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It’s The Most Wonderful Time of The Year (AA/MQ F AS Y)

It’s The Most Wonderful Time of The Year (AA/MQ F AS Y)

Old Dec 2, 13, 2:22 pm
  #1  
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Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: BTR/MSY
Programs: AA EXP, Hyatt Globalist, Marriott LTP, Hilton Gold
Posts: 1,172
It’s The Most Wonderful Time of The Year (AA/MQ F AS Y)

REPORT COMPLETE

Introduction

Trip Report Index

Lagniappe: Returning to New Orleans and Saints Training Camp
Working and Playing Hard: MQ F IAH-ORD-DCA; Washington Nationals Game
Flying to Anchorage to Study: AA F DCA-DFW-ANC//ORD-DCA; AS Y ANC-ORD; DCA/DFW/ORD Admirals Clubs
Chill-LAXing: AA F DCA-DFW-LAX-ORD-DCA; ORD Admirals Club; Av Geek Moment
Homeward Bound: MQ F DCA-JFK; AA F JFK-IAH
Tap the Rockies: AA F DFW-DEN; Marriott Fort Collins; Exploring the Mountains
The Long Way to Beantown: AA F DFW-BOS-JFK-SFO; BOS and SFO Admirals Clubs
Who Dat!: Saints @ Patriots
Homeward Bound 2: AA F BOS-JFK-IAH
Westward Ho!: AA J JFK-LAX
Geeking Out…Again: Boeing Factory Tour;History of Flight Museum; and a Glimpse of Seattle
Homeward Bound 3: AA F JFK-SEA

Each year when the month of August rolls around, I can’t help but smile. To me, August marks the beginning of the most wonderful time of the year. When most sane people think of August, they cringe at the thought of the oppressive heat and humidity that inevitably accompanies the month. While I too dread the awful weather, I see it as a little suffering for the better days just around corner. Autumn will soon arrive, bringing with it cooler temperatures, new episodes of television shows, playoff baseball, and the great scenery afforded to us by state fairs and Halloween. All of these things are near and dear to my heart, but it’s not the most exciting thing the sweltering weather of August promises. That can be found on football fields around the country, where the sounds of thuds of collisions and grunts from extreme exertion are heard, signaling the start of another exciting season.

Statistically speaking, 99.997 percent of American males are washed up wannabe football players whose dreams of getting paid ludicrous amounts money to play a wonderful game were crushed long ago. Now, they are watching other men, who possess the talent they lack, achieve that very dream; while they are relegated to living vicariously through these other men and supporting them by spending a metric crap ton of money on merchandise and booze to drown their sorrows. I too sadly fall in the less talented category. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be spending so much time slaving away on my laptop and calculator. Blake Lively wouldn’t be married to that smuck, and the FTers wouldn’t have put up with my rambling trip reports. See, everyone would be so much better off if I were just a wee bit more talented. Who do I complain to about that and what compensation am I entitled to….

Anyways, I try to attend a few football games every fall, especially those of my beloved hometown New Orleans Saints. Unfortunately, work got in the way last year and I was unable to attend any games. Well I did, but it really didn’t count. For one thing, it was a preseason game. It was also a Dallas Cowboys game. They don’t really count.

Since I missed out on attending any (real) games last year, I was determined to go to at least one game this year. The Saints are playing the Cowboys in New Orleans in November, but I already planned a trip that weekend. So I looked for another game to go to. One game that caught my eye was the game at the New England Patriots on October 13th. For one thing, I was off the next day as it was a holiday. It was also a matchup of two very good teams, so if air fare was reasonable it was a no brainer. It just so happened I was scheduled to work in Colorado the week prior to the game, so my company would reimburse me up to the cost of our contract fare between Dallas and Denver of whatever travel I wanted to do on my way to/from Denver. Using the multi city tool on aa.com, I priced out an IAH-DFW-DEN-DFW-BOS-JFK-IAH itinerary for a mere $380. Our contract fare for Dallas to Denver was $360, meaning it was only $20 out of pocket for me. After few clicks, that was taken care of.

My travel in 2013 so far was not I had hoped for. I had spent a good bit of time in Houston to help out my family, so I was flying United quite a bit in the beginning of the year. My AA travel was limited to a bunch of regional travel and a few mid cons, which was unfortunate as I was unable to put my EXP status to full use. At the middle of 2013, I was just sitting on 25,000 EQMs. While being an EXP was everything I had for and more (very cliché but true), I knew a push to EXP was a bit unrealistic cost wise barring a highly unlikely DEQM promotion. With AA ending its unofficial “soft landing” program, I was destined to be a Gold in 2014. While Gold benis aren’t bad compared to what Delta, United, and US Airways offer their lowest elite tier, the 25% bonus on RDMs were paltry compared to the 100% bonus for PLTs and EXPs. The more I thought about it, the more I was convinced I needed retain at least Platinum (PLT) status in order to keep the 100 percent RDM bonus. I had about 8,000 miles of work travel planned, leaving me about 18,000 miles short of PLT. So I looked for some mileage runs to get me over the top.

I was able to book a DCA-ANC run for $374 and a DCA-LAX run for $230 over the weekends of my three week training session in DC during September. I also stumbled upon a nice BOS-SFO fare during the weekend I was going to be in Boston for the Saints/Patriots game. Since I’ve been to Boston a number of times before, I really wasn’t concerned about losing out on some time in the city so I went ahead snagged that ticket for a cool $240, after applying a 10 percent off coupon that I got from the Disney’s Planes movie promotion. Besides, one of my flights was a red eye, saving me a night of points/cash making it even more worth it. To top it all off, I booked a JFK-SEA ticket for $300, which I ended up turning into a weekend trip to knock off a couple more items on my aviation geek bucket list.

So this is story of how spend the most wonderful part of 2013. Its going revolve heavily around a few things that are near and dear to my heart: flying, sports, food, and booze, in no particular order. So sit back and relax, while I spin y’all a yarn. Here we geaux…

Previous Trip Reports
2013: Geeking Out Across America (AA F)
2012: Around The World and From Sea to Shining Sea (AA F/Y, CX F, SQ F, UA F, DL F, WN Y)
2011: Everybody look at me because I'm sailing on a boat (KL J and DL Y)

Last edited by dat4life; Apr 15, 14 at 10:34 am Reason: Update Index Links
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Old Dec 2, 13, 2:23 pm
  #2  
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Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: BTR/MSY
Programs: AA EXP, Hyatt Globalist, Marriott LTP, Hilton Gold
Posts: 1,172
Lagniappe: Returning to New Orleans and Saints Training Camp

I originally wasn’t going to write about this due to the lack of quality pictures, as my camera met its untimely demise and I had to rely on my iPhone. But then I thought, why the heck not. Anyways, here’s a little lagniappe (French-Creole word for a little something extra; pronounced lan-YAP) to start this TR off right.

