in early since Wednesday was my only free day in Dublin. So a flight from the US gets in much earlier than connecting through Europe. And on the return, I wanted to get home earlier since it was a weekend, and European flights are earlier. But this is what was available and I wasn’t about to be picky.
Well, don’t go complain to Chris Elliott, because you won’t get any sympathy from him or his peanut gallery.
I’m on the fence on this one — the flight home wasn’t all that bad, just uncomfortable. Onemileatatime wrote a blog post of his Royal Jordanian flight into HKG, where they will into some very significant weather.
BTW, which playmate? She she show you pictures from the good old days?
Dan – Yes, I saw Lucky’s Royal Jordanian trip and this was nothing like that, of course. But that doesn’t stop it from being one of the worst flights I’ve had in a long time. I don’t blame American for most of what happened either. It was just a lot of stuff coming together to make it pretty miserable.
As for the playmate, I don’t know. I know that it was 20+ years ago, however.
Did you ask the crew about the wifi not working?
I have been on AA flights where the crew forgot to turn it on or where they had to reset the system. Surprisingly, no one seemed to ask them about it other than me, so when I asked, they remembered to turn on the system or reset it to get it to work.
MGW – I sure did. The flight attendant up front was awesome and very proactive about it. She tried to reboot the system a couple times and nothing was working. Then she spoke with the captain and he indicated that it had been written up in the log book previously so that pretty much confirmed it.
What I thought was strange about the video not working was that the safety video worked fine on the ground. So it was something specific to the movies and not the overall system. But then also not having Gogo and the powerports functioning seemed like an odd combination.
No wonder more people bring their own entertainment, you can’t could on what the airline offers working.
Makes you wonder if it’s more the system itself has flaws or the airline causing the problems.
Ah yes, the joys of flying these days. If you can’t keep your rez system from breaking down…, Please!
Well, code-sharing solves all the problems, I guess!
I was delayed for over three hours for the same problem on a 767 heading to Hawaii. Fuel leak in the engine. Coincidence or a more serious issue? At least they had the part for your flight. I was flying out of DFW and had to wait for them to find a replacement aircraft. Between delays and mechanical issues, my trust in AA is waning.
Meanwhile – today…
Could be worse, she could be ugly and be an aggressive Amway salesperson.
Had you not specified American Airlines, I would have guessed United. Ha! Is there really a difference among U.S. based carriers? I think not. While anyone could write such a frank review, when it comes from a professional like you, I pay attention. I recognize that this was a ‘sponsored’ trip and that you had no control over the carrier chosen, the reviews ten to confirm my belief that for pond crossings (East or West), one is usually better off with a foreign flagged carrier. If the foreign players can overcome weather and mechanical problems with cheerful service and excellent food, why do the Amerikan carriers have so much difficulty? American Airlines, United Airlines and their RW&B flag-flying cousins just don’t get it.
The problem going to Ireland is that unless you’re flying Aer Lingus, using a European carrier means a connection. Connecting in any of the major European hubs – AMS, FRA, LHR, CDG – is a disaster, especially coming back from Europe to the U.S. due to the extra security theater combined with often crazy short layovers.
And I have to say, by far the least “cheerful” service I’ve encountered in the last 10 years was on none other than Lufthansa. I rang the call button for a glass of water, and the FAs would just keep coming by and shutting off the call button without asking what I wanted! After the third time, I was rudely told that I shouldn’t be pushing the call button. Though at least I finally did get my water.
Turned off your call button three times? I flew from Prague to Moscow on Aeroflot before the Soviet Union collapsed. The flight attendants sat in the galley and gossiped through the whole flight. A passenger near me used the call button and got his hand slapped along with an emphatic lecture in Russian. How DARE he? :)
My wife and I are looking forward to a Rhine River cruise for her 70th B’day in June. We are booked First Class, round trip on Delta, DFW to AMS via MSP then returning from Zurich via ATL. I am retired from both AA and SWA but never flew Delta. Your experience has me a bit worried that this very special trip may be less than anticipated. What say you about Delta?
Ray – Why does my experience have you worried? Delta is completely different than American. You may not have fully flat seats on those routes this summer, but you will have in-seat video. And hopefully you won’t have delays or malfunctioning equipment.
But really, the thing that matters most is you’ll have a great Rhine cruise no matter how the airline flights go. If I were going on a vacation like that, I’d gladly ride in coach. It’s really only the very short business trips that make business class so much more important to me.
