MIAMI – Children’s book author Helen Palma had not flown for six months. She decided to visit her friend for Thanksgiving via American Airlines (AA).

Here is Helen’s recount of her flight with AA from Tampa International Airport (TPA), Florida, to Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT), North Carolina, on an Airbus A320. As COVID-19 looms over commercial aviation and cases are spiking in the US, the trip was an interesting look at how AA handles its domestic flights.

American Airlines A320.

Flight Information


  • Flight Number: AAF545
  • Route: Tampa (TPA) Charlotte (CLT)
  • Aircraft: Airbus A320
  • Departure Time: 0806 EST
  • Arrival Time: 0950 EST
  • Seat Number: 15A
Tampa International Airport. Nov 25, 2020.

Checking In


Arriving at TPA, I checked in just after 8 am. I was greeted by the AA staff with a warm welcome. There was a good number of people in the check-in area, but it was not crowded and all were wearing their masks. I had been waiting for this moment ever since I got my mobile boarding pass from AA the day before the flight.

Checking in and handing my luggage over took less than 10 minutes to complete, no fuss or delays there. After a quick bite, I waited with the rest of the passengers, all ready to proceeded through to board the flight.

Everyone kept their masks on, but it did feel strange to be with more than a few people around. The check-in went fast, and everyone was in a happy but tranquile mood, perhaps due to the fact that Thanksgiving was near and that we were the lucky ones to see our friends and relatives amid the pandemic.

Boarding


Boarding from Gate F84 had already begun at around 8 am, so the scheduled departure was on time. I was greeted by the Cabin Crew and taken to my seat 15A, with a window view of the left-wing of the A320. This section is configured on a tight, 3-3 seat layout, offering a total of 132 seats in the main cabin.

The Flight Attendant took me to my seat as I looked around the disinfected cabin, seeing that the flight was not going to be with few holiday travelers. As the cabin filled up with passengers, I knew it was going to be a full flight. No empty middle seat in Economy, I thought.

The Flight Attendant was very kind to place my carry-on in the overhead bin. Overall, the service given was exceptional. I got a feeling of being in a safe and secure environment. The cabin crew we’re calm, orderly and giving the same level of treatment to every single passenger in the cabin.

It is great that amid the current health crisis, the AA Flight Crew are willing to make everyone feel safe. Once the boarding process was complete, the A320 pushed back from the gate.

There was sufficient legroom in the economy seat for me, as I am not a large person. I could sit comfortably and have enough room for my legs to move around. Still, with no middle seat empty between passengers, I was glad I had a window seat and could look out most of the duration of the flight.

Pushback, Taxi, Takeoff, Climb-Out and Cruise


Pushback from Gate F84 took place at 8:20 am. We spent around 10 minutes taxiing before departing and soaring out of the morning clouds. There was little turbulence on departure and the A320 lifted smoothly on the climb-out.

From liftoff on Runway 08, the climb-out was quick thanks to the CFM56-5B engines that power every model of the A320 family since its inception. The climb-out had some terrific views—pure blue skies with an uneventful climb-out to cruising altitude.

We headed north towards Charlotte. By 20,000 feet, we were only 10 minutes into the flight. We finished the climb to 35,000 feet in what was to be a smooth flight. As this was a short flight, there was no meal service offered, but a few refreshments were offered.

As for the IFE, in Economy, in-flight entertainment is offered at no extra cost. It is equipped with a wide variety of movies, TV shows, Music, Wi-Fi, and Games. There was also an American Way in-flight magazine that seemed to come out of the 60s, which I dared not touch.

Descent, Approach and Landing         


With just 20 minutes to go, our descent into Charlotte finally got underway. The AA message on my phone read: American Airlines flight 545 to CLT. Arrival time has changed. New time of arrival is 10:11AM at gate D7 in terminal Main. Bag carrousel is

The descent was smooth and nothing out of the ordinary as we approached CLT. While the descent was in full flow, the cabin crew began their final checks, cleaning up here and there and making sure seat belts were tightened.

The descent was at a normal angle, initially dropping from 35,000 to 20,000 in about 5 minutes. With a soft landing, we finally arrived at CLT, with another message on my phone at touch down, saying American Airlines 545 has now arrived at CLT.

The airport was congested. I counted a dozen planes waiting in line. My flight was full, and it seemed that many people were flying for Thanksgiving. I was glad that nothing out of the ordinary occurred during the whole trip.

It is a strange time to fly, and regardless of the current state of affairs, the safety protocols, and uncertain times, I can truly say that it was wonderful to fly again after 6 months of being grounded and isolated, especially to see my friend for Thanksgiving.


Featured image and all article photos: Helen Palma