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American Airlines Boeing 737-800 Economy Class Review [LGA to DFW]

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Airline: American Airlines (AA)
Aircraft: 737-800
Flight #: AA1056
Route: LaGuardia Airport (LGA) to Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)
Date: April 5, 2024
Duration: 3 hours, 9 minutes
Cabin and Layout: Economy class, 3-3 configuration
Seat: 28E, 28F
Cost: 12,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles each (or from $166 cash)

Sometimes, we fly for work; sometimes, we fly for pleasure. And sometimes we fly just to use up a few expiring airline miles we have jangling around in our pockets.

I decided to pull my son out of kindergarten for a couple of days in early April so we could see the once-in-a-generation total eclipse in Texas — I’d flown to Nebraska for the 2017 total solar eclipse, but cloudy weather prevented me from getting a clear shot on my camera.

I cleaned out the few remaining American AAdvantage miles I’d accumulated in my account and flew with him out of LaGuardia Airport (LGA) to Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) on American Airlines in economy midday on a Friday.

Booking American Airlines Economy Class

Do you ever find yourself in a situation where, no matter how hard you try to use up your miles, you still can’t seem to get rid of them all? Like gum on the bottom of your shoe or prize tickets at a Chuck E. Cheese? I had a little under 50,000 expiring American AAdvantage miles, so I decided to use as many as I could to fly my son and me from New York City to Texas for the solar eclipse on April 8, 2024, and back.

The flight to DFW cost 12,000 miles for each of us and 11,000 miles from Dallas back to New York, for a total of 46,000 miles, leaving me with a few hundred miles in my account. Taxes and carrier-imposed surcharges came to $11.20 for each passenger round-trip, so I paid a grand total of $22.40 in addition to my redeemed AA miles.

We value AAdvantage miles at 1.4 cents apiece, so the 12,000 miles I spent for each one-way seat’s redemption would’ve been worth about $168, or an eyelash’s breadth above the airfare cash rate of $166. Technically, I got 1.38 cents of value from my miles buy. Considering that they were expiring and I wanted to get rid of them anyway, it was more than a fair redemption.

LGA DFW AA flight booking
Let’s empty out those AA miles! Image Credit: American Airlines

Now, if I were an American Airlines loyalist and I had to pay for this fare in cash, I’d use the Citi®/AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®, which earns 4x miles on American Airlines purchases (including flights), priority check-in and airport screening at available airports, free checked bags for the cardholder and up to 8 traveling companions, and Admirals Club and partner lounge access for the member and 2 guests. I suppose the other 6 friends and family would still be at the bag drop, attaching all the tags or something.

On this particular trip, where we got free checked bags (more on this in a moment) and went to the ritzy Chase Sapphire Lounge by The Club anyway, the only benefit would’ve been the accelerated miles earnings. That’s still a tempting benefit — even if I were trying to get rid of, not gain more, AAdvantage miles.

Otherwise, I’d probably have booked the fare with my Chase Sapphire Reserve®, which earns 3x on all travel purchased outside of Chase Travel (which would earn 5x) and offers an annual $300 travel credit, as well as application fee reimbursement for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck.

LaGuardia Airport

We checked in at LGA Terminal B only minutes after a 4.8-magnitude earthquake shook New York City, but besides excited chatter here and there, everything seemed condition: normal.

Check In

We tried to get through the TSA PreCheck line using digital passes on my phone, but for some reason, those boarding passes hadn’t been updated with the TSA PreCheck mark. The woman checking passes suggested I print out a paper boarding pass at an AA kiosk, which I did.

While printing the pass, the kiosk offered to let us check our carry-on suitcases for free. It turned out ours was a fully booked flight. The bag drop was fast and painless.

LGA AA economy check in
We had to get paper boarding passes at an AA kiosk because of a slight snafu with TSA PreCheck.

Security

By the time we returned to the TSA PreCheck line, the agent tried to turn us away again. It turned out that the paper boarding pass had printed out with “TSA PRECHECK” on the bottom in plain block letters instead of the stylized checkmark icon, but once she realized they meant the same thing, she let us through.

