After many inactive months it’s time for another airline review! Its been awhile hasn’t it? Way back at the end of March 2016 I had the pleasure of flying American Eagle between Albuquerque and Phoenix. It was one of the most enjoyable flying experiences I have ever had and I look forward to telling about it! Lets not wait any longer and jump right in!
The airport has always fascinated me. So many people all with their own stories, goals and places to call home converging in one place. That chilly late March night was no different. With so many flights just arriving for the evening rush one could see how simply amazing the airport is. After an awful TSA experience just like usual I was ready to go find a nice place to sit. Unfortunately American Airlines does not have a lounge for its passengers in Albuquerque. This might be a nuisance at another airport as one may find themselves struggling to find an open seat. Luckily for me and my fellow passengers American Airlines uses the B concourse in Albuquerque and only shares it with Jet Blue, Alaska, Delta and Allegiant, (for the risk taking crowd) so open and comfortable seating was easy to find. As I surfed the web on my tablet using the Sunport’s fast and free wifi I realized that the Sunport turns into a virtual ghost town after nine at night. There were only two outbound flights at this time which meant aircraft spotting opportunities were few and far between. Finally to my relief a CRJ-900 pulled into gate B3 still proudly wearing it’s gorgeous U.S. Airways livery like the one shown in the photo below. What a beautiful machine!
As passengers stepped out of the Jetway gate agents announced that carry-on luggage would need to be gate checked due to the extremely small overhead bins on the CRJ. While some passengers were annoyed with this I was actually quite happy. By gate checking my bag I was lightening my load! My carry on bag was tagged and loaded while I scanned my boarding pass (I used the American Airlines app for my boarding pass which worked quite well) and hiked down the Jetway. At the bottom of the gate I was greeted by an unexpectedly short entry door. At my current 6’1″ I had to duck a bit to enter the aircraft but once I was in I was able to fully stand up and move freely in the cabin. As I moved to my assigned seat on the aisle I began to notice how kind, courteous, and professional the cabin crew was. They never hesitated to help and were friendly and kind with all passengers. I immediately noticed that the legroom in the CRJ-900 is remarkably good and got comfortable. As more passengers boarded through American’s fast and easy system I began to examine the aircraft more and noticed just how nice it is to be on an aircraft with no middle seats. Traveling alone is far more comfortable in an aircraft with a 2-2 seating layout rather than a 3-3 layout. After all of the passengers had boarded we pushed from the gate 10 minutes early. The crew announced that our flight was nearly full and that only a few seats were open. Lucky for me one of them was the window seat next to me. As we taxied out to runway 8 I discretely slid over into the window seat for the best view and got comfortable. It was time to take to the skies.
As our CRJ taxied onto runway 8 the rear mounted engines began to spool up, emitting a deep buzzing sound which turned into more of a droning sound. I was pushed back against my seat as we thundered down the runway. After a short takeoff roll the aircraft rotated and we were in the air. The CRJ could show off its marvelous climb performance on its way out of Albuquerque and it sure did. In a few short minutes we were perched at our cruising altitude of 30 thousand feet and it was time to relax. As passengers casually conversed cabin crew began to serve drinks. American Eagle does not serve food on these short hour long hops but they do serve a generously sized soft drink of your choice. After enjoying a soda I really began to realize how silent the CRJ is if you are sitting near the front of the aircraft. I was in one of the front rows of enconconomy and the engines seemed to silently whisper in cruise. The full moon out that night was absolutely staggering and I spent the rest of the cruise enjoying the view.
About 40 minutes after takeoff the crew announced that we would begin our descent into Phoenix. As the engines spooled down we descended into the calm desert evening. Our descent from flight level 300 took little time and within a few minutes we were on final approach. As the city lights below went past in a blur we continued our approach which was smooth as glass. Touchdown was smooth but included and audible “thud.” Our deceleration was sudden and loud as the CRJ has very noisy brakes. After the plane was taxied off of the runway and the flaps and other landing devices were put away our flight crew addressed the passengers to let us know that we has arrived early. Really early. So early in fact, that there was no gate ready for us so instead we would wait on the taxi way for some time. As I texted friends and loved ones while waiting I once again realized that for a regional jet the CRJ-900 really has allot of room. Eventually after 10-15 minutes of waiting our gate was open. We gracefully taxied in and shut down. I had gate checked my bag so upon arrival I was able to simply collect it in the Jetway and be on my way. I had the same great experience on my flight back with American Eagle/Mesa Airlines.
Due to their new low fares the big question for many people will likely be “Should I take American instead of Southwest?” I personally believe that American trumps Southwest when the two airlines are in the same price bracket. American has nicer aircraft and is a generally a more pleasant experience. It would appear that at least one of the legacy carriers has made a comeback.
Seat Comfort: 7/10
Customer Service: 10/10