HappyFlier

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I really like the livery on the tail of the Alaska Airlines planes.

Anchorage Mileage Run

Earlier this month I did my first really long mileage run of the year, all the way to Anchorage, Alaska. It was special because of all the miles I earned at a great price, and also because my friend joined me on his first ever run.

The day started early, he picked me up at 4:30 a.m. and we went to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. After a short stay at the Admirals Club, we went to our departure gate for the short flight to DFW.

This was my first visit to an AC in many months and I was glad to see that they had updated the coffee service. In the past your choice was regular or decaf and that was it. Now they have one of the newer machines that also offers cappuccino, latte, and mocha. For me, that is a welcome addition to the club.

We had an uneventful trip to DFW and quickly went to the Terminal A Admirals Club. Our DFW layover was 4 hours 45 minutes. I knew there was an earlier flight to Seattle and I hoped we could get changed to that one. The AAngel behind the counter gave us stand-by boarding passes for the earlier flight and told us to go the gate and see if they had any seats.  My hope was that we that we would make that flight and then also get an earlier flight from Seattle to Anchorage.

As we walked to the gate I saw a familiar face, Tom Horton, the CEO of AMR Corporation, American Airlines parent company, whom I had met last year when I went to the 787 Dreamliner event at DFW. I said hello to him and he spent several minutes talking with us. He had no entourage, was dressed casually, and seemed very excited about where the company was going, and expressed confidence that the Justice Department lawsuit blocking the American / US Air merger would be tossed aside. I was not only impressed by his enthusiasm, but also the fact that he stopped to talk with us and did not blow us off. Thank you sir!

We arrived at the gate and asked the gate agent if there was room for us on the flight. I suppose he was dealing with numerous issues at once, his attitude told us he was too busy to deal with us now, he told us to wait. My friend said to me, “We were just treated better by the CEO of a mufti-billion corporation that we were by a gate agent.!” He was right. But once the GA got all of the other things take care of, he was much nicer to us.  Everyone boarded the aircraft and he told us there were two seats remaining, we got them without having to pay a change fee (having elite status does have its benefits!) and we boarded the flight to Seattle. I had a first class upgrade on the original flight and ended up in coach on this one, but I was glad to give it up to get this earlier flight.

I sat in the front of the coach section, which AA calls Main Cabin Extra. The extra legroom was a pleasant surprise, I appreciated being seated in that area.

We arrived in Seattle and went to the Alaska Airlines Board Room club where I hoped we could be moved to an earlier Anchorage flight. This was when I found the benefit of my American Airlines elite status, and what it meant to not be able to use it. The very friendly Alaska staff said we could probably be moved to another flight, but we had to see a ticket agent, they could not help us. They also added that there would be change fees involved.  Change fees? With that news, we decided to stay at SeaTac for 4 hours and get our regularly scheduled flight to ANC.

We ate some snacks in the club, then decided to visit the food court for lunch. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: the food court at SeaTac is one of the best places in the nation to watch planes depart and arrive.

You get your meal and then watch the show at the SeaTac food court. They have tables right by the window; if you are lucky you even get the chance to sit in one of the rocking chairs they provide.

You get your meal and then watch the show at the SeaTac food court. They have tables right by the window; if you are lucky you even get the chance to sit in one of the rocking chairs they provide.

I really like the livery on the tail of the Alaska Airlines planes.

I really like the livery on the tail of the Alaska Airlines planes.

Always great views from the SeaTac food court. This Lufthansa flight had just taken off.

Always great views from the SeaTac food court. This Lufthansa flight had just taken off.

We soon made our way, by train, to Terminal N, the remote terminal that Alaska Airlines uses. We looked at the people waiting to board and said “Don’t they realize they are going to Alaska?” These people were in shorts, t-shirts, no jackets. We joked that they obviously thought they were going to Anchorage, Florida. How wrong we were.

We boarded: my original reservation said that I was in 9C, an aisle seat, but my boarding pass said 9B, the middle row. Again, another issue with not having elite status on Alaska Airlines. Fortunately, the two gentlemen I sat with offered pleasant conversation and the flight passed quickly.

We landed on time at Ted Stevens International Airport in Anchorage and made our way to the People Mover, the bus that goes downtown once an hour. As soon as we stepped outside I was stunned at how gorgeous it was. Clear skies, no wind, moderate temperatures, just wonderful!

Beautiful flower beds greeted us as we stepped out of the terminal.

