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Old Jun 7, 09, 9:29 pm   #1
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Mileage Run from Hell

So I set out on my first Mileage run on UA this weekend which consisted of ORD-LAX-IAD-PVD-IAD-ORD.

It started fine on the ORD-LAX with an entire row to myself in Economy . I needed to spend the night in LA and to keep costs low I rented a car from Fox.

I set out for my 6:00am flight and returned the car. The shuttle bus which normally runs every 10-15 minutes, took almost a half an hour to arrive .

Running a bit late, I quickly check in and print all of my boarding passes. I proceed to the security line which was pretty long. I am starting to worry now. I get through security when I am asked to step off to the side. It seems there is something in my bag that is alarming. I'm randomly searched and my bags are unpacked. Finally the offending object is removed, which was a tube of toothpaste .

I see I only have about 10 minutes before the doors to my flight are due to close. I scramble and stuff my belongings back into my carry-on and laptop bag. During the frenzy, I mix up my boarding passes and head to the gate on the top ticket. I arrive to find that I should be on the other side of the airport. I sprint back and they have just shut the door to my plane. Its still sitting at the gate but they wont let me on.

The next flight is due to leave in about an hour, so no worry. I have a few hours to kill in IAD anyhow.

The flight is delayed about 40 minutes when then they announce a downsized equipment change. Due to this change they are way oversold. No one on the waitlist makes it on the flight.

I waitlist for the next flight which will put me in IAD 10 minutes after my PVD flight leaves. Due to a good tailwind, we arrive 15 minutes early . I exit the plane, quickly look at the board and see that the PVD flight has been delayed. I sprint to the next terminal to find a flight to Pittsburgh at my gate . I'm told that the flight has been delayed another 10 minutes and there has been a gate change, which is 2 gates from where I just came from .

I head back and they are just about finished boarding. I walk up, hand the agent my ticket and head out to the tarmac. As we are waiting for an elderly lady to climb the stairs, an agent comes running outside yelling "Mr Tonecold, Mr Tonecold?" I inform her that I am Mr Tonecold. She tells me my boarding pass is not valid and that it was not in the system . It occurs to me that she never scanned the ticket because she was talking to someone when I handed her my boarding pass/she returned my stub. In any case, they assigned my seat to someone else. They ultimately produced another seat for me which looked to be the last available.

I am happy that I made the flight and surely the worst is behind me. We arrive at PVD, I exit the place and immediately re-board. They announce that we should arrive in IAD about 20 minutes late, which should be plenty of time to catch my connecting flight to ORD.

We taxi out to the runway and wait. And wait. And wait. Finally the pilot announces that the "little green light that comes on to show all systems go, is not coming on and we will have to return to the gate". We arrive at the gate, maintenance has the pilot shut down the plane to reboot (What does this thing run on Windows?) and after about 15-20 minutes the light comes back on.

Due to the earlier delay and the maintenance issue I am cutting the ORD flight VERY close now. We arrive and I figure I should be able to make the flight as long as I hustle. We taxi towards the gate, when the pilot stops and waits. He announces that the plane in our scheduled gate is running behind schedule and there are no other available gates.

We finally get a gate just about the time the doors are closing to the ORD flight. I figure there are no more flights to ORD and I am right. I proceed to the UA customer service area to get a hotel voucher and am the 3rd person in line. There are 3 groups of customers at the desk already. 45 minutes later only the first of the 3 customers receives his boarding passes and hotel vouchers . The agent who was assisting that customer disappears behind the wall. Moments later I see him leaving with his backpack on. There are now 2 customer service reps and about 100 people waiting in line

About 10 minutes later, an older gentleman arrives and announces he can assist the PVD customers at the next gate. In the mad rush to the next gate, I keep my place in line .

He manages to service 3 customers in about 15 minutes. As I walk past the customer service area, the 2 groups that were there when I arrived an hour earlier are still not finished.

I head out to catch the Sheraton shuttle bus which is running every 15-20 minutes according to the agent assisted me. After about 20 minutes, I call the Sheraton to inquire about the bus and am informed that there was an accident on the Tollway and the driver is behind it. They estimate he should be there in about 20 minutes. By the time he arrives, there are now about 20 people waiting.

He pulls up and they make a mad dash for the bus. I am next to last to board and sit in the last row. Upon arriving at the hotel, everyone makes a break to the check-in.

I am the last into the hotel and behind about 20 others. I walk up to the counter and stand next to the Starwood Gold/Platinum check-in sign. The 2 gentlemen behind the desk are obviously overwhelmed, so I wait. And wait. And wait. Finally after seeing that several customers from each line have been handled, I flash my SPG platinum card (full disclosure, which expired earlier this year but has not been replaced with Gold yet) and ask for service. I'm told the line begins behind the other guests

I ask for assistance once again mentioning my status and am told the line begins behind the other customers

I get frustrated and ask to no one in particular "what the hell is Startwood status worth if I cant get Priority check in" I proceed to the back of the line and am the last person to check in. I ask if the $12 meal voucher can be used for room service and am informed that it can but the kitchen is closed . Being the last one to raid the snack closet, my dinner consists of candy bars and nuts.

