Saturday morning, May 10. Another early wake-up as I begin yet another mileage run to Seattle.

This is my 4th trip to Seattle since December, and yes, I am getting a bit tired of it. But there is no other city I can visit in the 48 states and earn as many miles as I can when I go to Seattle. So, I am off again to the great northwest.

After showering and eating a quick meal, I was on my way to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (ABIA) at 4:15 a.m. Traffic was light and I made it to the terminal by 5 a.m.

Thankfully, it was not nearly as crowded as it was two weeks ago and I was able to quickly clear security.

My route for the day was Austin to Dallas to San Diego to Seattle to Chicago and back to Austin. Two weeks ago I had a 3-hour layover in Seattle which gave me time to relax and eat a meal. My longest layover on this trip would be one hour 20 minutes in Seattle. I’d be in trouble if one of my flights was delayed.

My first flight left Austin on time at 6:15. I slept all the way to Dallas. We landed at 7:15, and I had just enough time to grab a cup of coffee at the Admirals Club, take the train to terminal D, and then board my flight to San Diego.

We took off a few minutes late, and I quickly fell back to sleep. It was time to pay the price for getting up so early. Thankfully, I was able to sleep for an hour or so, and felt much better once I woke up. The flight was smooth but very disappointing in one way; there’s a lot of beautiful scenery on that route but we could not see any of it, the sky was overcast all the way to San Diego.

Cloudy skies all the way to San Diego.
Unfortunately we did not see the beautiful scenery of the American West as we flew to San Diego, but we did see a lot of clouds.

It was a three-hour flight and I was getting hungry. I hated to do it but I bought the $4 snack special: I got crackers and cheese and a box of raisins. Oh, please bring back the good old days of real food on flights! While it wasn’t much of a meal, it took care of my appetite and I enjoyed the rest of the flight. It went smoothly, but we were ten minutes late when we landed. That’s trouble!

I had a one hour five minute layover, and had now lost ten minutes. It took another ten minutes before I could get off the plane and now I was in serious trouble. I was scheduled to take Alaska Air to Seattle: my problem was that I had arrived at Terminal Two, but Alaska Air flies from Terminal One.

At most airports this would not be a problem, but at San Diego it meant I had to exit the secure area, leave Terminal Two, go outside, walk down to Terminal One, and then clear security again. And I had less than 45 minutes until my flight departed, no more than 15 minutes until they started to board the flight.

Tick, tick, tick.

I walked as quickly as I could to Terminal One, my flight was at Gate 16. I got to the security check-in and saw two lines, one long and one short. Obviously I went to the short one and then heard the TSA lady screech “First Class only! First Class only!” Almost half the people left her line and got on the increasingly long one.

Tick, tick, tick.

I was going to leave the line too but then I saw the sign that said the line was for “First Class passengers and passenger with Elite Status.” Great!

I immediately pulled out my American Airlines Platinum card and presented it to the TSA lady. Rather than checking me through, she decided this was the perfect time for her to instruct the lady checking in people on the longer line.

“Remember what we were talking about in our meeting on Tuesday?” she asked. “This is an example of it. Here is an American Airlines boarding pass for an Alaska Air flight. You need to study this so you can recognize it when you see it. And he has elite status with American but not Alaska Air.”

Tick, tick, tick.

Uhh, maybe you just need to be a school teacher later and let me get to my plane now…

Thankfully, she read my mind and wished me a good day. By the time I got to gate 16 they had already started the boarding procedure. No time to take pictures, no time to even visit the rest room.

Lesson learned: you need a longer layover in San Diego if you have to change terminals. It’s even worse if you fly in on American Eagie, they use a terminal at the other side of the airport and you have to take a bus to get to the main terminal.

Since I have Platinum status with American Airlines, Alaska assigned me to aisle 6, the first row in coach, and the row with the greatest amount of leg room. The plane was only 60 percent full, so everyone boarded quickly and we pushed back from the terminal as soon as everyone was seated.

Alaska Air flies the Boeing 737 and the planes seem to be much newer than the MD-80s that I so frequently fly on American; even in coach we had comfortable leather seats. Our flight to Seattle went very smoothly, and, best of all, we arrived ten minutes early. Great! That gave me an hour and twenty-five minutes in Seattle, I might even have time to eat!

I went to the Pacific Marketplace, the giant food court in the terminal area.

The Pacific Marketplace food court at Sea-Tac airport.
The Pacific Marketplace features a wide selection of food options, from Italian to Tex-Mex to seafood.

Starbucks at Sea-Tac airport
It’s Seattle, so there is, naturally, a Starbucks.

After my bad luck at getting my food choice two weeks earlier at Anthony’s, I decided to eat at one of the most famous seafood restaurants in the Seattle area, Ivar’s.

They don’t have a full-scale restaurant at the airport, but do have a fish bar when you can order small meals to eat in the food court, or to take with you on your flight.

Ivar's at Sea-Tac airport
Ivar’s Fish Bar, a great choice for a quick meal.

Since we arrived early, I had enough time to eat my meal in the food court and relax a little.

Lunch at Ivar's at Sea-Tac airport
Not a luxurious meal, but fish and chips, cole slaw and iced tea hit the spot, and it certainly beat the cheese and crackers I had on my earlier flight!

The view at the Pacific Marketplace
Passengers can relax and look out the giant window while eating at the Pacific Marketplace.

Another view at the Pacific Marketplace
Passengers can sit on benches or rocking chairs and watch the busy traffic at Sea-Tac airport.

I love the views from the Pacific Marketplace: very few airports can equal the spectacular view of flight operations that passengers can get at Sea-Tac.

After finishing my meal, I went towards my gate.

Aircraft at Sea-Tac
A Southwest Airlines 737 is pushed back from the terminal. Planes from Korean Air, Air France, and Lufthansa are in the background.

Two weeks ago my flight from Seattle to Chicago was delayed. This time everything went smoothly as we boarded.

Winglets on an American Airlines 737
An American Airlines 737 was at the gate next to ours. AA has added winglets on the edge of the wings. Although the winglets point up, they improve the performance of the plane as much as they would if they were flat and had made the wing that much longer. This helps to increase efficiency and save fuel.

Close-up of winglet
Someone in marketing decided the winglet was the perfect place to advertise the American Airlines website, AA.com

We left Seattle a few minutes early and had a smooth flight to Chicago, getting in at 8:20. At 9:35 I was on my flight back to Austin.

It was a quiet flight, the plane was 70 percent empty and I had the exit row to myself. As we flew across the middle of America, I could see storms to the east with powerful lightning flashes. The next day I found that those storms had unleashed tornadoes that had killed more than 20 people.

We landed in Austin at 12:20 a.m., eighteen hours after my flight had left that morning. I was home safely by 1:30.

It had been another long day, but I got home on time and earned over 11,000 miles. I now have over 125,000 miles in the account, which means I have covered the cost of one of the Business Class tickets to Australia and Thailand. Now I just need to do it again!

Mission accomplished.