Posts tagged Mileage Run
It’s the start of a busy mileage run period for me; I’m doing a run on three consecutive Saturdays. This is the first of those three trips as I once again fly to the Pacific Northwest.
This trip is on Alaska Airlines with the following itinerary: Austin to Portland (PDX) with a stop in San Jose (SJC), then on to Seattle (SEA) then back to SJC and then AUS. I’d leave Austin at 7:50 a.m. and return at 11:30 p.m., spending almost the entire day in the air with very short layovers. My flights to and from Austin are the same ones I took when I did my trip to San Jose. but this time I keep flying instead of leaving the airport and going into town.
I enjoyed my late departure from Austin; I normally leave at 6 a.m., so I got some extra sleep before this trip. I arrived at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and went to the security check-in line. (I had printed my boarding pass at home the night before.) AUS has three main security lines, one at each end of the terminal and one in the middle. I went to the line for the lower numbered gates and saw a huge line. It not only filled the check-in space, it continued into the terminal. If I was flying on American Airlines that would not be a problem, my boarding pass would say Priority AAcess and I could go to the front of the line. Since I was flying on Alaska I’d have no such privilege.
I looked toward the center check-in area near the American Airlines counters and saw almost no one on line and immediately went to that station at the middle of the terminal. I mentioned to the TSA lady that there was a huge line at the other area and she said, “Oh, that’s because of Southwest, they have several flights leaving at almost the same time so there is always a huge line waiting to clear security.” Thanks, that’s a lesson learned for me.
I had enough time to visit the Admirals Club, say hello to the AAngels and have a cup of coffee, then head down to the departure gate. I got there 20 minutes before departure in time to hear the final boarding call announcement. Apparently Alaska boards passengers earlier that American does, I was one of the last people to board the flight.
I was on a 737-800, which has three-across seating; I had an aisle seat. I tried to put my bag under the seat in front of me but it wouldn’t fit; there was enough room in front of the other two seats, but the aisle seat had a much more narrow space, so I had to put the bag in the overhead bin. I’ll need to check when I fly on American to see if their 737 is configured the same way.
We had a smooth departure from Austin. After a while I got my laptop down to watch a DVD. I’ve done this on American without problem, but American has powerports to plug in the computer — Alaska does not. I wondered if my laptop battery would last long enough for me to watch a 95 minute movie. Thankfully it did. The worst thing that happened was the man in the seat in front of me pushing his seat back which made it impossible for me to set my laptop on the try table and still be able to see the screen. So, I place it on my lap and held it.
It was an uneventful flight to San Jose. We landed a few moments early and I chose to get off the plane instead of staying on for the 30+ minutes we spent on the ground. First stop was the closest mens room which was surprisingly small, so small that the line came out the door. After taking care of that I had enough time to make a quick phone call to my wife and then reboard.
While I do not have elite status with Alaska Airlines, they do allow passengers with elite status on their partner airlines (such as American) to board before the rest of the coach passengers do. So, I had early boarding for this part of the flight, something I always appreciate. This gives me time to get to my seat without being rushed and also allows me to watch the best show in the air — passengers fighting to get their over-stuffed carry-ons into the overhead bins. This wouldn’t happen if the airlines were not charging for checked bags, but they make too much money from that fee to cancel it.
We had a short flight to Portland; I’m not sure when their terminal opened but it could not have been too long ago, it has a very modern look and feel.
I made my way to the Horizon Air section of the terminal.
Along the way I looked out the window and saw the MAX light-rail station; MAX runs from the airport to downtown Portland. So, now that I know I can get downtown using public transportation, I want to do a mileage run to Portland that will give me enough time to leave the airport and go into town.
I had less than 25 minutes until my flight to Seattle, so I stayed by the Horizon Airlines gate. It did not take long before we boarded the Bombardier Q400 (DH4), also known as the Dash 4 for the 30 minute flight to SeaTac (SEA). Alaska Airlines has announced that they are no longer using commuter jets on their short routes, replacing them with the Dash 4. They say that the Dash 4 is quieter, creates less pollution, and uses less fuel than the jets they are replacing.