At least you aren’t flying AA today. You’d be going nowhere fast.
The biggest question, of course, is: Did you enjoy Butter on the outbound?
D – Good eye. I can’t say it was my favorite movie, but there were some certainly some highly entertaining parts to it.
I always find the moving plane pure torture. Kind of like someone counting down the seconds on a 10 hr flight. Why would anyone want to watch that?
I wish my Bose QC15s would block out the PA system. I’m surprised that yours did block out the audio.
On my last flights with American I admit that they haven’t been as good as they were before. It seems to me that they’ve been having a lot of problems lately.
If one of your worst flights is being allowed to fly earlier than anticipated, upgraded to First Class, and not be able to work on your computer, well … at least you had a better seat than in coach to just relax or brainstorm on your business !!!…
Reading the first paragraph, I was expecting something a little bit more … annoying !
I have to agree about the in seat video. On long haul I think it’s an absolute necessity and I seek it out, but on domestic I’m more into reading a book or catching up on work. Then I recently had a YUL – YYT flight on an AC Embrarer. I was pleasantly surprised to see in seat video (on a smaller plane) and it made the trip that much more pleasant being able to decompress a bit with a tv show. Although I could load up a tablet with my own personal playlist it’s just one more thing I need prepare and haul around the place.
There are really individual differences in how to fly overseas. Each person experiences the flight differently. My preference is to eat whatever is served, preferably with a glass of wine. I always bring my own magazines or professional journals which I can throw out along the way, and a small paperback book. At sleep time, I ask for a coffee with caffein — yes, I am one of the 10% who finds it relaxing. And, off to sleep. It is a vacation from my iPad and cell phone. The movies usually are so watered down that I try to ignore them — with a few really fun exceptions which I would not have seen otherwise.
The F/A’s seemed friendly enough, did all they could, you got you in ON TIME, yet this was “one of the worst I?ve had in a long time.” You of all people KNOW that IFE and powerports go down sometimes. Your crew did all they could.
Yes, annoying seatmates suck, but I don’t review companies based on who I’m seated next to or standing behind in line, yet one third of your review is focused on your Playboy seatmate.
We know you hate AA. Just stop flying them and put yourself out of your misery!
I did a flight recently that was only about 5 hours but I had similar issues. My entertainment system that I bought on flight kept konking out and there were no extras. The wifi did not work either. The flight attendants were really nice but there wasn’t much they could do. It’s disappointing.
You clearly dislike anything and everything when it comes to AA. You seemed to go out of your way in this report to make them out to be the bad guys. Sure there clearly were some issues within their control where they dropped the ball. The food service wasn’t up to your standards. Ok. That’s fair. However, you go on to complain about 4 security checks in DUB. Really? That’s a problem?Seriously? Then you complain about the return flight to LAX on which you were a standby upgraded to first class. You had nothing to read. Who’s fault was that? Your seatmate annoyed you. Is that AA’s fault? Serious Brett, this was a very disappointing Trip Report because it is evident that you despise AA and are not able to report without extreme bias.
Kevindca and rob – This is a trip report, not an airline report. You seem to think that I shouldn’t discuss anything outside of what the airline was responsible for. Why the heck would I do that?
Did I blame American for the insane number of security checks in Dublin? No way. Did I blame them for my seatmate on the way home. Nope. Did I blame them for the turbulence? That’s laughable.
You seem to be the ones internalizing every comment as an attack on American when that’s not the case.
“You seem to think that I shouldn?t discuss anything outside of what the airline was responsible for. Why the heck would I do that?”
Because you’re an airline journalist, and when you say the flight home was “one of the worst I?ve had in a long time” one expects it is because of the airline and not your seatmates. In spite of everything, your crew seemed to be handling everything pretty well. The IFE and powerport outages suck, but it happens, as we know.
I think of CF as an air travel enthusiast and pundit. Everything about the trip is fair game to comment on. Was the fact all of his seatmates wanted to close the window shades and he had nothing to read AA’s fault? No. Was it something to mention as an air travel enthusiast? Yes.
Its been a while since this blog post was written but I had a similar experience on an international flight with the in flight entertainment installed in the headrest and the person behind me was pushing so hard on the screen that every tap was making my head bounce. Very annoying when you are trying to sleep. I think they should disable to the touch screen and make you use the remote on the cord.