Saturday morning, time for my second mileage run in 8 days. Last week I went to the Northeast, this time I’ll go to the Northwest.

My itinerary: Austin to DFW to Portland, then Horizon Air to Seattle, then back to DFW and then Austin. I’d depart Austin at 7 a.m., return at 11:25 p.m. and spend the whole day in the air or at airports. This was a three-day weekend (MLK Day on Monday) and I did not know if the holiday would increase the number of people flying or not.

It was 30 degrees when I left the house before sunrise; we had been below freezing all night and I had to scrape a small amount of frost off my car’s windshield. I did that but did not think much of it at the time. I got to the airport, checked in and was glad to see there were no crowds, no lines.

We boarded the plane on time, the flight was far from full, not even close to 50% capacity. I had the exit row to myself and as I looked out the window I could see a thin layer of frost on the wings, but did not think much of it. Everyone was on board early and we were able to push back from the gate 5 minutes ahead of schedule, but we weren’t ready to leave; the pilot announced that the ground crew would need to de-ice the plane before we took off.  I’ve flown in and out of Austin for more than 30 years, this was the first time I had seen them de-ice a plane. Two members of the ground-crew drove up to the plane in a white pick-up truck; one of the men was in a was in a cab atop a hydraulic lift in the bed of the truck. He raised the cab up in the air and sprayed the plane with a liquid mixture that melted the frost. In the meantime the driver maneuvered the truck around around the plane so that the man in the cab could spray every section.

We had a smooth flight to DFW, arriving shortly after sunrise. I saw one or two planes being de-iced; once the sun came up the frost melted off the aircraft and de-icing operations came to an end.

I changed terminals and boarded my flight to Portland. We were on an MD-80, and again, the plane was less than half full. Good for me, I once again had the exit row to myself.

This plane offered inflight internet access, and I decided to take advantage of that. The cost was $9.95 and would only provide service for this DFW-PDX flight. I had some writing to do and thought it was worth the price. Well, actually the writing could wait until the next day, I just wanted to see how it worked. :-) Overall, it was a good experience; I’ll talk about it more in another post.

I have to admit I spent a lot of time looking out the window. The beauty of the American west stuns me every time I fly over it.

Early morning clouds float above snow-covered mountains.

We had a stunning view of Mt. Rainier.

We made a smooth approach to Portland and landed on time. I then had a long walk to the other end of the terminal to take my Horizon Air flight to Seattle. Horizon is owned by Alaska Airlines’ parent company and serves as its short-haul service, just as American Eagle does for American Airlines. Our plane was a Bombardier Q400 (DH4).

I finally reached the far end of the terminal where Horizon has its gates.

We'd have a short walk to our plane, it was parked right outside the door at our gate.

Shortly after I got there the gate attendant was nice enough to make one of the most important announcements of the day, “The restroom on this aircraft is not working, so if you need to use the restroom please do it prior to boarding.” Immediately ten of us got up and went to the men’s room.

We boarded shortly thereafter and I compared this aircraft to the Aerospatiale/Alenia 72 (AT7) that we had flown on American Eagle between Miami and Nassau. The two aircraft appear to be approximately the same size but there was one major difference: I was able to get my roller-board under the seat in front of me. On American Eagle I had to give it to the ground crew to place in the cargo compartment, it would not fit in the overhead bin or under the seats. This plane also seemed newer than the Eagle planes we had taken.

We departed Portland on time and I sat back to enjoy the one-hour flight to Seattle. Shortly after we leveled out the flight attendant came through with the beverage cart, and I was quite surprised at what she offered. We could get complimentary juice or soda, which I expected. However, she also offered complimentary beer and wine! I had never seen complimentary alcohol on a domestic flight. And with the beverage we also got a small complimentary bag of pretzels; you know the bag, the kind that the major airlines used to give out. Or maybe it’s hard to remember back that far! :-)  I was astonished by this. On this commuter flight that would be in the air no more than 40 minutes I had just gotten a wider choice of complimentary refreshments and snacks than I can get on American Airlines flying cross country! Amazing!

I was glad to have the chance to fly on Horizon; a few days after the trip Alaska Airlines announced that it would end the Horizon brand and all of its aircraft would be rebranded as part of Alaska Airlines.

We landed in Seattle on time and had a short walk from the plane to the terminal; it was a beautiful day, so warm that I took my jacket off.

Once I got into the terminal I immediately went to the food court. I’ve written before about how much I enjoy the food court at Seattle-Tacoma International airport (see this article) with its wide selection of food and great views of the runways. I had more than enough time to decide where I would eat dinner. I ignored the fast-food establishments; I saw an oriental restaurant that had a nice selection but decided against it, I can get oriental food here at home. I decided on seafood and went to Anthony’s Fish Bar. I ordered their special: clam chowder, baked salmon taco with chips and salsa.

This wasn't a fancy dinner, but it hit the spot.

The clam chowder was thick, warm, and delicious. I took my time with it, then tried the taco. Living in Texas I am normally old-school and want authentic tacos – a salmon taco does not fit that category, but no matter, it was delicious. The salmon tasted very fresh, not frozen and flown across the country, and blended quite well with the chopped tomatoes and shredded cabbage wrapped in the large tortilla. I took my time eating it; it was truly a pleasant experience.

Once I was done I walked to the gate for my flight to DFW. We boarded the 737 early and actually departed a few minutes ahead of schedule. This flight, like my earlier ones, was less than half full. I was sitting in an full row, once we pushed back I moved up one row and had it to myself.

It was an uneventful flight to DFW; I spent most of the time reading from my Kindle. A few hours later we prepared for landing and the flight attendant announced the departure gates for connecting flights. I was glad to hear “If you are going to Austin, this is the plane for that flight so we’ll depart from the same gate.”

It’s funny how things happen. A week earlier I had to change planes at DFW, but since they both had the same flight number I lost my bonus miles for the AUS-DFW segment. This week I’d have the same plane into and out of DFW, but would get the bonus miles because the plane flew in with one flight number, but would depart with another. It all worked out.

Since we landed early I had almost 90 minutes until the AUS flight would board. We were at Terminal D, my favorite terminal at DFW. It is the newest, most spacious, and has a wonderful open design that feels more like a new shopping mall than an airline terminal.

After you clear security you can walk through this large design to get to the gates.

The souvenir shops were selling Super Bowl XLV items.

One thing that struck me about the terminal was how empty it was. Most of the international flights had already departed. At 9 p.m. on this Saturday night the terminal had so few people in it that I didn’t even bother to go the Admirals Club, it was quiet enough in the terminal.

We boarded shortly after 10 p.m. for our very quick flight back to Austin. We landed early, I was home shortly after midnight. It had been a long day, but not quite as tiring as my trip the previous week. I earned 9,550 AAdvantage miles, so it was a good day. I did two trips in January and earned a total of 8,633 Elite Qualifying Miles, and 17,498 AAdvantage miles. For me, that is a good month! Now on to February and my next two mileage runs!