American Airlines 737-800 premium economy (Main Cabin Extra) San Diego to Chicago

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01. Introduction: Chasing the Thanksgiving 747 (and other rare birds)
02. American Airlines 737-800 premium economy (Main Cabin Extra) San Diego to Chicago
03. American Airlines MD-83 economy class Chicago to Detroit
04. Westin DTW (standard room)
05. Delta Airlines 747-400 business class (Delta One) Detroit to Atlanta
06. Delta Airlines 747-400 business class (Delta One) Atlanta to…nowhere
07. Delta Airlines A330-300 business class (Delta One) Atlanta to Seattle
08. Delta Connection ERJ-170 first class Seattle to San Diego

Having just finished a full trip report on one of the most bland domestic flights in existence today, I’m right back at it again with another detailed review of a flight so dull that it was impossible to remember without looking at my notes. One of the first things I learned about writing trip reports a few years ago is to take good notes during the course of the flight – otherwise I’ll never remember all the little details no matter how many pictures I take along the way. It was especially true in this case because this flight was three weeks ago and I’m already scratching my head trying to recall anything interesting about it. Looks like I’ll need the help of my notes for this one…

Because this was an 8am flight, it didn’t require rolling out of bed at a ridiculously early hour. I’m very much a morning person anyway, so getting the chance to sleep almost up to my normal waking time was very much appreciated – though I didn’t feel like it at the time. I felt rather groggy as I was preparing to leave, largely unaffected by the excitement of starting a new adventure. It takes more than an American Airlines 737 to get me going!

AA1566
San Diego, CA (SAN) – Chicago, IL (ORD)
Friday, November 25, 2016
Aircraft: 737-823
Registration: N952NN
Duration: 3 hours 21 minutes
Seat: 8A (Main Cabin Extra / premium economy)

american airlines 737-800 side view

American Airlines 737-800 (N952NN) side view illustration by norebbo.com

american airlines 737-800 seat map

Seat map of this Boeing 737-800 (courtesy of seatguru.com) showing my seat for this flight.

san-ord route map

The route from SAN to ORD today: ZZOOO1 IPL J18 SLN J96 IRK BENKY4. Interestingly enough, I didn’t see a single cloud until we started our approach into Chicago. The weather was great across the entire US today!

The process of getting an Uber ride down to the airport and passing through security went by in a flash, which did catch me a bit off guard since this was the Thanksgiving travel weekend (the busiest travel weekend of the year) and I was expecting the worst. Yeah, I was ill prepared to be moving with such vigor that morning due to how smoothly everything was operating.

terminal 2 east entrance SAN

I love walking through this entrance. Off on another adventure!

american airlines check in san diego airport

American Airlines pretty much owns half of the check in counters here in terminal 2 east.

terminal 2 east san diego airport interior

Looking straight down the barrel of terminal 2 east here at SAN.

terminal 2 east san diego airport interior

Much of this terminal has been updated over the years, with only a few sections left untouched from the original build. This is one of them.

I spent a bit of time hanging out in the west side of terminal 2 (which is a lot nicer than the east side), and it was nice to enjoy a yogurt and banana while watching the sun rise. It’s so hard to eat clean in airports, but I did my best to be healthy!

SANspotter airport selfie

Hanging out in the nicer (and more spacious) terminal 2 west.

san diego airport departures list

American Airlines 1566 to Chicago showing as “on Time” out of gate 30.

My lack of enthusiasm this morning worked out pretty well actually, because by the time I slowly meandered all the way back to gate 30, I only had to wait a few minutes before they started the boarding process. Gate 30, by the way, is the gate I hate the most here in terminal 2. There are absolutely zero views of the aircraft available from here. Seriously – there’s not a wingtip to be seen no matter how far you crank your head around one of the tiny porthole windows.

san diego airport gate 30 and 32

Moments before boarding started. They seriously need to add some windows to this gate.

I was one of the first to board the aircraft thanks to the word “priority” stamped on my boarding pass, and I wasn’t even aware of that being a perk for spending a few extra bucks for a Main Cabin Extra seat. I’m never one to complain about things like that though, and I stepped onboard feeling just a little bit extra special for it. Well, not really.

san diego airport jet bridge

Nothing better than walking down an empty jet bridge!

American Airlines 737-800 main boarding door

American Airlines 737-800 main boarding door.

I don’t fly American Airlines mainline very often (the last time was this time last year from LAX to JFK), and I’ve got to say that I really like the interiors of their aircraft. Dark gray cloth and nice leather looks great against the red and blue LED mood lighting, and it’s so much classier looking than the loose blue leather that seems to be the default on many other airlines. I really like the simplicity of the design, but I can imagine that there are others who would consider it to be too boring.

American Airlines 737-800 interior

American Airlines 737-800 main cabin.

American Airlines 737-800 Main Cabin Extra seats

American Airlines 737-800 Main Cabin Extra seats. The window seat (8A) is mine for this flight.

American Airlines 737-800 Main Cabin Extra leg room

American Airlines 737-800 Main Cabin Extra seat pitch.

american airlines economy class arm rest

Putting seat numbers on the arm rests is a great idea – I wish more airlines did this.

american airlines in seat power ports usb

Also nice to see were audio and power ports underneath the video screen.

american airlines in seat power

Not so nice to see is floppy reading material. But the additional power outlet here made up for it.

american airlines 737-800 mood lighting

This pic doesn’t show it too well, but the mix of blue and red mood lighting was really nice.

american airlines 737-800 interior

Overall I found the colors and materials of the cabin to be very nice. Black and gray with blue and red mood lighting. Perfect!

