Many people wonder why I choose to fly American Airlines. Sometimes I wonder the same thing. My 8.5 hour London to Chicago flight is a pain, and on AA, I don’t even get a personal TV. Usually we are on a smaller plane, the kind with just a few tiny screens attached to the ceilings. The entertainment is cringe-worthy. This past jaunt they played the film The Invention of Lying, and then some other film I had never heard of, both starring Ricky Gervais. And here I must admit, I really do not like him. Then there were a few episodes of rather poorly made NBC shows. And that was all there was on that horribly long flight. No choice, quite a bit of dead time, and shabby quality to boot. That alone would convince me to switch to a different airline, one in which I would be guaranteed my own TV, with a multitude of film options. And yet, AA is my airline of choice for going home.
Even before the flight AA doesn’t impress me. They fly out of Heathrow Terminal 3, forcing me to switch terminals and re-enter security once I get in from Edinburgh. On top of that, terminal 3 is a bit of a hole compared to BA’s Terminal 5. T3 is windowless, cramped, with low ceilings and and an awkward set up which gives me a headache the second I enter it. Even Starbucks can’t cheer me up when I’m there (which is really saying something!). So why do I continue putting myself through this? Why don’t I just switch to another airline?
I first flew AA because my parents always did due to the air miles, which have racked up over the years. I continued flying AA because I was used to it, I knew the terminal, I knew the safety procedures, I even knew one of the flight attendants, and I suppose I felt patriotic. But here is the true reason I have persistently flown with AA: pizza. An hour and a half (to the minute!) before landing in Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, a wonderful smell begins to drift through the cabins. The flight attendants magically appear with their carts, bearing trays containing our “evening snack” (having been served dinner an hour after takeoff). The tray contains a small pack of juicy seedless grapes, a yummy ginger biscuit and most importantly, a six inch round deep dish pizza. Sometimes veggie, sometimes pepperoni, lately it’s been just cheese (I blame the budget cuts). Flaky crust, hot melty cheese….that’s how I know I’m close to home.
And whilst I gaze out the window as we cross Lake Michigan (which takes a while, it’s more like a sea!), munching the last slice of pizza before the flight attendants clear the trays, I can’t help but smile. My smile inevitably turns into a grin when the lakeshore comes into view, and then the skyline of the city, my city, rises up as the plane glides down. It’s dusk, and the many lights start flicking on, like so many fireflies across a Midwestern field, guiding us, welcoming us. And I’m home.