Archive for May, 2010
May 31, Memorial Day, 2010. It’s a day that many look forward to because it gives them an extra day off from work. Others enjoy it because they can use the 3-day weekend to visit family or spend time at the beach, Still others look forward to Memorial Day because of the special sales at their favorite store.
But that is not what Memorial Day is about. The picture below explains quite eloquently what Memorial Day is about.
On this solemn day we should honor those man and women who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving in our armed forces to defend the freedoms we hold so dear. Some people get that, some do not. American Airlines does get it.
Just in time for Memorial Day, American Airlines is launching two new commercials this weekend to show their “gratitude and a tribute to those in uniform, veterans and their families.”
These commercials are, in a word, wonderful! If you are serving or have served in the military, or know someone else who is, take a moment to watch these two commercials — you will be moved.
American says they will show the commercials this weekend, and again “throughout the year to coincide with special observances and national holidays.”
Thank you American, for such a wonderful tribute!
“Putting Them First”
Be sure to visit AA’s charity website to see how they support our men and women in uniform, and other worthy charities.
There is a country/western song in which the female singer laments that “a good man is hard to find.” I have a new version of that song, “a good mileage run is hard to find.” At least that is what I have found as I look for my next trip.
The airlines are cutting back on the number of flights, the busy summer season is starting, and ticket prices are rising. That does not make it easy to find an affordable mileage run.
My next free weekend is June 26-27, so I’ve been looking for a trip on that weekend, hoping to find one that will cost less than 3 cents per mile. (A few years ago I looked for them to be under 2 cents per mile, but these days I’d be happy to find one under 3!) I searched the Mileage Run forum on FlyerTalk, but nothing jumped out at me. So, I visited AA.com to see what I could find on that weekend.
Austin to Seattle: I could fly to SEA through DFW for as little as $163, but the return flight was $309, for a total price of $514.80, 5.91 cents per mile. I tried a different route: fly there via Chicago, come home via DFW. That was a little bit better, $517.80, but still a high 5.33 cents per mile.
Austin to Portland: Best fare I could find was $583.50, flying to San Jose, then Alaska Airlines to Portland, coming home via DFW. 7.01 cents per mile
Austin to San Francisco: It’s getting better. round trip for $328.88, 4.19 cents per mile. Better, but still not good.
Austin to San Jose: This one is $360.80, 4.65 cents per mile.
Austin to Oakland: This is a sneaky one, American Airlines no longer offers service to Oakland, so this will involve some codeshare flights. Using American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, and Horizon Air, I ended up with the following route: Austin to DFW to San Jose to Portland to Oakland, then Oakland to Portland to Seattle to Chicago to Austin. The good news was that I would earn more than 13,000 miles for that trip. The bad news is that the fare is an absolutely absurd $932.80, 6.87 cents per mile. More than $900 to fly to Oakland? Ridiculous!
I wanted to find a fare below 3 cents per mile, but could not find one below 4. I’ve seen fares before that were not “friendly” to the mileage runner, but nothing like this!
So, I managed to find where I will NOT fly that weekend. Now I just need to figure out when and where I will fly.
There aren’t many times when one gets the chance to see the Great Lakes, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Pacific Ocean on the same day. My latest mileage run gave me that opportunity!
A few months ago I had made a reservation for what seemed to be a great mileage run: Austin to New York (JFK) then a long transcontinental flight to Seattle. I was excited by this, it’s not easy to get a transcon when you live in the middle of the United States. From Seattle I’d fly home via Chicago. Great! I was looking forward to it! And then American Airlines ruined my mileage run.
I came up with a new itinerary and tried to make the reservation. Fortunately, I found a friendly supervisor at American Airlines customer service and was able to rebuild it into a six-segment trip around and across this great land, and get virtually the same miles as the original trip. My new itinerary: Austin to Chicago to Boston to Dallas/Fort Worth to Seattle to Dallas/Fort Worth to Austin. Leave AUS at 6:10 a.m. on Saturday, return at 8:30 on Sunday morning. There are many opportunities for things to go wrong when a trip has six segments — as the day approached I was glad to see that American did not change the schedule of any of my flights. Most of my layovers were relatively short, only an hour or so, but as long as there were no weather problems, it should work out great!
I arrived at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport at 5 a.m. on Saturday. Since I have Platinum status with American, I can use the First Class check-in. I showed my identification to the agent behind the counter; she pulled up my itinerary and said, “Oh, you must be doing this for the miles.” Good guess. Thankfully, she did not offer to book me on a more direct route, which has happened before.
I cleared security and went to the Admirals Club and gave the lady my ID card. She entered my number in the computer, looked at my itinerary, and said, “Oh my, you must be doing this for the miles.” Bingo!