August is to football as February is to baseball. It is the start of a new season full of hope and promise. Unlike the casual fan who is only gets excited when the regular season starts (or fantasy drafts in this day and age), my excitement starts building as August nears and training camps begin. Ahhhh… Training camp, a time honored tradition. It reduces multimillionaires to whiney children (yeah, I’m talking about you, T.O.) and brings smiles to the faces of small children. For a true football fanatic, training camp gives you the first accurate glimpse of how your team may fare in the upcoming season. Also, it’s a smaller more intimate setting, kind of like a concert at small venues, and you really do get up close and personal with your team. Growing up in New Orleans, I used to go to the Saints’ training camp on fairly regular basis after they moved camp back to the New Orleans area. However, I moved to Texas in 2006 and haven’t been to Saints camp since. I had planned a trip back to New Orleans for a little get together with some of my high school friends on the last weekend of July, which happened to be the very same weekend the Saints opened training camp. I didn’t realize it until a few days before I left for New Orleans, but I quickly rearranged some of my plans so I could go to camp.

My day of departure was like any other Friday on an in territory assignment, wrapping up and closing out with the client and then leisurely hitting the road. I was able to leave work before noon and made 200 mile drive in a little under three hours. After familiar routine of parking my car in the Remote North lot and hopping on the terminal shuttle bus, I found myself entering Terminal A at just past 3PM



I know most you don’t care too much about a sub 500 mile domestic flight, so I’ll keep this section of the report brief. My upgrade cleared at T-100. The new check in area at the lower A gates looks great, but not very functional per the friendly agent that checked me in. The premium check in area feeds directly into the priority security line. As I was the only person in priority security line, I was through very quickly. A couple of minutes later, I was in the Terminal A Admirals Club pre-gaming for the weekend.



Unlike my last visit to the Terminal A club, there was no (alleged) Playboy model to chat up so I tried standing by for the earlier 3:35PM flight. When I got put on the stand by list by an AAngel, I was number 3 on the list. When I got to gate I was magically number 7 on the list, and they cleared 6 standbys, the last of whom seemed really buddy buddy with GA. Ugh. Anyways, I went back to the club for another G&T. My flight was uneventful enough, and the FA was absolutely wonderful. I knocked back a couple more G&Ts on the flight,
and I was feeling good by the time our Mad Dog’s tires touched down Runway 10. I got a Hertz Mobile Alert while en route, and was pretty ticked off I got assigned another crappy Dodge Avenger. I guess I really couldn’t complain given that fact my rate was only $40 perday, and I was using the great Entertainment Book BOGO weekend coupon. Thankfully, there was a nice 2013 Nissan Altima available in Gold Choice area so I quickly grabbed that and was on my way to the hotel within minutes.

When I go back to New Orleans, I usually stay at the Westin Canal Place or the Marriott Lakeway, due in large part to my loyalty program affiliations. Both of the properties are wonderful, so I usually choose based on what I’m planning to do in town: the Westin if I’m partying downtown or the Marriott if I’m just hanging out. For the purpose of this trip, I chose to stay at the Marriott Lakeway. Thanks to my Platinum status, I was upgraded to a very nice Corner King Room. After meeting up with friends for dinner and drinks, I was fast asleep on the comfortable bed. I woke up early the next morning to a great view of Lake Pontchartrain and the Causeway Bridge.



During our junior and senior years in high school, my friends and I went on a kayak trip in Mississippi with our school. A few of us kept up this little tradition for a year or two after graduating high school, but then Hurricane Katrina struck nixing our trip in 2005. And then we all got busy with college and other things, so we haven’t been since. Over the course over the last two years, many of my friends have gotten married and/or in serious relationships, while I am still living out my Ryan Bingham phase of my life. With one of my friends on the verge of fatherhood, we realized it may be the last time we could really “bro out” like the old days, if you will. So we planned a kayak trip for old times sake, among other things.

I woke up around 6:30 the following morning, and headed out to round up my friends. Since I had a rental, I offered to drive. We stopped at nearby McDonalds and convenience store for a spot of breakfast and to load up on the essentials: Natty Light, beef jerky, Cheez-Its, Zapp’s chips, and Lunchables. Oh yeah, the old days. Food? Check. Booze? Check. Tunes… Check. With the standard pre-trip check list complete, we hit the road with my lead foot mashing the gas pedal to the floor and the poor little base audio system pumping out a little Three 6 Mafia. Two hours, later, we pulled to the parking lot of the Okatoma River Outpost near Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

Kayaks were rented after we ponied up $30 each. We were then herded on to a bus to take us to the launch point. It didn’t take us long to secure our gear onto the kayak, and we were soon knifing down Okatoma River. Thankfully, it wasn’t very crowded and the weather was rather cool due to the over cast skies. Everything was going rather smooth until we reached the first rapid, where I flipped my kayak and got to watch my camera (which was stupidly sitting on my lap) fall into the murky waters of the Okatoma, joining the keys I had lost in 2003, ironically at the very same spot. We ran out of beer and snacks before the halfway point, at which point we realized we forgot pack water making for a potentially miserable second half of a trip. But Mother Nature intervened and sent thunderstorms our way. The sheets of rain drenching us were welcoming, but the bolts of lightning crashing all around us were not. The last 2.5 miles or our journey was a bit of a hairy experience to say the least. While it might sound like the miserable day, but we actually had a lot fun. We got to catch up. The Natty Light tasted much better than I remember, and paired quite nicely with the gourmet name brand snacks we had brought with us. And we got a great work out. All in all, a very successful trip

We rolled back into New Orleans just after 6PM, and made plans to meet up for dinner. Dinner was going to be at one of my favorite restaurants, Shogun in the suburb of Metairie. It’s one of, if not the best, Japanese restaurant I’ve ever been to. Their regular menu stuff is good, but if you’re feeling adventurous belly up to the sushi bar and ask for Kazu. He trains with chefs in Japan regularly, and brings back many new great ideas each time. In fact, he just got back from one his sessions the week before we went. Unfortunately, I only remembered to take one picture of the meal, but we were treated to an hour long orgy of salmon, tuna belly, amberjack, sea urchin, and blow fish.



We had originally planned to hit the town hard that night after we ate. But after thinking about how much it hurt to put on a shirt after showering, a comfortable bed sounded much more tempting than a night of boozing and God knows what. Even a year or so ago I would have ready to hit up the town and let the pictures on my phone tell me what I did the next morning, despite how sore and tired I was. But then I turned 25 last year… and it all went downhill from there. Naturally, I didn’t want to be the first one to wimp out so I stuck around chatting hoping someone else would bail first. Fortunately, my married friend decided to call it a night a few minutes later, citing the need to get back to the wifey. Whipped.

