Posts tagged Mileage Run
The new year has started, American Airlines shows that I have 0 miles, 0 segments, so it’s time for me to get started on the 2014 mileage runs.
The first comes later this month, the longest in time and distance that I have ever done, a five day trip to Johannesburg, South Africa!
FlyerTalk has listed discount rates to Johannesburg since last October, I finally had the time and money to take advantage of those fares.
I managed to book the following itinerary for my friend and I:
- We’ll leave Austin on an American Airlines MD 80 at 6:10 p.m., arriving at DFW at 7:20 p.m.
- At 8:20 we’ll board an American Airlines 777-200 for the flight to London Heathrow, arriving at 11:20 the next morning. Then we’ll have one of the worst layovers you can have: almost six hours. That’s long enough to be inconvenient, but not long enough to leave the airport and go into town.
- At 6 p.m. we’ll board a British Airways 747-400. for the 11 hour flight to Johannesburg, arriving at 7 a.m. the next morning.
I’m Executive Platinum, so I am hopeful of an upgrade on the AA flights. However, the BA 11 hour flight, will be in coach. We’ll arrive at Johannesburg at 7 a.m. and will take their light rail (built for World Cup a few years ago) to the main business district of Johannesburg, called Sandton. We have hotel reservations at a property just a few blocks from Nelson Mandela Square. They probably will not let us check in that early, but hopefully they will be able to watch our luggage.
At noon, we’ll board our tour bus for our trip to the local Lion Park. I’m looking forward to this, something that I can check off my bucket list.
We’ll get back to the hotel that evening, look for a place for dinner, then call it a night.
The next day we’ll take the hop-on hop-off bus tour of Johannesburg.
After a full day in Johannesburg we’ll head home.
- At 8:15 p.m. we’ll board a British Airways A-380, the world’s largest commercial aircraft, for the 11 hour flight to London, arriving the next morning at 5:10 a.m.
- At 9:45 a.m. we board an American Airlines 777-300 ER for the flight to DFW. I’m looking forward to this, this is AA’s most modern aircraft.
- We’ll arrive at DFW at 2:05 p.m., clear customs, and, at 4:30, take an AA MD-80 to Austin, arriving at 5:30 p.m. We will have been gone for five days.
Is it worth it? The ticket cost $1,215.00. I’ll earn 21,742 Elite Qualifying Miles, and 42,848 redeemable miles, at a cost of 2.79 cents per mile. Is that great? No. But lately, any flight under 3 cents per mile from Austin is a good deal. The 21,742 EQMs will give me a good jump on my elite qualifying for the year, and the 42,000 redeemable miles is a huge number. So yes, it’s worth it.
Johannesburg the sequel
Exactly one month later my friend and I will be heading back to Johannesburg. Our itinerary is completely different.
We’ll leave Austin at 8 p.m. on a British Airways non-stop flight to London on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner. This is the first major international flight from Ausitn-Bergstrom International Airport, and will start just a few weeks before our trip. I’m extremely excited to be able to fly on the Dreamliner, which I first saw almost two years ago when it made its first trip to DFW Airport.
We’ll arrive at London at 10 a.m. and then have an 8-hour layover. I think that will be enough time to get into town, eat a meal, and then get back to Heathrow on time for our 6 p.m. departure on a Airbus A-380-800. We’ll arrive JNB at 7 a.m.
What will we do during this trip? I don’t know, I haven’t made plans yet, Hopefully we’ll get some good ideas during our first JNB trip.
We’ll spend one night in JNB, flying out at 9:45 p.m the next night. on a 747-400 to LHR, arriving 6:45 Tuesday morning. Another long layover — we’ll take the BA 787 back to Austin, leaving LHR at 12:35 p.m. arriving AUS at 6 p.m.
Is it worth it? The ticket costs $1,165.00. I’ll earn 21,072 EQMs and 42,144 RDMs at a cost of 2.76 cents per mile. As I said, anything less than 3 cents per mile has been very difficult to find lately from Austin, so I am happy with this rate.
By the time the miles have posted from both flights, I’ll have 42,814 EQMs, making it almost certain that I will earn Platinum Status this year, and making EXP a reasonable goal. I’ll have earned almost 85,000 redeemable miles: with what I have in my account that will almost cover our first Business Class ticket to Bali for November 2015.