We were through security in a few minutes.

Terminal B

LaGuardia used to be the airport we flew through only when we had to — not only is it longer and more expensive to get to from Brooklyn via ride-share or taxi, but public transport involves transferring from a train to a bus.

Oh yeah, and takeoffs and landings tend to be rough on the infamously outdated and short runways. It also had a shabby terminal that deserved all the mockery it got.

Since the debut of its 2020 makeover, though, it’s been worth the extra effort to depart from what’s now New York City’s coolest airport terminal. I still prefer to land at JFK.

The highlight of the public space in Terminal B is always the laser-lit water fountain. We’ve been through this terminal a few times since its reopening, and we haven’t gotten tired of the show yet. This time, we got a modern rendition of “New York, New York” with images of landmarks such as the Empire State Building.

LGA water sculpture Empire State Building
Start singing the news: Flyers want to be a part of Terminal B again.

We arrived at LGA a couple of hours earlier than necessary so I could check out the newest Chase lounge.

Chase Sapphire Lounge by The Club at LGA

I’ve detailed my experiences in a separate, lengthy review of the Chase Sapphire Lounge by The Club, but here’s a quick sum-up.

Chase Sapphire Reserve®, J.P. Morgan Reserve Card, and The Ritz-Carlton™ Credit Card holders who’ve enrolled in Priority Pass get access to the Sapphire Lounge and can bring up to 2 guests for free as many times as they’d like throughout the year. Each additional guest costs $27, though Ritz-Carlton cardholders can bring in an unlimited number of guests for no additional charge. Other Priority Pass members get 1 free visit to any Sapphire Lounge by the Club but must pay $75 for each subsequent visit that year.

The Sapphire Lounge at LGA is open daily from 4:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Unless you have a connecting flight, you can enter the lounge up to 3 hours before your flight departs.

LGA Sapphire Lounge entrance
We spent most of our time at LGA here.

Though it suffered from teething pains in the quality of some of the food, the table delivery, and its ability to handle the influx of guests who came thanks to its undeniable popularity, the lounge may well be the new standard for U.S. airport lounges.

Its 2-level layout and aesthetics were top-notch, making up for deficiencies like the lack of natural light, which would have been deal-breakers in the hands of less capable designers.

LGA Sapphire Lounge stairs and bar
The stairway and circular bar were the centerpieces of the Chase Sapphire Lounge at LaGuardia Airport.

Seeing that I was traveling with my kindergartener and had hours to kill, the woman who checked us in led us directly from reception to the family room, which hid a game room behind a curtain. We spent at least a third of our time in the lounge inside this room, playing the shuffleboard-style tabletop game.

Sapphire lounge LGA gameroom tabletop shuffleboard
Sapphire Lounge LGA’s tabletop shuffleboard was a fun way to while away the hours before our flight.

In contrast to the openness, cool lights, and sleekness of the lounge in general, the family room was cozy and lit with warm light. If you’re a parent or spend a lot of time with little kids, you know their instincts are basically the same as squirrels, and they’re going to instinctually enjoy themselves most when they find a place to burrow, nest, and safely tumble. This room even had a tree, for goodness’ sake!

LGA Sapphire Lounge kids room
Perfect for squirrels and small children.

The lounge had both a buffet and table service, and we tried both. Everything at the buffet looked amazing, but the grilled cheese was a stiff disappointment, while the fresh ricotta rocked.

sapphire lounge lga lunch platter
Sapphire Lounge at LGA’s lunch platter in April 2024.

My son ordered the chicken tenders, which were strangely gritty and off-putting. He filled himself up with the fries instead. My hamburger was much better, even though it wasn’t cooked to my preferred temperature. I’d ordered it “not well-done,” but it came well-done anyway. We took the packaged brownie to go, sharing it days later in Texas.

sapphire lounge LGA hamburger
Hamburger to order (with chicken tenders in the background) at Sapphire Lounge at LGA.

