Flying American Airlines SFO – DCA Part 1: The Arrival

I booked this flight with American Airlines AAdvantage points I received from the AAdvantage Platinum card from Citi. The sign-up bonus I applied for was 50,000 AAdvantage miles. I received a targeted offer for 60,000 miles shortly after being approved so I asked and Citi gladly increased my sign-up bonus from 50,000 to 60,000 points.

My flight cost 25,000 points ($611.60 if I had paid cash). This specific redemption was a value of 2.4 cents/point ($0.024) based on the cash price when I booked the ticket.

Flying out of SFO airport meant I could use my Amex Platinum Card to access The Centurion Lounge before my flight. My flight was scheduled to leave around 1:00 am the next day but I was still able to enter the lounge and enjoy the amenities.

SFO Centurion Lounge

Centurion Lounge Entrance near Gate 74

The Centurion Lounge is located in Terminal 3, one of the two United Airlines terminals, near Gate 74 which means anyone flying United (domestic or international) has access to the lounge without needing to go through security more than once. I went through security at International Terminal G because I thought the Centurion Lounge was closer to Terminal G than Terminal 3. The Lounge being at the end of Terminal 3 meant I needed to make my way through the connecting walkway between G and 3 to find the entrance to the Lounge at the end.

The bowl in the middle of the coffee table (see the picture below) near the entrance radiated its citrus perfume as a more welcoming scent than the sterile airport air. Once inside the lounge I went to the food because I was hungry. I had some leafy greens, brown rice, and roasted cauliflower paired with a mocha. There was a bar with a large selection and wine tasting, but I skipped over these this time.

My first meal with the greens
Espresso machine making my mocha

Later I grabbed seconds: roasted cauliflower and brown rice again but with the chicken instead of greens, and another mocha. I made the second mocha before leaving to get my food but the clean-up staff took my freshly made, completely full mocha by the time I returned with my second plate so I had to make a new mocha. At least they make sure the dishes are picked up quickly.

Second meal with the chicken

After eating my second plate of food one of the sofa beds behind the wall were open so I claimed my seat and grabbed some dessert. There were three beds which had a tall back and side to lean against. I took the middle one to relax and enjoy my triangular brownie with a peanut butter topping (PB & chocolate, my fave) and white chocolate chips.

Centurion relaxing area bed.jpg
Sofa bed
Triangular brownie with peanut butter topping and white chocolate chips

The lounge closed at 11 so I chugged a hot chocolate before heading over to Terminal 2 to wait by my gate.

Waiting at the Terminal – Being Thankful for Mocha Lattes

Still at SFO, I arrived at Terminal 2 and found a nice bar/counter to sit at while I waited for boarding to begin. The counter was a 3 pointed star with seating and outlets on both sides meaning there was plenty of room for people to charge any and all of their electronics. I used this opportunity to charge my phone.

Three-pointed bar in Terminal 2
Three-pointed bar in Terminal 2 up close

My flight was delayed initially about 2 hours, then it was delayed another hour and finally canceled. I re-booked my connecting flights after each delay and cancellation but I still routed through Chicago.

I was a little disappointed with the first re-booking because I called the American Airlines number in the mobile app and was told the wait would be 2+ hours. About 30 minutes later an employee passed out a reservations number and the call to that number was picked up immediately. Once someone was on the phone with me, the re-booking went smoothly each time I called 1-800-446-7834.

Eventually I got on my flight from SFO -> ORD and I boarded in Group 1, which is really like Group 4 or 5 because of pre-boarding and each AAdvantage and Oneworld status tier boarding before Group 1. (United Group 2 boarding is actually Group 2 not Group 4).

Because I booked less than 2 hours before my flight I was stuck with a middle seat, but I wasn’t too worried since I could always ask the person on the aisle if they would be okay switching with me. Except this time the person on the aisle was tall and wider than me, so I made sure they kept their aisle seat.

Navigating Chicago O’Hare

I made it!

Upon landing in Chicago I received 4 texts from American Airlines updating me on my gate changes for my flight out to DCA, but none notifying me my flight had been delayed by about an hour. Since my flight into ORD landed about the time my flight out was supposed to start boarding I felt very rushed to get from one side to the other.

Eventually I learned my flight had been delayed and I was able to relax a little. I grabbed a smoothie and headed back to my correct gate.

By the time I was flying from ORD -> DCA I was exhausted. I was able to sleep about an hour on the flight, and saw some of the landscape (and all the water) when we were flying over Maryland and before landing in Arlington, VA.

My flights were pleasant overall because I was able to get maybe 3 hours of sleep between the two flights. After leaving 4 hours late, I only arrived 4 hours late so I was only upset I had less time to sight see in DC.

Finally in DC

Landing in DCA was smooth, though a little nerve wracking because it looks like a water-landing until the asphalt runway appears at the last second. Having not checked any luggage I made my way out of the terminal and to the left where I found the bridge (towards the far end of the airport) taking me over to the Metro station. I was meeting my brother at Union Station (although we could have met right at Gallery Place/China Town) so I bought a Metro card and loaded $4.25 to make my way on the Yellow Line then the Red Line.

My brother and I did some sight seeing and grabbed dinner at Shake Shack before heading back to Union Station to take MARC (Maryland Transit Authority) towards Baltimore. I forgot my suitcase under the table at Shake Shack so we had to end our sightseeing a little early but it also meant we were on time for our train.


I wish I had taken more pictures of my seats and in-flight making my way to the East Coast but, like I said, I was exhausted and was focused on getting some sleep. The soon-to-come  post about my departure will have some pictures of the seats and flight experiences, so stay on the look out if you want to see my legs in a tight spot.

3 thoughts on “Flying American Airlines SFO – DCA Part 1: The Arrival

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s