It’s the start of a busy mileage run period for me; I’m doing a run on three consecutive Saturdays. This is the first of those three trips as I once again fly to the Pacific Northwest.

This trip is on Alaska Airlines with the following itinerary: Austin to Portland (PDX) with a stop in San Jose (SJC), then on to Seattle (SEA) then back to SJC and then AUS. I’d leave Austin at 7:50 a.m. and return at 11:30 p.m., spending almost the entire day in the air with very short layovers. My flights to and from Austin are the same ones I took when I did my trip to San Jose. but this time I keep flying instead of leaving the airport and going into town.

I enjoyed my late departure from Austin; I normally leave at 6 a.m., so I got  some extra sleep before this trip. I arrived at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and went to the security check-in line. (I had printed my boarding pass at home the night before.) AUS has three main security lines, one at each end of the terminal and one in the middle. I went to the line for the lower numbered gates and saw a huge line. It not only filled the check-in space, it continued into the terminal. If I was flying on American Airlines that would not be a problem, my boarding pass would say Priority AAcess and I could go to the front of the line. Since I was flying on Alaska I’d have no such privilege.

I looked toward the center check-in area near the American Airlines counters and saw almost no one on line and immediately went to that station at the middle of the terminal. I mentioned to the TSA lady that there was a huge line at the other area and she said, “Oh, that’s because of Southwest, they have several flights leaving at almost the same time so there is always a huge line waiting to clear security.” Thanks, that’s a lesson learned for me.

I had enough time to visit the Admirals Club, say hello to the AAngels and have a cup of coffee, then head down to the departure gate. I got there 20 minutes before departure in time to hear the final boarding call announcement. Apparently Alaska boards passengers earlier that American does, I was one of the last people to board the flight.

I was on a 737-800, which has three-across seating; I had an aisle seat. I tried to put my bag under the seat in front of me but it wouldn’t fit; there was enough room in front of the other two seats, but the aisle seat had a much more narrow space, so I had to put the bag in the overhead bin. I’ll need to check when I fly on American to see if their 737 is configured the same way.

We had a smooth departure from Austin. After a while I got my laptop down to watch a DVD. I’ve done this on American without problem, but American has powerports to plug in the computer — Alaska does not. I wondered if my laptop battery would last long enough for me to watch a 95 minute movie. Thankfully it did. The worst thing that happened was the man in the seat in front of me pushing his seat back which made it impossible for me to set my laptop on the try table and still be able to see the screen. So, I place it on my lap and held it.

It was an uneventful flight to San Jose. We landed a few moments early and I chose to get off the plane instead of staying on for the 30+ minutes we spent on the ground. First stop was the closest mens room which was surprisingly small, so small that the line came out the door. After taking care of that I had enough time to make a quick phone call to my wife and then reboard.

While I do not have elite status with Alaska Airlines, they do allow passengers with elite status on their partner airlines (such as American) to board before the rest of the coach passengers do. So, I had early boarding for this part of the flight, something I always appreciate. This gives me time to get to my seat without being rushed and also allows me to watch the best show in the air — passengers fighting to get their over-stuffed carry-ons into the overhead bins. This wouldn’t happen if the airlines were not charging for checked bags, but they make too much money from that fee to cancel it.

We had a short flight to Portland; I’m not sure when their terminal opened but it could not have been too long ago, it has a very modern look and feel.

A nice touch: a piano player entertained passengers near the meain entrance to the terminal.

I made my way to the Horizon Air section of the terminal.

The MAX light-rail service offers an easy ride from the airport to downtown.

Along the way I looked out the window and saw the MAX light-rail station; MAX runs from the airport to downtown Portland. So,  now that I know I can get downtown using public transportation, I want to do a mileage run to Portland that will give me enough time to leave the airport and go into town.

I had less than 25 minutes until my flight to Seattle, so I stayed by the Horizon Airlines gate. It did not take long before we boarded the Bombardier Q400 (DH4), also known as the Dash 4 for the 30 minute flight to SeaTac (SEA). Alaska Airlines has announced that they are no longer using commuter jets on their short routes, replacing them with the Dash 4. They say that the Dash 4 is quieter, creates less pollution, and uses less fuel than the jets they are replacing.

