In search of a few extra British Airways Tier Points, I spent a day with American Airlines, my AAwAAy dAAy – OK that’s too much!
The flights were booked with a 40 minute turnaround at San Diego and used American’s Regional Jet service to/from LA and San Diego.
My early start at SFO was not eased by TSAPre, as it appeared I did not qualify this time. The line took about 30 minutes to clear at around 5.30am on a Saturday. There was also no Priority Line operating at this time.
Luckily the Admiral’s Club was open, and pretty empty. The staff were able to print all four boarding passes for my flights which helped. After a reasonable coffee and a couple of sticky buns I was ready for the day. I had left most of my luggage at the hotel and just had my iPad and book with me.
The flight was not very full in First and I was able to switch to a window seat where there were some great views over the bay – You can see Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay Bridge in the pics below if you look carefully:
It was a clear day and there were some reasonable views over California. We approached LA from the West, flying past the airport before turning and landing.
On landing I had to catch the shuttle bus to AA’s remote terminal where all of its Commuter flights depart. AA operates buses to/from this facility which is basically a large shed. You do get some decent closeups of planes from the bus, but they tend to be crowded with 20-30 people standing for the 10 minute trip.
The gates themselves are around three sides of the building and have seating areas at each door.
However, as we got closer to boarding time it transpired that the pilots taking us to San Diego did not like the wear on the door pins of the aircraft and so asked for them to be changed. There is no Customer Service Desk in the remote terminal, but as there was another flight leaving about an hour later than mine had been supposed to leave, I asked about moving to that. The Gate Agent sent me to the gate where the second flight was leaving indicating that there were only three First Class seats left on the plane.
Once I got to the gate there was a single, very flustered agent, trying to issue a discounted ticket to an FAA employee. She was at this for some time, getting assistance on the phone. As she issued the ticket, apologising again for the delay to the FAA man, she upgraded him and his family to First. This took away the last seats to which I could have moved.
Luckily about 10 minutes later, AA decided to switch planes and we boarded an alternative aircraft. The original plane (pic at top of post), was still under repair as we pulled away.
AA has three rows of First Class on these jets in a 1-2 config. (UA only has two rows but with better legroom).
Overhead space is at a premium, with there being only room for a small bag above the A side. Other bags were red-tagged and collected and delivered plane side. The First Class was about 1/3rd full.
Beverages were served with the crew coming round for second servings on the 30 minute flight. We landed at San Diego still delayed and as I got off the plane I approached the ground agent to explain that I was going right back on the same flight. After checking the boarding pass she told me to wait at the steps of the plane, help off anyone who needed it and she would go and get the other passengers. An amazing turnaround time was achieved and I was soon back in 2A to the consternation of the crew.
We flew back to LA, although it became clear that I was not going to make my connection. I had already called AA when the original delay was announced and so knew that, apart from a 3 hour wait, I would be back that day in San Francisco.
Upon deplaning the ground agent called three names, and told us all the same story – ‘Your original flight left on time but here is a new boarding pass for your new flight’. I was impressed – proactively meeting a flight with new boarding passes.
So, I took the bus ride back to the main AA terminal at LAX and popped up to the Flagship Lounge. It’s been written about before, so I was delighted to get a hot lunch (Turkey and Stuffing) and to enjoy their wide range of drinks, courtesy of my BA Gold Card.
Some great views from the lounge, including one of AA’s 321′s bound for New York. (I get to try this plane later in the summer).
My new flight back to SFO was on time and the 737 had the new AA seating.
Again, I had no one next to me and pretty soon we were landing in SFO. Using UBER-X I located a driver nearby and 6 minutes after landing was in his vehicle heading back to the city, three hours late, but still in time for snacks in the Regency Club at the hotel. An eventful dAAy but it could have been worse.