Posts tagged American Airlines
It was time for another mileage run to San Francisco (SFO) this weekend as I try to earn as many bonus miles as I can during the special January promotion period. This is my fourth tip to SFO this month.
The trip got off to a nice start: I spent the night at the Hilton Hotel at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. You may recall from a previous post that I had gotten a great rate, $23 a night and had paid for it in advance; my confirmation letter stated the rate was non-changeable, non-cancellable, and non-refundable. Given those stringent limitations it surprised me last Wednesday when I got a reminder email from Hilton that showed the rate to be $118. I called Hilton guest services, explained the situation, and told them that if it turns out the original rate was a mistake and they were not going to honor it, I understood that, mistakes happen, all I ask is that they refund my pre-payment. They called the hotel and found that it was indeed a mistake but the hotel would honor it. So, I was able to spend the night there, eat breakfast at the hotel, and then take their van to the terminal.
Everything was uneventful. I spent some time in the Admirals Club, then boarded my 8:40 a.m. flight to DFW. Shortly after they closed the door, as I was getting ready to turn off my cell phone, it rang, I was getting a call from American Airlines flight status update. (This is a free service and is one of the best features American offers, you’d be foolish to not sign up for it whenever you fly on AA.) The update was not a good one — my flight from DFW to SFO had been cancelled. What do I do now?
I called the AAdvantage Platinum desk and explained the situation: they said they could get me to SFO on a later flight, but would not be able to get me back to Austin that evening. Since AA is also offering bonus miles to Los Angeles, I asked if they could send me there instead. The representative put me on hold — unfortunately I never found out her answer as I had to turn off the phone before she got back on the line.
If passengers has still been boarding my DFW flight I might have been able to get off, but once they closed the door I was stuck on that plane. I didn’t think that was too bad a deal — DFW offered me many more flight options than AUS did so maybe I’d be able to salvage the day after all.
When I got to DFW I turned my phone back on and had a call from AA, (this one from a person and not a computer!) telling me to call the Platinum desk. My experience in situations like this is that it is better to go to the Admirals Club and get face-to-face help from the AAngels who work there — they have always provided exceptional customer service.
I checked in at the club and explained my situation to one of the ladies behind the counter and was surprised by her response, she told me to call the AAdvantage Platinum desk to see what they could do for me. I was surprised because I had always gotten such great service from the staff at the clubs before — I’m not sure why this happened this time.
I called the Platinum desk and found there was not much they could do for me other than book me on an earlier flight back to Austin. I asked if I would be able to get credit for the SFO flights that I would miss, all they could do was tell me to call AAdvantage Customer Service which would not open for another 20 minutes. So, I did just that.
Customer Service told me that I would get the credit but I would need to wait until the next day when my DFW flights posted.
With that knowledge I went back to the ladies in the Admirals Club, making sure I did not get the one who did not help me earlier. This time I spoke with a lady who was most helpful and booked me on an Austin flight that would leave in 45 minutes. I took that and was back in AUS by 1 p.m.
I stopped off at the Admirals Club, when I walked in the door the AAngels behind the desk said, “What are you doing here, you’re supposed to be flying!” I explained what happened and one of them said she could not believe she had let me get on a flight that morning when the next flight had been cancelled. She looked up the flight information on her computer and saw the cancellation had come through at 8:23 a.m., a half hour after I had left the club. She told me I should not have a problem getting my miles for the missed flights, all I needed to do was call AA Customer Service and tell them I had taken a trip in vain. That’s AA’s legal language for someone starting a trip but not being able to complete it due to a problem with an AA flight.
It turns out I was very lucky that I did not make it to SFO. My return flight was scheduled to depart at 1:40 p.m. but did not leave until 7:31, almost six hours late. It landed at DFW after midnight, long after the last flight to AUS had departed. If I had been on that flight I would have spent the night at DFW and hoped to get an early AUS flight the next morning. I guess things work out for the best after all.