I had a seat behind the engine and thought I would have a good view, but no such luck. I didn’t realize how long the engine was; even though I was several rows behind the wing the engine still blocked most of my view. I did however get an interesting view of the landing gear during take-off, and then watched it retract into the wing
I was flying on a small plane on a short flight. Every seat on the plane was taken, but they still managed to provide beverage service that featured the normal water, soda, or juice, but also had complimentary beer and wine. And they gave us a small bag of pretzels too! There once was a time when all flights offered that service, but now, beverages are all we get, no snacks unless we want to buy them, an certainly no complimentary beer or wine in coach!
It didn’t take long before we were on final approach to SeaTac. Enjoy this video, watch how gently the landing gear touches the runway after being held just a few inches above it.
We taxied to the terminal and got off next to the SeaTac food court, home to some of the best plane spotting in the country. I didn’t have much time before I boarded my flight to San Jose, and I was hungry. I needed something quick, and chose Anthony’s Fish Bar where I ordered the same meal I had eaten earlier this year.
As always, I enjoyed the splendid view of flight operations from the SeaTac food court.
I ate my food as quickly as possible then made my way to my gate, N7. That was a new one to me, I normally flew in to an A or B gate. I followed the signs to the N gates, went down an escalator, and saw something that I had not seen before at SeaTac.
I had flown into SeaTac so many times, but never knew there was a train. It’s the only way to get to the North Satellite terminal from the main terminal.
I enjoyed the view from the terminal, but didn’t have much time to spare, my flight to San Jose boarded shortly after I got to the gate. I had one very big concern on this flight: I only had 33 minutes in San Jose to connect to my Austin flight. I hoped that the Austin leg would be on the same aircraft but a quick look at the schedule told me I was out of luck; the Austin flight originated in Portland and continued on to Austin.
I mentioned this to the flight attendants and they all said the same thing, “Don’t worry!” Fortunately, I was sitting in one of the first few rows of coach so I’d be able to get off the plane that much faster.
We had an uneventful flight to San Jose and thanks to a tail wind we arrived 5 minutes early. We came in at gate 26; when I got into the terminal I looked at the monitor and saw my Austin flight was at gate 27, it could not have been closer!
I had enough time to make a quick trip to the mens room, and then we boarded. The plane was not as full as the others had been, there were only two of us in my row, the middle seat was empty.
I was tired and slept most of the way to Austin, but I did manage to hear the credit card sales pitch that the flight attendants gave. If someone signs up for the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Card, once approved they will receive a bonus of 25,000 Mileage Plan miles. Next year on their membership anniversary they’ll get a coupon for a companion ticket to any Alaska Airlines destination for $99. After explaining all this, the flight attendants came down the aisle offering credit card applications — any passenger filling one out on the flight would receive an additional 5,000 bonus miles. This is a good deal; while Alaska is not part of a major alliance such a Oneworld or Star Alliance, they do have partnerships with several airlines including British Airways, Air France, Delta, and KLM, to name a few. Ther Mileage Plan miles are good for travel on any of those airlines. With all of those airlines to choose from you’ll be able to fly to almost any destination in the world.
The tail-wind that had helped on the previous flight must have been following us, we arrived in Austin 20 minutes early.
I was struck by how empty and quiet the terminal was, not the normal hustle and bustle I am accustomed to.
I got home from the airport shortly after midnight. This was one of those rare mileage runs where I would actually spend Saturday night in my own bed. It was a good day, I got home safely and earned almost 4,400 EQMs. The only bad part of the trip was the short layovers, my longest was one hour 25 minutes. I felt like I was always running from plane to plane and never really had the chance to sit and relax until I got on the plane. If I could have changed anything about the day, that would have been it.
All in all though, it was a good day. I earned the miles, did not have to take a red-eye, and got home safely. Like I said, it was a good day.
Another Saturday morning, time for my third mileage run of the year.
This would one be different from my previous trips in two ways. First, I’d be flying on Alaska Airlines rather than American, and second, I’d have time to go into town. I’d flown Alaska before, but those flights had all been red-eyes out of Seattle to Los Angeles and I slept the whole way. This would be a daytime trip and I looked forward to seeing what the service would be like.
