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AA First Class To Mexico And Back SEA-CUN (long)

Sat Jan 01, 2005 11:39 am

I thought I would write a trip report for this journey since there aren't many about AA's service to Latin America. I flew SEA-DFW-CUN with AA. This is my first AA trip in probably 10 years, and my first time in first class with them as I almost always fly UA and the Star Alliance.

I got to the airport about an hour early and went to the first class ticket line. Even though it was Christmas morning, there were still quite a few people there. Check in was fast and easy. I would have used the kiosks, but I was connecting internationally, so I waited for an agent to be available. I then took the long walk to the A concourse. American still has its ticket counters located close to the C concourse even though the moved. It makes for a long walk, but fortunately the airport wasn't too overcrowded. Security was quick, with no lines at the new checkpoint. I noticed for the first time that private security people check your ticket and ID, and the TSA people only do the screening.

Saturday Dec 25 (Christmas Day)
AA 406
Dep: 9:22 (actual: 9:22)
Arr: 3:08 (actual: 2:59)
MD-80 Seat 5B

Boarding began 30 minutes early with first class getting priority boarding. For passengers in the main cabin it was a bistro service. I got to my seat and noticed that this was an AA MD-80 with the new nice first class seats and it looked very nice inside. I crammed my rollaboard in the overhead compartment. It is really difficult to get some of the bigger bags in the bins on the MD-80s. They are incredibly small compared to new Airbus and Boeings. There was no preflight beverage service for this flight. The flight attendants just seemed to not do it. They didn't seem to be in the best mood, but it was of course Christmas and they had spent Christmas morning in a hotel in SEA rather than with their families in Chicago and St. Louis for this specific crew. There were a number of Spanish speaking passengers on board, and fortunately one of the FAs was fluent in Spanish.

The safety briefing went by without a hitch and we pushed back from the very nice A concourse. I am glad that AA moved down there since it is so nice. There are so many shops and restaurants down there for so few gates. We then proceeded to the north end of the airport and lifted off on 16L. We climbed smoothly out of the overcast skies and made our way to DFW in 3 hours and 10 minutes.

Shortly after takeoff the first class flight attendant came by taking orders for breakfast. The choices were between cereal and fruit, or a breakfast quesadilla. I had the cereal since I am allergic to eggs, and it was fine. The quesadillas looked very good though. She did the service rather quickly and followed FEBO and took orders from the front since it was an even numbered flight.

The main part of this flight was rather boring since the MD-80s have no IFE. I heard from the first class flight attendant though that AA is going to experiment with some DigE players in first class on some MD-80 flights. I hadn't heard of this before. Unfortunately it wasn't an option for this flight. I read a book for most of the trip down to DFW. I know many people like to read anyway on a flight, but I like options because I can quickly get bored with one thing. Also it would have been nice to see something during the breakfast, but then again, it isn't a big problem

Decent began early into DFW than I expected. We landed on one of the outer runways. I haven't been to DFW before, so I was surprised by how long it took to get to the gate. As we pulled in the captain came on and said, I hope you enjoyed that wonderful scenic tour of the DFW ramp area, and happy holidays. I then exited the plane quickly and went towards the Admiral club. Overall it was a pretty good flight. The breakfast was good, and the FAs were professional even though they weren't the liveliest bunch. I like the newer seats that AA has.

I then proceeded to the Admiral's club located in A. I had about 2 and a half hours to kill there. The one redeeming feature about DFW is the clubs. They are great. They are large, with a full free bar that offers food and nice free computer usage. Much better than a UA Red Carpet Club. However the rest of DFW isn't that great. It feels dark and cramped with so many people. A few more windows would liven up the place. Also the new tram system will help things since the TrAAin is absolutely horrible.