Beautiful flower beds greeted us as we stepped out of the terminal.

Almost all of the documentaries I see about Alaska show it as cold, remote, barren. That was the picture I had in my mind, it just never occurred to me that Alaska would have mild temperatures and flowers in bloom. As they say, that’s my bad, I should have known better.

We took a cab downtown, that cost $20. The public transit system has a bus, The People Mover, that goes downtown, but it only runs once an hour and we did not want to wait another 45 minutes for it to arrive, time was short.

We arrived downtown and walked near the water's edge, just amazed at how beautiful a day it was.

We arrived downtown and walked near the water’s edge, just amazed at how beautiful a day it was.

We got out of the cab at the Captain Cook hotel land walked a few blocks to the water’s edge where we walked through a park and I saw one of the most clever signs about dogs that I had ever seen.

When I got home I read the bottom part to my dog, she seemed to understand. :-)

When I got home I read the bottom part to my dog, she seemed to understand. :-)

By now we were hungry, very hungry. A guidebook had recommended The Glacier Brewhouse on 5th Avenue; we were nearby so we decided to stop there for dinner. We were led to our table after a short wait. Living in Central Texas we can visit seafood restaurants, although Red Lobster can get sort of old. One of the things I like about visiting a town on the coast is the seafood, it always tastes so much fresher. I reviewed the menu and decided on the Wood-Grilled Alaskan Salmon, cilantro marinade, seared crab and rice cake, skillet roasted corn relish, fresh lime hollandaise, and grilled fresh asparagus. I was glad I did.

My dinner: wood-grilled Alaskan Salmon with crabcake and vegetables.

My dinner: wood-grilled Alaskan Salmon with crabcake and vegetables.

I was glad I made that choice. The salmon was tender and full of flavor, but I really enjoyed the crabcake, easily the best I had ever had. I ordered their Barvarian Hefeweizen as my beverage, it was wonderful. My friend ordered a different beer, I don’t recall what it was, but they brought it to him in a wine glass, explaining that it was so high in alcohol content that they could not serve it in a larger glass.  He and I each had one sip and decided that was enough.

Once dinner was over we spent a few hours walking through downtown, we really did not have any specific goal, we just wanted to see the area.

Anchorage is a fairly good-sized city with a population of more than 300,000. Thus, while walking around downtown, we really don’t get a feel for being in Alaska, it just feels like another medium size city with department stores, fast food chains, etc. Other than the mountains in the distance, we could have been in Omaha for all I knew.

We bought some souvenirs, then found a place that a friend had recommended called Humpy‘s on 6th Avenue. We had a late night snack and some more of their home-brewed beer, which we found to be tastier than what we had at our previous location. We stayed quite a while, enjoyed the live music, then got a cab back to the airport. It was past 11:30 and our flight to Seattle would depart at 2 a.m.

By now we were thoroughly exhausted; it had been almost 23 hours since we had left my house and while that was not a challenge back in our college days, well, let’s just say we are not as young as we once were at leave it at that. :-)

There was a very long line at the security check-in which normally would not be an issue, but since we were flying out on Alaska Airlines we did not have elite status, thus no priority access and we had to wait on the security line. At least that made me appreciate my AA status even more.

We cleared security, went to our gate and soon thereafter were on our flight to Seattle. Once we arrived at SEA-TAC we went to the Alaska Airlines Board Room for coffee, juice, and pancakes. Fully refreshed, we boarded our AA flight to DFW. Once we arrived at DFW we were able to switch to an earlier flight to Austin, getting in 2 hours ahead of schedule.

It had been a very long weekend, but it was worth it. I earned 14,428 miles from a ticket that cost $355: that came out to 2.46 cents per mile, one of the best rates I had gotten in a long time. I also earned 7,260 EQMs It was worth it. And at that great price we have two more Anchorage trips scheduled — we’ll rent a car and get out of Anchorage on those trips.

Let the mileage runs continue! :-)

 

 

workdesk

American Airlines Goes “NEW” at DFW’s Terminal A

Dallas Fort Worth International Airport was a state of the art facility when it opened in 1974. In many ways it remains such with flight control systems, the layout and design of the runways, etc. But after billions of passengers had passed through the terminals, they were starting to show their age. Only Terminal D, which opened in 2005, had a modern feel to it. That all started to change today as American Airlines and DFW opened a newly refurbished section of Terminal A, part of a $2.3 billion 7-year project to renovate the four terminals (A, B, C, and E) that opened in 1974.