A short while later I boarded my 6:10 a.m. flight to Chicago O’Hare. I was surprised that the plane was packed, almost completely full. I didn’t expect that on such an early Saturday flight. Once we took off, I watched the sunrise, then fell asleep.
Under cloudy skies, we landed on time in Chicago. I had enough time to visit the Admirals Club, have a cup of coffee, call home to my wife, and take a few photos.
It was a short layover in Chicago, so I was soon on my way to the gate for my flight to Boston.
Virtually all of the American Airlines flights into Austin use the MD-80, so that is the aircraft I am most familiar with. I had special treat for my Boston flight, I was on one of AA’s new 737-800s. AA received the first of these aircraft last year and plans to replace the MD-80 with these planes that are quieter, more fuel-efficient, and much nicer for the passenger. For me, the MD-80s feel old, not too surprising since they are old! This plane felt brand new, The seats were more comfortable and the power port under the seat was 110 volt instead of 12 volt! That was a nice change!
We departed Chicago on time and had a smooth flight to Boston. In fact, we arrived a bit early, but as happened to me every time I have flown in to Boston, we had to sit and wait for several minutes before we could go to the gate. In the end, we arrived exactly on time.
Boston would be my longest layover of the trip, a little bit more than two hours. As I entered the terminal I looked at the departures screen and saw that the flights to London and Paris had been canceled, Once again, the Icelandic volcano with the name no one can pronounce (Eyjafjallajokull ) was acting up.
The main thing I wanted to do in Boston was eat lunch: it was almost 8 hours since I had eaten breakfast and I was hungry! I looked at the restaurants near the American Airlines’ gates, and decided upon the Cisco Brew Pub. Cisco Brewers is a local brewery located on Nantucket Island, so it seemed like a good choice. Whenever I travel I try to sample local fare as opposed to eating at a national chain.
I was in the mood for seafood, so I ordered shrimp on rice with mangoes and peppers.
The food was excellent, and the large mug of wheat beer was an outstanding companion. If I had more time, there would have been more wheat beers at my table.
Once I finished eating I made a quick trip into the Admirals Club, refilled my water bottle, and went to the gate.
I boarded the MD-80; the flight was completely full, just as my other flights had been. After take-off I set up my laptop and watched a DVD. Once it ended I took a short nap, waking just as we started our approach to DFW.
Happily, the flight to DFW arrived on time. As I walked through the terminal I looked at the departure boards and saw that the flight from Dallas to London, Paris, and Frankfurt had not been canceled. Either Eyjafjallajokull had quieted down, or flights from DFW could easily avoid the ash cloud, while those flying from Boston could not,
My next flight would depart from Terminal D, the newest terminal at DFW. I took the Skylink train from Terminal A and got some nice views of aircraft near the terminals.
I grabbed a quick bite to eat once I got to Terminal D, then went to the departure gate. I have a FlyerTalk luggage tag on my bag, these tags are bright yellow and hard to miss. As I waited to board, a lady came up to talk to me, she was also a member of FlyerTalk, was from Austin, and was also doing a Seattle mileage run. She has already flown from Austin to Chicago to Seattle to DFW, and would now be on my flight to Seattle, We chatted for a while, then boarded the plane: she was in first class while I was in coach.
We departed on time and had a smooth flight to Seattle; I spent most of the flight reading. We arrived SEA on time at 10 p.m.; my previous flights into SEA have always arrived at the main terminal. This time we arrived at the satellite terminal and had to take a short train ride to the main terminal. This was new to me, I did not know they had a train at SEA. Once I arrived at my gate I had a relatively short wait until we took off for DFW. I took a few moments to refill my water bottle, then boarded.
Again, the plane was completely full. Shortly after take-off the pilot dimmed the lights and I was able to sleep all the way to DFW. The good news is that we arrived 35 minutes early; the bad news is that we arrived 35 minutes early. Almost nothing is open at 4:30 on a Sunday morning at DFW. The Admirals Club in Terminal A would not open until 5:30, and the only option for breakfast was McDonald’s.
That did not hold much appeal to me so I walked through the terminal; the more I walked the more hungry I became. I was looking for food, but it was so early that the newsstands had not yet even opened. Finally, I gave up and went back to McDonald’s. The breakfast of pancakes, sausage, hash browns and coffee was better than expected. And, by the time I finished it, the Admirals Club had opened.
I had enough time to take a shower: the showers at the Terminal A Admirals Club are known as the car-wash showers. The water not only comes down from above, you can even set it to spray you from the sides, hence the car-wash name. I was completely refreshed after the shower, I got some coffee, read the morning paper, and then made my way to the departure gate.
