I needed to get to Santo Domingo to resolve some problems, and to do it in 4 days.
Here is my story regarding AA's Service in this trip.
October 7th. 2003
Miami International Airport
AA flt 1543 MIA-SDQ
Arrived at MIA at 645 AM, knowing that the flight departs at 8AM, and also knowing that AA closes a flight 30 minutes before, so I dint need no rush, along with my brother I drove to the first level at MIA (arrivals). Kind of odd right? I’m supposed to go to Departures? Right?, well I decided to go to the Arrivals since the luggage carts are there and I could pick one up for free, and indeed, got one and put my carry on luggage and a computer (CPU), that CPU was the only one that I checked in as luggage.
Decided to go to the Ticket counter, I only had 2 people ahead of me so I checked in quick, the AA agent was polite and asked me what kind of seat I’m interested and I told him a window up front. He gave me seat 10A, and told me to take the CPU to TSA inspection and then to go direct to the gate since is some few minutes for 7 and boarding commences at 7 14 AM gate E-7.
So I decided to pay for a wrapping of the PC (I don’t want any accident), the AA rep at the counter told me that they will cover for the loss, but anyways I wanted to be sure that is going to get there safe, so I paid the 8 bucks for the wrapping. When finished the wrapping guy was “escorting” me to TSA and taking it to the TSA employees, I dint do much, he just gave it to them, when the bag passed the X-Ray, the TSA guy told me “wait a second” and took it to the table (I thought he was going to open it) and then he called the Wrapping guy (For what???) and had a brief chat, I don’t know what the heck he spoke to him and all of the sudden the TSA guy took the Computer off the table, and not to open it, like if they had some kind of mafia deal or agreement. I don’t get it those type of things are the things you only see in Dominican Republic, not in US.
Ok, it was time to head to the gate, E-7, a close walk from concourse D check in, It was funny because I knew hours before that it was on E 7 since in MIA there are some screens that say arrivals and departures, (for employee use only), I knew that it was a B757 and the a/c was coming from LIM, at 5 28 AM and docked at E7, later departing at 800 to SDQ.
Got to the gate, (passed security) and saw a little group of people gathered and in the departure screen saw that it said “Beverage Only in Main cabin”, so I insisted in buying something to eat since it will take hours for me to eat something. Something that bothered me was that in MIA the Duty free doesn’t open till 730 AM, so , too bad, couldn’t waste some money buying some liquor or perfume there well ate a hot dog and drank a Tropicana for 6 bucks, yeah 6 BUCKS!!.
Boarding commenced at 730 AM, the flight was 30% in my appreciation or maybe less, 25%, probably in load. Boarding was orderly and quick. Push back was at 7:52 AM, and while I sat in 10A I couldn’t believe that I was so comfortable, I think 10A is the best seat you could get in AA’s 757, you don’t have a front seat, but yes there is another seat in front of me to my right, but no seat in front, so I could stretch my legs, or If I want to go to the bathroom I could just walk ahead and that’s all.
Next to me the seat to my right was empty, but in 10C there was a person there, he put some of his belongings and I also did the same, to have more comfort. Something that surprised me was the number of Business pax in the cabin, It was almost full, a lot of business man, using this flight to arrive early into Santo Domingo, like me that needed the day to do some work.
While push back, I noted that there was another flight pushing back with us, it was a 777 bound for LAX. How cool, both depart MIA at 8AM and both pushed back at the same time.
Well taxi was normal, heading to 9L, since we took the north taxiways, and I saw a Lan Chile 767 that was ahead of us. Nice, so I saw by the windows that the Lan Chile 767 was rolling while we were holding short, I also noticed that the moment the Lan Chile 767 was departing, the a/c was taxing into position 9L, but not holding, the crew dint wait not even 10 seconds for separation, but I thought since the 767 is a Heavy a/c we should at least wait at least 1 minute (2 minutes is the law). But no, I believe that the 767 had heading 120 after takeoff, since when we departed we continued in the same heading 090 until we were reaching the coast, after that we continued our climb to FL370, as the captain said.
One thing, I have not talked about the amazing power of the B757-200, we took off in just seconds we were reaching altitude quick, I LOVE THE B757. I picked this flight for the same reason, I LOVE TH B757, well ok, lets leave it.