Sat Dec 25th
AA 1211
Dep: 5:29 (actual: on time)
Arr: 8:00 (actual 7:47)
757-200 Seat 2E

After having some pretzels and water, I proceeded to gate A19 for the flight to Cancun. The flight began boarding 40 minutes before departure with first class. I was the first to get on the plane and was greeted by a friendlier crew. They seemed nice and happy and were having some conversations. I then took my seat, on this older 757. The cabin at first was very unappealing. I don't have any photos but there were the old brown leather chairs and the blue carpeting and wall paper. The seats weren't that bad, but the plane needed some refurbishing. There were stains on the carpet and the wall paper and carpeting was showing wear and peeling. It wasn't AA's best equipment, but on a leisure route like this, you wouldn't expect it. It would be nice if AA had a fleet that was similar, but it feels like every type of plane has a different interior from different time periods and former carriers.

Boarding was through 1L. I don't really like how they board from the front. When you are on an aisle in first class and you board early, you get knocked by close to 200 people coming by. I like other carriers that board through 2L more. In the future if I don't have a rollaboard suitcase, I would prefer to board as late as possible, since it takes forever to get that many people on a 757. Another problem was that there were a number of Spanish speaking passengers that were confused. They had trouble getting situated and for some there didn't seem to be any Spanish speaking flight attendants. Of the entire crew I didn't see one that was able to offer assistance in Spanish. I think that it would be a lot better for them to have more FAs that speak Spanish (even if not fluent) on flights to Latin America. US carriers are really bad about foreign languages. On international European and Asian carriers every single flight attendant is fluent in at lest 2 languages. I think it is a little disrespectful of AA to neglect those passengers that speak Spanish.

I ended up having a girl that appeared to be about 14-16 sitting next to me on the flight. She had a hat covering her face the entire flight. When the FA came around offering pre flight drinks of Orange Juice or Champagne, this girl was given champagne. I was a little confused by that, since it was quite obvious she wasn't 21. But I don't think the FAs are very strict to the policies. We continued boarding and finally were ready to go right on time.

We taxied out quickly to the runway and launched off for our 2 hour flight across the Gulf. Dinner was served very quickly on this flight by the two first class flight attendants. The choices were Chicken and rice or ribs. I had the chicken, which turned out to be ok, but not great. It didn't really taste like anything, but it was presented well. The flight attendants served the meal in 3 courses. The salad was good, followed by the decent main course, and then a really good cheesecake dessert. All the while CBS Eye on American was playing.

The flight went smoothly, and pretty quickly we were descending into Cancun. It was a little ruff as we came in over the ocean, but we smoothly made it, and service was good. Overall it was a good flight, but the plane wasn't in the best condition and the FAs didn't help out with the foreign language speaking passengers. Not one announcement was made in Spanish, so if you fly AA to Mexico, you better speak English.

Immigration was a little hectic in Cancun. An Air Europa flight from MAD had arrived a little late, so the customs immigration area was swamped. Also there was some confusion with some passengers connecting to a flight that was going to Argentina. I am very glad that I speak Spanish, because otherwise I would have been very confused. At least the CUN airport was very nice.

Fri Dec 31st
AA 2122
Dep: 6:48 (actual: 6:50)
Arr: 9:31 (actual: 9:18)
757 Seat 2E

After spending some time in the sun in Cancun, I was ready to go back to the cold weather in Seattle. I arrived at the airport 1 hour early and went to the first class line. I was immediately waved to an open check in desk, and did not have to have any of my luggage hand inspected since it was all carry on. Check in was smooth and quick by the agent. She seemed efficient, and I was off to security. The security at CUN is not up to standard of regular TSA airports. I was surprised that there was no secondary screening center since it seemed like the security people didn't really care. They didn't get people to take shoes off, and laptops stayed in bags. I took mine out though, but I don't think they cared. The CUN airport is really nice though. Very modern and much better then DFW where I was headed for a few hours. I got to the gate a few minutes before boarding and watched an AA flight attendant go into the men's bathroom. It was obviously a little too early for her as she surprised some gentlemen.

