My AAdventures AAttempting to fly AA to London


I thought you didn’t like flying American? That’s what my wife asked when I booked our business class award flight to London. A decade ago, I had terrible luck with American. Around 70% of my trips were delayed or cancelled. I assured my wife that AA has improved a lot since then. I hadn’t had any significant issues with AA in several years. It will be fine, I answered her.


American Airlines jets as viewed from AA’s Flagship Lounge in Chicago

My wife had a meeting in London scheduled for Tuesday morning, so I booked a Sunday evening departure: Detroit to Charlotte, then Charlotte to London. We would arrive in London around noon on Monday. We even scheduled a Monday evening dinner with London-based friends.

On Sunday evening, the flight to Charlotte boarded half an hour late. That was OK. We had a long enough layover in Charlotte to accommodate the delay. At worst we thought we’d have to forgo our plans to visit the Centurion Lounge at the Charlotte airport and instead go right to our gate.

If only.

We sat on the plane for a while in Detroit, but never pulled away from the gate. Eventually the pilot announced that we would be further delayed due to bad weather in Charlotte. Oh, and there was a minor maintenance issue with our plane.

Uh oh.

My faith in AA’s ability to get us to Charlotte before the flight to London departed was now very, very low (and, in fact, we later found out that the flight from Detroit to Charlotte didn’t happen until Monday morning whereas the flight from Charlotte to London took off on time on Sunday night. Hint: that was the only AA flight in this story that departed on time). I tried calling AA, but there was a long wait. Instead, I got on my phone and looked for alternatives myself. Could we get to London overnight some other way? Nope. It was too late by then for any other overnight option, even with other airlines. How about a daytime flight on Monday? Yes! There was an AA flight: Detroit to Chicago to London. We would arrive in London late Monday evening. This meant canceling our Monday evening plans with our London friends, but we had no choice there. The good news was that the business class award was available for fewer points than I had originally spent (62K vs the original 65K per person).

I confirmed with a flight attendant that we could still get off the plane, then I booked the new itinerary. We grabbed our carry-on bags and got off the plane (yes I had renewed faith in AA, but thankfully not enough to actually check bags). In the boarding area an agent was waiting to assist passengers who wanted to change or cancel their plans. If I had known she was available, I could have gone to her to change to the new itinerary, but then we wouldn’t have saved any miles. Still, that would have been a better option if the alternate flight had been more expensive since she would have had wide latitude to put us on almost any AA itinerary without a change fee. She cancelled the original itinerary for us, but then I had to talk with an AA phone rep to get the miles refunded. Luckily, I had earlier left my number for call-back and I was able to take care of that part on our way to the airport hotel.

I used a soon expiring 35K free night cert plus 6,000 points to stay at the Westin DTW airport hotel. It’s unfortunately connected to the Delta terminal instead of the one we were flying out of, but it was still very convenient.

The next morning, we had to catch a very early flight to Chicago. After a quick shuttle ride back to the Evans terminal, we found that the TSA PreCheck line was out of control. Luckily, the CLEAR lane was empty and we breezed through.

Detroit airport’s Evans terminal. View of the PreCheck line from the empty CLEAR aisle

We made it to our gate in plenty of time. You know what’s coming next, right? Yes, the flight to Chicago was delayed. The departure delay was minimal and wouldn’t be a problem. What could have been a big problem was that our gate wasn’t available when we landed in Chicago. Fortunately, our Chicago to London flight was also delayed so we made it to our gate about 20 minutes before boarding.

Business class on our AA flight from Chicago to London

We finally boarded and I was delighted by how nice the business class cabin was on this Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The seats were comfortable and roomy, and there was plenty of near-seat storage. The flight attendants were cheerful and attentive. While waiting to take off, I messaged the FM team to catch them up on my AAdventures so far. Nick thought it would make a good blog post. I replied that there may yet be more AAdventures to come.

I jinxed myself for sure.

