Welcome to the first installment of my Czech Republic-Romania trip report! This trip started early (too early, really) on a rainy Saturday morning with a short hop from Dallas to Philadelphia. Why a connection in Philadelphia, when there was an afternoon nonstop to Paris available for the same price? As I mentioned in my introductory post, I was hoping to get a taste of US Airways premium class before the brand was euthanized in the merger integration. Unfortunately, after I purchased my tickets, the cutover date was announced, and it would be one week before the scheduled date of this flight. Bummer, though the flight ended up being on a US Airways plane with a legacy US Airways crew, so I didn’t totally strike out.
Note: if you read the introductory post when it came out on Wednesday, I had first intended to write a single post about the flight from DFW to Paris. However, upon further review, I decided to break it up into two parts, mostly for planning advice when booking flights on American’s “A321” equipment.
American Airlines (AA) Flight 585
- Saturday, October 24, 2015
- Depart: Dallas-Ft. Worth International (DFW) Gate E36, 9:03, 38m late
- Arrive: Philadelphia (PHL) Gate B13, 13:07, 26m late
- Duration: 3 hours 4 minutes
- Seats: 2A, 2C
- Equipment: Airbus A321
Very important: this plane is NOT the newer Airbus A321s that were recently introduced into the American fleet, which is designated “32B” in American’s flight schedules. This is the legacy US Airways A321, which is designated “321”. For a comparison with the newer “32B”, read my previous review of American’s 32B First and Main Cabin Extra product. To avoid confusion, I will refer to this product as the “US Airways” A321.
With the systems integration having occurred just one week prior, the experience was still very much a US Airways one. The flight departed from Terminal E, the plane was still in its legacy US Airways livery, and the crew were in their US Airways-issue uniforms. The Terminal E departure meant a detour to Terminal D to visit the Admirals Club, but it appears American has now ceased regular operations from the old US Airways gates (E35-E38), so this should not be an issue going forward.
Our flight was mildly delayed due to a crew rest issue caused by poor weather the entire day before at DFW. With a generous layover scheduled at PHL, though, there was no need to worry. Boarding started about half an hour late, and we settled into our seats up front. First impressions – the plane was clean and wore its age well, though legroom seemed tight for First Class. I’m not sure why, as the listed pitch of 38″ is identical to that of the 32B. Otherwise, the seat was a standard domestic First Class recliner seat.
A pre-departure beverage of water or orange juice was offered, and meanwhile, the captain came on to provide some information. He confirmed my suspicion that the delay was due to crew rest from weather delays the day before, and warned everyone that we’d have a bumpy ride for at least the first hour or so. Then, at last, we pushed back, and finally, time to exhale. We were on our way. It was still a rotten, rainy morning, though it did make for good photos of the initial jet blast from the plane in front of us as it started its takeoff roll.
It was indeed a bumpy ride to start off, with periods of moderate to heavy turbulence every few minutes. Breakfast service did start after about half an hour – odd, since the captain came on numerous times the first hour and a half or so apologizing that the FAs would be unable to leave their seats and offer service because of the rough air. Anyway, the choice this morning was French toast or an omelette. I chose the French toast, Prita the omelette.
The “French toast” really wasn’t, more resembling a muffin with a bit of egg wash. The interior was a bit mushy, though the taste was satisfactory. The peach compote was very, very sweet – addictive like candied apples, but clearly not adding anything to my life expectancy. Meanwhile, the buttermilk biscuit was pretty good, soft and flaky with a nice, creamy texture from the buttermilk. I did try a couple of the sausage slices from my wife’s omelette, and they were alright. An average meal overall. The First Class FA also did an admirable job on this flight, remembering to offer everyone a pre-departure beverage and coming by three times by my count to refill drinks. I’d say that while I wouldn’t call the service above-and-beyond exceptional, he was a pleasant fellow that handled the flight profesionally, without any surliness.
One important thing to know about these legacy US Airways planes – aside from WiFi, there is NO in-flight entertainment of any kind. No overhead monitors, no in-seat power ports, nothing. Most of these planes operate on legacy US Airways domestic routes, such as DFW-PHL, DFW-Phoenix, etc. Some, however, are used on longer routes such as Philadelphia-San Juan. Buyer beware. If you want the newer planes with power ports and monitors, book the “32B” instead of the “321”. Incidentally, in coach, pitch is actually 1″ greater, at 32″, as compared to the newer 32B, which measures 31″. I did have the chance to sample coach while on the US Airways farewell flight, and here’s how that seat looks:
I did find the seat on the older A321 a little more comfortable than on the 32B, primarily because the newer plane’s Slimline seats are pretty hard on the upper thigh.
Since there were no TVs, my entertainment on this flight consisted of games on my phone. My usual flightseeing was a no-go because of thick cloud cover almost the entire length of the flight. The chop finally settled down about halfway through the 3-hour flight, but the clouds didn’t clear until halfway across Pennsylvania. Just in time for a nice view of the Susquehanna River cutting through the northern part of Harrisburg.
As we began our descent into Philadelphia, we passed through some cool looking, wavy cloud formations. You could even see a splash of fall color down at ground level.
Our approach first too us a bit north of Philly, before turning south and passing the city to the west. Finally, we pulled a U-turn and landed from the southwest. This did provide a nice though distant view of the Philadelphia skyline from our side of the plane.
And finally, a much nicer view of downtown Philly as we taxied to the gate.
Service wise, I found it perfectly fine for domestic First, but the hard product on these older A321s isn’t great. The lack of power ports is the primary issue. A 3-hour flight to Philadelphia really isn’t long enough for that to be a meaningful issue, but if you’re hoping to get one of those swanky new planes, check the equipment carefully when booking an American flight scheduled with an A321.
This post is part of my trip report series about our trip to the Czech Republic and Romania in October. Click here for the introductory post and trip report index.