I got to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport in plenty of time for my flight, or so I thought. I had checked in online the night before so I went straight to the security check-in line — that’s when I found I had made a mistake. When I fly on American Airlines I have elite status and my boarding pass is labeled “Priority AAcess.” This allows me to go to the front of the security line. I have no such status on Alaska, that meant I would have to wait on the line and it was a very long line this morning. Oh well, lesson learned.
Thankfully the line was moving quickly; three x-ray machines were open so we moved through fairly rapidly. Even so, it took long enough that I did not have enough time to go to the Admirals Club before boarding my flight. I went directly to the gate, had enough time to buy a bottle of water, and then board the flight.
The flight was aboard a 737-800, and would go non-stop to San Jose. The weather was on my side: Austin was hit by a major ice-storm a day earlier, the San Jose flight was six hours late. Today the only delay was for the ground crew to de-ice the wings, and then we took off.
American Airlines used to offer non-stop service between Austin and San Jose. Given all the technology companies located in both cities that flight soon earned the nickname “Nerd Bird.” However, American dropped the service in 2009, saying it could not make a profit on it. Less than two weeks later Alaska Airlines, which did not even offer service from Austin, announced that it would offer daily non-stops between the two cities. They also offered a non-stop to Seattle, service that American had also dropped. It’s interesting that one airline cannot make a profit on a route while another can. This shows the challenge facing American Airlines; as the largest legacy carrier to not file for bankruptcy protection, it has the highest labor costs in the industry, costs that make it difficult to make a profit. In this case American’s loss was Alaska’s gain. UPDATE: Alaska Airlines has announced that they will discontinue non-stop service between Austin and San Jose. Apparently the competition from Southwest Airlines was too much. Southwest will be the only airline offering nonstop service between these two cities.
We had a smooth flight to San Jose. I appreciated Alaska’s beverage service: they actually served cookies in coach. I can’t remember the last time American offered a free snack on a domestic coach flight.
We arrived on time at San Jose and I went to get my rental car. I had posted a message on FlyerTalk asking for suggestions about things for me to do and said I would be using public transit. Every reply I got said that was a mistake on a Saturday, that the public transit schedules were so reduced that I would have a hard time getting around; they all suggested I get a rental car. So I checked prices, saw I could get a car for the day from Enterprise for $23 and made the reservation.
Getting a rental car at the San Jose airport is a very easy thing to do. I left the terminal and walked across the street to the newly-built parking garage. At the far end was a sign for the Rental Car Center. I went in and saw the rental counters for all the companies at the airport. I took care of the paperwork at the Enterprise counter, then took the elevator to the sixth floor. When the door opened an Enterprise representative dressed in a jacket and tie greeted me by name and took me to the cars. I actually had a choice of several vehicles, I chose a brand new Ford Focus. After signing the paperwork I was on my way. I brought my GPS unit from home and turned it on. It could not recieve the satellites’ signal in the garage so I planned to pull over once I left the terminal to key in my destination. That seemed like a good idea at the time.
I left the building and found myself on the exit road from the airport: no place to pull over and set the GPS. I came to an intersection and had no idea which way to go. But I saw an office building with a parking lot. Perfect! I could pull in there and take a few moments to get the GPS up and running. So, I pulled into the lot, entered my destination, the Tech Museum, and then looked up at the sign on the front of the building. I had stopped in the eBay parking lot — I decided not to place a bid for it!
It was a beautiful day and I enjoyed the drive downtown. I found a parking garage and then walked a few blocks to the museum.
I entered the lobby and bought a ticket: it cost $10 but included an IMAX movie. There were several IMAX movies to choose from; I wanted to see the Hubble Space Telescope movie but my schedule would not allow that. So I told the clerk that I’d see Under the Sea.
I walked around the Museum and enjoyed it, but not quite as much as I had hoped. It has a lot of interactive displays, but it seemed that many of them were designed to excite the imagination of a child, rather than someone my age.
I spent an hour wandering through the exhibits, then went to the to the Hackworth IMAX Dome Theater located in the museum. Tha Hackworth is the largest dome theater west of the Mississippi. The museum has put together a nice video about the theater that gives a great tour of the IMAX projection booth and an explanation of how this incredible cinematic experience works.
