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  1. #1
    Forum Member bchaplin's Avatar
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    Tips on flying American

    Now that I've moved, it's no longer feasible to take my beloved JetBlue flights. For my next domestic (US) trip, the only option from my local airport is American. This means saying goodbye to the Terra chips, being able to secure early boarding so that I'm sure of overhead space, and the promise of a window or aisle seat. (The JetBlue flights I took were all the 2-2 configuration.)

    It is the early boarding I'm most concerned about, as my primary goal is to NOT have to gate-check my bag. Yet, I balk at paying extra for the seats that grant you priority boarding. To me, that's just a sneaky way of raising the ticket price. I did sign up for one of their credit cards, which is supposed to put me in "group 5". Is this enough to ensure my bag (an A30 or WF) can get a space in the overhead? And if not, will it fit underneath the seats in front of me? On JetBlue, this was never a problem, but my recollection of the few American flights I've taken is that the seats are a lot smaller.
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  2. #2
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    We’ve flown with American (not my favorite airline) twice lately. There are up to 9 boarding groups so group 5 Is good. We have paid for extra legroom seats and been placed in group 6. No problem with overheads though they do a lot of “this flight is full. Volunteer to check your bag” in the waiting area.

  3. #3
    Forum Member Amy's Avatar
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    I fly American always, and have not had any issues fitting my WF or A30 under any of the seats (even with an AV box) or getting overhead space when I bring a bigger bag. I canít speak for all flights, but unless the flight is very full, I think you will be fine. I have not flown JetBlue to compare the seat size. You might check seatguru.com for the specific plane model to see which seats are best.


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    Donít make something unless it is both necessary and useful; but if it is both necessary and useful, donít hesitate to make it beautiful. ó Shaker Philosophy

  4. #4
    Forum Member Amy's Avatar
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    Tips on flying American

    here is my WF under the seat in coach on this AA flight. Small plane with 2 seats on each side. There were lots of people gate checking their bigger rolling bags.


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    Last edited by Amy; 02-24-2019 at 08:38 AM.
    Donít make something unless it is both necessary and useful; but if it is both necessary and useful, donít hesitate to make it beautiful. ó Shaker Philosophy

  5. #5
    Forum Member bchaplin's Avatar
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    Thanks! Intuitively, I should know this. I have done all sorts of flights with my Tom Bihn bags and never had an issue. I'm thrown by the realization that I'm now stuck with, effectively, American and Southwest, so I'm glad for the reassurance. I appreciate the photo!
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  6. #6
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    JetBlue's E175 is a great regional jet, I don't know that American flies any. I think the only time under-seat gets cramped is on the little 2x1 E140, American definitely has those. The seat platform is raised, and the skinny fuselage takes a good bit of space out of the underseat space on the window. The stuffed WF still fits, but it's more of a struggle than usual. Mostly an issue on United and American, where basic economy fares have people fighting their neighbors for under-seat space as much as overheads.

  7. #7
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    Answering from tarmac delay on our AA flight returning from vacation you did the main thing I'd suggest, which is the credit card - worth $100/year if you fly AA a lot (and when you *do* need to check a bag, which I also try not to do at least when flying solo, the first one is free). I've never had a problem finding overhead space with that priority boarding, and I think you're probably ok with underseat too.

    Here's my son's BB under his seat just fine, with room for his feet, in a regular (not extra $) seat.

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    Last edited by cazique; 02-24-2019 at 09:23 PM. Reason: autocorrect

  8. #8
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    I flew American last weekend. I was early in group 9 on each flight. A few had to use overheads that were two or three away from their seats. I never had trouble finding space for my NFTD!