The Bombardier Q400.

I had a seat behind the engine and thought I would have a good view, but no such luck. I didn’t realize how long the engine was; even though I was several rows behind the wing the engine still blocked most of my view.  I did however get an interesting view of the landing gear during take-off, and then watched it retract into the wing

I was flying on a small plane on a short flight. Every seat on the plane was taken, but they still managed to provide beverage service that featured the normal water, soda, or juice, but also had complimentary beer and wine. And they gave us a small bag of pretzels too! There once was a time when all flights offered that service, but now, beverages are all we get, no snacks unless we want to buy them, an certainly no complimentary beer or wine in coach!

It didn’t take long before we were on final approach to SeaTac. Enjoy this video, watch how gently the landing gear touches the runway after being held just a few inches above it.


We taxied to the terminal and got off next to the SeaTac food court, home to some of the best plane spotting in the country. I didn’t have much time before I boarded my flight to San Jose, and I was hungry. I needed something quick, and chose Anthony’s Fish Bar where I ordered the same meal I had eaten earlier this year.

Anthony's special featured clam chowder, salmon taco, with chips and salsa.

As always, I enjoyed the splendid view of flight operations from the SeaTac food court.

As I ate I saw an Asiana 767 with its distinctive tail markings, taxi past the terminal.

I ate my food as quickly as possible then made my way to my gate, N7. That was a new one to me, I normally flew in to an A or B gate. I followed the signs to the N gates, went down an escalator, and saw something that I had not seen before at SeaTac.

A train takes passengers to and from the N terminal at SeaTac.

I had flown into SeaTac so many times, but never knew there was a train. It’s the only way to get to the North Satellite terminal from the main terminal.

SeaTac is home to Alaska Airlines; I saw more of their aircraft than any other carrier.

I enjoyed the view from the terminal, but didn’t have much time to spare, my flight to San Jose boarded shortly after I got to the gate. I had one very big concern on this flight: I only had 33 minutes in San Jose to connect to my Austin flight. I hoped that the Austin leg would be on the same aircraft but a quick look at the schedule told me I was out of luck; the Austin flight originated in Portland and continued on to Austin.

I mentioned this to the flight attendants and they all said the same thing, “Don’t worry!” Fortunately, I was sitting in one of the first few rows of coach so I’d be able to get off the plane that much faster.

We had an uneventful flight to San Jose and thanks to a tail wind we arrived 5 minutes early. We came in at gate 26; when I got into the terminal I looked at the monitor and saw my Austin flight was at gate 27, it could not have been closer!

I had enough time to make a quick trip to the mens room, and then we boarded. The plane was not as full as the others had been, there were only two of us in my row, the middle seat was empty.

I was tired and slept most of the way to Austin, but I did manage to hear the credit card sales pitch that the flight attendants gave. If someone signs up for the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Card, once approved they will receive a bonus of 25,000 Mileage Plan miles. Next year on their membership anniversary they’ll get a coupon for a companion ticket to any Alaska Airlines destination for $99. After explaining all this, the flight attendants came down the aisle offering credit card applications — any passenger filling one out on the flight would receive an additional 5,000 bonus miles. This is a good deal; while Alaska is not part of a major alliance such a Oneworld or Star Alliance, they do have partnerships with several airlines including British Airways, Air France, Delta, and KLM, to name a few. Ther Mileage Plan miles are good for travel on any of those airlines. With all of those airlines to choose from you’ll be able to fly to almost any destination in the world.

The tail-wind that had helped on the previous flight must have been following us, we arrived in Austin 20 minutes early.

Saturday night, 11:30 at an almost deserted Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

I was struck by how empty and quiet the terminal was, not the normal hustle and bustle I am accustomed to.

I got home from the airport shortly after midnight. This was one of those rare mileage runs where I would actually spend Saturday night in my own bed. It was a good day, I got home safely and earned almost 4,400 EQMs. The only bad part of the trip was the short layovers, my longest was one hour 25 minutes. I felt like I was always running from plane to plane and never really had the chance to sit and relax until I got on the plane. If I could have changed anything about the day, that would have been it.

All in all though, it was a good day. I earned the miles, did not have to take a red-eye, and got home safely. Like I said, it was a good day.