Time again for another mileage run. This time I was taking advantage of an American Airlines promotion offering triple Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) and triple bonus mile on flights between Chicago O’Hare (ORD) and New York LaGuardia (LGA). Triple bonus miles is a good deal; triple EQMs is hard to pass up, so I booked my flights for the last Sunday that the deal was available. It would be a simple itinerary: Austin to ORD, 2-hour layover, ORD to LGA, 2-hour layover, LGA back to ORD, 2-hour layover, and then ORD back to AUS. I’d leave at 6:20 a.m. and return at 10:25 that evening. As much as I wanted to leave LGA and go into New York City, there were no flights available that would allow me to do that, so this would be an all-day-in-the-airport schedule.

I got to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport early that morning and, after clearing security, went to the Admirals Club. I had received messages from American Airlines telling me that it was time to renew my Club membership, They gave me the chance to renew online, but I decided against that, preferring instead to renew at the Austin club. Why? Well, the AAngels at the Austin club have always treated Mrs. Happy Flier and me very well and, if I renewed at the club, they would get credit for my renewal. So, that was the first thing I wanted to do when I got to the club, renew my membership.

Unfortunately, AA had updated the Admirals Club software the night before and they were having problems with it. After 20 minutes the AAngel behind the desk gave up—the software glitch would not let her renew my account. She apologized and thanked me for trying to renew in person. I told her that I would try it again on my next trip.

After that I boarded my flight to ORD and saw something I had not seen in a very long time—an empty plane. There were no more than 15 or 20 other people on the flight. Suffice to say, AA lost money on this one.

We landed on time at ORD and I went to the Admirals Club. It was a quiet morning, the club was not crowded, and I took advantage of the time to catch up on my sleep.

Earlier this year I had flown form ORD to Boston on one of AA’s new 737-800s. They are so much nicer than the MD-80s I always fly on from AUS and I had hoped to get one for the ORD-LGA flight. However, no such luck, it was another MD-80. And, unlike my previous flight, it was completely packed.

We had a smooth flight to New York and got some great views of lower Manhattan as we came over Brooklyn and the East River.

Lower Manhattan, with the Hudson River in the background.

We arrived on-time at LGA. I wandered the terminal, looking to see if there was anything interesting to see now that I was in New York. LGA is an old airport, so there was not much to see, but I did find something I had not seen in a long time.

LGA had several banks of payphones. Payphones? I can't remember the last time I saw a single payphone!

Think about it, when was the last time you saw a payphone? When was the last time you saw a row of payphones? I can’t remember the last time I saw it.

I went to the Admirals Club where they had problems checking me in due to the ongoing software issues. They were eventually able to do it, and I spent some time enjoying the view from the club.

The Manhattan skyline was visible in the distance from the LGA Admirals Club.

The Admirals Club also provides a nice view of the runways; this Delta flight has just taken off.

After a relaxing stay at the Admirals Club I boarded another MD-80 for the flight back to Chicago.  This flight was also filled to capacity. We had a smooth flight to ORD and landed almost 30 minutes early. That gave me the good news / bad news moment of the day. The good news was that we were 30 minutes early. The bad news was that we were 30 minutes early and they had no gate available for us at the terminal. So, we waited for almost 20 minutes until they could get us to the gate.

I went to the Admirals Club and again, they had problems checking me in, just as they had had 12 hours earlier in Austin. Once I got into the club I found a quite corner, took out my Kindle and read for the next 90 minutes. Then it was time for my 8 p.m. flight to Austin.

Again, it was an MD-80. The flight was packed, virtually no open seats, which always causes problems with people trying to put their bags in the overhead bins.  I watched one lady try to put both of her bags overhead, instead of one overhead and one under the seat in front of her as the flight attendants had requested. One bag went in without trouble, but the other was too full to fit, so she had to take her first bag down and move clothes from one bag to the other to make it fit. In the meantime, no one could get past her to sit in that aisle. Such is the state of airline travel these days.

The engines won’t start
A few moments before 8 they closed the door and prepared for departure. At 8:05 we had not moved. At 8:10 we had not moved. At 8:12 the pilot announced, “Well, we’re still at the terminal.” That got a laugh from everyone. He went on to say that we had a problem, the engines wouldn’t start.

Engines wouldn’t start? That was a first for me! He explained that the auxiliary power units on the plane were not working, so they would use a start-cart to power up the engines. Unfortunately, the start-cart did not work either and they had to find a new one. In the meantime, the cabin was sealed, we had no air conditioning, and it was getting very very stuffy. After a few moments they dimmed the cabin lights as a way to reduce the heat. Ten minutes later they were able to get a functioning start-cart, the engines started, the air conditioning came on to great cheers from the passengers and we were on our way. Or maybe not.  We pulled away from the terminal, came to a stop and sat there for 10 minutes. Why? I don’t know, but at least we had air conditioning.

Eventually we took off, almost 40 minutes late.

Once we had reached cruising altitude the pilot made the standard announcement about altitude, weather conditions, etc. and concluded his announcement by saying, “Thank you for flying American, and enjoy your flight.”

That made me wonder. Does anyone, other than the people in first class, actually enjoy their flight? What is there to enjoy? You’re crowded into a small seat. If the passenger in front of you reclines you have no room to use your laptop. They don’t give you a pillow. They don’t give you a blanket. They don’t feed you. If you are on an MD-80 there is no in-flight entertainment. The restrooms are claustrophobically small. You have to pay to check your bags. Given all this, what is there to enjoy? But I digress, this can be covered in another post.

We were able to make up some time during the flight, landing in Austin 25 only minutes late. I was home by 11:30 that night.

It had been a long day, but I got home safely, and earned almost 10,000 miles and EQMs. It was another good mileage run.