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by imperator View Post
    JetBlue's E175 is a great regional jet, I don't know that American flies any. I think the only time under-seat gets cramped is on the little 2x1 E140, American definitely has those. The seat platform is raised, and the skinny fuselage takes a good bit of space out of the underseat space on the window. The stuffed WF still fits, but it's more of a struggle than usual. Mostly an issue on United and American, where basic economy fares have people fighting their neighbors for under-seat space as much as overheads.
    Yeah, but I believe those little jets require most people to planeside check their bags, which (at least back in my Delta days) resulted in having more overhead storage available than the planes that accommodate roll-a-boards.



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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by bchaplin View Post
    It is the early boarding I'm most concerned about, as my primary goal is to NOT have to gate-check my bag. Yet, I balk at paying extra for the seats that grant you priority boarding. To me, that's just a sneaky way of raising the ticket price. I did sign up for one of their credit cards, which is supposed to put me in "group 5". Is this enough to ensure my bag (an A30 or WF) can get a space in the overhead? And if not, will it fit underneath the seats in front of me? On JetBlue, this was never a problem, but my recollection of the few American flights I've taken is that the seats are a lot smaller.
    I like flying American and did so earlier this month when we went to Florida. Mr. pammy also flew them last week for work. You will be fine with zone 5 boarding. My favorite seat is the exit row with the huge amount of legroom, about 4 feet, directly behind premium economy. It boards in zone 5. So my strategy is when zone 4 is boarding, I stand near the zone 5-9 side of the pole in the gate area. When I see the last of zone 4 people getting scanned, I get in line. The gate agent then calls zone 5 and I am one of the first to board. Iíve never had any problem getting overhead space even though there is none above my seats in the exit row and my bags have to be put in the premium economy overhead.
    Seeking Solar shop bags and Solar packing cube shoulder bag Also coveting an Iberian Synapse or Copilot

  11. #11
    Forum Member bouncing's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bchaplin View Post
    Thanks! Intuitively, I should know this. I have done all sorts of flights with my Tom Bihn bags and never had an issue. I'm thrown by the realization that I'm now stuck with, effectively, American and Southwest, so I'm glad for the reassurance. I appreciate the photo!
    FWIW, Southwest still gives you two (!) free checked bags. While that may not matter to you, it results in overhead bin space seldom being a major concern on Southwest flights.

    Aside from the lack of assigned seats, I really like Southwest.

  12. #12
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    In terms of boarding, the main difference with American vs. JetBlue is American has a business/first class cabin on almost all it's flights. I believe JetBlue only has the premium cabins on "mint" flights. This means there are many more boarding tiers on American. That said, Zone 5 is considered preferred boarding, and I would be surprised if you don't find overhead room for a bag if you are in Zone 5. American has a slightly less crazy free-for-all during boarding than United (terrible) or Delta (has a habit of cramming stores in their terminals which leaves little room for actual boarding), but you should still be at the gate probably 35 minutes before scheduled departure for most domestic flights and 45 minutes early for long-haul flights.

    American does fly E175s and they have enough overhead space to fit rollers (sideways). Most of the non-regional fleet is 737 and bigger. I do believe standard JetBlue generally has one extra inch of legroom versus standard American seats, but I don't think the underseat storage area is much different as the spread between the seat bottom and floor is pretty constant among airlines.

    The usual boarding order on AA is active military and people with disabilities board first, then concierge key (extremely active fliers or travel agents), then Zone 1 (first class), Zone 2 (business), Zone 3 (executive platinum or the equivalent on code-sharing airlines), Zone 4 (platinum/platinum pro), Zone 5+, then Zones 6-9.

  13. #13
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    I have flown AA quite a bit. With group 5 you should have no worries about brining your bag on board. If you fly 2-3 times per year on American, the cost of the credit card will pay for itself in saved early boarding fees. Both bags mentioned will fit in the at least some overheads on all of AAs fleet (CRJ -B777). Some of the CRJs have teeny overheads on one side toward the front of the plane.

  14. #14
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    My first answer to "tips for flying on American" would be don't! And I say this as someone with mid-level status (it actually comes via BA, which is why I have benefits on an airline I try to avoid) and my partner has top tier status, and I now always suggest flying another airline instead.

