American Airlines MD 80 First (short haul)

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  • Anonymous


    I flew First Class from MCO to ORD on AA1221 on a MD80.

    I arrived at MCO at 17:30 thanks to the Disney Magical Express courtesy bus, which gives you instructions on how to find departures and get around the airport. Disney do a checked baggage facility for people staying at their hotels, but this is only available to US citizens so I had to manhandle my suitcase up to the check-in desks on the third floor. The departures area is very long and poorly signposted with the result that I got confused as to where the AA desks were and found myself wandering in the wrong direction before I picked up on my mistake (for reference, the AA desks are towards the right side of the terminal building).

    There was a nominal priority AA check-in desk for business class, first class and AA loyalty card holders but it wasn’t being enforced and I found myself stuck behind a family who were trying to check in at the AA desks for a TAM flight and who didn’t understand why that wasn’t possible (newsflash – AA only do it for code-share flights with TAM). Once they finally got the message and moved away with their million pieces of luggage, I got called forward by an agent who checked the boarding pass that Disney had printed off for me (note that this is another facility they provide for their guests, which took me a bit by surprise) and put a priority tag on my suitcase before wishing me a pleasant flight.

    I then went over to the TSA lines and noted that while there was a priority channel, the signage for it didn’t indicate that it was open to AA passengers and because the check in agent hadn’t mentioned it as a facility, I erred on the side of caution and joined the hoi polloi in a long queue made longer by the fact that the agent checking passports and boarding passes wanted to have a conversation with everyone and seemed very keen to ogle the pretty young girls waiting to get past. However, there was plenty of signage up saying what needed to be done at the security machines, with the result that the actual security processing was quite quick. Note that in the US you have to take your shoes off and submit to either a body scan or a full pat down.

    I was through security in about 20 minutes and took the monorail to the gates. From past experience at MCO I knew that there was no AA lounge airside and the airside facilities were sub-par (a Mexican eat-in restaurant, a Starbucks and a small food court for burgers, pizza and sandwiches with a grossly inadequate seating area). I grabbed a coffee but couldn’t find anywhere to sit so I made for gate 17 where plenty of seating was still available. The previous AA flight had just landed so it was interesting to see the arriving passengers disembark and the ground crew then scurry around getting the plane ready for our flight. A screen at the gate indicated that there would be a 20 minute wait until boarding would begin so I amused myself by reading my book.

    Boarding ended up beginning at 19:00 after a call for people with large luggage to check it in the hold due to the flight being full. Boarding began with first class passengers. I was one of the first passengers through the gate and n the air bridge but even then by the time I got to the aircraft the overhead lockers were pretty much full with other passengers’ roll on suitcases. Irritated, I managed to squeeze my bag into the small space left available and took my seat (my mood was not improved by the fact that the MD80 doesn’t leave a lot of head room beneath the overhead lockers with the result that I cracked my head on it several times before I managed to sit down).

    AA’s domestic first class is a 2×2 seat arrangement and I’d preselected 3F at the time of booking, which is a window seat in the front row and has good legroom. The seat was in good condition and a blanket had been left out for use if needed. As I sat down a member of cabin crew offered me something to drink and I opted for a ginger ale.

    We pushed back at 19:30 and a safety briefing played as we taxied to the runway and cabin crew did a final safety check. We were air born by 19:50, after which cabin crew came around to confirm the dining selection. AA lets you pre-select your meal option 30 days before flying and I’d originally opted for the vegetarian pasta but thanks to a heavy lunch earlier that day I decided that I’d forgo it. The member of cabin crew said that this wasn’t a problem. Hot towels were then brought around followed by more drinks and warm nuts but the seatbelt sign didn’t go off until 20:00 (which was a relief because by then I was desperate for the loo).

    Dinner was brought around at 20:15 and from the looks of it, I wasn’t missing out. Cabin crew also refilled drinks and warm cookies were brought around at 21:00 (with passengers given the choice of cranberry or chocolate chip).

    There’s no IFE on the flight, although you can use on-board wi-fi for payment of a fee. Although I’ve used the in-flight wi-fi in the past, I was perfectly happy to read my book during the flight and look out of the window.

    At 21:45 there was an announcement of gate information for passengers transiting at ORD to St Louis together with the baggage carousel number for passengers exiting at ORD. A further announcement was given 25 minutes before landing.

    We landed at ORD at 22:20 and I was at the baggage carousel at 22:30. Unfortunately it took ages for the bags to come out and when they did, the priority tag system didn’t seem to work as all those bags came off last. This was quite disappointing and I was somewhat frustrated not to leave the airport until 23:10.

    All in all, the flight was okay but I wouldn’t really recommend going domestic first on AA unless you can get it at a decent price (I’d booked early so the ticket was only a couple of hundred quid) and/or you need the tier points.

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