American Horror Story

For years, I refused to fly American Airlines, because they are terrible. They’re terrible in a can’t-quite-put-your-finger-on-it way, but every flight I’ve ever had on American was always just a little more unpleasant than any other flight I’ve ever had. I even hated American when I was a kid (and my brother and I thought we were clever when we called the Super-80 the “Super-Sucky”). Those MD-80s are still in American’s fleet, by the way.

Life begins at 40?

I was motivated to start flying American again by two things: first, I can access the Admiral’s Club when flying American via my Citi Prestige card, so I thought that, all other things being equal, I might as well fly the shitty skies and get some free yogurt-covered pretzels. And, despite my overall disgust with how terrible American Airlines is, the Admirals Club at SFO is pretty nice – it even has some fake trees in it. Plus, it’s quiet, and Terminal 2 at SFO — which has been remodeled to feature upscale shopping and dining — does that “put all the gates in one place with an enormous waiting area that serves all of them at once” thing, making the at-gate experience a test of one’s nerves.

Pretty sweet lounge selfie.
Pretty sweet lounge selfie.

Second, American advertises on its website that it’s building “a younger, more modern fleet” and that they take delivery of an average of one plane per week. So, I thought to myself, maybe it’s time to give up my prejudice against American and take advantages of the things they do offer, including a loyalty program that actually awards miles at a rate that earns you a free ticket more than once a decade.

So, full of anticipation, I set out for Chicago flying American from SFO to ORD. Then, unfortunately, I stepped onto one of their planes, and that all went out the window. What. A. Shitbox. It’s almost appalling that American charges the same amount for their flights as other airlines, given their in-flight product. In first class, they’re proud to offer you “the worn-out chair your grandfather farted in 100,000 times before he died in it,” and in economy, you can enjoy American’s signature “Imagine the worst airplane seat you’ve ever sat on, only 10% worse, and you’ll still be ahead of these pieces of shit” class. I paid (!) for extra legroom, which on American is called, “give us $60 and we’ll spare you permanent knee injury.” And thank fuck I checked Seatguru beforehand, since 1/3 of the premium seats are in rows WITHOUT WINDOWS. Presumably this is so you don’t see the Scotch tape and staples holding the wings on.

Abandon all hope ye who enter here.

Okay, that was a cheap shot. American Airlines is clearly safe, both of my flights arrived early, and the pilots were very friendly both over the intercom and saying good-bye to passengers after the flight. Little things like that go a long way, especially when your butt cheeks are numb from sitting on seats whose padding gave out during Reagan’s second term. Oh, and if you tell me that I’m exaggerating and that these interiors aren’t that old, consider for a second what you’re really saying: that American Airlines recently chose these interiors on purpose. I think that might even be worse.

Also, here’s a weird thing that I’ve never really noticed before. The fuselage walls on American’s 737s are scalloped in such a way that the windows are deeply recessed from the rest of the wall. For most seats, this doesn’t really matter, since most of the wall next to the seat is comprised of one of these recessed areas. Here’s a good photo, which also happens to show the ultra-luxury of American Airlines first class. Look at how far the ribs in between the window panels stick out:

However, should you be lucky enough to sit in one of the rows without windows (which I was treated to on my return flight due to a happy switcheroo between different versions of the 737), you don’t get the recessed window panel, just the wall jutting out very uncomfortably so that you end up leaning on the person in the middle seat the whole flight. I’ve flown economy class all over the world, including configurations that people always rag on for being overly tight (like 10 hours seated in a 9-across 787), and I have NEVER been so cramped on a plane. And this was in a seat I paid extra money for, which was both insulting and infuriating.

Never again. I’m done with American, and I’m going to dump my Citi Prestige card while I’m at it, since the Admiral’s Club access benefit (one of the main reasons I got the card) is totally worthless to me. (Yeah yeah, I know the Prestige has tons of other benefits, but I’d rather get the Amex Platinum and hang at the SFO Centurion Lounge before comparatively living it up on a United.) Maybe I’ll come back in five years when the fleet renovation is done, but until then, I’ll fly literally any other airline and enjoy it more.

Requisite question designed to spur a flurry of responses in the comments section: How sore on a scale of 1-10 has YOUR butt become after flying on American?

2 thoughts on “American Horror Story”

  1. We just flew AA to vancouver in business class and was pleasantly surprised. The flight attendants were super nice and helpfull, the seats were way better than i was imagining after hearing all the crap about how bad American was. I will definitely fly with them again.

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    1. I’m of two minds about American, since some planes are pretty slick, while others are really threadbare. I had a decent experience on American recently, and I wrote a quick trip report about it just to balance out this old post that I wrote after I had two terrible flights.

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