Archive for July, 2010
I did another mileage run this weekend, this one to San Jose, California. American Airlines (AA) was not offering any great deals on this trip, but it was a better deal than most I had found lately, so I made the reservation. These would be easy miles, I’d get home Saturday evening, no red-eye from the West Coast.
Twenty-four hours before the trip began AA sent me the standard e-mail telling me that I could now check in for my flight. I’ve done this in the past, printing my boarding pass at home. Since I am flying without luggage, that means I can go straight to the security check-in line when I get to the terminal. Not needing to check in for my boarding pass saves anywhere from 5-15 minutes waiting on line. so it is a good deal.
I noticed that AA was offering a new service: they would send an electronic boarding pass to my smartphone. Interesting! So I tried it. Moments after hitting “submit” I received an e-mail from AA with a link to my electronic boarding passes. This page provides more information on the process and shows what the pass looks like.
I would be taking four flights, and had four boarding passes. Each contained the digital design at the top, with my name, flight number, seat number, etc. beneath it. I looked forward to seeing how it would work.
I drove to the airport and took the shuttle from the parking lot to the terminal, arriving a little before 5 a.m. My first stop was the security check-in line. When I got to the front the TSA agent asked to see my boarding pass and ID. I gave him my driver’s license, and told him my boarding pass was on my phone.
He smiled and said “Not a problem!” He turned on an electronic scanner/reader at the side of his desk, said “Let’s wait a moment for it to warm up,” and then “Place your phone under the scanner, screen up.”
I followed his instructions. After two seconds the reader beeped, signifying that it had read my pass, and the agent sent me on my way. I was impressed, the boarding pass worked!
After a short stay at the Admirals Club, it was time for me to board the aircraft. When I got to the front of the line I told the gate agent I had an electronic boarding pass. Rather than scanning it, she simply asked me for my name, I gave it to her, she entered me into the system, and I boarded the plane.
We had a smooth flight to DFW and landed on time. I took the SkyLink to Terminal D, and after a short wait, prepared to board my flight to San Jose.
When I checked in, I told the gate agent that I had the electronic boarding pass. The gate agent in Austin had not even tried to scan the pass, but they did try at DFW. I held my phone under the reader and no matter what we did, we never heard the beep signifying that the scanner had read it. After several failed attempts we finally gave up and she did the same as the Austin gate agent, asked me my name, entered it in the system, and then let me board.
So, I had tried to use the electronic pass three times. It worked great with the Austin TSA, the Austin gate agent did not even try to use it, and we could not get it to work at DFW. That was enough for me, when I got to San Jose I had them print my return boarding passes, at least I know they work.
We had a smooth uneventful flight to San Jose, arriving on time. I had flown through that airport several times before and it was not one of my favorites: the terminal was old, crowded, too small. I expected to see the same, but was in for a pleasant surprise.
Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport had been rebuilt with a brand new terminal! No more crowds, no more problems trying to walk past a gate but not being able to because there were so many people trying to board a flight. Those days are gone at SJC!
As travelers carry all sorts of electronic devices with them, one of the major problems they face is trying to find a place to recharge them at an airline terminal. It’s almost impossible to find an outlet at some airports. That is not a problem at San Jose.
Many of the seats in the terminal have power outlets built into the armrests, making it very easy to recharge that phone or laptop. I have never seen this at any other airport, I wish more of them had this feature!
I had two-and-a-half hours before my flight back to DFW. I had coffee at Starbucks, ate a slice of pizza for lunch, and spent some time at the Admirals’ Club before going to the departure gate.
The flight back to DFW was on an MD-80, as were all my flights that day, It was an uneventful flight, landing 10 minutes early.
I went to the Skylink shuttle to change terminals. There are two Skylink routes, one going around the airport clockwise, the other counterclockwise. So, it doesn’t matter which line you use when changing terminals, they will both get you where you are going, but one will get you there a few minutes faster. I went to the station and heard the announcement that the Skylink line I needed was out of order. No big deal, I simply took train in the other direction and got a grand tour of DFW.
After a quick stop at the Admirals Club I boarded the flight to Austin, and was on the ground an hour later.
All of my flights this day were almost completely full, not unusual considering that AA’s current capacity level is 86%. The bad news, at least for me, is that the high capacity rate lets the airlines keep fares much higher than last year, making mileage runs more difficult to find
This was a good mileage run: I took four flights, never ran into turbulence, and three flights arrived on time while the fourth was early. The worst thing that happened was the poor performance of the electronic boarding pass. All in all, it was a good day.
The small town of Rachel, Nevada, has something that no other town anywhere in the world has: a KFC logo so large that it is supposedly visible from space! Want to see it? Here’s what to do.
- Go to Google Maps
- Enter 37.646188,-115.750709 in the location bar. (These are the geographic coordinates, 36.6 degrees north, 115.7 degrees west) of the logo.
- Click on Search Maps
- Voila! There’s the logo!
According to Wikipedia, KFC built the logo in 2006 to mark the debut of a “massive global re-image campaign that will contemporize 14,000 plus KFCs around the world.” The logo was built in 6 days from 65,000 one-foot-square tiles.
When you zoom in you’ll see an 18-wheeler parked to the left of the Colonel, and the shadows (next to his ear) of two people looking at the logo.