Getting my miles
The miles for my DFW flights posted on Monday. When I saw them I called AAdvantage customer service and told them I had traveled in vain and requested the miles for the SFO flights. They agreed to give them to me and said they would post the next day. I checked on Tuesday and saw I had only received miles for the DFW-SFO flight but not for the return. I called again, the lady promised to submit the miles and said they would appear the next day. As I write this it’s two days later and I still have not received the miles.
I’ll call again today and if I don’t get the miles I’ll write to them on the website. I had a similar situation a few years ago when I did not receive the miles for a red-eye from Seattle to DFW. After several failed attempts at submitting my miles, they changed my flight number to an earlier SEA-DFW flight and that worked. Perhaps the same thing is happening here. I’ll let you know what happens.
Update: I spoke to AA customer service on Thursday, the representative confirmed that my miles had not posted, said she would resubmit and would also monitor the situation and take further action it they don’t post by Friday. Today is Friday, I just checked, and the miles are still not there. I’ll give them until Monday to see if they can get it right this time.
Final Update: A week went by and I still had not received the miles for the SFO-DFW flight. I decided that I needed to elevate this to the supervisory level, so I called AAdvantage customer service again and spoke to a supervisor. I explained the situation and he immediately said, “I’m sorry you had the problem, this is an easy fix and I’ll take care of it.” His solution was to modify the record to show that I made the SFO-DFW flight on Monday rather than Sunday. He explained that the computer had looked at my Sunday itinerary and apparently decided it was not possible for me to have been on that flight, so it refused to accept that entry and give me credit for it. (It would have been nice if the computer had given an immediate error message to the ladies who tried to help me, they might have been able to solve the problem more rapidly.) He changed the date to Monday and said the miles would post the following morning. I thanked him for that and sure enough, the miles had posted the next morning. So, I received (finally!) full credit for a trip to San Francisco and back.
Saturday morning and the start of a unique weekend for me — the first time I have done two mileage runs in one weekend. I had the same itinerary for each trip, Austin to DFW to San Francisco (SFO) and back. With American Airlines offering two promotions that would piggy-back on each other, I’d earn 10,784 elite qualifying miles (EQMs) and 10,784 redeemable miles (RDMs) on each trip. The trips cost $220 giving me a cost per mile of 2 cents. It’s been a long time since I have had a cost per mile as low as that.
I had a nice start to my Saturday trip, my flight from Austin would not leave until 8:40 a.m., one of the latest flights I have had. I appreciated the extra sleep that late departure provided me.
I got to the terminal and went to the security check-in line. Even with my priority access there was still a very long line, much longer than normal. I looked across the terminal to the area where Southwest has its gates and there was no one on line at the check-in. I mentioned this to the man and woman behind me, they joined me in the walk to the other end of the terminal and the very empty security line.
As we got closer I knew we had made the right decision: there was no one on line and the TSA agents were just standing around talking to each other. We walked up to the agents and one of them asked if he could help us. We replied that we wanted to go through security. He looked at us and said “We’re not open, you have to go to the other end of the terminal to check in.”
So, it’s 7:20 a.m. on Saturday morning of a three-day weekend, the airport is mobbed, Southwest has long lines of people waiting to check in, but the TSA line isn’t open yet? Not good. There was not much we could do about it so we walked back across the terminal and got back on line. We were eventually able to clear security and after a short Admirals Club visit I boarded the plane for the flight to DFW.
This video starts with the Austin skyline in the distance. At the 1:40 mark you’ll see where construction has started on Austin’s Formula 1 race track. At 2:40 we zoom in for a view of downtown Austin. The people behind me were traveling with a small dog, if you listen carefully you may hear it whimpering in the background.
I had a smooth flight to DFW where I had a short layover and had to quickly change terminals and go to my departure gate without visiting the Admirals Club. This would be a day of short layovers, I’d have barely one hour at SFO before I would fly back to DFW on the same plane that took me to SFO.
This flight was on a 737 that I hoped would have the new Sky Interior that I had the week before but I was out of luck, it was a standard 737. I didn’t see an empty seat in coach, there were either a lot of people flying to San Francisco or the plane was full of other mileage runners.
We arrived in SFO on time and I went to the Admirals Club to meet a friend from Twitter who also does mileage runs — he and I had traded messages for over a year but had never had the chance to meet face to face. He had taken an earlier flight from DFW to SFO, so we were finally able to meet on this day.