I arrive in the room, am still a bit wound up and cant sleep. I figure I'll watch a movie. I turn on the pay per view and the screen freezes. I turn the TV off/on (hey it worked for the airplane) but the screen is still frozen. I call the front desk to inquire if there is a problem with the pay per view system. He states that he does not know but will look into and call me back. He never does.

So........ does anyone know of a good MR from ORD before 6/15?
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Old Jun 7, 09, 9:58 pm   #2
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Wow...talk about a chain reaction. Oddly entertaining, though, reading about the troubles of others...

Been awhile since I paid some dues like that. Earning your EQMs on packed, segment-heavy itins in coach exposes you to potential for stuff like that, and airlines now are much worse than they used to be about reaccommodation. Even when they don't try to stiff people on hotel vouchers there's an excellent chance they're understaffed or under-trained to handle it.

A long line at the service-center counter usually means another long line at the hotel. I tend to take it more cheerfully if I'm there because of a voluntary bump vs. there because of an airline problem for which there's no compensation.

BTW, UA has to be the most "playable" of the big U.S. airlines when it comes to being able to build bizarre itins and zig-zag all over the place (the .bomb notwithstanding). I guess it can be a double-edged sword.

Better luck on the next one! (Or at least, if you don't have, write about that one as well)
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Old Jun 7, 09, 10:42 pm   #3
  
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This is why I never do multi-city

I only do one stop and back. The multi-city thing takes so much time and energy. But most of all, it's stressful. It's a very unpleasant thing to do, in my opinion.

For instance a MR SFO-JFK (upgraded on the p.s. fligt to c) gets you over 10,000 EQM's with the bonus. The cost of the ticket: $219.

For someone in your situation, I would have done ORD-SFO and back. Just do them every other weekend; no need to do it all at once. If you have the time & money, do ORD-FRA or ORD-LHR and turn around. That is a great MR with huge mileage potential.

Sorry it was hectic, but your story is the very reason that I never do multi-city MR's.
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Old Jun 7, 09, 11:51 pm   #4
  
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Originally Posted by SFflyer123 View Post
I only do one stop and back. The multi-city thing takes so much time and energy. But most of all, it's stressful. It's a very unpleasant thing to do, in my opinion.

For instance a MR SFO-JFK (upgraded on the p.s. fligt to c) gets you over 10,000 EQM's with the bonus. The cost of the ticket: $219.

For someone in your situation, I would have done ORD-SFO and back. Just do them every other weekend; no need to do it all at once. If you have the time & money, do ORD-FRA or ORD-LHR and turn around. That is a great MR with huge mileage potential.

Sorry it was hectic, but your story is the very reason that I never do multi-city MR's.
I wholeheartdley agree Sorry to hear about your troubles as I've had to "pay my dues" when I use to be a segment runner, but I can tell you, look for longer flights where you have more of a chance for things going right than wrong on multiple segment flights...next time a plane goes down, "call" ua as everyone is running to the desk (at least that's what I do)
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Old Jun 8, 09, 1:18 am   #5
  
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Consider this MR one of those "test of your patience" experiences. Hopefully you'll have gained some insight and experience dealing with the situations you encountered.

At least you got a hotel voucher... I'm usually bumming a row of seats airside at the airport, or getting kicked out to landside and sleeping in a chair or on the floor.

We all go through those at one time or another.

Things just weren't going right for you, if not on UA, it was the car rental, or the hotel. What can one do... for the most part, it was out of your control.

Just know your difficulties on the MR will repay itself hopefully with upgrades, e500's, and if you are hitting 1K, CR1's and SWU's.
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Old Jun 8, 09, 1:29 am   #6
  
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Wow, that's a rough day! Seems like everything that could go wrong, did!

Glad you could maintain a sense of humor in writing about it - your closing line is priceless

Cheers to you mate!
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Old Jun 8, 09, 6:53 am   #7
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Generally I limit my flying, particularly MRs, from mid June through Labor Day. Thunderstorms, which are often quick forming and unpredicatable, can reek havoc with travel. Add to that all of the Ma and Pa Kettles and even all of the F seats and airline club memberships do not make it worthwhile.

Saturday night, we sat at the gate at MIA for two hours waiting for a storm to pass. Thank God I was in F downing bloody marys.
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Old Jun 8, 09, 6:58 am   #8
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Sounds like a normal Thursday for me.
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Old Jun 8, 09, 7:10 am   #9
  
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I've always been afraid that my MRs would turn out like that, but fortunately I've had rather positive experiences doing mine.

I did a similar MR earlier this year on US Airways to lock in Platinum status on a challenge (DFW-CLT-PBI-CLT-LAS-SFO-PHL-FLL-CLT-SFO-CLT-PBI-CLT-DFW, four transcon segments and two redeyes in four days, with a conference in the middle). I got upgraded on all of the segments except the two redeyes and was able to VDB for a voucher and skip two segments while still getting original mileage.

