After all my trips to San Francisco (SFO), it was time to travel to another location. I made a reservation to go to Portland, this would be my first trip after the conclusion of the American Airlines SFO double Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) promotion on March 31. However, soon after I made the reservation AA extended the SFO promotion to the end of June. Had I known at the time that they would do this I would have made another SFO run.

I had originally looked at a trip to Seattle, but the cost was almost $300; not a good deal. I found the trip to Portland (PDX) for only $240, what made it odd was the fact that I had to go though Seattle to get there. So I added a Seattle-Portland round trip and it lowered my cost by more than $50. Weird. No double EQMs on this flight, but I would still earn more than 5,000 EQMs, more then 10,000 redeemable miles, and only pay, after my Platinum Bonus, 2.27 cents per mile, not a bad price at all! My itinerary would have six flights: AUS-DFW-SEA-PDX-SEA-DFW-AUS. I’d leave Saturday morning, return Sunday morning.

I arrived at Austin-Begstrom International Airport early Saturday morning. I used the kiosk to check in and get my boarding passes. After all the boarding pass problems I had had with the AA iPhone app in the past, I decided to not use it again; paper is more reliable.

My day started early. AA’s first AUS-DFW flight had, for a very long time, been at 6 a.m. But now they have added a 5:45 a.m. flight and that was my first flight of the day. It was a smooth flight to DFW, I arrived at 6:40 and departed for SEA at 8 a.m.

This was also a smooth flight, a 737 to SEA that arrived on time at 10:10 a.m. This was not unusual for this trip, all of my flights departed and arrived on schedule.

Once I got to Seattle I had my first long layover of the day, two hours and fifty minutes, my PDX flight would not leave until 1 p.m. With that much time to spare, I went to the food court to do some plane-watching. The view of the runways at SEA is spectacular, I have not been to an airport that offers better views of arriving/departing aircraft.

An Alaska Airlines D-400, featuring the school colors of the University of Idaho, takes off from SEA.

 

Another D-400, this one landing.

 

With the Pacific Cascades barely visible in the background, a Southwest Airlines 737 taxis from the terminal. I have to admit, SWA's livery certainly is colorful!

After quite a while of plane-watching, it was time to go to the club. American Airlines no longer has an Admirals Club in Seattle, it closed many years ago. But they have made an agreement with Alaska Airlines that allows Admirals Club members, flying on AA, to use the Alaska Airlines Boardroom club.

I went to the club, showed them my Admirals Club card, then had to show an AA boarding pass for that day. Once that was done they wrote my information on a sheet and welcomed me.

It’s a two-story club at SEA, but I stayed on the ground floor. It offers many of the same amenities as the Admirals Club: comfortable chairs and sofas, many places to plug in your electrical device to charge. work areas where your laptop can connect to the internet, and also offers food and beverages.

It was in that last category that the Boardroom pulled ahead of the Admirals Club. The Boardroom offers a larger selection of non-alcoholic beverages (I didn’t sample the alcohol, so I can’t compare the two clubs in this area.) The Admirals Club offers two types of coffee; regular and decaf. (Or, as we call it at home, leaded and unleaded.) The Boardroom matched that but had a machine that also made lattes and cappuccinos—I sampled them both more than once. I’d love to see the AC get a machine like that! (Can you put it on your post-reorganization shopping list?)

The Boardroom also offered a larger choice of complimentary food in the morning: bagels, English Muffins, and full-size rather than mini muffins.

The Alaska Airlines Boardroom at Sea-Tac also offered a great view of the airline's operations with planes coming and going. It could not however, equal the runway view that the food court offers.

I enjoyed my time at the Boardroom, but it was time for my flight to Portland. I’d be on an Alaska Airlines D-400, a turboprop that they are using for all of their short-haul flights.

This is the plane I took from SEA to PDX. Alaska Airlines is changing the livery on the Horizon planes to match all other Alaska Airlines aircraft. This one has not yet changed.

