Flying American Airlines SFO – DCA: Part 2, the Departure

This is a continuation of Flying American Airlines SFO – DCA Part 1: The Arrival

Going back to DCA from Baltimore was smooth but stressful because I was cutting things close on time. I hopped on a MARC train, caught the Metro Red Line, transfered to the Yellow Line, and arrived at DCA with about an hour to get to my terminal before boarding began.

Flying Away from DCA towards Miami

I hurried to security because of feeling rushed which lead me to standing in the security line for the Gates 25-34 line when I was leaving from Gate 40. Neither security line were too long, but I wished I had TSA PreCheck or Global Entry so I could have gone through the much shorter security line.

Gate 40 was around the corner from the food shop and the number was not visible from the walkway to the Gates. A good idea is to check terminal maps either before or at the airport so you have an idea of where your gate is like I did to prevent worrying you missed your gate along the way.

Like my previous flights, Group 1 boarding was more like Group 5. I was in row 13 and the front of the plane was rather empty. Each row probably averaged 2 people where the middle of the plane had maybe 2.5 people/row.

As for the seats, there was a cushion on the back rest that made me lean forward more than I already was with the seat upright. The cushion went up to my upper back right around the middle of my shoulder blades so the seats are probably uncomfortable for anyone above 5′ 8″. Reclining my chair helped me be a little more comfortable but only made the leg room less comfortable, because the seat slides forward while reclining the back.

American Airlines 737 seat back cushion

Leg room could have been better because I always felt the bottom of the chair in front of me when I extended my legs even a little. My row was in front of the first exit row which only had one person. I could have moved back a row but decided not to since this was a short flight.

Being in row 13 meant I had a closer view of the 1st class cabin which made me curious to try business or first class on a domestic flight. For this flight, the flight attendants were not too busy so I was able to get a few waters to hydrate. Anyways, I will be sticking with Economy for now.

Flying into MIA was smooth, we even arrived an hour early, but our gate (D12) was busy so we had to wait 35 minutes to finish our arrival. Once I was off the plane I headed to the gate next door for the elevator up to the MIA Centurion Lounge.

Centurion Lounge in Miami

Mixed pretzels and soft drinks were the only free food options during the 3 hour flight to Miami so I was fairly hungry upon landing. After finding a seat in the Centurion Lounge I made a drink with the espresso machine (no mocha option so my 1st drink was a latte) then I grabbed a salad, a banana, and a chocolate chip cookie.

Meal with salad and latte

After the light meal I wanted to see if anything else at the food bar looked appetizing. I found a small dish with a small piece of chicken on a yellow mushy substance, so I took a chance and tried the dish.

This was the best dish I have had in any of the lounges I have been to (all 4 of them) so I went back for seconds, and would have gone for a third serving but I needed to leave to get to my gate. Also, I was creative with making a mocha by combining a hot chocolate with a single espresso due to the lack of a mocha option.

Chicken dish from the Centurion Lounge in Miami

Before leaving I explored the rest of the lounge, and took some pictures along the way.

View from inside the lounge

The entrance had a hallway on either side, the right side only had two sections while the left side had about 6 areas including a second espresso/tea bar with chocolate chip cookies. Various seating types and arrangements were found on the left with mostly counter/bar type seating on the right of the entrance.


Making My Way to Terminal D, Gate 23

After taking the elevator from the 4th floor, where the Centurion Lounge is located, down to the 2nd floor, where all the gates are, I followed the signs towards Terminal D. I thought 15 minutes would be enough time to get from Terminal E to D but I underestimated by a long shot.

Walking out of the Gate 10/12 area I flew into I found signs directing me up two flights of stairs, to floor 4, where I took the AirTram from Location 1 to Location 3. At Location 3 I had the options to either take an elevator or stairs down from Floor 5 (yes, we apparently went up a floor without any change in elevation) to Floor 2. I elected for the elevator.

View of American Airlines planes from the first AirTram

Following the elevator ride down to Floor 2 I needed to walk through about 10 hallways until I found myself at another set of stairs which lead to a second AirTram. This tram went between Terminals D and E.

Wide view of Terminal D from the D/E tram

Arriving in Terminal D I no longer had to navigate stairs and elevators…until I got to my gate. Several more hallways later I arrived at my gate to find the entire flight had boarded and I had another escalator to descend before walking onto my plane.

I was glad to see some people still in the walkway into the airplane, but that also meant I would have a long wait to get to my seat towards the back of the plane.

Flying Away From Miami

This flight was mostly full but with enough seats still open that Flight Attendants were informing people in the middle and window seats there were plenty of aisle seats to move to later in the 6 hour flight if they liked to. I had an aisle seat, so I did not need to move. The charging outlet at my seat was not working so I ended up moving to one of the last rows in the back.

I had not been drinking much water the last day on the East Coast so I wanted to refill on water, however the Flight Attendants (FA) were not so happy about it. About 4 hours into the flight I had drank 2 full bottles of water, which happened to be about 1 L each. When I asked for another cup of water an FA came back and told me “You’ve drank two whole bottles already. We’re going to give you another bottle but this will be your last.”

Final Thoughts

With a rough start getting to the East Coast and DC, with some misadventures during my stay, I still enjoyed visiting my brother and family before starting back at school. With about 40,000 AAdvantage points left from the sign-up bonus, I certainly will not let them expire, and I want to make sure my departure from SFO was only a fluke in an otherwise functional airline (all the other segments of my trip went by without much trouble).

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.