I didn’t have an opportunity to check the Wi-Fi speeds, but many of the guests were tapping away at their laptops without any apparent difficulty. There were also power outlets under seats everywhere.

My son and I were at the lounge for nearly the full 3 hours permitted and made our way to the departure gate well ahead of time.

Boarding

We boarded the plane at gate 24. As we’d been warned, the plane was fully packed with passengers, many of them seemingly eclipse-goers. Hopefully, they weren’t AvGeeks, too: The view out the only window at our gate, which was slatted, barely afforded a view of our ride.

LGA DFW AA 737 800
This wasn’t an AvGeek view of the apron.

We were in lowly boarding group 6. Actually, I was in group 6. My son was in group 7, but no one seemed to mind that he snuck in with me for obvious reasons.

Boarding was uneventful and reasonably quick, which is the best kind of plane-boarding experience.

Hot Tip:

Learn everything you need to know about American Airlines’ boarding groups and processes in our detailed guide.

On Board AA’s 737-800

This was not a fancy plane, but it was clean and didn’t smell of the previous passengers’ body odor, spilled drinks, vomit, or anything else. Have my standards for flying coach fallen too low?

Economy Class Cabin

This was a standard 3-3 layout, with 126 standard economy seats, 30 Main Cabin Extra seats, and 12 first class seats. It seemed to be a product of AA’s Oasis Project refresh of its old 737-800 fleet.

AA 738 LGA DFW main cabin
Home for the next 3 hours.

Economy Class Seat

We had a window and middle seat, with the aisle seat taken by a stranger. Naturally, my son took the window seat, 28F, and I took the middle seat, 28E.

According to SeatGuru, the seats featured adjustable headrests, leather exteriors, 30 inches of pitch, and either 16.6 or 17 inches of width. I’m not going to pretend that I carry around a tape measure to check these details.

AA 738 LGA DFW Seats 11D 11F
Our seats were clean and comfortable enough.

The hardshell seatback literature pocket contained the usual: a pamphlet on the 737, the airline information pamphlet, and a barf bag or 2.

Above the tray and below the pocket opening was the pop-out device holder, which you could prop your cell phone or tablet on to watch streaming movies. As part of Project Oasis, AA has been removing seatback inflight entertainment screens and having passengers stream movies through their onboard service instead.

AA 738 LGA DFW seatback pocket 11D
They got rid of the screens, but hey, at least we got a tiny shelf instead!

The tray table was your standard airplane tray table, but the right arm attachment to the seat in front of me was broken and hanging loose at the base, causing it to lean slightly toward the right.

I let the flight attendant know when she came by with drinks, and she said she’d make a note of it for the maintenance teams to take care of when we landed.

AA 738 LGA DFW broken tray 11D
My tray table was a little broken.

As I’m sure you know, economy class isn’t kind to your knees unless you’re a child or a shorter adult, and this flight was no better or worse.

But I’d come prepared! Sick of bruised and raw legs from flying in coach too many times in my life, I’d checked both my knees at the gate, leaving me 100% extra room in the footwell, as you can see in the photo below.

AA 738 LGA DFW 11F footwell
Look, ma! No knees!

Just kidding. I asked my kid to sit crisscross applesauce and leaned over to shoot his footwell instead.

Under the seats in front of us was a universal power outlet, which we never ended up using.

AA 738 LGA DFW power outlet
Power! Unlimited power!

Food and Beverage

There was no meal service on this short flight from New York to Dallas. The flight attendants came through once with soft drinks and snacks, including apple juice and Biscoff cookies.

My son wolfed down 1 packet of cookies and saved my packet for later.

AA 738 LGA DFW snack
A minor nosh for a minor flight.

The menu wasn’t exactly extensive. The heartiest choice was an $11 fruit-and-cheese tray. The usual suspects were available at the usual prices for booze ($8 beers, $10 for nips of hard liquor).

AA 738 LGA DFW menu
Save your appetite for barbecue or Mexican food in Texas.