Boarding was conducted using a megaphone. I had never seen them use a loud speaker before and found it a little odd. I don't know if CUN just does not have a PA system or if it was broken. I boarded quickly and was greeted by a very friendly, albeit tired crew. I was in the same seat on this flight as I had been on the way down. This 757 was also in the old style. The seats were comfortable, but again it seemed like the plane needed a refurbishment, even though it wasn't as bad as the plane down to CUN since it was well cleaned. There was a large Portuguese family in front of me in row 1, and they had some difficulties communicating with the flight attendants because only the father could speak English, and it wasn't very good. Again it didn't seem like there were any flight attendants that spoke foreign languages to help the situation. Of course I wouldn't expect one to speak Portuguese on a Mexico-USA flight anyway.

Boarding took a while and again I wished that I had had a window seat instead of an aisle, but it was ok. Water and orange juice were passed out. I had some water, but unfortunately a soft sided shoulder bag came directly at my head from a passenger not paying attention in the aisle and my drink went to the floor. I really will push for window seats from now on or not board early.

We departed on time and were ready to go from Cancun. The flight time was stated to be 2 hours and 15 minutes which turned out to be a little bit shorter. As soon as the FAs could get up, they began the breakfast service. The choices were a cheese omelet or cereal. Again I had cereal since I can't eat eggs, and it was ok. It was accompanied by some marginal fruit and bread.

I then watched CBS Eye on American, which was actually rather entertaining for unoriginal canned entertainment. The had a decent amount of chop, so the seat belt sign stayed on. Many passengers ignored it though. However I have heard horror stories about chop getting really bad quickly, so I waited for it to go off. The FAs did nothing to stop people from using the lavatories. Eventually it smoothed out right before we crossed the coast of Texas near Galveston. We made a smooth landing in DFW and proceeded to the gate much more quickly than last time. I was one of the first off and made my way to immigration. It was kind of odd how we went up an escalator, walked about 30 feet and then went down another one. Anyways immigration was real quick from a rather friendly immigration officer that asked about the weather in CUN. Customs were real quick too since I had no checked luggage and hadn't bought anything in CUN. I quickly went upstairs and into the long security line. I checked the monitors and saw a 10:15 flight to SEA. I thought it would be worth it to see if anything was open, so I made my way all the way from A to C36. I took the TrAAin which was absolutely horrible. It is slow and was very crowded, it can't be replaced soon enough. Unfortunately when I got to the gate the agent said that the flight was full, so I walked off to the Admirals club where I had some water and watched TV and checked email.

Fri Dec 31st
AA 1661
Dep: 12:30 (actual: 12:49)
Arr: 2:48 (actual: 2:51)
MD-80 seat 5E

I then went to the gate at 11:55, but the passengers were still getting off the plane. The plane was completely crowded with 14 passengers on stand bye. There were two pilots that both were really wanting the jumpseat, but of course the one with higher seniority got it. We began boarding at 12:20 for the flight. Inside it was an older plane. I couldn't tell for certain, but I think it was ex TWA. It had older seats in it that were a little worn, but overall it was ok. The flight attendants all had party hats on and were beginning to celebrate the new year. The first class lavatory had a few nice little surprises. It had flowers, candy canes and some lotions as well as decorations. I had never seen a lavatory like that, but it was nice. Then two flight attendants took drink orders for the preflight beverage. They gave full choices rather than juice or water. It seems like it has been hit or miss with the preflight drinks. All 4 of my flights offered different things, from nothing to a full choice.

We were ready to push back and the gate agent was hurrying everyone to get seated when I overheard a call for maintenance. Some light in an instrument in the flight deck burned out so we had to wait for a mechanic. Fortunately one came very quickly and it was replaced and the paperwork was done in less than 10 minutes. Kudos to AA for solving the problem so quickly.

Push back was a little late, and then we taxied for a nice takeoff. The MD-80s are very quiet in the front on take off, which is nice. However as you climb out the noise gets increasingly louder from wind. In the end they are as loud or louder than any other comparable plane since the rushing air outside is so loud.

Lunch was then served. The choices were a turkey sandwich on a crossaint or chicken and pasta salad. I had the sandwich which was accompanied by a small salad and tasted very good. I was pleased with the service. The lady in front of me ordered water with "light ice" and the male FA made a joke out of it saying that he only had low fat ice instead of non fat. He was rather energetic and entertaining and proud to be doing his job. He represented his company well. Overall lunch was good, and I then fell asleep for the remainder of the flight since I was tired from getting up so early in CUN.