After the movie ended I left the museum and looked for a place to eat. I heard drums banging and saw a crowd in front of the Museum of Art a few blocks away, and walked over to see what was going on.
What I saw was a New Year’s celebration; specifically Tet, the Vietnamese New Year.
I enjoyed the celebration. When it was over I looked for a place to eat. While there were several restaurants near the Tech Museum, I wanted something fast so that I would have enough time to go to my next destination, the Computer History Museum. I found a fast food Oriental restaurant, ordered soup and a noodle dish, and, after eating it quickly was on my way.
I walked back to the parking garage and entered my parking ticket in the machine to pay my bill; I was glad to find out that although I had been parked for a few hours, there was no charge.
I entered my new destination in the GPS, left the garage and got on the 101 Freeway heading west. I drove past Moffett Field, This airbase was home to the USS Macon, a 785-foot long dirigible during the 1930s. As I drove by I saw a massive hangar that looked large enough to hold a blimp; Hangar one was built in the 1930s and is now used by NASA’s Ames Research Center and is designated a Naval Historical Monument. I wish I had had the chance to take a few photos of this magnificent structure, but there was no place for me to pull over on the side of the road to do that.
I drove on and soon arrived at the Computer History Museum. I paid the admission fee ($15) and began my tour of the Museum. This museum was the exact opposite of the Tech Museum; Tech Museum had a lot of hands-on displays and was suited for children. The Computer History Museum had almost no hands-on displays and was aimed more at adults than kids. It tells the story of computers, starting thousands of years ago with the Abacus, going forward through the Babbage Engine, Eniac, microprocessors, to today’s machines. They even had my first home computer, the Commodore-64! It’s a fascinating story, with examples of each device on display. There is a lot to see, and a lot to read at each stop along the way. Frankly, I did not have enough time to see it all so I only did the highlights. I wish I had had more time to spend at this museum.
I left the Museum and drove back to the airport, stopping along the way to fill the car with gas. I was impressed by the Focus’ mileage; I had driven a little bit less than 30 miles, and put in less than one gallon to fill it! I got to the airport, returned the car, then walked back across the street to the terminal and went to the security check-in line. I was pleased to see that I was the only person so there was no long wait.
I took off my shoes and jacket, putting them in the plastic tub and was ready to go through the metal detector when the TSA agent told me that I would have to go through the full body scan e-ray machine instead.
These machines caused a great deal of controversy last year with the infamous “Don’t touch my junk” video. Some people have no problem with them, others find the machines to be intrusive, others find the enhanced pat-down procedure to be both intrusive and embarrassing.
One of my concerns with these new machines that used back-scatter technology is that no one knows the long term effects of these machines on someone who has had a large number of medical x-rays taken of them. TSA can say that they are safe, but the machines have not been around long enough for anyone to know for certain what the long term effect is. I had a lot of x-rays done last year when I had some major surgery and I don’t want to use what I consider to be unproven technology.
So, I told the agent that I would be happy to go through the metal detector or have the enhanced pat-down, but I would not go through the full body scan machine. He immediately announced very loudly “I have an opt out.”
I stood there as two agents collected all of my belongings that I had put on the conveyor belt, then I was instructed to walk through the metal detector, which did not go off.
Along with my belongings I was taken to the side where an agent met me and asked if I was familiar with the program. I explained that I was, told him of my concerns based on my medical x-rays, and said I would follow his instructions. He asked if I wanted to leave the area and go into a privacy room, I said no. At that point the pat-down began. The agent was both professional and polite, explaining everything he would do. He emphasized that he would only touch me with the back of his hand. The pat-down did not take long, and he never did “touch my junk.” When he was done he shook my hand, wished me well, and cleared me to enter the terminal. It was not a very big deal.
I had a short wait until my plane left. We boarded on time and the plane actually pushed away from the gate a few moments early. It was not at all crowded, I had a row all to myself. It was a smooth flight back to Austin, landing at 11:28 p.m. I got home shortly after midnight.
It had been a good day; I had the chance to leave the airport and see a little bit of San Jose, I got home safely on time, and I earned almost 5,900 miles. Mission accomplished!
Saturday morning, time for my second mileage run in 8 days. Last week I went to the Northeast, this time I’ll go to the Northwest.
