Serving more than 260 global destinations, American Airlines are one of the world’s biggest carriers. In fact, in terms of passenger miles travelled, the firm are the fourth largest airline on the planet. With a history that dates back to 1930, and 5 U.S. hubs including Los Angeles, Chicago and Miami, AA are one of the most recognisable airline brands around.
The airline has strong links with international carriers such as JAL and British Airways, and are part of the ever expanding OneWorld alliance, making this is a great option for those needing worldwide connections. Though American Airlines operate primarily in the United States, with fairly basic hub-and-spoke services all across the North American continent on subsidiaries like American Eagle, our experience with the carrier has mainly been on international flights, with journeys to cities such as Philadelphia and New York.
Our most recent trip on American Airlines, however, was travelling in December 2010 from London Heathrow to Chicago O’Hare, a trip beset by a number of difficulties. The first problem we experienced had nothing to do with the airline; rather, the United Kingdom was experiencing its worst winter snowstorm in over half a century. Getting to the airport late, we were informed that our flight would be delayed by at least 2 hours. After taking our time to check-in and pass security, we eventually discovered the delay was more like 4 hours. There was not a huge amount of communication offered to keep passengers in the loop, but to be fair to the airline staff, conditions on the ground were constantly changing.
The planes themselves, Boeing 777s, are quite conservatively decorated, and feel slightly outdated in comparison to other Trans-Atlantic carriers. The entertainment system is pretty varied, with a mix of new movie releases, many airing before they premier outside of the U.S.A., as well as a wide range of selected classics.
Fans of American television shows will be pleased, as all of the T.V. shows on offer, bar a couple of Mexican dramas, are from the U.S. The entertainment, then, is perhaps not as varied as you would find on competing airlines, but there is enough to keep you occupied, while thankfully our plane utilised seatback video, with each passenger receiving complimentary headsets. If you are not travelling on a 777, however, you may find you have to make do with overhead screens. Main meals, snacks and drinks are also free, though do not expect it to reach any great culinary heights, with heated food tending to be fairly bland. As with most flights over the Atlantic, alcoholic drinks are offered on the house.
The initial delay at Heathrow meant that once we landed at Chicago we had missed our connecting flight to Ohio. As soon as we stepped off the plane and onto the jetway we saw a sign with our names on, and we were taken to an American Airlines desk. Despite plenty of passengers from Europe being in the same situation as us, we were dealt with fairly quickly, and told we had to stay in an airport hotel overnight. Hotel vouchers for $50 per person were handed out, though we were later told by staff at the hotel that most passengers receive more than this, as it would not be enough to buy a single room. Free taxis to and from the hotel, as well as food vouchers to be used at Sbarro Pizza, were also offered. We eventually reached our destination of Dayton, Ohio the next morning.
Overall the experience on American Airlines was positive, and delays and missed flights handed fairly sensitively. However, this is not the airline to travel on if you want staff to go the extra mile to accommodate you, or if you are looking for the most modern and cutting edge on-board experience. Skytrax, for instance, only rates American Airlines as a 3 star ranking, and lists their long-haul economy class standards as poor. If you absolutely need to fly with American Airlines, not all is bad, however, with fairly reliable standards and a more than extensive network of destination airports.
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