American Eagle: Small Planes and Dour Stewardesses
Mar 22, 2003
Pros: cheap, kinda roomy, easy luggage retrieval
Cons: late, no amenities, small overhead compartments, satellite terminals
The Bottom Line: American Eagle is good for short flights if you aren't afraid of flying.
American Eagle is an off-shoot of American Airlines featuring a fleet of small planes. Epinions didn't have a separate category for it, so I'm posting it here.
I recently took a trip to Toronto to see if I might want to live there after graduation and to visit mfunk75. I was originally going to drive up there, but, at the last minute, my plans to visit a friend in upstate New York fell through, and I decided to fly instead. When I weighed the pros and cons of driving vs. flying, the only positive aspect to driving was that I would get to buy cheap booze from the duty free shops at the border. Realizing that this was a pathetic reason, I logged onto travelocity and other online ticket-buying services to compare prices.
American Eagle was by far the cheapest option, and the cheapest site was travelocity. Flying on any other airline would have cost at least $150 more. When I checked the prices on American Airlines' own site, I was able to book the tickets for $10 less than on travelocity. I tried calling American to find out if they had any even cheaper deals, but I was put on hold and didn't have the patience to wait around. Whilst on hold, the recording told me that the best deals are to be found through the American Airlines website. www.aa.com. Hmmm... AA? I didn't even realize that before despite the introduction to this review.
If you fly on American Eagle, you check in at the same place as normal American flights. The queue at the counter for this process at Boston's Logan Airport was painfully slow. Periodically, someone would come around and tell us that we could check in at the automatic machines if we were flying domestically. The counters were extremely understaffed, and the people behind the desk seemed to be moving in slow motion.
I finally checked in and got my boarding pass and was told to go to a particular gate. When I got there, I sat down and started reading a book since I had a bit of time to kill. A few minutes later, an employee came over to ask where I was flying. When I said, "Toronto," she told me that I needed to hurry over to a shuttle bus that would take me to a satellite gate. It would have been nice if they'd told me this when I checked in! A few people on the shuttle bus with me were equally confused and nearly missed their flights.
Once at the proper gate, nothing improved. I tried to read as I nervously watched the time tick closer to when the plane was supposed to depart, but there was no sign that boarding was imminent. Every few minutes they would make an announcement that the plane was being cleaned or worked on, etc. We were informed that our original plane was broken and they were searching for a new one. Finally, we boarded at least an hour and a half late. Fortunately, my chauffeur (Mike) checked the website for flight information so he wasn't waiting for me at the airport for hours. (Thanks, Mike!!)
The situation was the same on my return flight in terms of lack of communication about the shuttle busses and a late take-off. Luckily, the return flight was delayed by only a half-hour or so.
On the plane, there are very few amenities, as this is a bare-bones, budget airline. There are no TV screens or in-flight radio stations. However, the seats were fairly comfortable and there was a lot more legroom than on American Trans Airlines, which I used to fly to LA earlier this year. The overhead compartments are small and only on one side of the plane, so if you are carrying on a fairly sizable piece of luggage, they may make you stow it under the plane.
One really good thing about American Eagle is that there is no middle seat, and the seats are roomy and comfortable. The planes I was on had one seat on the left side of the plane and two seats on the right, so you'll never get squashed between two people and have a two out of three chance of landing an aisle seat. Also, neither or my flights were completely full, so I had plenty of room. These small planes can be a little bit scary if flying makes you nervous, but both my flights were remarkably smooth (knock wood).
Once you reach cruising altitude, the one flight attendant comes around with a choice of soft drink and a tiny packet of pretzels. On the flight back from Toronto, the flight attendant had a really sinister demeanor. The best word I can use to describe her is farbissina. I thought that the number one requirement for stewardesses was that they are cheerful, but this woman had a permanent scowl and looked like she took on this gig after 15 years of being a groupie for White Snake during which time she smoked five packs a day. Not that I'd like everyone to look like Gwyneth Paltrow, but a friendly smile would be nice!
One great thing about American Eagle is that the baggage claim is very fast because the planes are so small. On both ends of my journey, my suitcase was waiting for me by the time I got to the carousel.
A note on airport security
Remember to get to the airport extra-early because they are becoming a lot more vigilant about checking people's baggage. The security in Toronto took everything out of my suitcase, including laundry, and one of the guards was looking at my stuffed pig like his was going to rip its head off. And it's not like I look suspicious, do I Mike?
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American Airlines, Inc. (AA) is a major airline of the United States. It is the world's largest airline in passenger miles transported and passenger fleet size; third largest, behind FedEx Express and Delta Air Lines, in aircraft operated; and second behind Air France-KLM in operating revenues. A subsidiary of the AMR Corporation, the airline is headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas, adjacent to the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. American operates scheduled flights throughout the United States, and flights to Canada, Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe, Japan, the People's Republic of China, and India. The Chairman, President, and CEO of AA is Gerard Arpey. In 2005, the airline flew more than 138 billion revenue passenger miles (RPM).