I’d flow this route several times in the past and did not mind the fact that it was not a jet. We’d be in the air less than 35 minutes. The plane was not crowded, I had a row to myself and was able to get a window seat. It was not until we took off that I realized how very lucky I was.

I’ve been to the Pacific Northwest when it has been cloudy, raining, and windy, matching the stereotypical opinion people have of the cold and wet Northwest. This day however could not have been a more beautiful day, affording me spectacular views on the flight.

Shortly after we took off I got a nice view of one of the local waterways with Mt. Rainier in the distance.

We has a spectacular view of Mount Rainier.

Mount St. Helen's in the foreground, Mount Adams in the background.

 

It's been more than 30 years since Mount St. Helen's erupted on May 30, 1980. Before the eruption it was 9,677 feet tall, but only 8,363 feet tall afterwards, having lost the top 1,300 feet of mountain.

Mount St. Helen’s is quiet now, the top crater appeared to be full of snow. It’s almost impossible to describe the devastation that occurred when it blew: these photos from Boston.com will give you a good idea of what happened that day.

One of the other passengers on my flight said geologists are now keeping a close eye on Mount Rainier, thinking it will be the next mountain to blow. When will that happen? No one knows, it could be soon, it could be hundreds of years from now, but they are watching.

We landed at Portland on time and I went to the light rail station to take the train downtown. The train stops right next to the terminal, it’s not necessary to to take a long walk to it as it is in some airports. Round trip was $5, a lot better than the $16.20 I paid in San Francisco a few weeks ago.

My Portland layover was almost five hours, so I hoped to be able to eat dinner downtown. However, it took longer than I expected to get downtown: that should not have come as a surprise to me, Pioneer Square was 17 stops away.

Portland light rail is not a subway, the trains do not run below ground in a tunnel, they are always at the surface. As a result the cars are almost always in the Sun and will get warmer than they would have otherwise. I did not think of this until a lady got on with her dog and it decided to stretch out and lay on that warm floor.

The floor of the light rail car was warm and this dog decided to take full advantage ot it.

When I got to the Pioneer Square station I got off and walked around for a while. It was a simply gorgeous day, not a cloud in the sky and temperatures in the low 80s (28 degrees C).

Pioneer Courthouse at Pioneer Square, Portland.

How far is it from Portland to the Great Wall of China? This sign in Pioneer Square had the answer to that question and others.

I went into the Pioneer Square tourist office and asked what time I needed to be on light rail to get back to the airport in time for my flight. They looked it up on the computer, and the answer was 4:35 p.m. Glad to know it, but that meant I had less than 2 hours until I had to be on the train back to the airport, less time than I had expected. So, I decided to walk around and look for a place to eat.

I'm not sure why, but they put this statue of a man apparently calling a cab in Pioneer Square. And yes, someone did put a sombrero on top of the umbrella.

As I said, it was a beautiful day, and I enjoyed walking around the area. I found several restaurants but realized I wasn’t very hungry, I had snacked too much at the Boardroom in Seattle.  So I looked to see if there were any tourist type places to visit nearby, but did not see any.

Then I came around a corner and saw the Simon and Helen Director Park. People were sitting and enjoying the beautiful weather.

Portlanders took advantage of the beautiful weather;, sitting in a downtown par, and relaxing.

I saw a Starbucks across the street, got one of their frozen drinks, found a place to sit in the park, pulled out my Kindle and had a wonderful hour, just sitting, reading, and enjoying the glorious day. My only regret was that I did not have more time to spend in Portland!

Too soon, it was time for me to head back to the airport. I found the light rail stop next to Pioneer Square and had a 10-minute wait for the next train.

Light rail train arriving at Pioneer Square on its way to the airport.

I boarded the train, looked at my watch and thought that I would make it on time,I just hoped the security lines would not be too long at the airport. I was flying with an Alaska Airlines boarding pass which did not give me Priority AAcess the way an American boarding pass did.

