The following is an in depth review of American Airlines A319 economy class from San Diego (SAN) to Miami (MIA) and back. It was just about as basic as you’d expect. Paying extra for better food made it tolerable.
Segment 1 of 2: San Diego to Miami
I’m a morning person. There’s nothing I like better than getting up at the crack of dawn and starting my day with a bang. That bang usually starts with a bike ride or a long walk, which for me, is the perfect kind of activity that gets the blood flowing and my brain ready for the day. I’ve always been like this – taking care of the to-do list for the day as early as possible so that I can relax and enjoy the rest of my day is how I like to do it.
I’m telling you all this because I want you to understand how devastated I felt when I got that that text message at 9am the morning of this flight informing me that the departure time would be delayed by 3 hours.
The normally scheduled departure time of this flight was already a bit out of my “morning person” comfort zone (12:40pm), but suddenly and unexpectedly being faced with the situation of waiting around all day to even begin this trip kind of sucked. I was ready to go now!
San Diego, CA (SAN) – Miami, FL (MIA)
Saturday, May 27, 2017
Duration: 4 hours, 18 minutes
Seat: 12D (economy class)
So yeah. A three hour delay? How in the world does that kind of thing even happen for an airline as large as American? The weather was relatively clear all over the US when this flight was scheduled to leave MIA, so weather had absolutely no role in this.
And I do understand that sometimes stuff breaks and it needs to be fixed, but I had a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that AA didn’t have a spare A319/A320/737 in the entire system to swap in and reduce this delay from something massive into something minor.
There was no sense in grumbling about it. It was only 10am, and the flight had been delayed until 3:08pm, but screw it – I still walked out the door and went to the airport anyway. That’s how I roll.
Actually, I should probably rephrase that. What I mean is…”that’s how much of an airliner nerd I am“. Sitting in an airport all day is fun! Sometimes…
Sitting around at SAN for 5 hours when I really didn’t have to wasn’t that bad actually. I started out with a delicious and slow lunch from Camden Food Co, walked terminal 2 from end to end a time or three, and just enjoyed watching the airport at work. Am I weird? I think I know the answer to that, but it was actually a nice way to spend an afternoon.
The inbound aircraft (N757UW) came from MIA, and I was highly impressed in how quickly they turned that thing around. Boarding for the return to MIA commenced just 10 minutes after the last inbound passenger had deplaned. Speaking of inbound passengers, most of the people who came off that plane didn’t look happy. I suppose that’s what three-hour delays will do to customer morale.
The boarding gate looked to be quite full, but such was not the case onboard. It seemed that most of the other passengers had rebooked onto something else because of the massive delay, because once the boarding door closed, the final load factor looked to be less than 40%. There were empty seats in every row – including next to me, which was very much appreciated.
The older woman in the window seat was obviously a new flier, because she had to ask me how the seat belt worked. We all make fun of the overly-simplistic safety demonstrations sometimes, but it really is true – there are people out there who need to hear that stuff. She didn’t seem nervous or excited about flying, but she was very friendly and ended up being a nice seat mate for the ride to Miami.
Sorry folks – this is another trip report where I’m in an aisle seat as opposed to the window, so there will be limited take off and landing pics for this one! I tried my best though.
Once in the air and pointed east, I tried plugging my phone into the power outlets at the base of the seat. I say “tried” because it didn’t work too well. The sockets were so loose that it wouldn’t hold the plug and it just fell out on it’s own whenever I pushed it in. There’s probably a dirty joke in there somewhere, but I won’t go there. Instead, I’ll just say that it was irritating to not be able to charge my phone on such a long flight.
Drinks and food-for-purchase were offered within the first 45 minutes of departure, and I splurged on a fresh turkey sandwich. It was actually quite good – well worth the price actually, which isn’t something I admit very often. It might have been due to how hungry I was, because my tolerance for expensive food goes up quite a bit the hungrier I get.
The rest of the flight was smooth and uneventful, and actually quite comfortable due to the very light load. There was plenty of room to spread out, and I just spent the time catching up on all the Podcasts I haven’t had time to listen to over the past few weeks. Long flights are perfect for that sort of thing. Another round of drinks were served with one hour and thirty five minutes of flying time remaining.
