For my trip to Nicaragua, I've been forced to switch from my beloved United and Star Alliance airlines to American and OneWorld. It's been over four years since I've flown with American and they've got the best routing: Baltimore - Miami - Managua, all for less than four hundred bucks. Fly the same routing on United and it costs nearly two thousand - and the Miami to Managua segment on TACA doesn't accrue mileage. Forget it.
Instead, I've managed to get myself an upgrade to First Class which means that I get to fly on American with roughly the same privilege that my Premiere Executive level gets me on United. I won't lie: once you've experienced some level of comfort, it's hard to go back to steerage. And on international flights, my first class ticket gets me admission into the Admiral's Club Lounge.
First Class service from BWI - MIA was perfunctory (I'm wondering if perfunctory service is mandatory within the United States). Some hot nuts, some beverages and that's about it. The seats are a more comfortable than United's domestic first with adjustable headrests, higher fold out tables (a considerable advantage when you have a tummy), and on-board DC power.
Miami is an American gateway to Latin America. Many of American's flights south depart the United States from here. American was the first airline to offer a frequent flier program and the first to offer a passenger lounge. The Admiral's Club Lounge is nicely appointed, nicely decorated and comfortable. The bar food offers a Latin twist with ham filled croquettes and potato balls. As far as domestic airline lounges go, it's pretty good and on par with United's Red Carpet Club at Dulles and ORD (Chicago).
USAirway's flagship club in Charlotte offers free candies and an assortment of chips. But, in American's defense, the Admiral's Club offers a children's play area with free sugar cookies - the hidden gem in the club that goes nicely with hot tea.
Our departure time to Managua is 6:45pm. Then it becomes 7:45pm Then 8:08pm. Flight delays are the worst, but at least the pain is lessened by the comfort of the Admiral's Club and my slow pickling with Bombay Tonics.
Once we board the plane there's still problems. This time, it's mechanical. It takes the ground crew another half an hour to solve this problem. Again, I'm in seat 3B which allows me to monitor their progress closely.
Finally, we push back from the gate. Then it's another twenty minutes waiting for a spot in airspace to take off again. By the time our wheels leave the ground we're two hours late. But at least we're on our way to Managua...