We sat down in the lounge at the Admirals Club, he told me that he had spoken with several other mileage runners who were in the Club — apparently a lot of people were taking advantage of the triple miles bonus.
He had applied for an upgrade for the flight and been approved, I had not yet heard about my upgrade. Since I had barely an hour to spare before the flight would depart I gave up on the upgrade and grabbed a quick bite to eat in the club. Shortly after I finished eating it was time to get on the plane.
I was standing on line, waiting for them to allow Platinum members to board when I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned around to see who it was and was glad to see it was the guy who sat next to me on the flight from SFO to LAX a week earlier. We laughed at the coincidence of us meeting again and then boarded the plane.
We walked through First Class and saw where my friend was sitting, talking to the lady in the seat next to him. I recognized her as a mileage runner from Austin — it’s a small world.
We had a beautiful view of the harbor when we took off an a crystal clear afternoon.
We had a smooth flight to DFW where I had a two-and-a-half hour wait for my flight to Austin. I used the American Airlines app on my phone to check schedules and saw there was an Austin flight leaving in 40 minutes, maybe they’d have room for me.
I took the SkyLink to Terminal A and got to the gate before boarding had begun. I gave my boarding pass to the gate agent who told me she could not only get me on the plane but could give me an exit row seat. Perfect!
As we were waiting to board I spoke with the lady from Austin who had been on my flight from SFO: she was doing 11 trips to SFO in January and would have Executive Platinum status by the end of the month! She also said she had several hundred thousand unused miles in her account and wished she had time to use them for a vacation.
I boarded and went to my window seat. Shortly thereafter a husband and wife sat down next to me, After we took off the husband asked if I was doing a mileage run; he and his wife were both doing one. The husband explained that they had never done this before but a coworker told him about the mileage bonus, he ran the numbers and decided it was worth it for them to do. He explained that they had taken two vacations last year, one to Budapest, Hungary, the other to Seoul, South Korea, and with all that flying only earned Gold status on American. Now they could fly to SFO several times, spend less money than they did the year before and make Executive Platinum. He said that was too good a deal to pass up.
We landed on time in Austin and I was home by 9:15, a good time since I had to be up by 3:30 the next morning for my 6 a.m. Sunday flight.
I was up early and arrived at the airport shortly after 5. I must say I had never seen the airport so empty. So few people were flying that there were only two other people going through TSA security at the same time as me. The agent said it was the middle day of three-day weekend — those days area always slow.
I spent a few moments at the Admirals Club then boarded my flight to DFW. As we were coming in on final approach at DFW, I got nice view of the sunrise.
I got off the plane and had enough time to change terminals, visit the Admirals Club to get a cup of coffee to go (which I could not do because they did not have any to-go cups!) and then made my way to the gate where they were just starting the boarding process.
The gate agent took my boarding pass and tried to scan it but it would not go. After three tries she said, “I know what’s going on, your upgrade to First Class came through!” That was great news!
I boarded and went to my seat: I had a window seat in the first row. That meant I had the bulkhead in front of me and no seatback in which to put my items, but it also meant I had even more legroom, so this was a good deal for me.
We took off and shortly after that they served breakfast.
I was glad to get the meal, and glad that I was able to fall asleep shortly thereafter — I slept almost all the way to San Francisco.
I had a three-hour layover before my return flight to DFW, and spent most of my time in the Admirals Club. I looked for someone I might recognize from my previous flights but did not see anyone.
Once it was time to board my flight I saw plenty of mileage runners. The guy in front of me gave me his agenda: fly to SFO and back Friday-Saturday-Sunday and Monday of this week, do it again next week, then Saturday and Sunday the week after and that would give him ExecPlat. That’s a lot of flying but he was at least getting some time off this weekend to go to Las Vegas. As he was talking to me someone poked me on the shoulder — it was my friend who sat next to me last week and was also on my Saturday flight. That game me three departures from SFO and he was on my flight each time.
The inbound flight had arrived on time but took a very long time to empty, which meant we boarded and departed late, ten minutes late to be exact. I was concerned about this, I had a very short layover at DFW and might miss my connecting flight.