Amenities

Lavatory

The bathroom was just about big enough for an adult to turn around in without his foot ending up in the toilet, but it was close. We’d only been in the air about 45 minutes, but the floor was already tacky and slightly wet with whatever substance it is that materializes on airplane bathroom floors and you’re afraid to give a name to lest it become too real.

AA 738 LGA DFW toilet
I’m barely inside the door taking this photo.

The bathroom wasn’t the worst I’ve seen on a plane. It’s not like I was planning on eating lunch in here. But I was mildly disconcerted by how quickly it had gone from freshly cleaned (I hoped — I didn’t see it right after takeoff) to public middle school.

AA 738 LGA DFW sink
The lav was sooo tiny that there was only room for my finger in front of the lens. Yeah, that’s it.

The sink was tiny, reminded me of a hospital bedpan, and had a series of inexplicable, 2-pronged dents in it. Maybe a tiny vampire was trying out a metal diet, or maybe a previous passenger decided the airplane toilet was the appropriate place to staple documents. Who knows?

Inflight Entertainment

Without an IFE screen, the only onboard entertainment was streaming via our phone or tablet via the AA entertainment service. It was a little tricky to set up, involving logging onto the correct Wi-Fi and using a browser to get to the correct AA URL, but it was relatively easy to use once I actually got on with my phone. I tried and gave up on logging in with my tablet, which just wouldn’t accept it for some reason.

The selection wasn’t exactly huge, at least by 2024 airline standards, and I had trouble finding anything interesting to watch or that I hadn’t seen before. My son was happily immersed in his tablet and its Transformers games. Still, I managed to kill most of the flight time on the AA streaming entertainment.

AA 738 LGA DFW IFE
Hope you’re really into Dr. Seuss.

Though the Wi-Fi connection was good enough on this LGA-DFW flight to stream entire feature-length movies, the connections on the return flights were terrible. (I use the plural because the direct flight back to JFK was canceled and we ended up having to connect back via Nashville.) The entire way back to New York, it was impossible to stream more than 2 minutes of anything before the Wi-Fi cut off on me.

Arrival

We landed at DFW slightly ahead of schedule and taxied to gate C27. After disembarking, we walked into the terminal.

AA 738 DFW Gate C27
Arrival in DFW.

We were faced with the fact that DFW had somewhat bizarrely chosen to use the same naming system for its baggage carousels as it did for its departure and arrival gates instead of calling the carousels A, 12, or even Fred or Barney. So we ended up arriving at C27 but were assigned baggage carousel C25. That made it slightly confusing to navigate the concourse at first.

AA 738 DFW gate carousel confusion
Navigating the confusing DFW baggage carousel naming.

But we arrived, got our checked bags quickly, walked out into the Dallas heat and humidity, and were on our way.

AA 738 DFW Carousel C25
C25 baggage claim.

Final Thoughts

This was not a prestige flight, nor was it ever meant to be. We arrived without any scratches and all our baggage, and even if I was bored for most of 3 hours and didn’t get more than a couple of cookies to eat, I got to see a total eclipse with my son for essentially free. I’d call that a win.

The information regarding the Citi®/AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
The information regarding the J.P. Morgan Reserve Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
The information regarding The Ritz-Carlton™ Credit Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does the American Airlines 737-800 have seatback screens in economy?

AA has been phasing out seatback screens in its 737-800s in favor of passengers streaming entertainment on their mobile devices.

Is there meal service on American's LGA-DFW flight in coach?

Nope. You will probably be offered a soft drink and snack, though.

How long is a flight from New York City to Dallas?

A little over 3 hours.

Is a total solar eclipse fun to watch?

Yes! Go see one when you can (wearing AAS-approved solar glasses)!

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About Michael Y. Park

Michael Y. Park is a journalist living in New York City. He’s traveled through Afghanistan disguised as a Hazara Shi’ite, slept with polar bears on the Canadian tundra, picnicked with the king and queen of Malaysia, tramped around organic farms in Cuba, ridden the world’s longest train through the Sahara, and choked down gasoline clams in North Korea.

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