We climbed and continued to FL370, they served some snacks and drinks, Smooth flight, I know every step of the way from MIA to SDQ, the islands and everything, so I knew pretty much how are we heading, the captain said that today’s flight would be more smoother than yesterday, I think he did the same leg, that’s why he said it. Well Descend began over PTA VOR, about 103 NM from SDQ, we where high, and descending fast.
The approach was really cool, the pitch of the a/c for descend was about -6 degrees.
The landing was smooth, RWY 17, I noticed that there was no traffic at all at SDQ, we landed just after 10 AM, about 10 04 AM, and began our taxi to the terminal. And confirmed no traffic at SDQ not one aircraft in the pax terminal, just a UPS 757 and a Aeromar 737-200 parked in the Cargo ramp.
We all deplaned the a/c and headed to immigrations, bought one tourist card, and filled it up 10 US dollars. Passed immigrations and headed to pick up my computer.
The luggage was there quick, picked up my PC, and headed to clear customs, there was an x-ray machine, where I put all of the luggage, and then all of the sudden a guy picking up luggage from the x-ray machine said they have to open it to see what’s in it. And I asked, for what the heck they have an x-ray machine, with the machine you could pin point what you are looking for, and if you see something abnormal you will see it, but no, they insisted in opening the CPU and “to see what’s in it”, this was ridiculous, that was so stupid, I think they did that to get some money, next to me was this Canadian passenger that they asked him what he has inside he said it was clothes, but it was stupid, any ways… the flight was good, everything was good, but arriving in Dominican Customs was not quite what every one expects to be as “quick”.
The second, and last flight
October 10 2003.
AA 882 Departing 310PM
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Las Americas Intl Airport SDQ
Arrived at the airport at 2 PM, and quickly arrived at the check in counter, where there was no line at all, and the AA agent was really nice, and quickly gave me the seat that I was booked, 14 G.
Quickly I said good bye to my dad and rushed trough Dominican Immigrations (again), quickly bought some souvenirs, and decided to have a look at the traffic at SDQ, there was one CO 757, departing to EWR, while walking saw one of CM’s 737-700 approaching gate A1, how beautiful the 737 NG a nice and wonderful aircraft, looks brilliant with the Winglets.
Than saw one guy that was rushing to gate A5, for a VH flight, I think he said he was in transit, what was that?, transit in SDQ?, well, also saw the famous Air Santo Domingo flight to JFK, known to have a great service, the 757 was pushing back, those colors look nice in the 757, with the TMA Airlines C/S, saw 2 AA’s A300 one of them my flight, saw one VH DC-9, I asked my self for how long are we going to see the Diesel 9’s in service, saw one Air Cariebes RJ parked at Gate A8 (you have to walk to get there), well traffic was really good in SDQ at that moment.
After looking at the traffic, decided to have a drink, but looked at my watch and they where boarding, when I went to a small restaurant inside the Satellite, I got bored and decided to board.
Boarding took time, It looked like the flight was full, since the line was always long, and indeed it was, once inside of the a/c I noticed that the flight was FULL, it looked to me that it was 90% or maybe 95%, the A300 was going packed, and I really got amazed how AA never took me off my seat, since I was booked 14 G and arrived at the airport late, and well, inside of the A300 I was.
I really don’t like the A300, but I really admire its power, and I wanted to see it. It looked like if we where really heavy, almost 240 Pax out of 251 inside maybe?, yep, so I thought of switching to a window seat later if available. Push Back was a 3 15 PM, 5 mins late no problem. After closing the door, they re opened it, and got in some 3 or 4 pax, maybe AA employees that where in Standby or maybe some pax that where late.
The captain said that flight time would be 1 hour and 45 min, Cruising altitude of 35 thousand feet , so we began to taxi, and I saw one Dutch Caribbean DC-9 taxiing to the gate. While taxiing I saw an A340 in final, yes, is the only A340 that I would know, it was IB’s flight from MD), Spain">MAD, it was nice seeing it arrive, and knowing that they will use a A340-600 for that flight now in December, and I that work for IB in MIA, wait to see the A3406 by the end of this month.
So takeoff was quick, the a/c dint stop and hold short, we just got in and rolled, takeoff was quick, I think that the A300-600 is a very powerful a/c, knowing that more than 250 pax, and a lot of cargo was in it, it rotated quickly. We began to climb, and the power it had, wonderful. Didn’t feel safe with the A300 but ok, Hopefully some time soon AA will take one B777 for that flight, has the same capacity, and AA has like 2 772’s just sitting there the whole day until departure in the night to South America, AA has one 777-200 Saturdays to SDQ from BOS, wont surprise me to see a 777 every day in SDQ, they had the MD-11’s to SDQ daily.
