I got the chance to experience American Eagle's services first-hand in May 2012, when flying from Los Angeles to Tucson, Arizona. I'll start my review from the very beginning, with the purchase of the tickets.
1. Booking the Tickets
Tickets for American Eagle flights bear the same AA code as those of American Airlines. In fact, I booked the tickets themselves online through the American Airlines website, www.aa.com. The process was straightforward and convenient: book the ticket, pick any options and extra services as desired, and pick your seat.
There were several payment options, including 6-month financing and cash via Western Union money transfer. I picked the credit card option, of course.
However, at this point I got an unexpected surprise; upon typing in my billing address, it turned out that "Russia" (where I'm from) was not one of the countries in the dropdown list!
I managed to get around the problem by typing in a completely fake address located in the United States, as I figured the worst that could happen was that my payment would be rejected. To my surprise, it worked!
2. Los Angeles Airport, Terminal 4
Both American Airlines and American Eagle flights depart from LAX Terminal 4. The only other company served by this terminal is, for some reason, the Australian company Qantas. If you're flying into Los Angeles from abroad, Terminal 4 is easy to find. It's situated within 300 feet of the international terminal, mentioned in my earlier Transaero Boeing-777 review.
A view of Terminal 4 from outside (the first photo was taken right from the door of the international terminal).
On the inside, the terminal looked very elegant and comfortable. American flags everywhere!
Check in involved printing your boarding pass one of the self-service check-in machines, and dropping off checked baggage (if any) at a self-service baggage check. The old familiar sight of airline staff dutifully manning check-in stands seems to be a thing of the past at LAX.
Next came the security checkpoint and the waiting area. The planes were parked unusually close to the building. It made for a spectacular view.
Boarding for regional flights is rather interesting. A shuttle pulls up to the terminal, looking for all the world like a Russian "marshrutka" (a kind of privately-owned and operated minibus service common in Russian cities). The driver calls out "Santa Barbara, Tucson, San Diego" - again, exactly like a marshrutka driver - (these are the flights for which the shuttle is collecting passengers). Here's a picture:
Then we're taken on a ride through the airport. At a huge airport like LAX, it's like driving through the downtown area of a medium-sized city: we stopped an intersection, let a jet through, continued on, stopped again, let another jet through, got going again…
Eventually we got to a small, free-standing building that seemed to serve as the waiting area for American Eagle flights.
The planes were waiting. On the left was our Embraer…
On the right was a Bombardier CRJ700.
Despite the fact that the plane was only 30 feet away from the building, we boarded through a covered walkway. I can see that this would be very convenient in foul weather. Unfortunately, you'd never find such comforts back home. Personally, I've had to stand in the rain while waiting to board a plane more than once.
3. Embraer ERJ140
Our plane was an Embraer ERJ140 (aka Embraer-140). This is a special variation of the regional ERJ airliners, developed specifically for the US domestic market. You won't see one anywhere else.
I found the small plane absolutely charming. The 1.5-hour flight in this machine was quite pleasant. A quick ascent, a good view out the window, and good sound proofing.
The interior of the cabin was somewhat dated, but comfortable enough. Seats were arranged in a 1-2 configuration. The upholstery was dark blue leather.
In-flight service consisted of one cup of water. With ice, as Americans tend to prefer.
The restroom was more compact than something you would find on Boeings or Airbuses, but I found to be perfectly adequate for its purposes.
There were no objections to my taking pictures. Many other airlines frown on this.
4. Tucson Airport
We arrived in Tucson after dark and disembarked by means of jet bridge.
I stayed behind while everyone disembarked to take a few photos of the jet. By the time I got into the terminal, it looked like a scene from Stephen King's "The Langoliers": not a soul in sight.
The waiting area (used for both arrivals and departures):
Baggage claim area:
Deserted check in stands for American Airlines:
Tucson is famous, among other things, for its cacti. You can see them immediately upon leaving the terminal.
5. Tucson and the Saguaro Cactus
The cacti deserve a paragraph of their own. The Sonoran Desert is a small area straddling the border between the state of Arizona and Mexico, and is the only place in the world where you can find the Saguaro cactus, which is the largest cactus in the world. To be completely honest, they were the entire reason for my trip to Tucson.
This is what they look like in their natural habitat (photo taken in the Saguaro National Park on the edge of Tucson):
Tucson itself is a small, provincial city. The houses are plain and rather unremarkable, the roads are very good, and the downtown area features a few tall office buildings.
In Tucson, I rented a car for the rest of my voyage across the US, so there was no return flight.
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