I did another mileage run this weekend, this one to San Jose, California.  American Airlines (AA) was not offering any great deals on this trip, but it was a better deal than most I had found lately, so I made the reservation. These would be easy miles, I’d get home Saturday evening, no red-eye from the West Coast.

Twenty-four hours before the trip began AA sent me the standard e-mail telling me that I could now check in for my flight. I’ve done this in the past, printing my boarding pass at home. Since I am flying without luggage, that means I can go straight to the security check-in line when I get to the terminal. Not needing to check in for my boarding pass saves anywhere from 5-15 minutes waiting on line. so it is a good deal.

I noticed that AA was offering a new service: they would send an electronic boarding pass to my smartphone. Interesting! So I tried it. Moments after hitting “submit” I received an e-mail from AA with a link to my electronic boarding passes. This page provides more information on the process and shows what the pass looks like.

I would be taking four flights, and had four boarding passes. Each contained the digital design at the top, with my name, flight number, seat number, etc. beneath it. I looked forward to seeing how it would work.

I drove to the airport and took the shuttle from the parking lot to the terminal, arriving a little before 5 a.m. My first stop was the security check-in line. When I got to the front the TSA agent asked to see my boarding pass and ID. I gave him my driver’s license, and told him my boarding pass was on my phone.

He smiled and said “Not a problem!” He turned on an electronic scanner/reader at the side of his desk, said “Let’s wait a moment for it to warm up,” and then “Place your phone under the scanner, screen up.”

I followed his instructions. After two seconds the reader beeped, signifying that it had read my pass, and the agent sent me on my way. I was impressed, the boarding pass worked!

After a short stay at the Admirals Club, it was time for me to board the aircraft. When I got to the front of the line I told the gate agent I had an electronic boarding pass. Rather than scanning it, she simply asked me for my name, I gave it to her, she entered me into the system, and I boarded the plane.

We had a smooth flight to DFW and landed on time. I took the SkyLink to Terminal D, and after a short wait, prepared to board my flight to San Jose.

When I checked in, I told the gate agent that I had the electronic boarding pass. The gate agent in Austin had not even tried to scan the pass, but they did try at DFW. I held my phone under the reader and no matter what we did, we never heard the beep signifying that the scanner had read it. After several failed attempts we finally gave up and she did the same as the Austin gate agent, asked me my name, entered it in the system, and then let me board.

So, I had tried to use the electronic pass three times. It worked great with the Austin TSA, the Austin gate agent did not even try to use it, and we could not get it to work at DFW. That was enough for me, when I got to San Jose I had them print my return boarding passes, at least I know they work.

We had a smooth uneventful flight to San Jose, arriving on time. I had flown through that airport several times before and it was not one of my favorites: the terminal was old, crowded, too small. I expected to see the same, but was in for a pleasant surprise.

Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport had been rebuilt with a brand new terminal! No more crowds, no more problems trying to walk past a gate but not being able to because there were so many people trying to board a flight. Those days are gone at SJC!

The spacious new terminal at Mineta International Airport in San Jose.

As travelers carry all sorts of electronic devices with them, one of the major problems they face is trying to find a place to recharge them at an airline terminal. It’s almost impossible to find an outlet at some airports. That is not a problem at San Jose.

Electrical outlets in the armrests of many of the seats st San Jose.

Many of the seats in the terminal have power outlets built into the armrests, making it very easy to recharge that phone or laptop. I have never seen this at any other airport, I wish more of them had this feature!

I had two-and-a-half hours before my flight back to DFW. I had coffee at Starbucks, ate a slice of pizza for lunch, and spent some time at the Admirals’ Club before going to the departure gate.

The flight back to DFW was on an MD-80, as were all my flights that day, It was an uneventful flight, landing 10 minutes early.

I went to the Skylink shuttle to change terminals. There are two Skylink routes, one going around the airport clockwise, the other counterclockwise. So, it doesn’t matter which line you use when changing terminals, they will both get you where you are going, but one will get you there a few minutes faster. I went to the station and heard the announcement that the Skylink line I needed was out of order. No big deal, I simply took train in the other direction and got a grand tour of DFW.

DFW's Skylink takes you from terminal to terminal in 6 minutes or less.

After a quick stop at the Admirals Club I boarded the flight to Austin, and was on the ground an hour later.

All of my flights this day were almost completely full, not unusual considering that AA’s current capacity level is 86%. The bad news, at least for me, is that the high capacity rate lets the airlines keep fares much higher than last year, making mileage runs  more difficult to find

This was a good mileage run: I took four flights, never ran into turbulence, and three flights arrived on time while the fourth was early. The worst thing that happened was the poor performance of the electronic boarding pass. All in all, it was a good day.