Anyways, we didn’t have a lot of room to talk as we weren’t far behind him in heading home.

After a solid 8 hours of sleep, I woke up refreshed at 7AM once again excited about the day ahead. I quickly got ready and met a friend in the lobby for breakfast. Thanks to changes in Marriott Rewards program, Platinums now get continental breakfast on the weekend if the club lounge is closed. At this particularly property, it translated to the full buffet which was decent. Unsurprisingly and understandably, one of my friends bailed as he was still tired from the day before. So that left me with just one person to pick up. 15 minutes later, I was pulling into the Saints’ practice facility.

Despite arriving rather late, we lucked out in picking seats in the part of the field the team was utilized the most. I was beyond excited as the last time I had seen the Saints play in person was the December 2011 Monday night game against the Atlanta Falcons, when Drew Brees broke the single season passing record. Much has changed since then, and I was eager see the changes up close. Practice started smack on time at 8:50. At this point, I’ll let the pictures do the talking.


Breesus loosening up ol’ cannon




Running Back Pierre Thomas (#23)


Inside Linebacker Jonathan Vilma






Wide Receiver Lance Moore (#16) awaits a pass while Head Coach Sean Payton looks on

One of my friends had a prior commitment so we were unable to hang out after practice for autographs (yeah I’m still a kid at heart), but I really wasn’t complaining since the heat and humidity was really getting to me. Despite it being fairly early in the day, temperatures were pushing the 90s already and humidity was near 100 percent. I should be used to it living in Louisiana for nearly 20 years, but man it’s been awhile. Despite that, practice was fun, and made more entertaining by the gentleman sitting in front of us giving color(ful) commentary in his thick Cajun accent.

After dropping off my friends, I headed back to the hotel to shower and check out. I was feeling pretty hungry as it was past noon. So I called up one of my friends, and decided meet up for lunch at an old standby, Parkway Bakery, which in my opinion makes the best po-boys in town. It’s bit out of the way to find if you’re a tourist, but more than worth it in my humble opinion.


Parkway

The trademarks of a good roast beef po-boy is how much of a mess it makes when you eat it Parkway’s is no exception, and they take one step further for those who want the best of both worlds like me. Lo and behold the surf and turf po-boy: their great roast beef topped with a generous portion of succulent fried shrimp. Pure bliss.


Nom, nom, nom

Last edited by dat4life; Dec 2, 13 at 2:59 pm
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Old Dec 2, 13, 2:23 pm
  #3  
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Join Date: Oct 2009
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Posts: 1,172
One of cool things about moving away and now coming back to visit New Orleans, is seeing my hometown through perspective of an outsider. There many things which I used to take for granted, such as the beautiful live oaks, unique architecture, and diverse culture, that I appreciate a lot more since I don’t see/experience it on a regular basis. Perhaps the thing I miss most of all is the slower pace of life. People really take time to slow down and enjoy life. Perhaps the one thing that embodies the pace of life in New Orleans are the stately and historic streetcars which can be found rumbling down the streets of New Orleans. They are not the most efficient nor fastest form of transportation. But it’s the perfect way to sit down, relax, and cruise while enjoying the scenery along the way, which is something I don’t do often enough in life. “Rush, rush, rush” is my motto! Anyways the streetcars are always a fun to see, and that day we were able to catch a sight of a red liveried car of the Canal Street line on its way back toward the CBD.



I had planned to meet a friend in the French Quarter for a drink before heading out to the airport. Since time was not an issue, I decided to take the scenic route and loop around City Park and down the tree and mansion lined St. Charles Avenue before finally heading to the Quarter.






Cruising down St. Charles Avenue



The French Quarter might be known to be an epicenter of debauchery, but there is much more to the Quarter than that. It is has a lot of historical value and is the cultural center of the city where many artists and musicians ply their trade. And the unique architecture is a story in itself. Although it is known as the French Quarter, the architecture you see throughout the area is of Spanish colonial style. Large scale fires in 1788 and 1794 destroyed nearly all of the original French architecture. Since Spain owned New Orleans at the time, the buildings were built in the Spanish colonial style. Ironically, the name French Quarter still stuck.




Street artists and musicians




Jackson Square with the St. Louis Cathedral in the background


The Cabildo


Beignets at Café du Monde

Our last stop before drinks was at Café du Monde for an order of beignets, which we devoured it in seconds. In fact, that isn’t actually my picture. I had to grab it off Google images since I forgot to take picture before I scarfed a couple of them down. So damn good, yet so damn bad for you. After that, we headed to the bar at the Rib Room in Omni Orleans Hotel for a couple of drinks with a friend and some of his relatives from Germany, who were an absolute pleasure to talk to. Unfortunately, it was all over too soon and I had to head back to the airport.

It was a very short drive to the airport, which was made a little longer as I had to gas up the rental. I returned the car, and headed to the ticket counters to get my boarding pass printed before going through security. As I taking off my shoes (no PreCheck), I heard one of the TSA screeners ask if I was dat4life. Naturally, the first thought was whiskey tango foxtrot. When I looked up, I realized that a friend of mine from middle school was one the screener in question. We haven’t talked or seen each other in years, in fact probably not since the last day of 7th grade. So we chatted for a bit since there wasn’t much of a line before parting ways and promising to catch more over Facebook. Such a small world.

My flight itself was fine, nothing to talk about in that regard. My flight was fine, not much to talk about in that regard. Pushed back early, drank a couple glasses of water, arrived early. We pulled into gate D31 next to a shiny new 77W, which gave me my first chance to see the beauty up close. What a perfect way to cap off a great weekend.


Last edited by dat4life; Dec 15, 13 at 8:48 am
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Old Dec 2, 13, 2:26 pm
  #4  
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Join Date: Oct 2009
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Programs: AA EXP, Hyatt Globalist, Marriott LTP, Hilton Gold
Posts: 1,172
Working and Playing Hard

Working and Playing Hard

I am officially based in our Dallas office, which covers the north central and eastern parts of the Lone Star State. Let’s be honest, there ain’t a lot out in those parts. I am a city boy by birth, but I have come to appreciate small town life after spending a good bit of time on the back roads of Texas. In fact, I’m starting to blend in. I’ve set foot in a honky tonk more than once, and the country music collection in my iTunes library keeps on growing… Uh oh… Welp, at least I don’t own a pair of boots or a cowboy hat…yet.

While not the most exciting place in the world, the Texas back country does offer some really nice sights.







Bienvenue a Paris, indeed.