My 7:30 a.m. flight for Austin left on time and was less than half-full, this was the first flight of the trip where I had the entire exit row to myself. We landed at Austin at 8:25, and I was home by 9:30.
I had been gone 26 hours, flew 7,537 miles, earned 7,578 EQMs and a total of 14,440 miles. I also read 365 pages of the new book I had bought two days earlier. I had 6 flights: 5 were on time, and one was early. I had a good meal in Boston, and did not arrive home exhausted as I did after my previous trip. All in all, it was a very good weekend!
The mileage run to Seattle had a great start: smooth and on-time flights, great visit to the Museum of Flight, great food for dinner, and great conversation with my mileage run friend. After dinner he and I parted company: he stayed downtown, while I went to Safeco Field to see the Mariners play Detroit.
I was pretty excited about this, I had not been to a major league baseball game in more than ten years. I’d been to a lot of minor league games in that time, the AAA Round Rock Express (Pacific Coast League affiliate of the Houston Astros) stadium is less than three miles from my house, but no major league games.
Very heavy rain was falling as I left the restaurant, I was thankful that the stadium was covered when we flew over it that morning.
Seattle has a new light-rail system: I took it from the downtown station to the”Stadium” stop.
This stop serves both Safeco Field and Qwest Stadium, home of the Seattle Seahawks, located near Safeco. The area is also home to an event center and concert hall (WaMu Theater).
Thankfully the rain had stopped as I walked from the light rail station to the field.
I had bought my ticket online several weeks earlier and had a seat in the upper deck near home plate, The Mariners were playing the Detroit Tigers that night, but it was also a special event, Salute to the Military night. As a veteran, I looked forward to that.
I thought Safeco Field had a dome, but I was wrong. Instead, it has a roof. The difference is that a domed stadium closes completely and must be air-conditioned. At Safeco a roof simply rolls over the top of the stadium, offering protection from the rain, but not closing it completely, allowing fresh air to circulate.
The game was fun. Seattle took a 2-0 lead, Detroit tied the score at 2-2, then Seattle scored twice to win the game 4-2. One future Hall of Fame player (Ken Griffey Jr.) played in the game, but did not get a hit. It was a different story for a probable Hall of Fame player, Ichiro Suzuki. The Seattle fans cheered Griffey, but roared for Ichiro. He did not let them down. In his first three at-bats he had a single, double, and triple. Maybe he could hit for the cycle!
He came to the plate in the 8th inning, the fans were all on their feet cheering “I-chi-ro! I-chi-ro!” We were all hoping he would get the home run. Instead, the Tigers walked him on five pitches. Let’s just say the crowd was not happy with that; the booing went on for quite a while.
At the end of the game I took light rail to the airport where I met my friend. Our flight to Chicago was scheduled to leave at midnight. By this time, both of us were beat, and I realized the mistake I had made with our itinerary. I had a 6 a.m. flight that morning from Austin, and had to get up at 3:30 to be at the airport on time. My flight from Seattle would leave at midnight local time, 2 a.m. Austin time. So, by the time I got on the plane, I had been up for 22 hours, and it had been a busy 22 hours. If I had to do it over again, I would have tried to get an earlier flight home, but now there was nothing more I could do about it.
We boarded the plane; I was surprised that a midnight flight to Chicago was completely sold out! I don’t remember much of the flight, I fell asleep as soon as we took off.
We got to Chicago at 5:30 Sunday morning. I was very hungry, the only place open at O’Hare that early is McDonald’s. So, I had an Egg McMuffin with coffee,that hit the spot. After McDonald’s we went to the Admiral’s Club where we each took a shower; that helped to refresh us after the long day.
We left Chicago at 8:30, arriving in Austin at 11:15.
It had been a very long mileage run, a tiring trip, but also fun. I finally got to the Museum of Flight, I ate great food, saw a baseball game, and enjoyed the company of my friend from FlyerTalk. I earned almost 10,000 AAdvantage miles, almost 5,000 EQMs. My first mileage run of the year was a success.
It took a while, but the time had finally come for me to do my first mileage run of 2010! I’d fly out of Austin on Saturday morning to Dallas/Fort Worth and then to Seattle. I’d spend all day in Seattle, then come home via Chicago, getting home Sunday morning. One of the special things about this trip was that I would not be traveling alone. A fellow Austinite and mileage runner had seen my posts on the Mileage Run area at FlyerTalk, thought my trip was a good deal, and also booked it.
I arrived at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport at 4:45 on Saturday morning. Shortly after that I met my new friend from FlyerTalk and we boarded the MD-80 for the short flight to DFW. After a short layover, we boarded another MD-80 for the flight to Seattle. Both flights were on time and otherwise uneventful, although I did enjoy some of the scenery on the second flight.