Well, ok, minutes passed, and the captain sounded really polite and charismatic, said that we are over Puerto Plata to our Right, and all of the sudden all of the pax sitting in the right of the a/c began to look at the window, he said “ we are at 31 thousand feet, and we will settle here, (he paused) then said “know what” DING, (he took off the seat belt sign), “lets take the seat belt sign off, we will have a smooth flight from know on, until advised, so feel free to take it off”, that was nice, that captain was really cool, he said a bit of our route and we where off to continue our flight, they served the snacks and the drinks.
By cruising altitude, I decided to search for a window seat, for my luck the only window seat available was the last seat in the right of the A300, Row 36, I sat in 36H, began to se the outside, and saw that we had a lot of clouds in the way. Had few bumps, the turbulence was low but some turbulence we had in most of cruise. In one point I noticed to see the Island of Nassau of the Bahamas, so I thought that we are going to start our descend very soon, later saw Grand Bahama Island, the biggest Island of the Bahamas, and then we started to begin descending, the captain announced that we are descending but we are also going to slow down since in MIA there is a big traffic congestion, since 40 minutes ago, there where some storms in the area, I thought WOW, THIS HAPPENS MOST OF THE TIME IN MIA, WHY NOW??, yes, guys, ladies and gentleman, MIA closed operations for some time, but the captain announced that there will be no holds at this time, probably, and we are going only to descend but with some speed restrictions since traffic is gathering at MIA and a/c have not departed yet, so operations are limited.
We where getting a bit closer and I saw The Downtown Miami Area, noticed the great number of clouds, I don’t know 30 minutes of hard rain and thunder mess up the late afternoon operations at MIA, AA’s ramp workers have the Union and they don’t mess with the a/c if thunder is in the area, and that messes up pretty much the operations, at MIA.
While approaching, I saw many traffic near the a/c, the pilot turned north pretty much in the west, by the everglades, and began the landing process. Landed at MIA, and we where holding short of RWY 12, when the captain began crossing 12 he said in the PA, that the operations in MIA had been closed for like an hour, so, there is an a/c parked in our gate, and we have to wait for about 20 to 25 min, and he told us to feel free to use hour cell phones, witch I used. Well we where holding in a taxi way, near 9L, we arrived at MIA at 5 20 PM, and stationed at the taxi way about 5 25 PM. Although the captain said it would be more or less 20 to 25 mins, we waited, pax began to walk and look for their carry on luggage.
I talked on the phones, and tried to waste time, talking to friends that work in the terminal, I also noticed that IB’s flights where still in the ground at the gate, and it was 5 25, and the 4 A319’s where there and the B747 was also there, so I thought that the delay was general because those a/c around 5 10 are not there. And the 747 departs around 530 PM.
So we waited soon it was 5 50, the captain announced that the a/c parked in our gate just pushed off, so we are going to our gate.
10 mins passed and we where in the same position, all of the pax where pissed, then the captain said that the a/c pushed off, but ground control has not given them the authorization and the route for the taxi, since a lot of A/C where departing and using the taxiways, it would be hard for our a/c to taxi to the gate without an incident.
We waited and 12 mins passed, I began to hear the engines working, and I clapped, (knowing that it meant that we are going to move), when the a/c began to move people also clapped it was 6 12 PM, and we where in the darn a/c still after almost an hour in the ground. It was disappointing, the flight was good, but until we arrived MIA, everything just came bad, there where many transit pax, worried, but they responded saying that all flights were going to be delayed since this huge mess (created by 30 mins of storms, it rose to become 2 hours delays in flights).
So, the a/c began to move quickly to the gate, and I have to say that the captain took it to the gate like at 20 knots, even when we where approaching the gate, it was quick, I dint even noticed that we got to the gate, only when we braked.
Well we got there, gate E33, the mighty old satellite in MIA, went trough customs, and everything was over.
Ok, so that’s pretty much everything, and my recent experience with AA.
I had to pick AA since that is the only carrier giving that much service to SDQ, I needed to get quick to Santo Domingo and AA did the job, but I had no rush to return to Miami, but If I had, it would had been a nightmare, almost one hour in the ground.
I will give 3 stars to AA out of 5 for the MIA-SDQ-MIA leg.