I ended up drawing some nice out territory assignments in the latter part of 2013, beginning with a nice three week training session in Washington DC during the month of September followed immediately by a two week assignment to a client in Fort Collins, Colorado. Given family obligations in Houston immediately before and after my assignments, I chose to depart out of Houston. This was actually advantageous to me in terms of as AA gives priority to connecting passengers over direct passengers when it comes to upgrades, and I was able to pick a few extra miles by connecting due to lack of direct AA options to non-hub cities. On my way to DC, I had chosen to connect through ORD. Although I would be missing out on quite a few miles by not routing through MIA, connecting in ORD allowed me to check out American Eagle’s new E175 service for the first time.

Not long after I booked, I realized I scheduled my flights during the Saints season opener against the hated rival Falcons. D’oh! What made it worse was that I had an all Eagle itinerary, which means no wifi. So I couldn’t even stream the radio feed. Ugh. #firstworldproblems

But that’s probably good a thing, as the FTer sitting in the same row as me during the LAX/SFO TEQM promotions last year can attest to. The Saints were playing 49ers in the Divisional round of the NFL playoffs that day. I was…err… rather animated to say the least as I listened to radio feed of the game on my iPad. Luckily the FAs didn’t see me as a big enough to divert the flight. When we landed at DFW and pulled into gate C39, I sprinted to the nearest bar to just in time to see Jimmy Graham haul in a gorgeous long touchdown pass from Drew Brees much to delight of myself and many of the patrons of that bar. Unfortunately, our collective high spirits were crushed as the Niners drove down the field with a minute left to win the game. Excuse me while I go shed a tear or two.

On the morning I was scheduled to leave, I woke early to run with my dog and check with the EXP desk one last time to see if any same day confirm options opened up overnight. It didn’t. Resigned to the fact I wasn’t going to be able to watch the game, I finished up some last minute packing and headed out for the airport. At little under an hour before my flight, I was strolling into the very familiar Terminal A of George Bush Intercontinental Airport.

The Priority Access lane was empty when I arrived, but all agents were busy assisting other customers. I only had to wait a minute for two before a friendly agent beckoned for me to head to her counter. I’ve mentioned before the American agents at IAH were a mixed bag. They’re either incredibly friendly, or devoid of any sort of personality. My agent that day was definitely on the friendly side. My upgrade for the Houston to Chicago leg cleared promptly at 100 hours out, but I really didn’t expect my ORD-DCA upgrade to clear since the flight was showing F0 a few weeks before. But the agent offered to help me check anyways. One seat did open up and I was number 2 on the list. Boarding passes were then printed, and the agent went to tag my bag which still had my last bag tag on it with a United priority tag. She then asked me if I was cheating on them. It took me a second to figure out what she was referring to (yeah, I know I’m a little slow on the uptake). I just laughed and said, “Ah, the proverbial lipstick stain.” We shared a good laugh and I was on my way to security. Despite the lack of a Pre-Check lane, security was quick and painless due to the lack of lines.

My flight was departing out of gate A27, which actually holds quite a bit of sentimental value for me. It’s where I boarded my first AA flight, kicking off what has been a fairly healthy 4 year relationship. Coincidentally, that flight was also the first time I’ve ever traveled for business, which kicked off my career. Every time I fly out of that gate, I can’t help but think about the rollercoaster of emotions I experienced that fateful day. I was incredibly excited about starting my first real job, but scared of the unknown any new job entails. This was also the flight that made me determined to attain some sort of elite status. I had no status at that time, so I ended up paying $70 for two checked bags, got assigned seat 31A on a MD-83, and boarded with the last group. There was no overhead space left by the time I boarded, and I had a nice view of the JT8D engine my entire flight. Unimpressed, I began searching for ways to upgrade to First Class and ended up stumbling on this very site. And as they say, the rest is history.



Since it was an American Eagle flight, the gate area wasn’t that crowded. Our aircraft, which was sporting American’s new livery, was already at the gate. While many people deem the new livery to be “fugly”, it has grown on me and I actually quite like it now. It’s especially a big upgrade for American Eagle aircraft as their previous livery was, in my very humble opinion, fugly.



With a few minutes left until boarding began, I walked around to stretch my legs and check out the nearby traffic which consisted of an American 737-800 pushing back from A29 on its way to Miami, and a Spirit A319 headed to Orlando.


That reminds me, Halloween is just around the corner.

At that point, First Class was invited to Board. My boarding pass was scanned, and I was off.

American Airlines 3271 (Operated by American Eagle)
Houston Bush Intercontinental (IAH) – Chicago O’Hare (ORD)
Depart: 11:40 AM
Arrive: 2:05 PM
Aircraft: Bombardier CRJ-700 (N511AE)
Seat: 2A (First Class)


American saw it fit to equip American Eagle’s larger regional jets with 9 First Class seats, making for a fairly comfortable experience. In terms of the soft product, service quite comparable to mainline flights.





As soon as the steady stream of Coach passengers slowed to a trickle, our fantastic flight attendant, Jose, immediately began offering pre-departure beverages of choice, something that is a lot more hit and miss on mainline flights. Since I was in a celebratory mood as it was NFL Kick Off weekend, I asked for a Bloody Mary to enjoy before we pushed back. I had just enough time to adjust my fantasy football roster before the cabin door was closed.

The manual safety demo was next on the docket. Most frequent flyers and even some infrequent flyers wouldn’t bat eyelash at the safety demo, although it is a rather important part of the flight. But it really annoys me when FAs do botch the safety demo. Manual demos are more often than not are rushed, “umm” filled, or nearly unintelligible. This issue is certainly not limited to any one airline. So I was really impressed by Jose’s clear and well annunciated demonstration

Runway 9 was being for departures that day, which meant a longer taxi. We held short of the runway to allow an United 757-300 to land, before being cleared for take off. Take off roll was rather long for a CRJ, but we were soon airborne and climbing out over Kingwood before turning north toward Chicago just we passed over the bank of Lake Houston. Jose began service with hot towels not long after the aircraft leveled off, flowed by a drink service. I decided on another Bloody Mary, which was delivered with a ramekin of mixed nuts.



After spending a substantial amount of time on United earlier this year, and by extension United Express, I now appreciate the meal service on Eagle flights more than ever. While it’s nothing fancy and cold because regional jets lack ovens, it’s a big step up over the snack boxes and plastic-ware United Express offers. Lunch service usually consists of a choice of a sandwich or salad. Unfortunately, my flight that day was miscatered and all that was loaded was a turkey hoagie, Doritos, canned fruit, and “fun sized” Snickers.



]The meal was less than stellar, but service was great with refills constantly offered. After my tray was cleared, I did a little work to take edge off my anxiousness of not knowing the score of the Saints game, which kicked off not long after we pushed back. A long 40 minutes later, we finally began to descend into gray and dreary Chicago. One unique service on AA and American Eagle flights is the announcement of gates for connecting AA and American Eagle flights. Most FAs just announce it on the overhead, but the really good FAs come through the First Class cabin and inform passengers individually. Jose took this one step further. Since IAH-ORD flights have a lot of international connecting traffic on other oneworld carriers, Jose saved the typical gate assignments for these flights on his personal iPhone. I overheard him giving the information to the couple in 1C and D, who were connecting to Berlin on Air Berlin, and the gentleman in 3A who was connecting on Qatar to Doha. Afterwards, the service was rounded off with the distribution of mints.