It was shaping up to be a beautiful late November morning in San Diego as blasted off runway 27 (on time no less), and as usual I spent the first 20 minutes of the flight with my nose glued to the window taking tons of pictures and video of the departure sequence. I find it amazing that after all these years, the simple act of taking off (and landing) fascinates me just as it did when I was 8 years old. I was absolutely terrified of flying back then however, so that’s one thing that’s changed. I guess growing up in the 80’s (when air safety was more questionable) had quite an effect on me. I loved flying but all the crashes I read about and saw on TV were terrifying!

american airlines 737-800 san diego airport

Here we go – pushing off the gate and on our way right on schedule.

departing san diego airport

First caption I thought of for this pic was the theme song from “Rawhide” (the old TV western). “Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’…”

departing san diego airport

Sitting in the Penalty Box for a moment before we crept forward to the threshold of runway 27.

departing san diego airport

Time to turn-n-burn!

departing san diego airport

Nice view of terminal 2 west and San Diego Bay as we depart off runway 27.

departing san diego airport

Crossing over Sunset Cliffs and Point Loma. One of my favorite areas of San Diego for sure.

departing san diego airport

Making the big left hand turn to get pointed northeast towards Chicago.

san diego from the air

Nice overview of San Diego from above.

american airlines moving map display

Now it’s time to sit back, relax, and enjoy the flight.

I’m happy to report that we didn’t crash on take off (woo hoo!). But it was a bit bumpy, and the captain did say it was going to be rough going for the first portion of the flight. Because of that, the flight attendants remained seated for quite a while after departure and the service didn’t begin until one hour of flying time had passed. But it wasn’t so bad actually – just a bit of minor chop, but nothing worth making a big deal over.

flying over grand canyon

Always interesting things to see while flying over the American southwest.

flying over western US mountains

The terrain turned more winter-like the farther we pushed east.

folding tray table american airlines

I really like these foldable tray tables. I always feel trapped with normal-sized versions, and this made a big difference.

I nibbled on my sack lunch during the service, while watching Veep on the personal video screen. Much to my surprise, American shows uncensored content as part of their in flight entertainment system, which was surprising and very much welcomed. Veep (and other HBO original series) are much better in their original form!

american airlines biscoff cookies

I thought Biscoff cookies were a Delta Air Lines thing!

SANspotter self portrait

Viewing the world from 39,000ft is better than any in-flight movie IMHO.

flying over kansas

Cruising high above north east Kansas on our way to ORD.

flying over kansas

Shapes and textures of Kansas farm country.

American Airlines 737-800 Main Cabin Extra seats

American Airlines 737-800 Main Cabin Extra seat backs.

I watched a few more episodes of Veep before succumbing to sleep, though I think I’d actually just call it light dozing instead. I haven’t slept properly in an economy class airline seat since I was in my early 20’s, and I think it’s only going to get worse from here on out. Hopefully I still have a lot of flying years left in me before I’m unable to even sit in airline seat anymore.

The second drink service started with about 50 minutes of flying time remaining, and I was still dozing at this point so I passed. But I do recall thinking that the flight was going by really fast – much faster than I expected actually, which is a pretty good feeling when seated in the economy cabin.

The weather was perfect and the skies cloudless the entire way across the country today, so I was really hoping for a nice low flyover of downtown Chicago as we made the turn for a westerly landing at ORD. Unfortunately, the aviation gods weren’t playing nice today and Chicago was socked in under a layer of dense low clouds that didn’t dissipate until we were nearly on the ground. So much for getting pics of downtown Chicago on approach! I was hoping for the same thing the last time I flew into Chicago, and I wasn’t lucky then either. I’ll get the shot someday – I’m determined as ever.

cloud layer over Chicago

Clouds starting to build as we begin the descent into ORD.

Our shadow in the clouds

Our shadow in the clouds.

descending into the clouds

Clouds always look so soft and delicate from above, but it was a pretty bumpy ride from here on out.

descending through cloud layer

Thick as pea soup out there!

approaching ORD

I’ll take clear blue skies any day over this dreariness.

approaching ORD

I was actually hoping to see some snow on the ground, but it wasn’t happening today.

landing at chicago O'Hare

Welcome to Chicago O’Hare!

air berlin A330 chicago ORD

There was some nice scenery on our way into the gate, including this beautiful Air Berlin A330.

american airlines md-83

Also nice to see was this American Airlines MD-83, which is the subject of the next segment of this trip report.

american airlines gates ORD

Pulling up to gate K6, ending what was a very uneventful (but nice) flight from San Diego.

american airlines 737-800 first class cabin

Nice view of the big screens in first class as I was deplaning. I’ve never tried mainline American Airlines first class, but I’d like to give it a shot to see how it compares against Delta.

american airlines 737-800 gate K6 chicago O'Hare

My ride from SAN, getting a quick rest here at gate K6 before her next journey (which I believe was TPA).

K terminal interior chicago Ohare airport ORD

Inside the K terminal, and on my way to the lounge to grab a quick bite to eat before my connection to DTW.

So there you have it. A full trip report for a dull flight that was nothing but routine, put together from notes I took during the flight. This would have been a lot shorter if I had to do it all from memory, which may or may not have been all that bad considering what this flight was. But the good news is that the next several flights in this series were interesting enough for me to write gobs of text without even looking at my notes, so stay tuned for those!

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