We made up a little bit of time on the flight, but still landed late. As I got off the plane I looked at my boarding pass — it had the time when my AUS flight would begin boarding, and that was five minutes ago! I ran to the SkyLink to change terminals and had some good luck as I was waiting: I got a call from AA flight status letting me know that departure of my AUS flight would be delayed 10 minutes — great news!
I got to the gate on time, boarded, and enjoyed the quick flight to Austin. We landed no time and I was home before 9:30.
It had been a good weekend. I had no major problems with my flights, got home safely and earned more than 21,000 EQMs and RDMs, putting me over 30,000 miles by the middle of January. For me, that is an extraordinary total! I have three more flight in January, then two in February and should be less then 25.000 miles from ExecPlat at that time. It promises to be an exciting year!
Saturday morning and time for my first mileage run of 2012. As I explained in my previous post, the first leg of my trip would be on Jet Blue, nonstop from Austin to San Francisco. After that I’d take American Airlines to Los Angeles and then nonstop to Austin. I was doing this trip to take advantage of the triple miles bonus that AA was offering.
I arrived at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport at 6:30 giving me plenty of time to check-in for my 8 a.m. flight. Since my first flight was on Jet Blue I expected to have a normal boarding pass and not a Priority Access pass that I get on American, meaning that I would have to wait on the security line rather than going to the front as I normally do. The only thing I did not know was where I was supposed to go to check in.
My itinerary on AA.com listed the Jet Blue flight, so I first tried to check in at one of the American self-serve kiosks. That did not work, I got an error message telling me that it was unable to process my request. So, I went to Jet Blue and tried to check in at their self-service kiosk. Jet Blue had sent me an email confirmation that had a bar code on it which it said I could scan to check in. I tried that, no luck, it did not work. So I tried to check in manually; I thought I was making progress, it asked for my full name, date of birth and gender, the standard information for TSA, but when I completed that I got a message that I would need to check in at the counter. Fortunately the line was short and I quickly got my boarding pass for the Jet Blue flight, but not for the AA flights.
I cleared security and then had time for a quick stop at the Admirals Club where they gave me my AA boarding passes, and then went to the gate to board. This would be my first flight on Jet Blue. I boarded the plane, an Airbus A-320 and was immediately impressed. We had leather seats and each seat had a TV screen with Direct TV and Sirius/XM radio.
I was even more impressed when I sat down and felt how comfortable the seat was. While it did not have as much legroom as I get while in an exit row seat on AA, there was definitely more legroom than a regular coach seat on American Airlines has.
The captain did one thing that I thought was very nice. Every flight features the captain welcoming the passengers, saying how much he and the airline appreciate us, and giving information about the flight. We got that on this flight, but the captain actually stood at the front of the passenger compartment where we could see him rather than speaking from a closed cockpit as normally happens. Do all Jet Blue pilots do this, or was this his idea? I don’t know, but I thought it was a nice touch.
The four hour flight to San Francisco went smoothly. Jet Blue served beverages and a snack (cookies). I decided not to order one of the meal packages.
We arrived on time at San Francisco International Airport’s Terminal 1. I had flown out of SFO in the past and did not remember a modern terminal. They have done a major redesign since I was there: I don’t know if Terminal 1 was an old terminal that had been renovated or was new, but either way, it felt like a brand new terminal. And it did not cause one of my met peeves — they actually had clocks in the terminal!
My American Airlines flight to LAX would depart from Terminal 2, so I followed the signs that would take me to that terminal. I was disappointed to find that although I did not have to go outside to change terminals, I did have to leave the secure area and would have to go through security again in Terminal 2. Fortunately my next flight was on AA and my boarding pass said Priority AAccess which would allow me to go to the front of the security check-in line.
They have done a nice job with the terminals, even putting artwork on display.
After a long walk I eventually made it to the far end of Terminal 2 where gates 50-59 were located. I quickly cleared security and as I was putting my shoes back on I looked up and saw something that I had never before seen at an airport — a Yoga Room.
Terminal 2 was recently renovated and is now home to American Airlines and Virgin America.