I immediately turned on my phone as soon the main landing gear touched runway. The game was in beginning of the 4th quarter and the Saints were leading 20-17 with possession of the ball! The jet bridge was attached nearly immediately after we came to a complete stop at the gate, and I hurried off the aircraft to find a bar that was showing the Saints game. However, it was quickly apparent that every television in the immediate area was showing the Bears game. Ugh. Seriously who wants to watch that? Everything should revolve around what I want.

So I settled down near the gate of my flight to Washington DC, which coincidentally was the same gate I had just arrived, and listened to radio feed on my iPhone and streamed the game cast on my iPad. Things got a little dicey toward the end of the game, so, I was getting pretty restless and began pacing. A passing airport police officer came to ask what I was doing. I supposed I looked rather suspicious pacing around with headphones, and repeatedly and forcefully tapping the refresh button on my iPad. After he realized what I was up to, he laughed and told me to have a good day. Finally, the Saints defense pulled off a phenomenal goal line stand and kept the hated Falcons out of the end zone with 47 seconds left on the clock to clinch the first win of the season! With that game in the books, I joined a number of Bears fan to watch the exciting conclusion of their game against the Cincinnati on TVs just opposite to the gate area. Oh yeah, baby! Football is back!

With my appetite for football blissfully sated for the time being, I turned my attention to the tarmac which like the terminal was buzzing with activity.



As departure time approached, it was apparent my upgrade would not clear, as I was now number 1 on the upgrade list with no seats remaining. But for such a short flight, it really didn’t make a difference. Besides, I was happy to be able on a new aircraft. Boarding began at 25 minutes prior to scheduled departure, beginning with First Class passenger. However, the gate agent decided to skip over all elites and invited Group 1 to board after First Class. Ugh. Not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but it is one of my more cherished elite perks as I would rather be seated than wait in the aisle for an extended period of time watching people struggle with their carry-ons.

American Airlines 4300 (Operated by Republic Airlines)
Chicago O’Hare (ORD) - Washington Reagan (DCA)
Depart: 3:40 PM
Arrive: 6:25 PM
Aircraft: Embraer E175
Seat: 8A (Main Cabin Extra)


I have flown on E175s before, but this was my first time on American Eagle’s E175 as they just introduced the type 2 months prior. The newness of the type was evident, as the still strong new plane smell welcomed me aboard the aircraft. The cabin was bright and airy, which is a significant improvement over the CRJ-700 which I had just flown. While the cabin color scheme was a bit industrial looking, I still found it to be fairly attractive. My seat was located in the first row of coach. It was very comfortable and fairly well padded. In fact, I’d say they’re actually a step above the slim line coach seats American installed on their newer 737-800s.



What was even better is the legroom row 8 offers. It’s probably even better than any First Class seat on the plane. Shove it, EXP#1


Shove it, EXP #1



The flight was zeroed out more than a month out, so I knew I had no hope for an empty seat next to me. But just as we were about to shut the cabin door, 8B was still free. Hmmm… At the very last second, a youngish Frenchman made it on board and took up residence in 8B. He was a friendly fellow, but his English was rather basic. And my French was very rudimentary. So our attempts at conversation ended with seconds of beginning. But from those snippets of conversation, I did find out it was his first visit to Washington DC and he was very excited about it. This is another thing I absolutely love about flying: the wide variety people you meet. You got your mileage runners, business people, vacationers, students, grievers, etc. Everyone has a unique story.

We pushed back on time, and headed to the penalty box for a solid 10 minutes before finally taking off to the north. We flew the runway heading for a few minutes before turning back to east. One more turn toward to the southeast, and we were finally pointed in the right direction. The overcast was fairly thick, but there was a break in clouds large enough for a nice view of crossing back over the Lake Michigan shoreline.


Climbing out over Lake Michigan

With plenty of legroom, my iPad for entertainment, free EXP snack and booze, not clearing the upgrade didn’t matter anymore. The rest of the flight was uneventful. Cloud cover limited any sort of views.We finally descended below the overcast just as our pilots turned to follow the Potomac to approach Runway 1. Touchdown was on the firm side, and we finished our roll out at the middle of the runway. Taxi to gate 29 was quick.


Arrival at Reagan

Baggage claim was a bit of a mess since a flight from Dallas arrived before we did. I ran into a coworker of mine at baggage claim, who was on the said Dallas flight. I chatted with him until my bag hit the belt some 20 minutes later, and we split a cab to our training center in Arlington.

Last edited by dat4life; Dec 2, 13 at 2:40 pm
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Old Dec 2, 13, 2:27 pm
  #5  
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As mentioned previously, I head to DC for training several times each year. This session was rather rough compared to the ones I had attended previously. I was rather burnt out by Thursday. Since I wasn’t heading on my mileage run till midday Saturday, I looked for something to do on Friday night. Of course there are the old standbys of Georgetown or Addams-Morgan, but I wasn’t keen on flying 8+ hours hungover. It’s bad enough doing that just flying back to Dallas. Then a friend reminded me the Nationals were in town taking on the Phillies. While not a great matchup, it looked like it would be a perfect night for baseball weather wise, and a baseball game would a great way to kickback with a few brews and just relax. I played around Stub Hub for awhile and found tickets for field level seats right behind third base for just $35 per ticket.

The weather was as amazing as advertised, with temperatures in the mid 70s, a light breeze, and crystal clear skies. Luckily I got out of class a little early at just after 4, which gave my friends and Ijust enough time to knock back a few pre-game bulls on the roof top terrace of our hotel and enjoy the weather. It took us just over 30 minutes to take the Metro rail from Arlington to the station nearest to National Ballpark, which is Navy Yards. With a little time to kill before the game, we hit up the Miller Lite fan zone located just outside of the center field entrance.







Other than the live music, there wasn’t a whole lot in terms of entertainment. The only beer they served was of course, Miller Lite. While I do enjoy crappy beers now and then, I absolutely detest Miller for some reason. But the presence of food trucks more than made up for the shortfalls. Instead of munching on some generic bland ballpark food, we were chowing down on delicious lobster rolls, served with a corn and black bean salad.




Classy.

We headed out of the fan zone after we ate, and took a lap around the exterior of the stadium for exercise before heading into the stadium.




Stadium entrance

A little while later, we took our seats which were just 10 rows from the field right on third base. None too shabby for the price we paid.