My itinerary: Austin to DFW to Portland, then Horizon Air to Seattle, then back to DFW and then Austin. I’d depart Austin at 7 a.m., return at 11:25 p.m. and spend the whole day in the air or at airports. This was a three-day weekend (MLK Day on Monday) and I did not know if the holiday would increase the number of people flying or not.
It was 30 degrees when I left the house before sunrise; we had been below freezing all night and I had to scrape a small amount of frost off my car’s windshield. I did that but did not think much of it at the time. I got to the airport, checked in and was glad to see there were no crowds, no lines.
We boarded the plane on time, the flight was far from full, not even close to 50% capacity. I had the exit row to myself and as I looked out the window I could see a thin layer of frost on the wings, but did not think much of it. Everyone was on board early and we were able to push back from the gate 5 minutes ahead of schedule, but we weren’t ready to leave; the pilot announced that the ground crew would need to de-ice the plane before we took off. I’ve flown in and out of Austin for more than 30 years, this was the first time I had seen them de-ice a plane. Two members of the ground-crew drove up to the plane in a white pick-up truck; one of the men was in a was in a cab atop a hydraulic lift in the bed of the truck. He raised the cab up in the air and sprayed the plane with a liquid mixture that melted the frost. In the meantime the driver maneuvered the truck around around the plane so that the man in the cab could spray every section.
We had a smooth flight to DFW, arriving shortly after sunrise. I saw one or two planes being de-iced; once the sun came up the frost melted off the aircraft and de-icing operations came to an end.
I changed terminals and boarded my flight to Portland. We were on an MD-80, and again, the plane was less than half full. Good for me, I once again had the exit row to myself.
This plane offered inflight internet access, and I decided to take advantage of that. The cost was $9.95 and would only provide service for this DFW-PDX flight. I had some writing to do and thought it was worth the price. Well, actually the writing could wait until the next day, I just wanted to see how it worked. Overall, it was a good experience; I’ll talk about it more in another post.
I have to admit I spent a lot of time looking out the window. The beauty of the American west stuns me every time I fly over it.
We made a smooth approach to Portland and landed on time. I then had a long walk to the other end of the terminal to take my Horizon Air flight to Seattle. Horizon is owned by Alaska Airlines’ parent company and serves as its short-haul service, just as American Eagle does for American Airlines. Our plane was a Bombardier Q400 (DH4).
I finally reached the far end of the terminal where Horizon has its gates.
Shortly after I got there the gate attendant was nice enough to make one of the most important announcements of the day, “The restroom on this aircraft is not working, so if you need to use the restroom please do it prior to boarding.” Immediately ten of us got up and went to the men’s room.
We boarded shortly thereafter and I compared this aircraft to the Aerospatiale/Alenia 72 (AT7) that we had flown on American Eagle between Miami and Nassau. The two aircraft appear to be approximately the same size but there was one major difference: I was able to get my roller-board under the seat in front of me. On American Eagle I had to give it to the ground crew to place in the cargo compartment, it would not fit in the overhead bin or under the seats. This plane also seemed newer than the Eagle planes we had taken.
We departed Portland on time and I sat back to enjoy the one-hour flight to Seattle. Shortly after we leveled out the flight attendant came through with the beverage cart, and I was quite surprised at what she offered. We could get complimentary juice or soda, which I expected. However, she also offered complimentary beer and wine! I had never seen complimentary alcohol on a domestic flight. And with the beverage we also got a small complimentary bag of pretzels; you know the bag, the kind that the major airlines used to give out. Or maybe it’s hard to remember back that far! I was astonished by this. On this commuter flight that would be in the air no more than 40 minutes I had just gotten a wider choice of complimentary refreshments and snacks than I can get on American Airlines flying cross country! Amazing!
I was glad to have the chance to fly on Horizon; a few days after the trip Alaska Airlines announced that it would end the Horizon brand and all of its aircraft would be rebranded as part of Alaska Airlines.
We landed in Seattle on time and had a short walk from the plane to the terminal; it was a beautiful day, so warm that I took my jacket off.