Their press release describes it best:

FORT WORTH, Texas – The fresh, new look of American Airlines is taking off at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. Today, American and DFW Airport announced the completion of Terminal A – Phase 1 under the Terminal Renewal Improvement Program (TRIP). The Phase I opening includes gates A8 through A16, including the check-in and entrance area, as well as the parking structure adjacent to these gates, and is designed to increase customer convenience and satisfaction by offering a more intuitive airport experience.

“Today we take another important step forward in our journey to build a more modern travel experience to better suit the needs of our customers,” said Kevin Cox, American’s Vice President – Real Estate. “DFW Terminal A – Phase 1 sets the stage for future next generation airport improvements, and will be a tremendous model for us to further refine how we integrate our new look and feel into our airports in the future.”Numerous architectural, systems and engineering renovations have been made to create a more eco-friendly and aesthetically pleasing airport experience, while also being more customer-friendly. Some of the terminal enhancements include incorporating the bright, clean feel of American’s fresh new look announced in January.

Additional features for American Airlines customers include:

open-layout

  • An open layout to allow for continuous customer flowworkdesk
  • Power outlets and work tables at all gateskiosk
  • Next-generation kiosks with self-tag capabilities for checked baggagepodium
  • Single-agent podiums to provide a more personalized experiencepriotiry
  • A separate area for Priority check-in

Customers traveling through DFW Terminal A will also enjoy an expanded security area with new technology that will soon display wait times in real-time, as well as increased concession offerings with a variety of healthy dining options.

In 2011, DFW Airport Iaunched the first major construction phase of its $2.3 billion TRIP, a seven-year renovation of the airport’s four original terminals that opened in 1974. Renovations will take a phased approach for terminals A, B, C and E. American Unveils Its Next Generation Airport at DFW Terminal A March 26, 2013

“Today is a special day for DFW Airport and American Airlines, as we welcome passengers to our greatly improved Terminal A,” said Jeff Fegan, CEO of DFW Airport. “With new concessions, reimagined passenger flows, updated finishes and a completely revamped section of Terminal A, DFW Airport is solidifying its place as one of the world’s top airports for customer service, and we stand ready to meet the needs of our passengers for the next 40 years.”

As TRIP moves forward, the American Airlines next generation airport concept will expand through DFW Terminals A, B and C. Additional upcoming next generation airports include LaGuardia Airport (LGA) later this year, with plans for further expansion to additional cities. For more information on American’s next generation airport, and to learn more about the progress of the new, modern American, visit aa.com/newamerican.

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DFW is a world-class airport. Terminal D is a world-class terminal. The other terminals, built in 1974, may have looked fresh and modern during the Nixon administration, but they had been showing their age for quite a while. It will take several years until the airport is totally modernized — I’m glad to see that DFW management and American Airlines have started the process.

Disclaimer: I own stock in AMR Corporation, the parent company of American Airlines.Total value is less than $600.

 

I always enjoy the view of the mountains as I fly to the West Coast.

Austin to Portland – My First Mileage Run of the Year

Late February — it was about time for me to have my first mileage run of the year. Last year I had completed almost a dozen trips in January alone, the triple EQM award to San Fransisco was a great incentive. This year there weren’t any comparable deals, so I kept looking. I eventually found a trip I had taken many times before, Austin to DFW to Seattle to Portland to DFW to Austin for $240. Not great, but not bad either. I’d leave Austin early in the morning (6:10 a.m.) and be back by 10:30 p.m. It would be a long day, made even longer by the the fact that this was a mid-week flight and I would have to be up early the next morning to go to work.

The day started well, I got to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and got word that I had been upgraded to First Class for the AUS-DFW segment. Normally I would not be overly excited about an upgrade on a flight that lasts less than an hour, but I had a short layover at DFW and sitting in the front of the plane would get me off and on my way to the next flight more quickly.

I had an uneventful flight to DFW, got to my departure gate and was glad to see that I was number one on the upgrade list to First Class. An upgrade for a 4.5 hour flight, that’s nice!

My upgrade came through and I boarded the Boeing 737 for the flight to Seattle. I was looking forward to one thing: watching a movie. I got a Kindle Fire HD tablet for Christmas and had loaded some movies on there for the trip. The first was a classic movie, an all-time great, that I had never seen from start to finish: The Godfather. I set the Fire on my food-tray, plugged in the headphones, and started to watch it. The only problem was that I did not realize The Godfather was a three-hour movie. By the end of the second hour, I was hoping someone, anyone, would make Don Corleone an offer he could not refuse if it would end the film. :-)

While I joke about it, all it all I was pretty happy with the experience. The Fire was easier to carry around than a laptop, gave me an HD picture, and still had 70% power left when the movie was over. So, it was a good experience.

