Look, I've heard and read the same terrible things about AA that you have over the years, and as a result have generally avoided using it whenever possible. That said, in February we took a family vacation to Arizona — and found ourselves needing a flight home to Boston that was A) Nonstop; B) Not a redeye; and C) Not crushingly expensive. We usually fly Jetblue everywhere, but they only offered a redeye, so my choices were essentially American... and American.
So we booked American, and after a great trip in AZ we arrived at Sky Harbor airport ready for what I'd anticipated would be a long and unpleasant flight — esp. given that we'd be seated near the back, and would be among the last to board.
Turns out... it was totally fine. Standing in line to drop off our luggage and check in? Relatively painless, and the agents were friendly and professional. Boarding? Handled cleanly and without confusion. The seats? Reasonably sized and comfortable. Yeah, we missed the built-in seatback screens of JetBlue, but one quick app upload made it easy to stream video on our phones. (I just wish I'd been smart enough to download a couple of movies before we got to the airport -- my bad!)
The flight was smooth and essentially on time, and - miracle of miracles - our bags even came out quickly and efficiently at Logan Airport (which NEVER happens when we fly Jetblue). So all things considered, it was a really good trip. I don't know if we just lucked out or if reviews here tend to skew negative just because it's hard to write a review of a flight that went fine, but... my trepidation, at least in one case, proved unfounded. Nice work, AA!