Once I got into the terminal I immediately went to the food court. I’ve written before about how much I enjoy the food court at Seattle-Tacoma International airport (see this article) with its wide selection of food and great views of the runways. I had more than enough time to decide where I would eat dinner. I ignored the fast-food establishments; I saw an oriental restaurant that had a nice selection but decided against it, I can get oriental food here at home. I decided on seafood and went to Anthony’s Fish Bar. I ordered their special: clam chowder, baked salmon taco with chips and salsa.
The clam chowder was thick, warm, and delicious. I took my time with it, then tried the taco. Living in Texas I am normally old-school and want authentic tacos – a salmon taco does not fit that category, but no matter, it was delicious. The salmon tasted very fresh, not frozen and flown across the country, and blended quite well with the chopped tomatoes and shredded cabbage wrapped in the large tortilla. I took my time eating it; it was truly a pleasant experience.
Once I was done I walked to the gate for my flight to DFW. We boarded the 737 early and actually departed a few minutes ahead of schedule. This flight, like my earlier ones, was less than half full. I was sitting in an full row, once we pushed back I moved up one row and had it to myself.
It was an uneventful flight to DFW; I spent most of the time reading from my Kindle. A few hours later we prepared for landing and the flight attendant announced the departure gates for connecting flights. I was glad to hear “If you are going to Austin, this is the plane for that flight so we’ll depart from the same gate.”
It’s funny how things happen. A week earlier I had to change planes at DFW, but since they both had the same flight number I lost my bonus miles for the AUS-DFW segment. This week I’d have the same plane into and out of DFW, but would get the bonus miles because the plane flew in with one flight number, but would depart with another. It all worked out.
Since we landed early I had almost 90 minutes until the AUS flight would board. We were at Terminal D, my favorite terminal at DFW. It is the newest, most spacious, and has a wonderful open design that feels more like a new shopping mall than an airline terminal.
One thing that struck me about the terminal was how empty it was. Most of the international flights had already departed. At 9 p.m. on this Saturday night the terminal had so few people in it that I didn’t even bother to go the Admirals Club, it was quiet enough in the terminal.
We boarded shortly after 10 p.m. for our very quick flight back to Austin. We landed early, I was home shortly after midnight. It had been a long day, but not quite as tiring as my trip the previous week. I earned 9,550 AAdvantage miles, so it was a good day. I did two trips in January and earned a total of 8,633 Elite Qualifying Miles, and 17,498 AAdvantage miles. For me, that is a good month! Now on to February and my next two mileage runs!
My flight from New York landed in Boston on time and I looked forward to eating lunch; other than some snacks I had put in my bag I had not eaten since I left the house 10 hours earlier. As I got off the plane I realized how cold it was; I could see my breath as I walked up the jetway.
I took a few moments to enjoy the view of a snow covered Boston Logan International Airport.
I went to the food court, none of the options held much appeal to me, so I settled for pizza and spaghetti. I took my time eating — I had plenty of time until I had to board the flight to Chicago.
When I finished eating I went to the restroom. It was 3:15, my boarding pass said I still had twenty minutes to spare until they started boarding my 4:05 flight, so I had plenty of time. As I left the restroom I heard the announcement to board First Class for my flight. Board my flight? The flight would not leave for another 50 minutes and they had already started the boarding process? Ridiculous!
I ran towards the gate; naturally it was at the other end of the terminal. By the time I arrived they were already boarding Group 3. My boarding pass said “Priority AAccess,” one of the benefits of elite status. This let me go to the front of the line to board. I quickly went to my seat and stowed my gear. The plane was one of the new Boeing 737s American is getting to replace their aging fleet of MD-80s. I had an aisle seat near the front of the plane; there were three of us in the row but the row in front of us was empty. As soon as they closed the door I moved into that empty row and had it all to myself. That extra space came in handy — I slept almost all the way to Chicago.
We arrived on time in Chicago; I grabbed a bite to eat and then went to the Admirals Club to watch football and call home.
The flight back to Austin was a smooth one on a 737; I had the exit row to myself. We landed on time and I was home less than an hour later.
It had been a long day, but I got home safely and that is always the most important thing. I also earned 7,700 AAdvantage miles. It was a good day!
January 15, time for my first mileage run of the year.