The first thing I wanted to do was eat lunch. I went to the food area and was not impressed with the selections. Really what I wanted was something like a Chili’s where I was familiar with the menu, or a seafood restaurant like those at Sea-Tac. I found neither. There was a sushi bar, a burger joint (named The Burger Joint :-)) It turns out that the airport has a high standard when choosing restaurants and, “The airport expects its food and beverage tenants to provide sustainable food to the greatest extent possible.” I suspect that requirement would stop many food chains from having a location at SFO. (You can read more about SFO’s high environmental standards at this page.) I eventually found a Mexican restaurant where I ordered a burrito.
When I finished I went to the Admirals Club. On the way I found that SFO has a special location where people can refill their water bottles.
In addition to the water refill station, the terminal had one thing that more and more terminals are adding — locations where passengers can plug in their laptops, tablets, or phones to recharge.
In keeping with the modern feel of the terminal, they had some modern seats.
It was also easy to tell the time in Terminal 2.
I went to the Admirals Club where I was able to use one of their computers to check my email and also charge my iPhone while waiting for my next flight.
After resting for a while I made my way to the departure gate where I boarded the 737-800 for my flight to Los Angeles. As soon as I boarded I knew this would be a special flight — this would be my first opportunity to fly on a plane with Boeing’s new Sky Interior.
Boeing developed the Sky Interior for the 787 Dreamliner and has made it an option on the 737. So far it has delivered over 200 of these new aircraft to airlines around the world. There are several things that make the Sky Interior special.
The first thing you notice when you board is the LED lighting and the new design of the overhead luggage bins.
Amazingly, although the luggage bins are larger than they are on older planes, there is actually more headroom beneath them than on a standard 737.
Boeing gave a lot of thought to the panel directly above the passengers and used a new design.
There is an old joke about doing something that seems obvious. “If we were able land man on the Moon in 1969, why did we have to wait another 25 years for someone to put wheels on our luggage?” Moving the flight attendant call button away from the light switches is like that, it is such an obvious thing to do that I wondered why it had not been done sooner.
We took off for our short flight to LAX. I had a window seat, the middle seat was empty, and it turned out that the gentleman in the aisle seat was from the Dallas area and was also doing a mileage run take advantage of the triple miles bonus American was offering. He was also supposed to fly on my DFW-SFO flight that was cancelled. Whey they offered him the chance to fly on Monday he did something I should have done — he called the AAdvantage Platinum desk and got a much higher level of customer service than I got. They ended up booking him on a DFW to Chicago to San Francisco route which actually earned him more miles than his DFW-SFO flight would have given him.
He and I had a nice talk, it turns he is also on FlyerTalk and is making the trip several times in January as I am. When I took my camera out of my bag he laughed, we even had the same camera!
We landed on time at LAX: I had enough time to go to the Admirals Club, relax for a while and watch the NFL playoffs on TV, and then board my flight to Austin where something unusual happened.
When a plane lands and pulls up to the terminal the crew makes an announcement, “Please remain seated with your seats belts buckled until the plane has come to a complete stop at the terminal.” Immediately after that we hear a “ding” and the lights come on, telling us we can get out of our seats. But that did not happen on this flight.
We landed on time in Austin, pulled up to the terminal and heard the announcement, but the bright lights did not come on. Very odd. After a minute or so I saw the pilot had left the cockpit and was talking to someone as we remained in our seats. And then I saw why. Two Austin police officers came on board the plane, told a passenger in First Class to get up, and then escorted him off the plane. I found out that this passenger had been very loud, used bad language, and when the passenger behind him asked him to quiet down he shoved him back into his seat. But he didn’t shove him by pushing on his shoulder — he pushed on the man’s face. And that is how you get the police to take you off a plane.
I was surprised the next morning to see that the miles for my AA flights had already posted, that used to take 2-3 days. That afternoon I called AAdvantage customer service, told them about the flight cancellation and asked for the miles that I did not get due to my “involuntary reroute” after they cancelled my flight. The representative took a few moments to verify what had happened and even told me why the DFW-SFO flight had been cancelled — the aircraft had been damaged in a bird strike. It may seem hard to believe that a bird can damage a multimillion dollar aircraft that weighs many tons, but it can. Do you remember the US Air flight that landed in the Hudson River a few years ago? That plane was damaged after it flew through a flock of geese. He agreed to give me my miles and said they would post the next day.