We descended a little earlier than I thought we would into SEA. The one thing that surprised me was that people didn't really follow instructions much. One lady used the lavatory after the flight attendants had been seated for landing, and we were going through a bit of chop and were quite low. Also there were a number of people that had carry on items placed at their feet at the bulkhead. I don't know if people just weren't paying attention, didn't care or the FAs were being a little lazy. It didn't really affect things much though.

It was a smooth day and mostly sunny. The approach from the north was really amazing with the snow on the mountains and the evergreens and water below. We then pulled into the gate only 3 minutes late. We arrived into A8, which was pleasant and then I made a quick getaway from the beautiful concourse.

Overall I had a good impression of AA. The planes though weren't all that great as the MD-80 isn't as good as the new 737s and A320s in first and the 757's interiors were a little outdated. The service was variable, but overall good even though the FAs weren't as strict on regulations as I have experienced with UA. The Admirals Club was really nice though which made up for DFW not being that great. I liked this trip on AA, but think I prefer UA which is a little more consistent on their flights (as in all the seats are the exact same on every domestic plane, the equipment is newer and the FAs seemed to be more predictable). My biggest suggestion for AA is to have more FAs speaking foreign languages. Americans as a people shouldn't think that English is the only language in the world, and we as people should respect other's languages more rather than forcing everybody to get by on English.

[Edited 2005-01-01 03:40:35]
If you have never designed an airplane part before, let the real designers do the work!
Posts: 601
Joined: Sat Sep 08, 2001 5:27 pm

RE: AA First Class To Mexico And Back SEA-CUN (long)

Sat Jan 01, 2005 12:06 pm

Great report - Thanks for writing it!!!
Posts: 2381
Joined: Mon Jan 28, 2002 3:29 am

RE: AA First Class To Mexico And Back SEA-CUN (long)

Sat Jan 01, 2005 2:39 pm

Too bad you weren't able to eat it - American's first-class breakfast quesadilla is, in my opinion, one of the tastiest airline meals you can get in the US. I only wish it were bigger.  Smile

Great report otherwise.
Posts: 118
Joined: Wed Dec 22, 2004 1:59 pm

RE: AA First Class To Mexico And Back SEA-CUN (lon

Sat Jan 01, 2005 5:25 pm

Nice report - hope you had fun in CUN.
"Look into his eyes and you can see, why all the little kids are dressed in dreams..."
Posts: 8201
Joined: Sat Jan 13, 2001 1:27 pm

RE: AA First Class To Mexico And Back SEA-CUN (long)

Sat Jan 01, 2005 7:47 pm

Nice report.

I do agree with you about the language 'issue',though to be fare,european and asian carriers tend to fly to more international destinations that American carriers(as a % of fights) so tend to have more dual language speakers.

I look forward to omemore reports.


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Posts: 9605
Joined: Fri Feb 13, 2004 9:34 am

RE: AA First Class To Mexico And Back SEA-CUN (long)

Sun Jan 02, 2005 2:01 am


You are right about European and Asian carriers proportionally flying to more international destinations. But you would think that with such a large employee pool, and with the number of Americans that speak Spanish and other languages, that a US carrier would be able to supply enough flight attendants to cover the international flights. In a perfect world (I know I am a little idealistic) more emphasis would be put on foreign languages during the hiring process. It is all about seniority as to what flight attendants gets what routes, and not about what is best for the airline and passengers. When I flew SEA-NRT on UA recently only 2 flight attendants on the whole plane officially spoke Japanese, and somehow the purser said it in a proud way about how there are two people to translate for all the Japanese carriers. Going on Asiana to Seoul on the other hand, every single flight attendant spoke Korean, English and there were representatives of other languages on top of that like Japanese, Cantonese and Mandarin. People in other parts of the world learn foreign languages, but for some reason it doesn't happen in the US. But of course that is a problem for the entire country and not just the airline industry.
If you have never designed an airplane part before, let the real designers do the work!

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