This would be a pure mileage run — no going into town this day, I’d spend all my time in the air or at an airport.
I’ll leave Austin at 6 a.m. then fly to Dallas/Fort Worth, New York LaGuardia, Boston, Chicago, and then return to Austin, landing at 10:45 p.m. My biggest concern on this trip was the weather; mid-January is not the best time to fly to the Northeast or Chicago, heavy snowstorms had disrupted travel during the Christmas holiday season and a blizzard had hit Boston earlier in the week. Fortunately, the forecast called for good weather on the day of my flights, and all airports were operating normally.
I woke up early and drove to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, arriving at 4:45 a.m. It had been raining all night and the rain continued on my drive to the airport. I parked in the lot and took the bus to the terminal; normally there are other people on the bus with me but not this morning. The driver remarked that it had been a very slow morning for him. When we got to the terminal I saw that he was right, almost no lines the counters and a very short line for the security check-in.
I got my boarding passes, cleared security, spent some time at the Admirals Club and then went down to board my first flight of the day. This was a bad news – good news – bad news flight.
Bad news: American Airlines flight 708 would take me from Austin to DFW to New York LaGuardia (LGA). If I had one flight take me to DFW and then another to LGA I’d get bonus miles for the AUS-DFW segment (fly 183 miles but earn 500). Since it was one flight number all the way to LGA AA would give me credit for a direct AUS-LGA flight and I’d loose those bonus miles.
Good news: I’d be able to relax on the flight, taking one plane all the way to New York without having to change planes at DFW.
Bad news: No I wouldn’t. Instead of taking one plane to LGA I’d have to change planes and terminals at DFW. To me, that makes it two different flights and not one, but I guess the airline looks at it differently.
We took off on time and had a smooth flight to DFW, arriving at terminal A.
I took the SklyLink shuttle to Terminal C and had a very short wait before we took off for LGA on a new plane, but with the same crew. Almost all of my flights last year were very crowded but that was not the case today; both flights were less than half full and I had a row all to myself. I had a window seat and hoped for good weather and good photo opportunities in New York.
After a smooth flight we made our approach into New York. If you are ever on a flight from the south to LGA be sure to sit on the left side of the plane, the view is worth it as the plane flies over New York Harbor and then up the East River, providing a wonderful view of lower Manhattan.
We landed a few minutes early and I had time to go to the Admirals Club and call home to let my wife know I had arrived safely.
After a short rest I went to board my Boston flight. During my first flight they had announced that the Boston flight would depart from Gate C-1 so I headed that way. And that is when the silliness started.
I had arrived at gate D-1. My flight to Boston would be on American Eagle which departs from the C terminal. Unfortunately, that meant I would have to leave one terminal and then clear security again to reach my gate at the next terminal.
So, I walked down to the C terminal; just before I got to the check-in I put my keys, cell phone, pocket change, etc in my carry-on bag, and then cleared security without any problem.
I got to gate C-1 for my 1:45 departure and saw that they were waiting to board a flight to Montreal with a 1:25 departure. Twenty minutes would not normally be enough time for one plane to leave the gate and another to arrive so I asked the gate attendant. He told me that I was at the right place.
Then I remembered to get my cell phone out of my carry-on; I looked and saw I had missed a call from the American Airlines flight update service. I listened to their message, it said my flight would depart from gate D-0. That wasn’t good, I’d have to go back to the D terminal and clear security if that was correct. I found a monitor that listed departures and sure enough, it said D-0 was my gate.
I went back to C-1 and told this to the attendant, he again told me that the Boston flight would be at that gate.
Then my phone rang. It was American Airlines calling again to say the flight was at D-0. I ended that call and my phone rang again, American Airlines calling to tell me my flight would depart from gate C-1A. C-A? Where was that? I started to look and my phone rang again, this time to say that my flight would depart from C-1. Three calls in less than three minutes, but it appeared that they finally got it right.
I looked out the window at the tarmac and saw the American Eagle plane at C-1, then I saw a bus pull up next to it. Once it arrived they announced the departure of the Montreal flight. Instead of going down the jetway to the plane, those passengers went down a stairway and boarded the bus. Once it departed they announced the Boston flight (with the sign at the gate still listing Montreal as the destination) and we boarded.