So, I got all the base miles for my trip (the bonus miles will take 6-8 weeks to post), had the chance to fly Jet Blue and a new AA 737, and got home on time. All in all, it was a good day. My first January mileage run was complete, leaving me four more for the month.
It’s Saturday morning and I’m looking forward to Sunday and my first mileage run of the year: Austin to DFW to San Francisco (SFO) to Los Angeles (LAX) and back to Austin. Everything was good with that trip until my phone rang. It’s 9:45 a.m. on Saturday and I’m getting a call from American Airlines Flight Status about my Sunday trip? This can’t be good.
I answered the call and heard the computer tell me that my flight from DFW to SFO has been cancelled and they are working to rebook me. Darn!
Nine minutes later my phone rang again and it was the computer with good news and bad news for me. The good news was that they had rebooked me; the bad news was that they had moved my flights from Sunday to Monday. Not good!
The computer asked if I would accept that itinerary, I said no, and was connected to customer service. I explained to the customer service representative that I was not able to fly on Monday and wanted to know what other options there were. He asked if I could fly tonight, I told him I could not.
He offered an American Eagle flight tomorrow to Chicago O’Hare, then American to SFO, but I would not be able to come back that night, so that did not work for me. He looked some more and offered me a non-stop flight on Jet Blue to SFO, leaving Austin at 8 a.m. From a schedule standpoint that worked, but what about my miles? I asked if I would still get credit for the original AA flight that I had booked and he said no.
Let me say that I am pretty sure he is wrong and that I would get my original mileage. In the past AA has always given me credit for an involuntary reroute, so I would expect to get it this time. However, just because I got that credit in the past does not mean I’d get it in the future.
Since he said no to me getting the miles for the Jet Blue segment, I asked if he could give me a new itinerary, Austin to DFW to LAX to DFW to Austin. I even gave him the proposed flight numbers. He put me on hold for a while, then came back and told me that they could do it, but I would have to pay the rebooking penalty ($150.00) for changing my flight. I asked why I had to pay a penalty when it was AA that had cancelled my original flight and the answer was that I was no longer going to San Francisco, so this was now a voluntary change on my part.
I did not want to pay the penalty so I told him to book me on Jet Blue. He came back a few moments later and said I was confirmed on Jet Blue. When I asked for the flight number the line went dead. I’ll give the benefit of the doubt and say the call was dropped and he did not hang up on me.
Fortunately I was able to look at my itinerary on AA.com to see my Jet Blue flight number. I called Jet Blue to get a seat assignment. The customer service representative explained that they did not have first class but they did offer premium seats that were on the aisle or near the front of the plane for $45 more. I declined that offer. She offered a standard coach seat with a choice of middle row or window seat and I chose the window. She asked if I preferred an aisle seat and I said yes.
She put me on hold then came back to tell me that she had spoken to the supervisor and explained my situation and they had agreed to waive the $45 fee and allow me to have one of the superior seats near the front of the plane. That was very nice of them, I accepted and was booked into an aisle seat in row 6.
I am not a Jet Blue customer, I have no elite status with them and have never flown with them, yet they were willing to go the extra step to take care of me while American Airlines, where I have elite status, was not. It’s pretty obvious which airline gave me better customer service.
As I sit back and look at this I can’t understand what American Airlines did. They had the chance to keep me on their aircraft and keep me happy by putting me on the flight to LAX. Instead,they decided that they would rather lose revenue by paying Jet Blue to fly me to SFO. That makes no sense, particularly when AA’s parent company, AMR, has filed for bankruptcy protection — why spend money if there is a way to solve the situation at no cost by putting me on the LAX flight?