It was completely dark by the time we began the descent into Miami, and we touched down exactly three hours behind schedule (just before 11pm local time). Oddly enough, there wasn’t a single apology or explanation from the flight crew about the delay.
They didn’t say a word about it, so perhaps they were thinking we wouldn’t notice if they didn’t mention it. Um…sorry American. It doesn’t work that way.
I should also mention that they never reached out to me after the flight offering an apology. I wasn’t expecting one, but I’ve been apologized to for much less in the past. Interesting.
Segment 2 of 2: Miami to San Diego
It only took five minutes of wandering around the main terminal here at MIA for me to realize that there aren’t many other airports in the continental US that are as busy and chaotic as this.
I walked up and down Concourse D here at MIA 3 times before I finally gave in and sat down in the middle of a busy gate area for a flight that was departing to Philadelphia in 30 minutes. I did check out the American Airlines Lounge near gate D30 for a bit, but it wasn’t all that great actually.
Miami, FL (MIA) – San Diego, CA (SAN)
Monday, May 29, 2017
Duration: 5 hours, 8 minutes
Seat: 17D (economy class)
As I was sitting there trying to drown out the noise and chaos around me, I realized that this flight to San Diego had the exact same flight number as the flight two days ago from San Diego to Miami. Weird.
I know nothing about airline route management and scheduling, but it gives me a headache to think about how they manage to schedule two separate daily flights with an identical flight number.
I arrived at the departure gate of this flight about 15 minutes ahead of schedule, and I didn’t feel much like sitting down. This was gonna be a long flight, so I didn’t mind standing and giving my legs every opportunity to stretch out before being crammed into a tiny economy class seat for five hours. At least I had an aisle seat for this flight, as that would allow me to get up and stretch whenever I felt the need.
As far as domestic economy class flights go, this one couldn’t have been any more routine. Boarding was right on time. There was a little bit of congestion in the jet bridge. The airplane smelled like stale coffee and scented cleaning products.
Absolutely nothing out of the ordinary happened, which when it comes right down to it, is just how I like it for an early morning flight like this. Yes it does make for slightly dry trip reports, but it was early and I was tired, so the less drama the better.
Voluntarily choosing an aisle seat means giving up any opportunity to look out the window. I know that. But I’ll never understand the kind of people who immediately close the window shade upon sitting down and don’t open it again until parked at the gate at the destination airport. The guy in 17F was that kind of guy unfortunately, and there was no natural light in our row for the entire journey across the country today.
Complimentary drinks and meals for purchase came through the aisles 45 minutes after departure, and as tempting as the turkey sandwich looked, I passed on it considering that my belly was still full from the bucket of oatmeal that I had in the lounge. On top of that, there are some pretty good restaurants at SAN nowadays and I was looking forward to a big lunch at the airport upon arrival.
What is it about podcasts that makes time go faster? My original plan was to sleep for most of the flight, but I started listening to a podcast in the first hour flight that ultimately led to another, which eventually led to three more. Every time I checked my watch I was amazed at the progress we were making, and I made a mental note to subscribe to more podcasts before my next big trip. A good podcast definitely eats up the time!
At least 30 minutes of this flight was dedicated to me thinking about how hard it is to write a good trip report for a flight as dull and routine as this one. I was in an aisle seat on a generic A319, not partaking in any food or entertainment provided by the airline, and I was lost in my own little world sitting there motionless in that tiny little seat with my earbuds crammed into my ears listening to podcasts.
How in the world was I going to write an interesting trip report about that?? I’m even struggling a bit as I write this, but I’d have to think that if you’ve made it this far I’m doing an okay job documenting the experience. Don’t bail me on me yet though – we’re landing soon and the trip report is just about over.
So yeah. Landing. Since window seat guy refused to open the window shade, I had to make use of my other senses to get a feeling of where we were in the landing process. Have you ever closed your eyes and just listened and felt the plane descend and then touch down?
If you have, you’ll know that airplanes make some pretty scary noises as it transforms from high-speed mode into landing configuration and you start to really appreciate the miracle of flight. At least that’s what I was feeling during this landing sequence. It’s especially fun to guess when the wheels are going to hit the pavement. If you’re not looking out the window it’s a lot harder than it seems!
Overall I’d have to give American Airlines an A- on this particular flight. They got us to San Diego on time, well-snacked, and we didn’t even crash into the desert on the way in. That’s a good flight in my book.