We took off without incident. We put in our meal orders. I spent time going through the in-flight movie options (they had a great selection) and favorited the ones I was interested in. I started taking photos for what I thought was going to be a very positive flight review.


Around 30 or 40 minutes into the flight, my wife heard a loud thump noise (I missed it because I had my headphones on at the time). And then the sound of the engines seemed different. And both the in-flight entertainment screens and the seat controls went completely dark (I didn’t miss that!). Flight attendants rushed to the front to whisper to each other and presumably to talk with the pilot.


This is me listening to the pilot’s announcement

Soon the pilot announced that there had been a small problem with the right engine (as in, it stopped?) and we would be returning to Chicago. Luckily, we returned and landed without any issues.

It was probably around 10AM when we deplaned. After a while, a gate agent announced that the flight would resume (on a different plane) at 5:30PM. That wouldn’t work for us. My wife had a morning meeting to get to in London and a 5:30PM departure would get us there too late. For those wondering, I found out later that the flight actually departed at around 6:30PM.

We hightailed it to the AA Flagship Lounge to talk with a desk agent there. While on the plane I had found a United flight departing at 3:45PM that still had business class seats for sale. My hope was to get them to change us to that flight.

In the Flagship Lounge, I told a desk agent that we had been on the failed attempt to fly to London and asked there was some way to get us to London sooner?

Agent: “No, nothing earlier is available”

I asked about the United flight. Could she put us on that?

Agent: “The only United flight available departs at 9:30PM”

I told her that United was still selling seats for the 3:45PM flight. I quickly brought up United’s website my phone to show her that I could buy tickets if I wanted to. She typed away a bit and found that there were seats available after all on the United 3:45PM flight. She called over her manager and asked if she could put us on a UA flight.

Manager: “Is it an award ticket? You can only do it if its not an award ticket”

I answered that it was an award ticket but this was the second failed attempt to get to London on AA. Could she make an exception? She didn’t specifically respond to that, but she then went on to say that United was probably overselling the flight. She told the desk agent to call United to ask if they could book two business class seats for us. The answer: Yes! It took a while, but eventually they (yes, it took both of them) successfully booked us onto the United flight!

United Polaris 767-300. We made it!

It’s ironic that United saved our trip given that United’s wheels keep falling off. Our United flight departed on time and, to my knowledge, didn’t lose any wheels or engines. The 767 doesn’t feature United’s best Polaris seats, but they were still comfortable. We landed at London Heathrow around 5:30 in the morning. We checked into our hotel and my wife even had time to shower and eat breakfast before her meeting. And she made it to her meeting on time.

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Ha, my 8:10 am (London time) Tues morning AA departure from LHR to ORD was delayed just a tick as well (13 hours…) The agent mentioned a crew timeout caused by a maintenance issue. No joke.

I couldn’t find anyone at LHR to help with re-ticketing. I asked at the arrivals lounge and the attendant didn’t even attempt to be helpful. Is this more of a domestic hub thing? I’ve read about it but never had the experience.


They cancelled us in the middle of our journey coming from Madrid to JFK via LHR. AA would never send the confirmation letter on cancelling and we never got the $600 per person we were supposed to. We were in Bus. Class. They rebooked us on Alaska Air in coach and made us pay for our luggage. Just 2 weeks later, AA cancelled again on us.


WOW, just wow. I’ll do everything I can to avoid flying AA.


Yikes! I have lots of options if our initial SFO-LAX doesn’t go as planned next month, but I changed us from VA J SFO-LHR to AA F SFO-LAX-LHR (saving us $1800 in surcharges) … mainly because there’s two of us, and my intial VA booking was a 1-2-1 A350, and they swapped it to 787 1-1-1.

Hoping for smooth sailing. Not the end of the world if not, though… we have 2 relatively spare days before our next major leg to AUH on the Residence.

koby jones

Lucky you were able to check in that early.

Michele Dukinfield

I must be the outlier. I’ve flown AA to/from London in both F and J. Never had a delay. Whereas, flying Delta from MSP has resulted in many delays.