I did a series of LAX-BOS runs to go from 0 to EXP on AA last month, and everything went perfectly. I had one delayed flight which didn't affect anything and was able to VDB for a $500 voucher on another flight without impacting any other flights. I was in coach on all but one of the transcons, but always in great seats (exit rows, bulkheads, flight crew rest seats, middle three to myself a couple times, etc.)

I would agree with those suggesting longer single-city RTs for MRs. It's far simpler, and if you can do transcons or international, it's about the same price and compressed into much less time, with very little stress. Especially now that I'll have EVIPs and EXP status on AA, I'll probably do some international MRs next year to maintain status.
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Old Jun 8, 09, 7:59 am   #10
  
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My theory is because of the MR from hell, some good days of flying are in your future.

I'm missing something though, what exactly did you use the rental car for?
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Old Jun 8, 09, 8:15 am   #11
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Originally Posted by Madhouse24 View Post
next time a plane goes down, "call" ua as everyone is running to the desk (at least that's what I do)
I tried that and they were helpful with the rescheduled flight but stated that if I wanted a hotel voucher, I would need to stand in line like everyone else.
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Old Jun 8, 09, 8:18 am   #12
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My theory is because of the MR from hell, some good days of flying are in your future.

I'm missing something though, what exactly did you use the rental car for?
I actually had a meeting on Friday in LA, so I needed the car to get around. Fox was very cheap compared to the more known rental providers but their service was a little lacking.
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Old Jun 8, 09, 8:36 am   #13
  
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Originally Posted by luv2ctheworld View Post
... for the most part, it was out of your control.
Ok, I know I'm going to get hell for this, but wasn't the tube of toothpaste the reason for a lot of this??? ....sorry I know that's harsh, but if you're a frequent flyer wouldn't you make sure you don't do that?
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Old Jun 8, 09, 8:45 am   #14
  
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My DCA-DFW-SFO-ORD-DCA on Saturday wasn't quite this bad, but it wasn't a trouble free MR.

The day started out early with a 4:30 am alarm for my 6:50 flight. The first leg was unremarkable, landing at DFW early. While I strolled to gate for the next flight, I got the first indication that the rest of the trip might not go so smoothly.

I noticed on one of the weather displays that a line of thunderstorms was heading to Chicago later in the day and wasn't too surprised when the flight notification system called me and said my SFO-ORD flight was delayed by an hour and a half. Unfortunately, that would arrive too late for the final ORD-DCA flight of the night. I could have stayed at my brother's place in SF, but I really did want to get back that evening...I had signed up to run a 5K race on Sunday morning.

So I got on the phone and started rearranging my way home. The AA CSR proved to be quite helpful, noting that I was doing a mileage run and even suggesting the longer SFO-MIA-DCA way home to garner even more miles. That was tempting, but then he looked up the weather forecast and noticed that thunderstorms were expected for the evening which could leave me stuck in MIA overnight. (I found out later that both flights were delayed and I would have arrived at DCA at about 4 in the morning.) Yes, I'll be sending a letter to AA CS to note his helpfulness. I ended up changing my return to an SFO-DFW-DCA itinerary, giving me a 45 minute turnaround in SFO.

After boarding the DFW-SFO flight, the pilot announced that our depature would be delayed, since one of the SFO runways was closed for maintenance. I was figuring that all flights would be delayed, so I wasn't going to get too worried about my flight back east. I didn't hurt that I was in F and sipping on some sparkling wine while we waited, either.

We finally arrived at SFO at about 1 pm and unfortunately, my SFO-DFW had already left. So it was back on the phone again to reschedule my flight home. The flights through ORD or STL were delayed enough to miss the final flight to DCA for the evening, so I had to reluctantly settle with a redeye through LAX. That would get me into IAD at 6:30 am, barely enough time to get home, change, and get to the race. At least I would be sitting an exit row.

What to do with five hours in SFO? I gave my brother a call and asked if he'd like to meet for a drink. He laughed and asked if I was on a mileage run. I picked me up about 20 minutes later and we went around to the back side of the airport to watch the afternoon heavies flight out. After a drink at his neighborhood watering hole and a stop at the In 'N Out Burger, it was back to the airport.

The new itinerary back home was uneventful and the LAX-IAD flight even got in 20 minutes early. I was able to get home, change, and cycle to the race location, arriving about 15 minutes before the starting gun went off. I told my friends there that it wouldn't be my best race, having gotten less than four hours of sleep the night before. I just didn't confess to doing a mileage run that evening. I surprised myself by finishing with a 20:34 time, but I could feel my stamina fading in that last half mile. No more MRs on the day before I run a race...
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Old Jun 8, 09, 8:45 am   #15
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Originally Posted by paulTX View Post
Ok, I know I'm going to get hell for this, but wasn't the tube of toothpaste the reason for a lot of this??? ....sorry I know that's harsh, but if you're a frequent flyer wouldn't you make sure you don't do that?
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