These are long trips, but I have always wanted to go to Africa. The visit to the Lion Safari will let me check off one more box from my bucket list. I’ll also be able to fly on the 777-300 ER, the A-380, and the 787 Dreamliner. I have wanted to fly on all three of those so that is another positive. (If that doesn’t prove that I am an aviation geek, what does?”
So, in answer to the “is it worth it” question, I reply with an emphatic YES! Trip reports to follow.
Disclaimer: I own stock in American Airlines and Boeing.
This has been a busy year, leaving me with little time to do mileage runs, a problem particularly if we want to return to Bali next year.
I was looking through the mileage run section on FlyerTalk and saw several great deals to Anchorage, Alaska from Los Angeles and New York. I wondered if I could get one from Austin. I visited the ITA Matrix site and saw that I could fly from Austin to Anchorage and back in August over a weekend for just $351. That’s an outstanding price! So, I immediately went to AA.com to make my reservation. And that is where the problem occurred.
That was not what I expected to see. How could there be a $125 difference between ITA Matrix and AA.com. they are usually in total agreement. I went back and looked at the itinerary that ITA had put together — I couldn’t even recreate it on AA.com. What to do?
I decided to visit Kayak.com and found many itineraries for the weekend I wanted, priced at $356, five dollars more than ITA but still more than $100 less than AA.com.
Some of the schedules were easier than others. The shortest in duration had me leaving Austin at 2 p.m. on Saturday, arriving in Anchorage shortly after 1 a.m. Sunday, then flying back to Austin at 2 a.m., arriving at AUS at 6 p.m. Sunday. I gave that some thought and decided I did not want to fly all the way to Alaska and not even be able to leave the airport. So, I selected a much longer trip, with extended layovers, but the chance to leave the airport and go into Anchorage for several hours.
We (my good friend is joining me on the trip, his first mileage run!) will leave Austin at 6:35 a.m. on Saturday, arriving DFW at 7:35. Then we have the first problem of the trip, a very long layover — we won’t depart DFW until 12:20, a 4 hour 45 minute layover. Thankfully, things improve after that! We’ll arrive Seattle at 2:20, then take leave for Anchorage at 3:55 on Alaska Airlines, arriving ANC at 6:35 p.m.
We’ll have plenty of time to go downtown, see some sights, and hopefully get some good food; I’m looking forward to some good salmon!
We’ll leave ANC a 2 a.m. Sunday arriving SEA 6:15 a.m. At 7:30 we’ll be on our way to DFW, arriving at 1:15 Sunday afternoon. And then another long layover, we won’t leave for AUS until 5:20 p.m., getting in at 6:15.
I’ll earn 7,216 EQMs and 14,432 RDMs. With a price of $356, that puts my cost per mile at 2.46 cents, one of the best deals I’ve gotten in quite a while.
Kayak had a link to visit AA.com to purchase the ticket and sure enough I got that itinerary at that price. That raised the question of why did Kayak let me buy a ticket from AA for $356, but the best AA could give me was $476?
I wrote to AA and asked why there was such a great discrepancy. They replied that the website will not build an itinerary that features layovers of more than four hours, and I have two of those. They said I could have gotten that deal if I had requested a multi-city itinerary: AUS-DFW-SEA-ANC-SEA-DFW-AUS, but that was the only way.
I did some research on FlyerTalk.com and found that a layover of more than four hours is considered to be a stop, rather than a layover, which makes a difference to the airline, although not much to me. Too much legalese for me.
We’re going to try to improve the schedule. We plan to see if we can go standby and get an earlier DFW-SEA flight. If we can do that. we’ll see if Alaska Airlines will let us do that same for the ANC flight, we’d arrive ANC almost two hours earlier. If we get the first change but not the second, it will at least break-up the long layover.
On the way home, there are several DFW-AUS flights that leave before our scheduled flight — we’ll try to go standby on one of those and get home earlier.
It will be a long weekend, but we’re looking forward to it!
How many flights have I made to San Francisco this year?