    But, yes, I know, given the lack of options sometimes there isn't much choice. But it at all possible, avoid the 737-Max or any plane retrofitted with Project Oasis, which is fantastic corporate doublespeak for misery in a tube. Legroom has been reduced throughout the plane (30" in coach, and MCE and 1st also have less space), and AA is actively removing the IFE. The 321 that does the transcon trips (JFK-LAX/SFO) is comfortable, and the international configurations are nice (the 77W has a nice business class and I've heard the Premium Economy is well done.) 763s fly some domestic routes occasionally, and that's a reasonably comfortable way to fly in economy as well.

  15. #15
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    Apologies for straying too far from OP's post, but since we're talking about their fleet and longhaul, I try my best to get a codeshare flight when flying transpacific on an AA ticket. Once in 2017, I couldn't avoid American metal on Tokyo-Chicago. I got off of a JAL 787 from Bangkok and onto an American 787, and the difference was dramatic. In a bad way. The AA plane was packed with people (mostly Americans,) seemingly oblivious to the terrible conditions, all sitting upright, packed in like sardines. The crew wasn't too bad, but the atmosphere that you find on Asian carriers just wasn't there. The whole thing just felt like a bad imitation of the formula that works so well for the top-rated carriers. Sitting on an aisle seat, with that extra seat across reducing seat and aisle width, I got hit by the beverage trolley every time they passed. Typically on Cathay, JAL or ANA, it might happen once, and they apologize profusely. Thankfully I was able to take something to make me sleepy that got me through most of the flight. The narrow seat and ridiculous seat pitch made me think about how confinement in small spaces is used not as torture, but something short of that, like for badly-behaved prisoners or unlawful combatants who won't talk. I hate to engage in what sounds like hyperbole, but as a broad-shouldered guy, it was that uncomfortable (until I fell asleep.) On an Asian carrier, if something falls off your meal tray, lean over and pick it up. On AA, forget it, it's gone until meal time is over and everyone has stowed their tray tables, because there isn't room to stick an arm down.

    Also worth mentioning is that only a few transcontinental flights serve a meal, I think JFK-SFO and JFK-LAX. CLT-SFO, about 5 hours, was food for purchase. This is another dramatic difference from Asia, where the last vestiges of the Golden Age of Flight remain. There, you can expect a hot meal and complimentary beer/wine in coach on shorthaul flights.

    When searching for flights, a high flight number (usually four digits) suggests a codeshare, and if you don't see who operates it, you can always punch in the flight # at Flight Aware. If you can get on a (Skytrax-rated) 4- or 5-star carrier for crossing either ocean, you're going to have a much better time. My experience above was a 12-hour flight. A 14-15-hour flight on a US-based carrier would be worse, because at that point you switch from "just sit still until you land" to the feeling of living aboard the plane for a day.

    All of that said, AA for domestic doesn't bother me. Maybe it's because I'm on an itinerary that includes a 14.5 hour flight and everything else feels like nothing, but I really have no complaints about the domestic service. Anything under nine hours, I don't worry too much about the little things. I watch movies on my tablet, read a book, eat whatever they hand out, and if it's a longer flight, sleep a bit. The newer A321s and 737s at least look and feel nice, and on the feeder routes (RJs and props) you sometimes get a fun flight attendant and a sense of camaraderie with your fellow travelers, especially if you're flying from a small town as I typically am. But yes, JetBlue is delightful.

    No matter what route you're on, having the right gear (thanks, TB!,) planning your flight and packing right makes a huge difference in how well it goes for you. I've learned a lot about what I don't need, what I can buy that's lighter and smaller, what I can buy at my destination, and the sense of "I've got this, I'm a traveler!" really helps smooth out the inevitable glitches in your itinerary.
    Last edited by glarus; 03-02-2019 at 09:35 PM.

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