One of the first rules of business is that you do everything you can to stop your customer from going to your competitor. I gave AA the chance to keep me on American Airlines metal, but since I did not want to pay the $150 fee, they decided they would rather put me on another airline after they were the ones who cancelled my original flight, rather than try to keep me on their system. I assume they could look at my record and see that I have 1 million mile status and Platinum status, why not try to help me out? (Once before I had to change my destination from SFO to LAX, and AA did it without any problem.)
So, I ‘m looking forward to my Jet Blue flight tomorrow. I’m non-stop instead of going through DFW, I leave two hours later so I will get some extra sleep, According to the Jet Blue website I’ll have unlimited snacks and beverages, DIRECTV®, and SiriusXM Radio®; American Airlines. offers none of those benefits. It should be a fun day, thank-you AA for letting me see what Jet Blue service is like!
I flew on Sunday and the miles from my AA flights posted Monday morning. Monday afternoon I called AA Platinum customer service and requested credit for the miles I had lost due to an “involuntary reroute” (that is the magic phrase). They not only agreed to give me the miles but also told me why the flight to SFO had been cancelled: the aircraft had been damaged in a bird strike and they apparently did not have another one they could use to replace it. The gentleman I spoke to was much more knowledgeable and helpful than the person I spoke to on Saturday.
I wrote earlier about American Airlines offering double elite qualifying miles (EQMs) and double miles to the west coast through March 31. That is a great deal. Now they have made it even better.
I received an email announcing that they are offering double EQMs on all flights from December 13 to January 31. This includes tickets that were bought before this bonus was announced, all I have to do is register. That is too good a deal to pass up!
With the holidays and all, my schedule for the rest of December is pretty full so I won’t be able to fly in December. Instead, I’ll need to load up in January. I looked at some flights to Europe and saw that AA now has the oddest pricing I have ever seen. I can fly to Frankfurt for $148 one way! Fabulous! But the return flight costs $319. Still not bad, But by the time they have finished adding all the fees and fuel surcharges, the trip that started with a $148 fare costs $885. So, even with double EQMs that was not an option for me.
So, I looked at doing additional trips from DFW to either Los Angeles (LAX) or San Francisco (SFO). I was already earning double EQMs on those trips in January and February. With the new promotion I’d earn triple EQMs on any trip in January. That’s too good a deal to pass up.
In late October when the first promotion was announced, I booked one trip to SFO on January 14, I paid almost $300 for that trip. But now that they have the second promotion, the price has dropped to $220. So, I booked it for January 15, (yes, I am flying to SFO two days in a row) and then another trip on January 29.
If my math is correct, I’ll earn 10,784 EQMs for each of those trips, for a total of 32,352.
I have two trips in February, one to LAX and one to SFO. Since the newest promotion will have ended I’ll get double rather than triple EQMs. I’ll earn 6,856 EQMs for the SFO flight, and 5,940 for the trip to LAX, for a total of 12,796 EQMs. Combine that with my January flights and I’ll have 45,148 by the end of February. Not bad for flying slightly more than 16,000 miles! I will also have earned more than 55,000 redeemable miles. (RDMs).
In 2011 I did not reach 45,000 EQMs until August, so I’ll be way ahead of the curve to start 2012.
My goal for the year has always been to maintain Platinum status; that requires 50,000 EQMs. If I do one more trip to SFO in March before the promotion expires, I’ll hit that goal. Then what do I do?
I can say “I’m Platinum!” and stop flying for the rest of the year, but I doubt I will do that.
I can keep flying for the rest of the year, building up as many RDMs as possible. Or, I can set my goal on reaching Executive Platinum status, which requires 100,000 EQMs. Normally I wouldn’t even consider that, but with the fast start to the year that the bonuses are giving me, I think I’d be foolish to not try. The chances of me having this many miles so early in the year again are pretty slim, I need to go for it while I can.
So, I’ll look for some deals in January. I looked at FlyerTalk and saw one person had found a good deal on a trip from New York to Hong Kong, spend 8 hours at the airport and then fly back. That’s a bit extreme for my tastes, but if I can find a good enough deal, I just might take AAdvantage of it. I’ll let you know what I find.
I woke up this morning to find the following text message on my phone: (from @AmericanAir) “It will be business as usual at American Airlines throughout our Chapter 11 reorganization.”