To be honest, I have lost track, and while it would be simple enough to look up the answer, I’d rather not—it might be too depressing. I have never traveled so many times to one destination in such a short time period.
But the lure of triple Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) in January, and double EQMs since then has been a siren song I cannot resist. So, once again I went back to the City by the Bay. But this trip would be different, I scheduled it so that I would have enough time to actually leave the airport and go into town, something I had not yet done this year. But there were some challenges I had to meet first.
Four days before my trip, on April 3, a series of tornadoes struck North Texas. While there was extensive damage, there were no fatalities and no deaths. But can anyone forget the video of the twister tossing truck trailers hundreds of feet up in the air? I can’t.
Almost 100 American Airlines aircraft were damaged at DFW in the hailstorm that followed the twisters: each of those aircraft had to be hand-inspected for hail damage. More than 400 flights, almost all from DFW, were cancelled the next day. Each day more and more aircraft returned to service, but I was still concerned that one of my four Saturday flights would be cancelled. I follow American Airlines on Twitter (@AmericanAir) and wrote to them about this, they wrote back that it all looked good for me and I had nothing to worry about.
American put more aircraft back into service each day and as @AmericanAir predicted, I had nothing to worry about, none of my Saturday flights were affected.
The day started well, with a smooth flight at sunrise from Austin to DFW.
We landed on time and I changed terminals for my flight to SFO. I was glad to see it was on one of my favorite aircraft, the 767-300, and the plane was not crowded at all, I had an entire row to myself.
The flight to San Francisco went very smoothly. In fact, it was as close to a perfect flight as there could possibly be: we took off on time, the pilot never needed to turn on the seat belt sign due to turbulence, and we landed early.
I immediately left the terminal and went to the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) station to take the train downtown — as I mentioned I was excited to finally be able to leave the terminal.
I have to admit I was surprised when I bought my BART ticket: round-trip from the airport to downtown was more than $16! Compare that to Seattle where light rail from the airport to downtown is less than $6.00, or Chicago where round trip downtown from O’Hare costs less than $5.00. I know the Bay Area is supposed to be expensive, but $16 is ridiculous.
I bought the ticket and took the train to the Embarcadero station; this left me a short walk from the Bay.
While it was a beautiful day and I was enjoying myself, time was short. My total layover in San Francisco was 5 hours, 4 when you realize I had to be back at least an hour before departure. I was nowhere near the airport and needed to find a place to quickly eat so that I could get back to the airport on time.
I went it and was escorted to a table with one of the most breathtaking views I had seen in a very long while.
I ordered crabcakes with rice and mixed vegetable, with a beer to wash it all down. I enjoyed the meal, and the view made it all the more enjoyable—it was so good to finally have the chance to leave the airport!
But time was short. I finished the meal and went back to the BART station.
I arrived back at the airport 90 minutes before my flight, giving me time to stop at the Admirals Club for a few moments. While I was there I got word that my upgrade to First Class had come through for the flight to DFW.
That flight left SFO on time and arrived at DFW at approximately 9:15 p.m. This was the same time I arrived a week earlier when I was stranded at the airport. But no problem this time, I had a reservation on AA’s 10 p.m. flight to Austin—if that flight had been scheduled the previous week I would have gotten home on Saturday night rather than Sunday morning.
The flight landed in Austin shortly before 11 p.m. and I was home by midnight.
It had been a fun day, I really enjoyed being able to go into San Francisco, truly one of the most beautiful cities in America, if not the world. With AA’s double EQM promotion, the trip put me at almost 88,000 EQMs for the year, rarefied territory for me. Two more trips and I’ll earn Executive Platinum status through February 2014. But more importantly, these extra miles gave me enough to book a Business Class trip to Asia later this year for my wife and myself, a trip I would otherwise not be able to afford. We both look forward to it!
Disclaimer: I own stock in AMR Corporation, American Airlines’ parent company. The total value of my holdings is less than $75.00.
There are a lot of things that I can control when I do a mileage run. I can choose my airline, my destination, the day I travel, what time I fly, and I can even choose where I will sit in the plane. The only thing I cannot control is the weather, and that fact played a big role in my most recent mileage run.
