AA3765 Flight Report : Chicago - Toronto
Jan 16, 2018

Getting on board this flight on points was quite interesting to begin with. Since AAdvantage charged a crazy fee for redemptions within 21 days, I opted to use my BA account to snatch up a seat for 7500 avios and a miniscule amount of taxes. Both programs don't include checked baggage for economy class redemptions, although BA does for its BA redemption flights. I guess American is trying hard to squeeze out every last dollar from its customers.

Chicago's 2 international airports are connected to the city's subway network. The Blue Line takes about 40 minutes from the Loop to O'Hare. While trains don't have luggage racks, my lunch time trip was uneventful heading out of the city anyway. Some stations have pee-smelling lifts and escalators but do expect to haul your luggage up some stairs somewhere along the way.

A single subway fare to O'Hare from the city is the standard $2.5, although the reverse direction is twice as expensive as a special airport surcharge is added on O'Hare departures only. Buying a pass can help you get around this surcharge.

There were many ads for medical study subjects on the subway. Who wants to make some extra money?

O'Hare is the final stop on the line. A long moving walkway connects to the Terminal 3 entry point, but it is a long walk after that to the elevators for departures. No luggage carts were available at the station to help me haul my bags.

There were lots of check-in kiosks but the process was slow to get my bag tag and boarding pass. The system took forever to complete and prompt for my credit card to charge the USD 25 checked bag fee. After that, I had to haul my bag around the corner to the bag drop desk. Luckily, with minimal passengers around, the process was quick albeit tedious. What used to be 1 stop at the counter now became 2. I had the same complaint for Air Canada in Toronto as well. Seems nobody cares about customer service anymore even though automation is supposed to improve it.

Departures are shown in alphabetical order of the destination city. Toronto gets a decent amount of AA flights throughout the day from here.

Terminal 3 was functional-looking and there wasn't much to do land-side. Security was quick and I emerged air-side looking at the maze of small regional jets. Being used to widebodies even for short flights in Asia, this was a fresh surprise. It looked around the tarmac and there was a lot of clutter everywhere. De-icing took place right at the gate with retroffited trucks doing the job. I guess this works for these small planes.

Many food options were available here, both take-away or sit-down hot food. There weren't too many seats at each gate, and there was a steady stream on people heading to small cities like Cincinnati and Rochester, NY. The carpet needed some vacuuming, but otherwise there were spots here and there to sit down to eat in peace and gaze out at the planes. The sun had emerged by now and I could see all the way to the Loop skyline.

Each gate screen showed the countdown to boarding and the upgrade/standy list.

Departures and arrivals share the same concourse. Arriving passengers need to exit here for the baggage claim. Note the "rideshare pick-up" sign. I guess Uber is legal here, and the airport has adapted to the times by giving them a location to park.

Manchu Wok is a franchised chain, but I liked their localized poster with the skyline in the background.

We started boarding on-time but before that, an agent came to give valet checked bag tags for our hand carries, which would not fit into the small overhead compartments on the CRJ 700 today so would be checked at the gate.

The plane looked new and the seats were comfortable with very decent legroom. The cabin height was short so it was easy to bump your head against the fuselage. The time passed by slowly as I observed staff put our valet hand carries onto a moving shelf to move to the back luggage compartment.

Flight deck announced we had too much fuel on board so they had to page for a truck to come take some away. What was originally said to be 5-10 minutes ended up being a 34 minute delay. It wasn't a long taxi with no congestion to take-off, and the flight time would be short at 1h2 minutes today.

I had originally picked the left window anticipating skyline views upon departure. Back in the Loop, I had spotted planes flying overhead on departure. Unfortunately, we veered to the north so the right windows got lovely views instead.

The clouds would only start clearing out as we approached Lake Michigan's western coast. Goodbye, Chicago!

Not long after, we crossed the lake and are well on our way eastward into the sunset.

I was surprised there was complimentary drink service (filled to the top) with a big bag of pretzels for each passenger. Customs forms for Canada were distributed, but the kiosks are now used so there was no longer a need to complete a paper form at Terminal 3.

I paid a visit to the single lavatory at the back of the plane. Surprisingly, it was spacious since it was laid out horizontally across the cabin.

Otherwise, the flight was uneventful. There was no IFE so we had to keep ourselves entertained. Soon, we started descending into Toronto as the sun had started to set.

The left window proved scenic on approach, but the evening lights were on so it was hard to make out the city and the skyline.

We parked at an outdoor gate just off Terminal 3. The crew repeatedly warned us to hold onto the handrails as the stairs were steep. They also kindly advised those of us with the valet hand carries to stay on board to wait for them to be brought out as it had started to snow outside. This didn't take long, and I was soon walking towards the terminal entrance a short distance away.

Some parting shots of the comfortable seat on my way out.

Pearson's facilities are a hit and miss, and never impressive to begin with. The first escalator ride was OK, but the next one didn't work. Then after a walk, go back down the escalator to immigration. Why this could not be made more efficient was bewildering. Kiosks made immigration clearance much faster and easier, but you still needed to see a border agent at the end of the process, who asked a few quick questions and waved me off. My checked bag didn't take too long to arrive, then it was another agent asking questions at customs, followed by another staff collecting the receipt that the kiosk spat out right at the end. Seems there still is a lot of human intervention in the process.

Final Thoughts
American Airlines has outsourced its regional operations to Envoy Air. While I typically consider outsourcing to be crappier service at a lower cost, today's flight was surprisingly decent with a good amount of service for a short flight. The seat was comfortable and I wouldn't hesitate to try them again.

Flight Information
Scheduled : 1500-1737
Actual : 1534-1812

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