This Saturday I am doing a mileage run to San Jose, California. It doesn’t look like a flight from DFW to SJC will fly over the logo, but a St. Louis to San Francisco flight might. I’ll bring a copy of this article and give it to the flight crew: who knows, maybe bad weather will divert us north.
Thanks to MentalFloss.com for finding the story!
One of the easiest ways to earn hotel points and airline miles is with an affinity credit card. Perhaps you already have one: my first was the American Airlines MasterCard with which I earned one AAdvanatage mile for every dollar I spent. For several years I made almost all of my purchases on that card: food, gas, cell phone service, etc, and then paid it off at the end of the month, thus avoiding any interest fees. The miles I earned by doing that paid for two trips to Hawaii for Mrs. HappyFlier and I!
Several years ago I switched to the Starwood American Express Card as my primary charge card. It has many advantages over the AAdvantage Mastercard. The Starwood AmEx not only allows me to earn Starwood hotel points (one for every dollar I charge) that I can use at any of the 800+ Starwood properties around the world (including Sheraton, Westin, W, Le Meridien, and St. Regis hotels, to name a few) but also allows me to earn airline miles. I can transfer my Starwood points to any one of 30+ airlines and earn miles on a one-to-one basis, But, and this is a big but, if I transfer 20,000 Starwood points to the airline, I’ll get 25,000 airline miles, a 25% bonus! So, every dollar I spend on the Starwood card is both more flexible and more valuable than a dollar I spend on the AAdvantage Mastercard.
The Starwood American Express is so good that it has repeatedly won the prestigious Freddy Award as the Best Affinity Credit Card. A list of the numerous SPG membership benefits shows what makes the program so good.
I’ve used my Starwood points to stay in Hong Kong, in a suite in Bangkok, in a two-story villa in Phuket, and in a suite in Nassau. I would not have been able to do this without the points I earned from the Starwood American Express.
This is the time to apply
Starwood and American Express have combined to make the card an even better deal. Open an account now and earn an extra 25,000 Starwood points! You’ll get 10,000 bonus points when you make your first purchase, and an additional 15,000 points when you charge $15,000 on the card in the first six months. This is an unbelievable deal, one you should not pass up. Visit this page to apply for the card.
If you spend the money and earn the bonus points listed above, you’ll have 40,000 Starwood points (25,000 bonus points, plus 15,000 for your spending). What can you do with 40,000 points?
You can convert them to 50,000 airline miles, or you can use it for a free stay at a hotel. For that many points you could get five free nights at, for example, the Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites in Los Angeles. Or you can also used them to get reduced rates (cash plus points) on your hotel stays. Check the list of SPG membership benefit for the complete details.
If you spend $30,000 a year on your card, you’ll earn automatic Gold Status with Starwood.
The Starwood American Express card is, quite simply, the best card you can carry. The bonus 25,000 points makes it an even better deal. Apply for yours today! This offer expires July 31, 2010.
One of the comments I received on my last post (“Finally – I’ve Found a Mileage Run“) came from Bo who asked “How about AUS-ORD-LGA using the triple EQM promo for ORD/BOS-LGA flights?” Great question!
American Airlines and Delta are competing for traffic on the New York La Guardia (LGA) – Chicago O’Hare (ORD) route. Delta offered triple miles and triple elite qualifying miles, (EQMs) and American matched the offer. It runs until August 31.
I checked the price for the remaining Saturdays; it sounds like a great deal, but at $399, it still came to 4.8 cents per mile, including the triple miles, and that’s not a great deal. I checked the price for the remaining Sundays during the promotional period, and actually found a better deal for August 29, the last Sunday of the promotional period. The price was $350, and I could get an additional 10% off using the Century in the Making promotion. It’s still not a great deal, but I desperately need the EQMs and the triple EQMs between ORD and LGA would come in handy.
I used the multi-city feature at AA.com. found an itinerary I liked that would get me home that evening, and I decided to book it. But there was one problem, I was not able to enter the Century in the Making promotional code to get my 10% discount.
I called the AA Platinum desk to ask how to use the 10% discount and was told it was not available on multi-city bookings; it could only be used on round trip reservations. I’m not sure why that policy is in place or what sense it makes, but I had to deal with it.
So, I went back to AA.com and changed my search criteria from AUS-ORD-LGA-ORD-AUS to a more simple AUS-LGA round trip. I looked farther into the listings and sure enough, I found the exact same itinerary through ORD that I had found when using the multi-city feature. And, I could get the 10% discount because I was now booking it as a round trip ticket instead of a multi-city ticket, even though it was the exact same flight. (Note to American Airlines: that doesn’t make any sense!)
My final cost for the ticket was $331. Not great, even with the triple miles between ORD and LGA, it’s almost 4 cents per mile. But I’ll also earn triple EQMs for those segments which will change my total EQMs for the trip from 3,422 to 6,354. Since my biggest need at this time is not miles but EQMs, that will be a big help.
With no business travel this year, and American not offering system-wide double EQMs as they did last year, I’ve given up on making Platinum again this year. But this trip will make it much easier for me to at least make Gold. I won’t get my double miles next year, but I’ll still be able to board early and won’t have to pay luggage fees. I’ll take it.
On another note I saw that American is trying to build business from several cities. For the rest of the year, they are offering triple miles and double EQMs on all trips originating and terminating in St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Nashville, or Raleigh-Durham. Any time American wants to offer that from AUS, I’ll be happy to accept!