My schedule was the same as previous trips: depart Austin at 7:40 a.m. for DFW, take an 11:10 a.m. flight to San Francisco (SFO), fly back at 2:30 and take a 9 p.m flight from DFW to Austin, arriving at 9:50 p.m. and sleep in my own bed that night At least that was the plan.
Everything started well, my flight to DFW departed on time, and other than the screaming baby two rows away whose parents did not see any need to quiet her down at any time during the flight, was a good flight.
I arrived at DFW and changed terminals for my SFO flight. Shortly after I got to the gate the departure time changed from 11:10 to 11:45. The gate agent said there was a weather hold on all flights to SFO due to heavy rain and very high winds. I had been down this road before, and hoped that the delay would not be very long, but knew that it probably would be.
Over the next hour the departure time was pushed back time and again. I spoke with some of the American Airlines staff and found out how the delay works. Once the FAA reopened SFO, they had to prioritize which aircraft should land first. First priority went to those flights from China, Japan, Korea, Hawaii, etc. that had spent two hours circling over the Pacific Ocean. They needed to land as soon as possible. Next priority were the flights from London, Frankfurt, Dubai, etc. that had been circling over Canada for two hours, they needed to land ASAP. Next priority were the non-stop flights from the East Coast that were already in the air. Final priority was a flight like mine that was still sitting at the gate. As the lowest priority, we would not be leaving soon, so all I could do was wait.
I had used the AA iPhone app for my boarding pass and wondered if they had fixed the problem with e the app where it would not give me a boarding pass because the flight was late. No they hadn’t. I tried to get my pass but got the message that the flight “is already departed” even though it was still sitting at the gate. They really need to fix this problem, they are an airline and there will be delayed flights — their app needs to know what to do in that situation. I had the gate agent print the boarding passes for my remaining three flights. I’ll go back to using paper boarding passes rather than electronic on my next trip, at least I know they will work!
I was chatting with the gate agent when a man came up with his two boys, they looked like they were five and seven years old. He asked, the GA, “Is there enough time for us to ride the train around the airport for 45 minutes?” The GA smiled and said, “Sure, have fun, but be back in an hour.” Apparently, if you are at DFW with your kids and they are bored, the Skylink train between terminals is a great way to keep them entertained.
At 12:40 we finally started to board the aircraft, a 767-300, one of my favorite planes. My upgrade to First Class had come through — I got a seat that was more like an international Business Class seat than a domestic First Class. The seat had a foot rest, could move in a variety of directions, and could even go completely flat to serve as a bed. Very nice! Even though I was in a bulkhead seat I still had a place to put my bag in front of me instead of having to put it in the overhead bin.
We completed the boarding process and pushed away from the terminal at 1:00, but the pilot announced that to get in our slot in the line of aircraft heading for SFO, we’d have to wait until 1:43 p.m. to take off. So, we taxied to the far end of the airport and then sat and waited. At 1:40 we began to taxi, and precisely at 1:43 we went wheels-up. This was two and a half hours after our original departure time. I knew I’d have no problem catching my return flight at SFO, it would be the same plane, but my late night connection at DFW to AUS was starting to look a bit shaky.
The first part of the flight went very smoothly, they even served lunch.
We soon arrived in the San Francisco area. The pilot announced that the rain had stopped, but there were sill high winds, gusting to more than 50 mph. Because of this we would not make our normal approach from the east but would instead fly to Sausalito and then approach from the north. Normally the pilot tells the flight attendants to prepare for landing when we’re 10-15 out; this time he told them to buckle in while we were still 35 minutes away from landing.. After he said that he announced, “That’s the last you’ll hear from us on this flight, we’ll be very busy here in the cockpit.”
The last 20 minutes of the flight were very bumpy as the plane was tossed about by the heavy winds. I did not see anyone use their motion sickness bag in first class, but I would not be surprised if someone did in coach, it was that bumpy. We eventually reached the airport and as we came in over the harbor I saw something I had not seen befoe at SFO — whitecaps in the harbor. The plane was shifting left and right, but the crew kept it under control and we actually had a smoother landing than I have had on some other flights. Our original arrival time was 1:15, we arrived at 3:00.
We got to the terminal, I was the first one off the plane, and as I entered the terminal they were already announcing the plane’s departure for DFW. I had enough time to run to the rest room, make a quick call home, and then return to the gate.