Our aircraft was an Embraer ERJ-135 (ER3), a small plane with two seats on one side of the aisle and one on the other. The good news was that it was a jet and would get us to Boston quickly. We departed on time and had a smooth 34 minute flight to Boston. I had an 85 minute layover in Boston and looked forward to being able to eat for the first time since I left home.
To be continued
2011 is upon us. I hope this will be a safe, happy, and prosperous New Year for you all!
Since it is a new year, I found horribly depressing numbers when I logged onto aa.com today: my year-to-date elite qualifying miles, elite qualifying points, and elite qualifying segments all show the same value – zero. On a positive note however, I now have more than 900,000 lifetime miles, so I can start the countdown to 1,000,000 lifetime miles and lifetime Gold status!
I had major surgery in January last year and was not able to do my first mileage run until April 17; that put me in a deep hole that I could not dig out of. I hope to do better this year. I did not earn Platinum status last year so I will drop to Gold status on March 1; until then I am Platinum and want to take advantage of the double mile bonus that I will earn. I’ve booked four mileage runs for January/February. I’ll leave early Saturday morning and return late Saturday night on all of them.
- Austin – D/FW – New York Laguardia – Boston – Chicago -Austin
- Austin – D/FW – Portland – Seattle – D/FW – Austin
- Austin – San Jose – Austin
- Austin – DFW – San Francisco – DFW – Austin
I booked the first one a few months ago. It has its good points and bad. On the positive side, I’ll earn 7,730 miles for less than three cents per mile. Unfortunately, there are several negatives to the trip. The first is the possibility of bad weather disrupting the trip. I can’t believe I booked a mid-January trip to New York, Boston, and Chicago; all three of those cities are subject to winter storms, I hope we don’t see a horrible storm hit like the late December storm that paralyzed much of the East Coast.
The second negative is that I will fly from Austin to New York on AA flight 708. Since it is the same flight number from Austin to LaGuardia, I only get credit for an AUS-LGA flight, 1,520 EQMs. If I had one flight number to DFW and then another one to LGA, I’d earn 1,889 EQMs. The difference is the bonus miles that I would earn between Austin and FW; although it is a 183 mile flight I earn 500 EQMs. Since I am on the same flight all the way to LGA I don’t get the bonus for having a flight of less than 500 miles.
And the final negative is that I will go through three of America’s great cities: New York, Boston, and Chicago, but will not have a chance to leave the airport and see these great cities. Oh well, at least I will earn the miles.
I’ll earn more than 9,500 miles on my second trip, again for less than three cents per mile. I’ll fly on American from Austin to DFW and then Portland. I’ll fly Alaska Air’s commuter airline, Horizon Air, from Portland to Seattle, and then come home on American. I’ll have two segments that are less then 500 miles each (AUS-DFW and PDX-SEA) so I’ll earn the bonus miles for those flights. The two flights combine for 312 miles, but I’ll earn 500 for each for a total of 1,000. I’ll have enough time for a meal in Seattle, but will not leave the airport on this trip.
The third trip is in February on Alaska Airlines. They had a special fare, Austin to San Jose for $59 each way. My total fare was $150, I’ll earn 5,904 miles at 2.54 cents per mile. Thankfully, I’ll earn AAdvantage miles on these Alaska flights.
I’m looking forward to this one, I’ll have an 8-hour layover in San Jose, which will give me time to leave the airport and go into town. I’ll visit some websites to see what I’ll have time to do. I may visit Stanford University, I may spend all my time in San Jose itself. If you have any suggestions for places to go or good restaurants in the San Jose area, please let me know.
Final trip takes me to San Francisco. American is offering double miles and double EQMs for flights between DFW and Los Angeles and San Francisco as it counters Virgin America’s new service from DFW to those cities. With the bonus, I’ll earn almost 11,000 miles on this mileage run.
With these four trips I’ll earn more than 18,400 elite qualifying miles, and almost 34,000; that is a great way to start the year! I’ll need another 31,600 EQMs to get my Platinum status back. I was able to do that two years ago when American and other airlines offered double EQMs for several months, something that they did not do in 2010. I hope they will do that again in 2011!
It’s January, let the mileage runs begin!