Last weekend I completed my longest domestic mileage run ever, seven flights with over 9,000 miles in the air. I’ve done longer trips, but had to go overseas to do them, this mileage run was completely in the USA!

My itinerary was: Austin to Chicago to Boston to Los Angeles back to Boston to Dallas and then home to Austin. Leave Austin at 7:45 on Saturday morning, get home 4:30 Sunday afternoon. That is a L-O-N-G weekend!

Everything started well on Saturday morning. I was glad that I was not on my normal 6 a.m. flight out of Austin and was able to sleep a little bit later than normal. Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (ABIA) was not very busy and I was able to check in and clear security quickly.

Our MD-80 left on time and I quickly went to sleep. We arrived in Chicago (ORD) a few minutes ahead of schedule, allowing me a little bit more than two hours at ORD. There was heavy rain in the Chicago area, but I did not complain, given the time of year I was glad it was not snow or ice.

I spent some time at the Admirals Club, some time wandering the shops at ORD, and then went to the gate for my Boston flight. What a crowd! The plane (an MD-80) was booked to capacity; there may have been one or two empty seats but I did not see them. There are always problems whenever a flight is that full as the first people to board fill up the overhead compartments, leaving no room for the final passengers. That happened this time, making it difficult for us to leave on time as the flight attendants tried to find room for all the carry-on luggage. Eventually they did and we departed on time.

Weather was good, winds were favorable, and we arrived in Boston 30 minutes ahead of schedule! That was the good news! The bad news was that there was no gate available for us so we had to sit for 15 minutes before one became available. But that was okay, we still arrived 15 minutes early.

I had a little bit more than one hour layover at Boston, the extra time gave me a chance to visit the food court and grab a slice of pizza.

I went to the gate for my Los Angeles (LAX) flight and was again surprised to see how crowded it was. Although this was a large aircraft (767-300), the flight was a complete sell-out, no empty seats at all! In fact the flight was so crowded that I could not get my normal exit-row seat and had to sit in the row behind it, with my knees pressed up against the seat in front of me. Whenever I wonder if it is worth having elite status, I’ll think back to what it was like to take this 6-hour cross country flight in a normal seat, and that will settle that question for me!

We took off from Boston just before sunset and chased it across the country. Eventually the Sun went down and they turned off the cabin lights, leaving the reading lights as the only illumination on the plane. And then things changed quickly!

The cabin lights came back on and the flight attendant announced “We have a medical emergency aboard the aircraft. If there is a doctor onboard please come to the rear of the aircraft immediately!” Virtually all of the flight attendants and 2-3 passengers went to the rear of the plane. The flight attendants brought pillows, blankets, oxygen tanks and a defibrillator with them. This could be very serious!

We could not see what was happening from where we were, but we all hoped the passenger would be okay, and that we would not have to divert to another airport to let him off for emergency medical attention.

For more than an hour, there was a crowd at the rear of the aircraft tending to the passenger; in the meantime, the plane continued on towards LAX. Then the attendants all went back to their normal duty stations and the cabin lights again dimmed. Apparently the passenger was all right.

We landed in Los Angeles 35 minutes ahead of schedule and I went to the Admirals Club. I washed off, sipped a beverage, then went to On the Border, a great Mexican restaurant in the food-court, for dinner. I had enough time to eat the chicken burrito and then head back to the gate for my return flight to Boston. By now I was pretty tired and took a sleeping pill 20 minutes before boarding.

The Boston flight was again on a large aircraft, a 757, and it was also filled to capacity. I was lucky to get seat 10A which has no seat in front of it, I’d be able to stretch out my legs and rest. By the time I boarded, the sleeping pill was starting to kick in. I remember sitting down, putting my pillow against the window, and closing my eyes. The next thing I remember was the FA shaking me to wake me up for the landing in Boston.

We got into Boston 25 minutes early, so far all of my flights had arrived early! I went to the food court and ate a large breakfast of bacon and eggs, toast, and coffee. I had a 1 hour 40 minute layover, so by the time I finished my meal, I had to head to the gate for my 8:50 a.m. flight to DFW.

This flight was on an MD-80, and once again the plane was completely full. Everyone boarded quickly so we were able to push back almost 10 minutes early for a smooth flight back to Texas. It was becoming a pleasant habit as we again landed 20 minutes ahead of schedule.

I went to the Admirals Club and asked to use the shower. By now I had been traveling for over 30 hours and a shower and shave was just what I needed. I felt great after that and spent time in the club snacking and reading the Sunday paper.

My final flight was an MD-80 back to Austin and it also was filled to capacity. I left DFW at 4:05 and I got back to Austin at 5:05. I was exhausted, but had put over 9,000 EQMs and 18,000 total miles in my account, so I was pleased.

Two things jumped out at me during this trip. First, although we are in the middle of an economic slowdown, almost every flight I took was sold out! At least on these routes on that weekend, people were flying. The other meaningful thing was that all my flights arrived early. There are two reasons for this.

First, the airlines have all cut back on the number of flights, this lessens congestion at the airports and makes it easier for planes to stay on schedule. Second, American Airlines has redone its schedules, allowing a more realistic time for its planes to get from point A to point B. As they say on, “We increased the time between flights in nearly 40 markets to offset Air Traffic Control (ATC) inefficiencies and weather. Streamlining our crews to stay with the same aircraft also enhances on time departures and arrivals and new technologies help facilitate turning the aircraft around on time. ”

These changes have made a difference. I flew into 4 major airports, (Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles and Dallas/Fort Worth) and did not experience any delays. Bravo to American for making these changes!

It may be a while before I tackle such a tiring itinerary as this one. My next mileage run will be an easy one, Austin to San Jose and back, all on the same aircraft. I am looking forward to it!