Pregame Conference


Nats flag


Phillies lead off

Although we didn’t have a dog in the fight, we were looking forward to watching the Nationals’ ace Pitcher, Stephen Strasburg, in person as he is one of the up and coming stars of the Major League Baseball. But he ended being a last minute scratch due to injury. However, the game had the potential to be rather good as the Nationals were still in the hunt for a playoff berth at the time, and had just strung together a nice 6 game win streak coming into this game. The Phillies, on the other hand, were already eliminated from playoff contention but are still a scrappy team, a trait I witness firsthand in a 25 inning rain delayed double header a month earlier in Philadelphia.

The Phillies got off to a good start scoring a run in the top of the 1st inning when Carlos Ruiz hit a single to score Cesar Hernandez.


Ross Ohlendorf starting in place of Strasburg


Cesar Hernandez headed to 3rd base before scoring.

Unfortunately for the Phillies, that was their sole highlight of the game. The Nationals then scored 6 unanswered runs, including home runs from Wilson Ramos and Ryan Zimmerman.


Jimmy Rollins


Ryan Zimmerman swinging at the dish

As you probably noticed, I am an avid sports fan. The aspect of sports I find most interesting are the fans. Every team’s fan base has unique personality, which is just as fun to observe as the sporting event at hand. Of course this is much easier to do when you’re not emotionally invested in the game. In this case, Nationals fans are generally proud, passionate, and knowledgeable bunch that make the atmosphere in their home stadium quite fun. At the same time, the crowd seemed a bit subdued despite how well the Nats played that night compared to what you would hear at a Chicago Cubs’ game even on bad night.



I moved to Dallas in 2009, and have since adopted the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex based Texas Rangers as “my” baseball team. I swear that I’m not a band wagoner…I mean it did help that they did make a couple of World Series after I moved there. It’s kind of hard not to get swept up in the excitement… Anyways, in the 2012 season the Rangers ended up swooning at the end of season and had their season only go one extra game. This year was essentially the same story as the Rangers began stinking it up again after Labor Day dropping something like 15 out of 20 games. The scoreboard in right center field reminded my buddies and I what we were “missing out” on back home.


Rangers stinking it up again.

Baseball purists would argue the “timelessness” of the game is what makes baseball so beautiful. I love baseball, and have since I was kid. But there points in the game when it’s just plain boring. Case in point: after the Nationals scored their last runs in the 5th inning the game was sloppy, with mistakes being made by both sides. Nationals management must have sensed our boredom, and saw it fit to grace our section with the presence of the “Nat Pack” promotion team during the 7th inning stretch. They were actually a fun bunch to talk to.




Nats win!!!

After the game, we walked down to Bull Feathers, a bar a few blocks away from Capital Hill, to hang out with my one of my buddies’ cousin and his wife. We had a good time swapping stories and knocking back a (un)healthy amount of Yuenglings before closing down the bar at half past midnight.
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Old Dec 2, 13, 2:31 pm
  #6  
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Flying to Anchorage to Study

Flying to Anchorage to Study

I awoke to a beautiful cool and crisp fall morning the next day. Although my beverage intake the previous evening was fairly moderate, I was really feeling under the weather. Before I turned 25, I could easily party all night and still make it to a 8 o’clock class. But now just a few short years after turned 25, it’s taking me awhile to recover even after a moderate night out. I had intended to take run that morning, but laying around and watching College Game Day was much more tempting. It was a huge day in the world of college football, with then number 6 ranked Texas A&M hosting top ranked Alabama in the latest “game of the century. Coverage of the game was starting bright and very early.



Finally, I dragged myself out of bed, got ready, and headed to the Metro station. It should have been a quick 40 minute trip, but parts of the Blue Line were closed because of maintenance. So I was forced to hop off the train at the Crystal City station to catch a shuttle to take me to Reagan National Airport. The detour added an extra 20 minutes, but I made it with plenty of time to spare. I was unable to get mobile boarding passes for some reason, so I made a quick trip to American counters to pick up my boarding passes. The friendly agent who helped did a double take when she saw my itinerary, and murmured, “It’s that time of year again.” But she immediately regained her composure, gave me my boarding passes with a smile, and thanked me for my business.

There wasn’t much of a line at security, so I was through very quickly and heading to the Admirals Club on the upper level of the terminal. While it isn’t the biggest lounge, the DCA Admirals Clubs is quite nice and a great staff. In fact, on the whole the AA staff at DCA is one of the best in the system IMHO.

Anyways, one of bartenders is a New Orleanian like myself, so we always have a lot to talk about. In addition to good conversation, he also makes a great Bloody Mary, which was the perfect cure for my hangover.


Bloody Mary


Main area of the AC


Cell free zone

Admirals Clubs recently upgraded their food offerings to include Danishes and croissants with the morning offerings. I grabbed a croissant to munch on with my Bloody Mary. It was ok, but certainly better than the muffins that were on offer. I passed time by reading the Wall Street Journal and enjoying the view of the tarmac.



With ten minutes till boarding, I decided to head to the gate. Reagan is my favorite small airport in the country because of the ease of access and logical layout. But its best feature is great views of some famous landmarks, due to its location across the Potomac River from Washington DC.


Nice view of the Pentagon and Capitol Hill, aka the House of Stupidity

I am not fan of US Airways as an airline, and I really hope the Department of Justice puts an end to the senseless AA/US merger and tells Dougie to bugger off. Post written before the DOJ screwed it all up.

That said, one thing US does well is special liveries, which include the nice looking PSA liveried A319 and the A319s wearing the logo of the NFL teams of each of US hub cities. Today, the A319 wearing the logo of the Charlotte based Carolina Panthers was visiting DCA.



When I booked this trip two months out, I took a look at the load in First Class on Expert Flyer. The DCA-DFW flight was wide open, but my DFW-ANC flight was already showing F6, with the majority of the 22 seats already taken. I have maintained a very good complimentary upgrade percentage since I’ve became an EXP in December 2012, clearing 31 out of 35 upgradable flights even though I’m based out of AA’s DFW fortress hub. But I didn’t want to press my luck and have ride in the back for 12 hours in a domestic narrow body (doing a same day turn on Alaska which is not upgrade eligible), so I used a SWU to immediately confirm my upgrade for both legs of my outbound.

Anyways, not sweating an upgrade at the gate makes time spent at the gate kind of boring, so I made sure I got to the gate just as First Class was invited to board. My boarding pass was scanned by a friendly agent, and I was off.