We were scheduled to leave at 2:30, but since we did not land until three that wasn’t going to happen. We eventually started to board at 3:30 and took off at 3:55. The pilot announced we would land around 9:15, not good for me, my Austin flight was scheduled for 9. All I could do was hope that we would catch a good jet stream and be able to make up for lost time.
I had one good and one bad thing happen on the flight. The good thing was that while they would not serve a meal, they would serve a snack. I didn’t mind that, their snacks are a lot more than just a small bag of chips.
I had a chicken panini sandwich, salad, pita chips, and hummus. Not bad for a snack!
The bad thing was that the reading light for my seat did not work, nor did it work for the lady in the seat next to me. We showed the flight attendant our problem, a challenge since the flight attendant call button didn’t work either! She played with a series of switches in the forward area of the plane, but the only way she could get our light to work was to turn it on for every single passenger on the plane, not a very popular decision for those who hoped to sleep on the flight and strongly expressed their displeasure, Can’t say I blame them, I probably would have done the same thing. So, I had no way to read. I used the flashlight app on my iPhone for a while, but is designed to be used for only a few moments at a time and really uses a lot of battery power, so that did not work. I would not be able to read on this flight. I sent a complaint message to AA.com the next day — they apologized and gave me 4,000 miles. Thanks!
I hoped we would make up for lost time on the trip back to DFW, but I was out of luck. My flight to Austin was scheduled for 9:00; we didn’t land at DFW until 9:15. When I turned my phone on and looked at my itinerary, I saw AA had reserved a seat for me on a flight at 7:50 a.m. the next morning. I’d have to spend the night at DFW! Darn!
When we finally got to the gate, I got off as quickly as I could and checked, maybe, just maybe, I could make the 9:25 flight to Austin. Unfortunately, it was at another terminal and by the time I got there it was long gone. Next flight was Sunday morning.
I went into the Admiral’s Club, maybe I could spend the night on a sofa there? No, I couldn’t, they would close at 10 p.m. However, the lady behind the desk did her best to help. She explained that AA could not pay for a room for me when the delay was an “act of God,” but they could get me a discounted rate at a nearby hotel. I didn’t have much choice but to accept her offer. She gave me a voucher for The Grand Hyatt at DFW for $75 for the night. I thanked, her and the next day, sent a note at AA.com thanking AA for the voucher.
The hotel is close in, with an entrance in Terminal D. I checked in and saw other people who had missed their flight but had not asked AA for help walking up and asking for a room. With no reservation and no voucher they paid $180-$200 for the night. My $75 seemed pretty good!
I went to my room and quickly went to sleep. I woke up early Sunday morning and checked out, my total bill was $84. That was a big hit on a trip that only cost $220, but there was not much I could do about it. My almost-empty plane left DFW at 7:50 a.m., I was back in Austin an hour later, and home before 10 a.m.
It was a long weekend. In my years of travel I have come home from Bangkok, Frankfurt, Brussels, Dublin, Helsinki, Honolulu, and, when I was in the military, Baghdad and Kabul, but I had never needed to spend the night at an airport hotel before.
The good news was that I earned the regular mileage for the flight and the double EQMs for the DFW-SFO leg, giving me almost 81,000 EQMs for the year. With the two mileage runs I currently have scheduled I’ll be at 94,000 EQMs and will just need one more trip for Executive Platinum status.
The double EQMs bonus to SFO and LAX is in effect until the end of June. I’d get more miles for a trip to SFO than LAX, but it seems that every SFO trip I have had this year has had some sort of problem, either a delay or a cancellation, so I’d rather go to LAX. But when I add up the numbers, a trip to LAX would leave me with just over 99,000 EQMs, while an SFO trip would give me 100,009 EQMs. Only nine over the goal, but nine is enough. So, I’ll check the schedules for one more SFO trip.
In the meantime, I now have over 245,000 AAdvantage miles in my account and can look at taking my wife on a trip to Asia near the end of the year. A business class ticket is 110,000 miles each, so I now have enough for a trip. I just have to hope seats will be available when and where we want to go. And that is why I do mileage runs.