Those 14 words showed that American Airlines’ parent corporation, AMR Corporation, had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, a move that many say should have happened long ago. United, Continental, Northwest, Delta had all filed for Chapter 11 in the past few years, enabling them to get out from under massive dept burdens while lowering their labor costs. AMR CEO Gerard Arpey was adamant that AMR would not do the same and maintained that stance as the corporation lost more and more money as the only legacy carrier to not have any profitable quarters over the past two years. At a time when fuel costs were skyrocketing, American had the highest labor costs in the industry.
As AMR lost money its stock price plummeted.
- Down 41% in the last month
- Down 50% in the last three months
- Down 74% in the last six months
- Down 79% since January 1, 2011
- Down 81% in the last year
- Down 95% in the last five years
The major goal of a publicly traded corporation is to make money for its shareholders; AMR had not done that in a very long time.
Today’s announcement adds “As announced separately today, the Board of Directors of AMR Corporation appointed (Thomas W.) Horton Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Company, succeeding Gerard Arpey, who informed the Board of his decision to retire. Horton will also succeed Arpey as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of American Airlines and will retain the title of President.” (Here is the complete announcement)
I can’t help but think that Arpey wanted to stay on the job but the board did not give him that option, and so he “retired.” The Dallas Morning News however reports that “We’re told that the AMR board urged Arpey to stay and help the company through the reorganization. However, after long and careful thought, he decided he would leave.” (Here is the complete article.)
What does this mean for people like me who fly on American Airlines? The announcement addresses that question (with emphasis added).
“American Airlines and American Eagle are operating normal flight schedules today, and their reservations, customer service, AAdvantage® program, Admirals Clubs and all other operations are conducting business as usual. Likewise, throughout the Chapter 11 process, American and American Eagle expect to continue to:
- Provide safe and reliable service;
- Fly normal schedules;
- Honor tickets and reservations, and make exchanges and refunds as usual;
- Fully maintain AAdvantage frequent flyer and other customer service programs, and ensure all AAdvantage miles and elites status earned by members remain secure and intact;
- Provide Admirals Club access and similar amenities to members and eligible customers;
- Remain an integral member of the oneworld® alliance, of which American is a founding member, and continue its codeshare partnerships;
- Provide employee wages, healthcare coverage, vacation, and other benefits, without interruption; and
- Pay suppliers for goods and services received during the reorganization process.”
The most important parts of that message for me are that the airline will keep flying, and that frequent flyier miles and elite status will remain “secure and intact.”
The situation for American employees is not as positive.
“”But as we have made clear with increasing urgency in recent weeks, we must address our cost structure, including labor costs, to enable us to capitalize on these foundational strengths and secure our future. Our very substantial cost disadvantage compared to our larger competitors, all of which restructured their costs and debt through Chapter 11, has become increasingly untenable given the accelerating impact of global economic uncertainty and resulting revenue instability, volatile and rising fuel prices, and intensifying competitive challenges.”
AMR could not continue with the highest labor costs in the industry; its employees can expect a reduction in their salary and a reduction in their benefits as the airline goes forward. I feel sorry for them: while the board can say the labor costs were too high, the flight attendants, pilots, luggage handlers, and other employees themselves did not cause the bankruptcy, but they will now pay the cost for it.
AMR placed the one of the largest commercial aircraft orders in history earlier this year with both Boeing and Airbus. As part of the deal, the two manufacturers are financing the purchase. What will happen now that AMR hs filed for Chapter 11 protection? Will AMR negotiate for a better deal? Will it cancel part of the order? It will be interesting to see what happens.
I have three mileage runs in January and February, and hope to use my AAdvantage miles to take my wife on another overseas vacation later in the year. It looks like my miles and elite status will remain intact — this is what happened at the other carriers when they filed for bankruptcy.
As a consumer and a loyal AAdvantage member, I can only look at this as a positive move. As one who flies almost exclusively with American Airlines, I want it to be financially stable, able to make a profit, and competitive with other airlines. Chapter 11 reorganization should help AMR to achieve those goals which will enable it continue to not only provide service to but also grow in the future. I look forward to that happening.