American Airlines 1285
Washington Reagan (DCA) – Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW)
Depart: 12:10 PM
Arrive: 2:20 PM
Aircraft: Boeing 737-800
Seat: 5A (First Class)


The faint smell of Jet A, the whirl of the ground power unit, and the thumps of various equipment welcomed me back into one of my favorite places on earth: on an airplane. I was greeted by the smiling purser and FA trainee as I entered the aircraft. Our flight that day was operated by one of AA’s newer 737-800 which featured the modern looking Boeing Sky Interior. Even at the beginning of this year, it was rare to find anything but MD-83s operating AA mainline flights between Dallas/Chicago and DCA. The number of 737-800s operating these city pairs has increased steadily throughout 2013, and now it’s fairly common sight to see nothing but 737s at the AA gates at DCA. This trend should continue as AA carries out its fleet renewal plan.


Our neighbor to the left.

As line of boarding passengers died down, the FA in training came around the cabin with a tray of water and orange juice. I grabbed an orange juice, just as the cabin door was closed. We pushed back a couple of minutes later, and made the quick taxi to Runway 1. As air traffic was light that day, we crossed the runway threshold without needing to hold, lined up, and took off into the crystal clear sky. The pilots made several quick course corrections during climb out, presumably to avoid the multitude of restricted air space around the DC area. Soon we made a turn toward the southwest, setting course for the Dallas/Fort Worth area.


DC Suburbs during climbout

The FAs got to work as soon as we leveled out. Soon the familiar smell of nuts being warmed wafted through the cabin. The trainee came around with hotels, followed by purser who took drink orders. I ordered a Coke with lime, which was delivered with a *gasp* shotwine glass of warm mixed nuts. Oh no, not again. This brought back painful memories of the Great Ramekin Shortage of 2012. I asked the purser about a later on, and he said that catering had forgotten load it. He appears to be spot on as all of my flights since have featured the famed ramekin. Thew, crisis adverted. Seriously, only on FlyerTalk can you find such insightful discussion and analysis on these important matters…



Back in January, American implemented a system that allows premium cabin passengers to order their meal ahead of time, up to 24 hours before departure. This feature was originally limited to international flights, but has since rolled out system wide. Quite a few FTers on the AA board reported issues with the system, I have not had any problems to date. This flight was no exception. Per aa.com, my choices for lunch are:

Lemon Thyme Chicken
Served with quinoa arugula salad

Beef Teriyaki
Served with sticky rice and sugar snap peas

The lemon thyme chicken salad is one of my favorites, and IMHO it is the best lunch/snack option AA offers. But to shake things up a bit and since it was the first time I’ve seen it on offer, I preordered the beef teriyaki. Again, preorder worked like a charm as our trainee confirmed by order as he was offering a round of refills prior to lunch service. Instead of lugging the unwieldy cart down the aisle, the trainee delivered each lunch tray individually as the “nut glasses” were cleared.



I was not disappointed in my entrée choice. The beef was very tender and flavorful, the rice was not over cooked, and the sugar snap peas were still a little crisp. As I was finishing up lunch, the captain came on the horn to give us an update on our progress and pointed out we were passing just north of Memphis, which was visible of the port side of the aircraft.


Memphis

Shortly after trays were cleared, a choice of freshly baked chocolate chip or cranberry oatmeal cookies was offered for dessert. I went with the cranberry oatmeal, which was delicious as usual. We had a little over an hour remaining until arriving at DFW.

On a trip to lavatory, I had a chance to chat with the trainee FA. He’s from Cincinnati but will be based at LAX, something he was very excited about because AA hadn’t accepted anyone for the LAX base until recently. What struck me the most during our short conversation was his enthusiasm for the job, which in my opinion is the primary trait of a great cabin crew on any airline. I categorize American’s FAs into three categories: great, average, and bad. He definitely fell in the great category, and hope he stays that way.

Soon we began our initial descent per our captain over Bonham, Texas, a quiet little town I had the opportunity to spend a week in early this year. Weather was as nice as it was in DC, and the clear skies allowed for nice views of the landscape below. Soon the FAs were tidying up the cabin for landing, and mints and coats were distributed in the front. We passed over Lewisville Lake and I-35E, and then turned south to line up with Runway 17L. Touchdown was smooth and the taxi in was rather quick. I thanked our great FAs on the way out, and gave the purser and the trainee each an AAplause certificate.

DFW has technically been my home airport for the last couple of years. But I also had the opportunity to connect through there on a number of occasions, and have found it to be great connecting airport as well. It’s logically laid out, and the Sky Link train makes it easy to change terminals. While my flight from DCA arrived in Terminal C and my flight to ANC also departed from the same terminal, I wanted to go to the Terminal A Admiral’s Club since it’s one of the nicest in the system. So I hopped on the Sky Link. One of the nice side effects of using the Sky Link are the tarmacs views. Views that day were more interesting than anything, as a Bud Light truck cruised around the tarmac of Terminal A.



The day Bud Light becomes the official beer of AA, I'm out of here...

Within a few minutes, I made it to the Admiral’s Club where a friendly agent welcomed me in. The first order of business was getting in a light workout. One of the best features is the small exercise room located in the former Flagship Lounge. While equipment is on the basic side, it is more than enough at least for a quick cardio workout. Other than Singapore Changi, I can’t recall off the top of my head any other airport with any sort of exercise room. I also requested a key to a shower room to change and clean up after, which was granted since the lounge was not very busy.



I ran 3 miles on the treadmill to make up for the bout of laziness that morning. Afterwards I headed to the showers, in consideration to my fellow passengers. The showers in this Admiral’s Club have got to be the best in the system. Since the DFW Terminal A Admiral’s Club formerly housed the Flagship Lounge, the showers there are upgraded with rainfall shower heads and multiple sprayers. In fact, they’re far better than the showers in Singapore Airline’s Private Room.





After my shower, I headed to the snack bar. The weakest point of Admiral’s Clubs are the complimentary food offerings, even compared to United Clubs and Delta Sky Clubs. As I mentioned earlier, they have made a very recent attempt to improve offerings including the introduction of Nescafe coffee machines and better snack options. The improved afternoon snack options include very tasty yoghurt covered pretzels, which I grabbed a modest helping of along with a half way decent latte from the new coffee machine. That would tide me over until dinner on board.





I took up residence in the seating area of the former Flagship Lounge, which is my favorite place in the club. It’s almost always empty no matter what time of day, and is the perfect place to work in peace. And that’s exactly what I did until about 15 minutes prior to boarding. At that point, I packed up my laptop and headed back to the C terminal to catch my flight.




Last edited by dat4life; Dec 3, 13 at 1:55 pm
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Old Dec 2, 13, 2:33 pm
  #7  
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As I got off the Sky Link at Terminal C, there was a crowd gathering around TGI Fridays to catch snippets of the aforementioned Alabama/Texas A&M game.