The ride back to the airport went smoothly, at least the first half of it did. We had a problem after that. The train pulled into a station and as passengers were getting on and off we heard a man scream on the platform then saw several people go running towards the front of our train. What happened?

We sat for several minutes, then the engineer came on the PA system to announce that a man had been injured on the platform after falling down the stairs, and the engineer would need to stay with him until the ambulance arrived. So, until that ambulance came, we were stuck.  I wasn’t happy with the delay, but was glad I had gotten the train at 4:15 instead of 4:35, perhaps that would give me enough time to make up for the delay.

We sat at the station waiting for the ambulance. And then we sat some more. And then some more. We sat for at least 15 minutes, and by this time I was getting concerned. The TSA security lines were extremely long when I landed a few hours earlier; if they were as long this evening i might miss my flight to Seattle.

The ambulance finally arrived and we continued on our way back to the airport. I started to remove all the items from my pockets and put them in my carry-on, I did not want any delay when I had to clear security. My Alaska Airlines boarding pass did not have anything on it to indicate priority access, but it did say I had Platinum status with American: would that be enough for me them to allow me to go to the front of the line?

We got to the airport, I had little more than an hour until my flight departed, but long lines could cause issues. How soon would Alaska Airlines start the boarding process?

I sprinted through the terminal and up the escalator, hoping to make up for lost time. And then I came around the corner and saw the security check in line. There were three people on line. The line was so short that they were allowing everyone to use the priority access line rather than go through the maze of the normal check in line.

I cleared security and went to the boarding gate. I was so early that the plane had not even arrived yet. So much for missing my flight.

My plane arrived shortly after that and I had a smooth flight back to Seattle. This layover would be more than 4 hours.

As I walked across the terminal, I paused to watch the ground crew service this AA 737.

I went back to the Alaska Airlines Boardroom club and relaxed.  I read, snacked, caught up on my email, and enjoyed not being in the noise and crowds of the main terminal.

My flight to DFW was scheduled to depart at 11:40 p.m., or 1:40 in the morning according to my body clock. My upgrade to first had come through and I hoped to sleep well on the flight back to Dallas, and made sure to take my sleeping pills 30 minutes before we departed. They must have worked—I remember the plane taking off and nothing else until we landed at DFW! :-)

I was hungry and there aren’t many options at DFW at 5 a.m. on a Sunday morning other than Mc Donalds. I looked, but none of the other establishments had yet opened. So, I went for an Egg McMuffin with a hot cup of coffee. At that hour of the morning it really isn’t bad. From there I went to the Admirals Club that had just opened.

I checked in and asked if a shower was available. One was, and they gave me the key. I had been traveling for almost 26 hours and was tired, but a nice warm shower really made the difference and made me feel so much better. I was also lucky to have the shower at the Admirals Club in Terminal A, home to the famous car-wash showers, where water not only comes down on you from above but also from the sides. Fancy!

My 8 a.m. flight to Austin was less than half full, we landed in Austin at 9 and I was home by 9:30.

It had been a long weekend with my first red-eye of the year, but a fun one. I enjoyed my short time in Portland, saw some incredible scenery, had no problems with any of my flights, and got home safely. I earned more than 5,000 EQMs and 10,000 RDMs. My miles posted and show that I now have 93,150 EQMs on the year. This weekend I will do a quick trip to SFO and back. If my math is correct, that trip should give me Executive Platinum status with a YTD total of 1000,006 EQMs. I’ll keep the status until February of 2014, and should get a lot of First Class travel during that time. My wife and I are going to Chicago in a few weeks, with reservations in coach. I’ve been told I need to call the Executive Platinum desk about that and they will bump us to first. I am excited by this, and look forward to the extra benefits I will earn from my new Executive Platinum status!

Disclaimer: I own stock in AMR Corporation, the parent company of American Airlines. The total value of my holdings, as of 5/4/12, is less than $85.00