The only delay with AA wasn’t their fault. We flew into La Guardi and out of JFK. A delightful dinner in the Concorde Room was going to be followed, we thought, by an 8:30 pm departure for LHR, and plenty of time to try out the BA flagship lounge at LHR before our departure for VCE. (Now our home airport.)

Our 8:30 flight left at 12:30 am. We just had time to race to the nearest BA lounge for a quick shower before our next flight.

But we got Tre showers, and caught our flight.


How did you check into your hotel at 5:30 am? Seems risky to be counting on being allowed to check in early if you need to shower before a meeting. Why not take a shower in the LHR arrivals lounge?

Michele Dukinfield

TgT would checked in very late. The reservation was for the day before.


Hi Greg! A couple questions:

1) Your caption says you used a Marriott cert for the hotel. I thought you use the CSR for airfare – wouldn’t the travel coverage have covered your hotel since you were delayed overnight? Or were you just worried about having trouble with the claim after cancelling and rebooking yourself?

2) Once you settled on going via Chicago the next day, had you considered flying to Chicago that night, or would that have screwed up the availabilty/price? If I had a commitment that I needed to make it for, I would have been worried about the connecting flight the next morning getting delayed.

Glad you made it in the end!


Shouldn’t it be spelled AAttempting? Or did AA steal your “t” in London?


Seems like the only letter AA took in this story is an L …


Are those awards for 1 way or RT. If RT, those are crazy good prices.


I found the moral story here is that fly the airline that has direct flight. If you’re based in Detroit, stick with Delta. If you’re based in Chicago, you can go with United or AA.


But maybe not if you’re a frequent miler. Delta has killed any valuable miles redemption.


I keep vowing “never again,” on ever AA flight I take… but then there I an on an AA flight again (or more accurately, sitting on an AA plane on a runway).


This morning, an airplane from TPA got their tire ripped off during the take off acceleration, captain aborted the take off sequence at the last minute, full braking, and caught fire.

Guess which airline it was?


My husband and son were on that flight as well. AA rebooked them on UA to try and get to their destination yesterday. No dice. There was a mechanical issue with the plane they were to be on with UA as well. So they are trying again today


Recently booked a reward flight SLC to PHL and the Landline bus to Atlantic City. I was excited that it was a direct flight from a non-AA hub, even though the flight out was a redeye. Of course that flight was canceled and the best they could do was a layover in CLT for 5 hours. Then the PHL-SLC return flight was delayed by 4 hours, so I switched to another layover in CLT and got home a couple of hours before the direct flight.


Living in CLT, I really really really try to avoid AA but it’s hard, especially when my employer has them as a preferred vendor. I’ll even fly Allegiant and Spirit to avoid (actually not that bad – Big Front Seat and Spirit Gold status beats AA domestic First any day to be honest – they at least are 90% coming to my seat on board and thanking me for my loyalty and business). I have had several occasions where I’ve had to abandon AA and go buy a walk-up on UA to get home. I’ve also had to buy a new ticket on AA when they completely were uncooperative with a problem of their own creation… like buying a ticket to GSP instead of CLT when they wouldn’t do it for me (they also don’t seem to realize Alaska MVP75k and oneworld Emerald has privileges on AA and have even denied me the upgrade list). I will say buying a ticket for a flight leaving inside of an hour on UA was very easy and took all of a couple minutes at the United Club. On AA? They told me I had to go see the service desk on the concourse… and it took 15 minutes of the agent complaining about it, assigned me the last row of the plane even with my Oneworld/AS status and 8 of 12 First seats open with nobody on the upgrade list. I mean if you’re gonna make it hard to even give you money….


This is the #1 reason I’m so thankful I’m at RDU instead of CLT where there’s pretty equal competition among the “Big 4” so I can pick and choose what works best for me


I have had good luck on AA domestic flights for the past several years, even with tight connections.