I got to the airport about an hour before departure, only to find long queues at check-in. I hadn’t checked in online the night before, stupidly, so queued in the Priority Access line. The issue with American check-in at Tampa Airport is that they have kiosks for the coach line, while there are no kiosks for the Priority Access line. Instead I had to queue in the Priority Access line (where I was first in line, compared to the dozens of people in the coach line) and wait for an agent.
I was next in line so figured it would only be a couple of minutes, though instead I got about 10 minutes of quality entertainment. The passenger that the agent had just been helping was quite irate, and understandably so.
As I overheard the story, the lady had been waiting in the long coach line to check-in. She said she got there over an hour before departure. While she was still able to print her boarding pass, the other check-in agent told her the carry-on she had was too large and needed to be checked. She then queued for the agent to check her bag (and pay the checked bag fee), only to have the agent tell her that she missed the cutoff for checking a bag.
Suffice it to say the lady was pissed. They put her on a later flight on standby and charged her to check her bag. The lady asked the agent “what happens to my bag if I don’t get on standby?” The agent responded with “it will still fly to San Francisco.” The lady then asked “well when would I see it again,” to which the agent responded “it could take a day, it could take a week,” with a smirk on her face. At this point the lady got angry, understandably, responding with “here you are trying to make jokes while I’m distressed.”
When it was my turn I made sure that I hid my carry-on nicely. That being said since I was elite and in first class she seemed to be much nicer to me, even commenting on how convoluted my routing was – “so you’re going from Tampa to Paris via Chicago, Miami, AND London? You’re nuts!”
Once I had my boarding passes I proceeded to the F concourse security checkpoint. I was chosen for the full body scanner, and as usual I refused and requested a private pat down instead.
In the E concourse they have little private rooms, while in the F concourse they seemed to use the break room (or storage closet, who knows) for my pat down.
The US Airways Club is just past security, which I have access to thanks to my American Express Platinum card.
The club is fairly nice, especially for a non-hub airport. It features plenty of seating with nice views of the tarmac.
The breakfast selection consisted of stale danishes and muffins as well as oatmeal and yogurt.
35 minutes before departure I headed to my gate, F78, only to find boarding well underway.
Tampa (TPA) – Chicago (ORD)
Thursday, June 2
Aircraft: Boeing 737-800
Seat: 6B (First Class)
Once onboard I stowed my bags and settled into 6B. Pre-departure beverages were quickly offered, consisting of water or orange juice. Boarding was complete on-time and we started our pushback for our 2hr20min flight to Chicago.
The safety video played and after a quick taxi to the runway we were airborne.
Unfortunately my seatmate on this flight was downright awful. It started with him tapping his foot constantly as we taxied out. He must have had over 100 taps a minute. Then as we took off he started sleeping. Great, I figured. Nope, not only did he snore, but he continued tapping his foot as he slept. Now that’s what I call skill.
Once we leveled off the meal service began. The flight attendants came down the aisle with the option between a southwestern omelet and cereal. Since it was an odd numbered flight meal orders were taken starting in the back, which meant I got my choice of the omelet.
The omelet was served with a plate of fruit and the option between a biscuit and a bagel. I went with the biscuit.
I also ordered an orange juice with the meal, though it always annoys me when flight attendants use the
shot wine glasses for juice or water, since they hold a few ounces at most.
The rest of the flight was fairly uneventful and I managed to get at least a little bit of sleep after a short night.
Once in the terminal I headed for the Flagship Lounge, which is American’s international first class lounge. It is located near gate K19, which is quite a hike from most of the other gates.
The entrance was right across from the JAL departure gate, where boarding was about to begin.
Inside I was welcomed by an incredibly friendly agent, despite her initial confusion. I presented my Miami to London first class boarding pass along with my boarding pass from Chicago to Miami, and she expressed great concern over my routing and asked me if she should look for a nonstop flight to London for me. I mentioned I was fine with the routing since I was meeting a colleague on my connection. After a sigh of relief she gave me a wifi card and invited me to enjoy the lounge.
The lounge itself is nothing special. It’s definitely quieter than the Admirals Clubs (at least around the time I was there), and the food and booze selection were much better as well.
As far as drinks go, everything was self serve. Most exciting for me, of course, was that they had Diet Coke in glass bottles. For those of you that watch America’s Got Talent, I let out at a Kinetic King-esque “Wooohooo!” If you don’t watch America’s Got Talent (which, for your sake, I hope you don’t), ignore the reference please.
When I first arrived they still had the breakfast selection, consisting of fruit, cereal, danishes, waffles, donuts, and… sushi (I guess because of the Japan Airlines flight that was leaving).
After about 30 minutes in the lounge the lunch spread was brought out, consisting of sandwiches, veggies, salad, cheese, brownies, etc. Compared to a “real” international first class lounge it was far from spectacular, but it was definitely a (huge) step up from the Admirals Club.
At about 10:45AM I headed over to the gate for my flight to Miami, where boarding was already well underway.
Chicago (ORD) – Miami (MIA)
Thursday, June 2
Aircraft: Boeing 767-300
Seat: 3B (First Class)
I was quite looking forward to this flight as it was operated by an internationally configured 767, meaning I’d get an angled flat bed for this short flight. I settled into 3B, which is really the second row in the cabin.
In my experience 767s are hands down the most hectic planes to board, because everyone boards through door 1L and the aisles are fairly narrow. Today was no exception.
For one, there was a seat dupe. Two people were assigned 2B. The lady already sitting there damn near threw a hissy fit, finger wagging and all — “nuh uh, I am NOT moving, I selected this seat four days ago.” I suppose she was very concerned about getting her meal choice on this flight.
Beyond that, there was also a dog in first class. A barking dog. I mean, a barking dog. He barked for at least 15 minutes straight, much to the chagrin of the first class cabin, most of which were deadheading flight attendants and pilots.
As boarding finished up pre-departure beverages were offered, and I went with water.
Shortly before pushback the captain made a PA announcement advising us of our flight time of 2hr28min.
We pushed back right on time and after a long taxi and quick takeoff roll were airborne. I reclined my seat into the fully flat position to get a bit of shut eye.
It was quite bumpy on the way out, so it was about 45 minutes before the service started. As far as the actual seat goes, it was comfortable for a domestic flight, though I wouldn’t necessarily want to fly in it for 10 hours. While I quite enjoyed business class on an American 777 to Buenos Aires a few months back, the 767 seats are narrower, which makes it tough to get comfortable. Still, if I were using a systemwide upgrade from a cheap coach fare (which I plan on doing for transatlantic flights several times this fall) I don’t think I’d be complaining. 😉
As usual, beverages with hot nuts (and refills) were offered first.
After that the flight attendants brought the cart through the aisle for the meal service. The choices were between a chicken salad and a hamburger. I went with the salad.
Generally I think American has superior catering to most of the other legacies, though the one exception is the lunch flights where the only choices are the salad or hamburger. The salad is beyond nasty, with just the worst (or cheapest?) tasting chicken imaginable. It’s the same chicken they have in those $3 pre-made salads at the supermarket. And I can’t say I’m a big fan of a burger either, at least not the ones American serves.
After lunch cookies were served. You can’t screw those up!
Service throughout the flight was generally attentive, with constant refills and the occasional smile.
I napped for most of the rest of the flight, and we landed in Miami about 15 minutes early.