I did have to pause in the middle of the movie for a delicious breakfast.

Breakfast was a cheese quesadilla, potatoes, fruit, biscut, and coffee. It hit the spot.

Breakfast was a cheese quesadilla, potatoes, fruit, biscuit, and coffee. It hit the spot.

I always enjoy the view of the mountains as I fly to the West Coast.

I always enjoy the view of the mountains as I fly to the West Coast.

 clouds

The Sun highlighted unique patters on the clouds.

It was soon time to land at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEATAC). It had been a smooth flight and we arrived a few minutes ahead of schedule. I had a 90 minute wait before I took my Alaska Airlines flight to Portland. I spent that time in the Alaska Airlines Board Room, eating some snacks and catching up on my email.

It was such a dark and grey day in Seattle that this photo almost looks like it is in Black and White, but no, it's a color photo on a day lacking in color.

It was such a dark and grey day in Seattle that this photo almost looks like it is in Black and White, but no, it’s simply a color photo on a day lacking in color.

I soon made my way to the Alaska Airlines departure area for my short one hour flight to Portland aboard a Dash 400.

dash400

I’m always impressed by how well Alaska Airlines manages these flights. Although the flight is only one hour long, the flight attendants serve snacks, beverages, and complimentary wine or beer.

We landed on time in Portland. leaving me with another one hour layover. Shortly after we arrived though I received a call from AA flight status letting me know that the Portland-DFW flight would depart 30 minutes late.  I had a one hour layover in DFW for my Austin flight, would this delay cause me to miss my connection?

I called AA’s Executive Platinum desk and explained my concerns. The representative listened as I explained my story, then laughed and said “You don’t have anything to worry about sir, your flight to Austin is also going to be late.”.

I received the upgrade to First Class for the Portland-DFW flight which left 35 minutes late. We had a smooth flight to DFW where I connected to my Austin flight which also departed 35 minutes late. I should have been on the ground in Austin by 11 p.m., but it was almost 11:30 when we finally landed and well past midnight by the time I got home. This might have been okay for a Saturday flight, but on a Tuesday when I had to get up for work the next morning, it was not much fun.

But I did earn 4,775 EQMs and a total of 9,548 miles, so it all had a purpose. I never left the airport — my next mileage run however will give me almost a full day in Seattle, so I look forward to that. In the meantime, I continue to look for good deals, which appear to be few and far between. But I’ll keep looking! :-)

plane2

Meet The New American Airlines

There had been a lot of buzz recently on the blogosphere and Twitter abut the “new American Airlines.” What did this mean?

Thursday morning I got word that the new American Airlines would be revealed at 9 a.m. Would this be an announcement that AA was leaving bankruptcy? Perhaps official word of a merger (or non-merger) with US Air? It turned out to be neither of those. Instead, AA unveiled its new livery and logo.

You’ll get the full information in this video.

American Airlines had an iconic logo and design to its aircraft that had gone unchanged for years. When I saw the new design, my initial response was negative.

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But the more I look at it, the more I like it.

I think they made a good choice with the clean font on the side of the aircraft.

sidelogoAnd the tail design, which grows on me more each time I see it, really helps to make American aircraft more visible at an airport.

newLook3

The only part of the design I am not excited about is the stylized eagle.

logo2

If I did not know it was an eagle, I am not sure I would recognize it as such. But I have no doubt I’ll adjust to it — if this is the biggest change I have to deal with in 2013, then it will be a pretty good year for me! :-)

In the future we’ll see new American Airlines luggage tags, elite status cards, a new look at the airport as AA incorporates the new design throughout its network. We may even see new uniforms for flight attendants and gate agents.

It’s going to cost a lot of money to do all this. AMR Corporation is in bankruptcy, is this the best time to take on such an expense? From a bean-counter standpoint, probably not. But if your goal is to totally remake the airline with new aircraft, new services, and new Oneworld partners, this may be the perfect time.

Enjoy these videos from AA.

This video explains how they developed the new look.

And of course, there are new commercials.

Disclaimer: I own stock in AMR corporation, the parent of American Airlines. Total value of my holdings is less then $150,