As we made our approach to SeaTac we flew over downtown Seattle and Safeco Field: I had a ticket for the Mariners game that night and was concerned that the game might be rained out: I was glad to see they had moved the roof over the field.
We left the terminal: the weather was cloudy, a light rain was falling, and the temperatures were in the mid 50s. Amazingly, that was the same weather as Austin was having! We made the short walk to International Boulevard were we took the first of two buses to the Museum of Flight.
The Museum is located at the south end of Boeing Field; it was home to the original Boeing plant, but is now used for 737 aircraft flight-test program, along with other Boeing operations.
The exhibits at the Museum tell the story of aviation, from the Wright Brothers first flight to the Apollo moon landings and new trends in aviation. Both civilian and military aircraft are on display.
The SR-71 was designed in the early 1960s to replace the U-2 as a high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft. The one thing the SR-71 had that the U-2 lacked was brute speed. While many aircraft can fly at the speed of sound, or even twice the speed of sound for a short period, the SR-71 could cruise at Mach 3, three times the speed of sound at an altitude of 85,000 feet. That enabled it to over-fly an area secure in the knowledge that nothing could shoot it down.
While its reconnaissance missions were classified and we may never know much about them, we do know of the numerous speed records it set. These include:
- New York to London — 1 hr., 54 min., 56.4 sec.
- London to Los Angeles — 3 hrs., 47 min., 35.8 sec.
- Los Angeles to Washington D.C. — 1 hr., 4 min., 20 sec.
- West Coast to East Coast U.S.A. — 1 hr., 7 min., 54 sec.
- St. Louis to Cincinnati — 8 min.
- Kansas City to Washington D.C. — 26 min
And those records were set with technology designed almost 50 years ago. Amazing!
And here I was, looking at an SR-71. But wait, there is a third engine above the fuselage at the rear of the plane; the SR-71 had two giant engines on the wing, but did not have a third. What am I looking at? Thankfully, the museum had an explanation.
The first aircraft of the Blackbird series was the A-12. The aircraft in front of me is the M-21, a variant of the A-12. It was designed to be used as a “mother ship” that would launch unmanned drones for intelligence gathering. Only two M-21s were ever built: the other one was destroyed in a crash that helped cause officials to cancel the program. See this page for more information about the M-21.
Nazi Germany used the V-1 “Buzz Bomb” against the Allies during WWII, launching it against Belgium, England, and France. It was later replaced by the V-2.
Visitors are allowed aboard the Concorde. What struck me about it was how narrow the cabin was; two seats on each side of the aisle. The cabin was so narrow that it reminded me of a commuter plane that American Eagle would use. The big difference of course is that the Concorde flew at twice the speed of sound at an altitude of 60,000 feet.
British Airways and Air France were the only airlines to operate the Concorde. It was a fine aircraft for trans-oceanic flights, but its sonic boom made it impractical to use on flights over land.
The Concorde was in service from 1976 to 2000. It had a solic safety record until a crash in Paris killed all on board. The Concorde has been grounded since then. However, British Airways is now trying to bring the Concorde out of retirement; this site provides an excellent history of the plane and the status of its return to service.
Air Force One is the name given to any Air Force aircraft that is carrying the President of the United States. The President has flown in a 747 since 1990, but before then, he flew in a 707.
The interior of this aircraft seemed cramped when compared to today’s Presidential 747, but it did the job well for almost 20 years.
After several enjoyable hours at the museum, we took the bus to Pike Place Market – it had already been a long day and we needed to eat! As the bus went by the north end of Boeing Field we saw dozens of aircraft waiting for delivery to the airlines. In the middle of the group were three 787 Dreamliners — I wish I could have gotten a photo of them, but we drove by too quickly. We continued on and went to the Pike Place Bar and Grill where we each ordered seafood. I had “fusion” crab cakes. These were your standard Baltimore type crab cakes, but they were breaded with Japanese Panko breadcrumbs and served in a Wasabi sauce. It was delicious. As we ate we looked outside, saw that it was raining heavily, and decided to just stay where we were.
We spent the next two hours relaxing, sampling some of the beers from the bar’s micro-brewery, talking about mileage runs we had done, and solving all the problems of the world. We did that until 4:30 when I said I had to leave — I had tickets to the Seattle Mariners – Detroit Tigers game that night starting at 6:05, and I needed to get on my way to the stadium. My friend said he would stay downtown and check out the clubs and restaurants, and then meet me at SeaTac for our midnight flight to Chicago.
We said good-bye, and I headed to the light rail station to get the train to Safeco Field.
I’ll cover that and the rest of the trip in my next post.