Disclaimer: I own stock in AMR, the parent corporation of American Airlines. The total value of my holdings is less then $75.
Murphy’s Law: If anything can go wrong, it will.
Murphy’s Law Corollary: Murphy was an optimist
This Saturday I had the bad luck to travel with the esteemed Mr. Murphy, resulting in one of the most fouled-up mileage runs I have ever had. The good news is that none of my flights crashed, but almost everything else that could go wrong did.
My itinerary: Austin to DFW to Los Angeles (LAX) to DFW to Austin. I planned this trip to take advantage of American Airlines’ double Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) promotion between DFW and LAX. I’d depart Austin at 6:35 a.m. and return at 7:55 p.m. It should have been an easy day. My DFW-LAX flight was on a 757 and I managed to reserve seat 10F: there was no seat in front of me and I would have plenty of legroom and the chance to catch up on my sleep, at least that was the plan.
I arrived at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport at 5:15 and went to the TSA check-in line. I didn’t bother to check in at the terminal because I had already checked in on Friday using AA’s iPhone application and would use it to display my boarding pass when I went through the security line. I got up to the front of the line and had my first problem: I kept hitting the “boarding pass” icon on the phone but it would not display my boarding pass as it usually does. With no boarding pass I couldn’t go through the checkpoint so I turned around and left the area. Did I draw unwanted attention to myself by walking away from security just before I went through the checkpoint? I don’t know.
I went to a self-serve kiosk to check in, went all the way through the process, hit “continue” and got an error message saying that I could not check in and needed to take the error ticket it printed and give it to a representative. No boarding pass on my iPhone and unable to check in at the kiosk? Now I was really concerned
I gave the error ticket to a representative who looked up my record and asked “Did you get an upgrade?” I told her I doubted that, I hadn’t even requested one. She worked the computer a little bit more then gave me my boarding passes for the two flights to Los Angeles, but she had no explanation for my problems to that point.
I went back to the security line where a TSA agent asked why had I had walked away earlier (Thank you, American Airlines!), I explained the situation, cleared security, went to the Admirals Club and was chatting with the wonderful AAngel behind the counter. I asked her to print my boarding passes for my return trip; she printed them and asked if I wanted her to put me in for an upgrade to first class. I told her no, I was happy with my seats, particularly my seat on the 757 with no seat in front of me. She looked puzzled when I told her that and said “No, you don’t have a seat like that, you’re in the exit row with a bulkhead in front of you.” I told her that couldn’t be, I was in seat 10F on a 757, she replied that I was not, I was in seat 20H on a 767.
767? What happened? She looked and saw that there had been an equipment change from a 757 to a 767. Well, that was okay, that’s a good plane and frankly I like its two aisle configuration more than the single aisle on the 757. Apparently the change in equipment, that I did not know about, caused the problem with me getting my boarding pass. Note to American Airlines: if the change in equipment is such a big deal that I could not get a boarding pass from my iPhone app or the self-service kiosk, then you should have let me know about the change, either by email, text message, or computer-generated phone call. You should never put passengers in a situation where they have to walk away from the front of the TSA security check-in line.
I had a smooth flight to DFW, arriving at 7:40, giving me enough time to change terminals for my 8:40 flight to Los Angeles. I was lucky, my departure gate was next to the Admirals Club, so I had time to go upstairs and relax for a while. I checked my email, drank a cup of coffee, then went down to my gate. As I got there my phone rang: it was AA Flight Status with an update, the flight was delayed and would not depart until 9:10. Good enough, I went back up to the club.
Shortly after that my phone rang, it was AA Flight Status with another update, my gate had changed; instead of the gate next to the club I’d be seven gates farther away. So I left the club and walked down to the new gate. As I waited I got yet another call from AA flight status, the departure time had changed again, this time to 9:25. Still not a big deal, I had a long enough layover at LAX that I would not miss my return flight.
We eventually boarded, I had an exit row seat in the bulkhead row, so I would have plenty of legroom. As I mentioned, I like the 767 and was happy to be on the plane. Then I got another call, departure delayed until 9:40 — a full hour after our scheduled departure. Then the phone rang again, was there another delay for this flight? Actually, it was worse than that. AA flight status let me know that my return flight from LAX was going to be late too! The day was going from bad to worse. As I sat there I was tweeting the latest updates to my friends. At 9:40, our departure time, we were still sitting at the gate. I tweeted additional updates.
