I haven’t flown American Airlines since before the pandemic, but recently I had the chance to jump on their regional “American Eagle” service between DC and Toronto. So what is their in flight offering now? And what Covid-19 precautions remain in place? Here’s a look at the experience on that service.
Flight Number: AA 5667
Airline: American Eagle (American Airlines’ Regional Brand)
Seat: 20B, Aisle (2-2 layout)
Aircraft Type: CRJ-700
Flight Time: About 80 minutes
Route: DCA – YYZ
Getting to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA)
DC has at least three airports within easy travelling distance – Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD), Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI) and the one that’s the closest to the city, Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA). There is a direct train route to the airport, on the city’s Blue Line, which makes it easy to get to. Or you can get a short 15 minute Taxi/Uber from the city.
Checking in with AA (Before The Flight)
I couldn’t check in online because the app connection with VeriFLY didn’t work, and they wouldn’t accept my passport details, so I had to do it in person.
From my experience here, American aren’t an airline that seem to cater to passports other than American when it comes to ease of check in and process. From the time it was booked, I wasn’t able to add my passport, nor my Qantas Frequent Flyer number.
The passport I had to do at check in, and then I tried to add my FF number at a customer service counter after check in. But it still wasn’t showing up when I checked the app, and I still haven’t seen the points come through almost two weeks later. So your guess is a good as mine whether it will be processed.
It’s fine to do all this at the airport, especially as there are still border restrictions and rules they have to follow (that’s what VeriFLY is supposed to be all about), but to keep filling out forms and continually have it not work because you don’t have a US passport is frustrating to say the least.
Checking in with AA (At The Airport)
Even though I had no bags to check, as I couldn’t complete my check in, I had to go to the counter to get my boarding pass. And for a lack of queue (thankfully), AA staff sure were slow to help. A group of people also pushed in front of me, in front of staff, and they didn’t stop them but gave me a weird look for asking them to, you know, not do that…
In spite of this, staff were professional, if a little grumpy at the end of what I’m sure was a long day for all. This was a late evening flight, after all. But they got me sorted with my boarding pass relatively quickly once I got to a counter.
The DCA Experience
The E gates at DCA only opened last year, and as such, it’s still a part of the airport that sits in development; a pizza place and a PF Changs are among the food options still to come, for instance. But there’s a number of options to dine, include an Elevation Burger, Peer’s Coffee and a Mezeh, as well as a sit down Wolfgang Puck for drinks and bites. It’s a comfortable airport with a good amount of room to sit and get work done.
Boarding was supposed to start 30 minutes prior to take off, but ended up starting at the time they were due to depart due to staffing delays. So we departed 30 mins late and landed about 25 minutes late. The app was good to nudge you when they did start boarding. They have 9 boarding zones, which in theory should ensure the best possible loading procedure (though as you know, it doesn’t always end up working out like that), and sure enough they got us on quick without much delay in the jet bridge. It wasn’t a full flight though, and the CRJ-700 is a smaller aircraft.
Like most US carriers, they aren’t doing much more than giving you some hand sanitizer, and for flights within the US, they don’t require masks. However, on flights to Canada, they still require you to wear a mask for the entirety of the flight, except when you are eating or drinking, due to the rules in Canada. This is about the only rule left in the country, however. You also still have to fill out the ArriveCAN app to prove vaccination and other factors, within 72 hours of the flight.
In Flight Entertainment
With the airplane’s 2-2 seat layout, there’s a AC and USB plug in front of the seats to share between the two of you. There’s film & TV entertainment through the American Airlines app and in flight wi-fi, though I couldn’t get it to work for the duration of the flight.
Food & Drink Service
Non-Alcoholic Drinks (soft drink, juice etc.) and pretzels were served about 20 minutes or so after take off; they started from the back and moved up. Which was handy, because I was towards the back of the aircraft.
Comfort & In Flight Experience
Even though it was a bit of an older aircraft, the seats were comfortable enough, and the staff were accommodating. The bathrooms were clean, and there was barely any turbulence to speak of.
On arrival at Toronto Pearson International (YYZ)
It’s a flip of the coin with flights into YYZ at the moment. Sometimes you can get stuck on the aircraft for an hour waiting to get the clear to join the two hour queue through customs. Other times, you walk straight through. In this case, we arrived into Terminal 3, and had a much more organised customs procedure than I’d seen in recent months. I was physically outside the airport within 40 minutes of landing, which was a relief!
It’s hard to fault an aircraft when you’re only on it for 80 minutes and it gets you from point a to point b with relatively limited turbulence, no drama, and kind staff. And even though there were some delays due to staffing, this is an issue facing airlines all over the world right now, and their communication was fantastic.
That said, the check in process in advance of the flight was frustrating, given they didn’t accommodate non-US passports & passengers easily. It’s nothing that can’t be sorted out at the airport, but in this day and age, it really should all be possible online, and in advance, given pretty much every other airline do it – including their main competition, Delta and United. And their service feels dated compared to those two as well.
But, like I said, even though I couldn’t get the wi-fi to work, there’s little to fault in the in flight experience itself, and ultimately that’s what matters.
THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
To book a flight with American Airlines, head to aa.com.
The author flew as a guest of Visit Washington DC.