Monday, October 22, 2012

Sea to Shining Sea – a 48 Hour "Fun"(Mileage) Run

A quick check of the AA balance for this year along with a summation of remaining travel left me in a bit of a pickle, I was currently sitting on 30,393 BIS miles so far and have another ~8,000 remaining in already planned revenue tickets before the end of the year. Having hit Gold this year for the first time I felt like we were on a bit of a role, so naturally “What if we shoot for Platinum?” popped into my head…Hmmm one good mileage run or one strategically planned domestic ticket would get me there along with all the benefits that awaited. After perusing the forums, ITA search engine and one deal popped up and called to me it was a great deal from JFK to HNL, what better way to pick up the necessary miles than by going to visit family? The only issue left was when and how to get to JFK, a bit more searching combined with the relative flexibility of my schedule this month (rotating shifts so different off days each week) allowed me to find sale fares from SJU to JFK that timed up perfectly and ended up setting the trip up at ~4 cents per EQM and 3.6 cents per RDM. But of course that doesn't include the big bonuses:
  • 500 mile upgrades (will be 8 when completed rest of qualifying travel)
  • ·         Platinum qualification including;
  • ·         100% mileage bonus on all flights
  • ·         OneWorld lounge access on international flights
  • ·         72 hr. upgrade window vs. current 24 hr.

Tickets booked, upgrade requests in and the waiting game began, no upgrades cleared at T-24 hrs. but I was keeping a close eye on ExpertFlyer and knew there was still lots of availability to JFK. At about T-12 hrs. the first one cleared, SJU-JFK and it continued this way for the rest of the segments, nothing clearing until T-12 at the earliest but most at about T-4-6 hrs. I did pretty well too I’ll say, clearing on all flights but the transcons and this allowed me to sample essentially all of AA’s domestic first / business offerings; old brown recliner seats, newer blue recliner seats and the angled lie flats (NGBC) commonly used on international flights plus a regular coach window seat and also a coach exit row seat…It was like climbing the comfort scale one step at a time!

Monday – 05:00
Seaborne Airlines #2205 Seat: 2C
Depart: STX @ 6:15
Arrive: SJU @7:05

One of the great or not so great things about flying out of a small airport is that generally there is only 1 customs officer on duty at any time, which means that when he shows up late and only 20 minutes before your flight that you spend your morning waiting outside. Soon we were through and lining up on the tarmac to board our Twin Otter for the hop to SJU. One of the great things about these planes are the huge windows, I'm not sure if the 787 will even be able to match these, and they give a great view of the beautiful surroundings here.

Vieques (front left), Culebra (back left), St. Thomas (back right)

Vieques (La Chiva or Blue Beach), Culebrea (background)

Unfortunately the preflight checks and a bit of a headwind slowed our progress so we were late into San Juan, where upon arriving we found we had to taxi around the whole airport due to some construction. Rather than arriving at 7:05 and having comfortable 40 minute connection we reached our gate at 7:35 leaving only 10 minutes to cross 2 terminals to reach the gate for my connection onto AA. Luckily the airport is nearly deserted at that time of the morning, so with a stride Usain Bolt would envy I was off the plane, up the stairs and at full speed through the terminals dodging cleaning ladies and off duty police before reaching the gate just as the last passengers were boarding. Following a quick interrogation by undercover San Juan PD (apparently my running scared some people!) I was down the jetway to the relative comfort of AA’s old brown recliners.

AA 648 (757-2) Seat: 5A
Depart: SJU @ 7:55 AM
Arrive: JFK @ 11:39 AM

I very much look forward to the day that these brown seats are forever gone from AA, although nice and wide there’s something about the shape that just isn't right and I feel like there is nowhere to rest your head. That gripe aside I had what was most certainly the best egg dish I've had on a plane before on this flight, mozzarella and spinach quiche with chorizo, and roasted potatoes.

I chose a warm biscuit to go with it and naturally a glass of orange juice and a Bailey’s coffee. The surprise of a good breakfast made up for the connection issues earlier and I settled in for some computer work for the rest of the flight.

Spinach Quiche with Chorizo, Roast Potatoes and Biscuit

The Admiral’s Club near gate 42 was the stop to kill a couple hours before shoehorning myself into 25A for the transcon so needless to say I was looking forward to stretching out and watching some TV while having lunch. Little did I know but Oktoberfest has hit AA and they were offering a smoked ham / bacon sandwich on laugenbrotchen, though it turned out to be more of a pretzel cut in half than a true pretzel roll.

AA 117 (767-2) Seat: 25A
Depart: JFK @ 1:45 PM
Arrive: LAX @ 4:30 PM

As I've mentioned before, Priority AAcess makes itself invaluable when in coach…especially on a packed widebody. All exit row seats were already taken when I booked my flight so I settled for next best, a window close to the front. Upon settling in I noticed that unless I've shrunk there seemed to be much more knee room than I was expecting, sure enough when I pulled up seatguru using the gogo inflight wifi (wish they still had the free trials!) I saw that AA’s 762 have 33-34” of pitch, easily outdoing any of their other offerings or most domestic competition! The pilot comes on to announce an on time departure and that he’s expecting we’ll be in LA about 15 minutes early, in addition we’ll have clear skies including views of the Grand Canyon, Rockies, Las Vegas etc. I think this is going to be a good flight until I get the seatmate who refuses to use his voice, he just sits and stares…uh-oh. On the upside there’s a new American Way with an article on Panama, looks nice better add it to the soon go list. Flight attendants come around for snack / drink service; I order a giant pretzel with mustard (again on the Oktoberfest theme J) and snagged the only Glenlivet allocated to Y. This was all met with a stare from quiet guy, who proceeded to point to some drink without answering the FA’s queries as to his selection. It continued this way for the rest of the flight, I realize it’s not important whatsoever but can’t you at the very least be polite? Finally upon landing Mr. Seatmate is the first up but then stands there and talks to other passengers around and gets down a bunch of luggage, guess he just didn't like me!

Grand Canyon

Another airport another Admiral’s Club, though I will say I'm not too fond of the one at LAX. The area by the bar is always packed and also the only area with TVs and good plane spotting, whereas the area in the back is nice to relax but always too cold and feels like you’re in the middle of nowhere. This time there were goodies in addition to the snack mix to keep me entertained.

Cheese and Crackers, Rum and Coke

Next installment, Hawaii flights and the Aloha service

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