This was my first time to fly first class on American. I typically use Continental, but from DFW to ORD, you can't get many more options than on AA.
My trip started on Friday, March 19, 2004. I was on the 9:00 a.m.(ish) flight, one of about a dozen MD-80s run back and forth to Chicago during the day.
At the airport:
I had checked in online and was carrying-on my luggage, so I went straight to the gate about 20 minutes before departure. I'm not a member of the Admiral's club, so I just hung out by the gate. Boarding for First Class was right on time, and given the mob of people waiting near the gate, I decided to get on the plane sooner rather than later.
On the Plane (DFW-ORD):
As soon as I stepped on the plane (3rd in line), I noticed the overwhelming stale, warm air hitting me in the face. The air conditioning was NOT on, and it was pretty stuffy. I stowed my baggage and got comfy. As soon as the other 100+ people started boarding, the cabin started heating up fast. Boarding seemed to take longer than usual, but soon enough everyone was seated (and complaining about the temperature). The captain came over the PA to explain the trouble. He said the plane had spent the night in the hanger and not all of the maintenance had been performed. So they were fixing the APU at the gate (which was why we had no air). Soon enough, air began trickling from the vents. The cabin grew more comfortable, but we were still stuck at the gate for a little while longer. Long story short, the plane got fixed, and we got airborne (about 35 minutes late) in pretty short order.
AA's first-class cabin seemed about par for the course. Blue leather chairs (kind of dirty and pretty well worn) were in a 2-2 configuration. You definitely get more room than in coach (width ways), but the seat pitch wasn't as much as I would have preferred. Fortunately, I had two businessmen in front of me who were chatting and not wanting to recline during the flight.
As soon as we got in the air, the FA came around to take breakfast/drink orders. We were offered a choice of corn flakes or pancakes. I chose the pancakes and was pleasantly surprised with the amount and quality of food provided. Breakfast consisted of: 4 small pancakes with warm syrup and walnuts, lyonnaise potatoes, two slices of sausage (not patties or links), a generous portion of fresh fruit, a choice of pastry (I chose a warm blueberry muffin), and orange juice. The food was served on china, but with plastic utensils.
After breakfast was cleared, the FAs came through the cabin with more drinks, and soon we were on final approach to ORD. Just before landing, the FAs returned our checked coats/jackets.
We landed in ORD about 15 minutes late, but had a short taxi to the gate. All in all, a good trip.
At the Airport:
My return trip to Dallas was the following evening (scheduled at 7:30). I arrived at the gate about an hour early and settled in for some plane/people watching. There was a flight leaving for London right next to my gate, and many of the passengers were running late because of delayed connecting flights, so I got to watch people run down the concourse and then act rude to the gate staff. Lucky for them, AA held the plane so all connecting passengers could get on board.
Drawing my attention back to MY flight, I noticed that it was 7:00 and that my plane was not at the gate. The gate monitor revealed that the plane was coming from St. Louis and was due any minute. I knew that an on-time departure was unlikely, so I began to walk around the area. At about 7:15, the departure time for my flight changed from 7:30 to 8:30. The gate agents didn't make any announcements, and I could see that they were busy dealing with passengers whose schedules could not tolerate this delay.
At about 8:00, I wandered back to the gate, only to notice that we still didn't have a plane. By this time, the gate agents were making an announcement about the delay. Eventually, the plane from St. Louis appeared. People hurried off the plane, and we were told that we could board as soon as the plane was serviced. When pressed for updates (at about 8:15) one agent told a passenger that the plane was still being serviced. She then turned to another agent and said, "No one wants to clean the plane." I don't know what this meant, but it got a rise out of the passengers within earshot.
At 8:20, the departure time changed to 8:38 -- not a good sign. I finally stopped paying attention to the time and waited for the boarding call.
On the plane (ORD-DFW):
Boarding was uneventful. I gave my jacket to a FA as soon as I got on and found my seat. Once again, I was on an MD-80 (same configuration as before). When I got settled in my seat, it was about 8:45. Despite the FAs announcements that the flight was full, FC had one empty seat, which was right next to me. And I was glad for it because when the large man in front of me reclined his seat, he nearly took my knees with him. Luckily, the vacant seat next to me enabled me to cross my legs off to the side and relax.
As soon as we were airborne, the FA took drink orders. I requested a glass of champagne. I'm sure it wasn't really champagne, but it wasn't half bad. Aside from drinks, FC was offered bags of almonds and pretzels. I took one of each, and to my surprise, was given more with my second drink. The FA was attentive and continued to offer drink service throughout the flight.
The flight was smooth, and the skies were clear, so I got to see all the city lights down below. And despite the multiple delays in Chicago, we arrived in Dallas not much more than an hour late. Not bad.
During the taxi to the gate, FAs returned our jackets. The crew was quite friendly (I've had some grumpy FAs on late flights) and said goodbye at the door as we made our ways back into DFW.
[Edited 2004-03-29 02:45:45]
[Edited 2004-03-29 02:51:37]