So far I had had a boarding pass that would not work, an equipment change, a flight that had already been delayed more than once, a gate change, and the probability of a second flight being delayed. Murphy was right.
Shortly after that they closed the door to the aircraft but I got yet another call letting me know that the departure had changed yet again, this time to 10:00. We finally backed away from the terminal at 9:55 and took off at 10:05. Thankfully it was a smooth flight to LAX, we arrived at 11:06, an hour late.
I turned my phone on and had additional messages from AA flight status, my 1:00 p.m. flight from LAX to DFW would depart at 2:40. Tentative arrival at DFW was after 7 p.m., which would cause me to miss flight 1113 from DFW to AUS, scheduled for 7:00 p.m.
I went to the Admirals Club, ordered lunch and checked my tweets. I had one from @americanair that said “So sorry for the delays! Feel free to leave us feedback.” and had a link to feedback page at AA.com. As I wrote about my delays for the outbound flight they wrote “Hope your weekend improves. Let us know if we can help.” I appreciated their feedback, and they even got a congratulatory tweet from one of my friends for responding to my tweets.
After I finished my meal I looked at my iPhone app, instead of flight 1113 at 7 p.m. it said I was scheduled to be on flight 1550 from DFW to AUS with a 7:55 departure. I was glad to see that, AA had apparently re-booked me to a later flight because of the delays. So, I pulled out my boarding pass and went over to the AAngels to ask for a boarding pass for the flight 1550 when I looked at the one in my hand and saw that I already had a boarding pass for that flight! Somehow they had changed me from the 7 o’clock flight to the 7:55 flight without letting me know: the boarding pass was printed at 5:25 that morning so they could not have known about the delays at that time. Note to American Airlines: if you modify my itinerary and put me on a flight that is one hour later than the one I had originally booked, you should notify me of that change.
After a long wait at the Admirals Club I went down to my gate for my 2:40 departure and noticed one problem: it was 2:10 and there was no plane at the gate! Was this going to be yet another delay?
The inbound plane arrived at 2:25 and then my phone rang again, departure had changed to 3 p.m. I looked at my itinerary on my iPhone and saw a big problem: the flight was scheduled to arrive at DFW at 7:57 meaning I would miss my 7:55 flight to Austin.
We boarded and I thought my day could not get any worse when I found someone who was having a worse day than me. The lady in the seat behind me called over the flight attendant and said “I found this in the seat pocket” and held up an iPad! I’ve left a bottle of water on a plane. I’ve left a copy of Time magazine on a plane. But I’ve never left anything as valuable as an iPad. I hope AA was able to get it back to its owner, they should have his phone number on file and would be able to call him.
Everyone boarded, the plane had a lot of empty seats and I was able to move to a window seat. I was glad to see us push back 10 minutes early at 2:50.
Fortunately, the pilot was able to make up for lost time and we arrived at DFW at 7:38, giving me plenty of time to get to my 7:55 Austin flight that was only three gates away. As we were taxiing to the terminal I heard the lady behind me on the phone, her conversation reminded me that my day could have been much worse.
“No, I don’t know where my bags are. I was supposed to be on the two o’clock flight but it was overbooked so they moved me to the one o’clock flight that did not leave until three o’clock, so I have no idea where my bags are.” I hope she found them.
I was the last person to board the AUS flight; it was completely packed as almost all DFW-AUS flights seem to be. We arrived at AUS on time, and I was home before 10 p.m.
It had been a long frustrating day. I normally get one call from AA flight status for each flight, letting me know my departure time. On this day I got 13 calls as they kept delaying my flights When all was said and done however, I never missed a connection, was not stranded at an airport, and got home at a reasonable hour. With the AA double EQM promotion I’d earn almost 7,000 EQMs, putting me over 70,000 for the year and well within reach of Executive Platinum. I just wish things had gone smoother and AA had let me know abut the various changes.
I own stock in AMR, American Airlines’ parent company. The total value of my holdings in that company is less than $80.
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!