My flight to Anchorage was departing from gate C2. Despite taking nearly 200 flights from DFW since 2009, I have never departed from the lower C Gates. One point of interest in that part of the terminal is the DFW Employee Store, which is located next to gate C2. The store is a must see for any airline/aviation geek. They carry all sorts of memorabilia, models, uniforms, etc. Steve, the owner, is actually a FTer after one of the guys on the AA board enlisted him in finding AA F pajamas for purchase. I had a chance to talk to Steve during my brief visit. He was a pleasure to chat with, and mentioned he’s located the manufacturer for the AA F pajamas so he just might be able to procure a few.


Tarmac View 738 pushed back


C2 gate area


My chariot awaits

Boarding began a few moments after I exited the store.

American Airlines 279
Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) – Anchorage (ANC)
Depart: 4:00 PM
Arrive: 7:40 PM
Aircraft: Boeing 757-200 (N658AA)
Seat: 5F (First Class)


One of the best features of flying on a 757 is being able to board from the mid cabin door, especially if you’re flying First Class. However, AA insists on boarding 757s from door 1L for some reason. It’s not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but it is a minor annoyance. The FA standing in the forward galley gave me a somewhat cold greeting just as turned right. I was pleased to find a refurbished cabin, as 6 plus hours in the old “Eisenhower” leather recliners didn’t sound too appealing. They’re great for short haul, but they lack the support for longer flights. Another great feature added by the refurbishment is availability of wifi, which would definitely come in handy keeping track of the all of the college football action going on that day.

Quite a few of my fellow passengers were glued to their smartphone and tablets for updates as boarding commenced. Since we were in Texas, it was no surprised most of many of these football fanatics were clad in the maroon and white of Texas A&M. Midway through boarding, my seatmate arrived clutching his iPhone, which was streaming the CBS feed of the Texas A&M game, and his iPad, which streamed the ESPN feed of the game. This is was fortunate for me as I was able catch snippets of the game up until the forward door was buttoned up for take off.

The DFW-ANC is categorized as a premium route by AA, so it gets a near full transcon treatment including printed menus and upgraded catering. Dinner menus and water bottles were passed out as we began our taxi, aka Tour de DFW. We finally reached the runway 36R a solid 20 minutes after pushing back only to hold in position for a minute to allow a Mad Dog to cross the runway. My Aggie seatmate and the Aggie couple across from us in 5AB spent the entire taxi time covertly getting game updates on their phones. They begrudgingly turned off their phones, as the growling from our planes’ RB211 engine began to crescendo. And what beautiful symphony it was between the pleasant growl from the engines and the sensation of acceleration only the 757 can deliver.

Just like Pavlov’s dogs, just about all of us immediately grabbed our smart phones as soon as the 10,000 foot chimed sounded. While Texas A&M was leading 14-0 when I boarded, a couple of interceptions by A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel helped fuel a furious Alabama 28 points onslaught by the time we were able to connect to wifi. Unfortunately, GoGo blocks streaming video so we settled for text based feeds of the game.

Service began about 30 minutes after we climbed above 10,000 feet, with the beverage cart being wheeled through the cabin. Personally, I don’t have an issue with aisle carts in the cabin as it does make for a more efficient service. But it does make it seem decidedly the service feel less premium. 757s do have a larger First Class cabin, but I’ve flown many flights upfront on the 757 where a cart is never sighted. So it can be done. But all was forgiven when I ordered a gin and tonic to go along with the delicious warmed mixed nuts, as the flight attendant pulled a light blue bottle out of the cart. Could it be… IT WAS! Bombay Sapphire! For as long as I’ve been flying American, the onboard gin was always Beef Eater, which was passable but not great. I asked the flight attendant about the change in gin, and she replied the change was made a week or so ago.

After my seatmate was served a drink, the flight attendant asked if I had decided what I wanted for dinner. Oh yeah, that’s right. Let’s take a look at tonight’s menu, shall we?

Starter:
Cajun-style Chicken Breast
Served on corn salad

Salad:
Seasonal greens and fresh vegetables offered with artichoke wild mushroom and pea salad
With your choice of pepper cream dressing or premium extra virgin olive oil and balsalmic vinegar

Choice of gourmet breads.

Entrees:
Stuffed Lasagna Roll
Tender lasagna pasta stuffed with ricotta cheese and spinach, topped with a creamy tomato sauce and shredded mozzarella

Beef Filet
Grilled marinated fillet of beef with Merlot sauce, served over truffled wild mushroom ragoűt accompanied by roasted potato wedges and baby squash

Dessert:
Traditional Ice Cream Sundae
Vanilla ice cream with your choice of hot fudge, butterscotch or seasonal berry toppings, whipped cream and pecans.

Gourmet Cheese Plate
An assortment of fine cheeses with garnishes

Light Refreshment
Offered prior to arrival

Fresh Seasonal Fruit

Cookies
Freshly baked on board

I preordered the beef online, which was acknowledged. My seatmate also went with the beef. At this point, we struck up a conversation at first on sports, and then our conversation drifted to travel. Like me, he was on mileage run taking advantage of the cheap East Coast to Alaska fares. He wasn’t a FTer, but he’s part of a Facebook EXP group whose mission is similar to FT but on smaller scale. Apparently, this group was able to buyout nearly all of the F cabin on the inaugural A321 transcon flight on January 6th of next year through a combination award tickets and cheap business class fares upgraded with SWUs because they had found out the date ahead of time from an inside contact. A couple of other things he mentioned, including Cathay Pacific starting 4 cabin 77W service from DFW, made think he was a little off base. But with AA’s recent announcement of DFW-HKG service, I guess he might have been on to something. Regardless, he was pleasant seatmate and a pleasure to talk to.

After drinks were refreshed and ramekins removed, linens were laid on tray tables before the appetizer and salad course was delivered along with a choice of cheese, French, or foicia bread. I chose French to go with this course. The chicken and corn appetizer was fairly tasty; however, the salad was a bit of disappointment. American has really stepped up their salads over the past year or so, but today’s salad was not very good.



The FA collecting the salad and appetizer plates informed us one of the ovens was not working so it would be a few more minutes before entrees would be served. The “few more minutes” turned into nearly 30 minutes, but to his credit the FA constantly roamed the aisles offering refills and apologized constantly for the delay. My seatmate and I took the opportunity to check up on the scores. Unfortunately for A&M fans, the Aggies put up a huge rally but ultimately fell short of clinching a victory.

Mains were eventually served from the cart. The beef was tender with a decent texture, but lacking in flavor. But the vegetables and potatoes were quite tasty.



Next up is the best part of any meal: dessert. I went with an ice cream sundae with butter scotch and nuts, which was needless to say awesome. I enjoyed it while catch on some sports news.



We crossed into Canada a little while after dessert dishes were cleared. One of my primary reasons for using a SWU was to ensure I had a window seat on the right side of the plane for the best views. Thick clouds obscured the landscape below for most of the flight, so I feared I was not going to get what I paid for. With less than two hours left to go, I raised my window shade to see if weather had improved. I was pleased to see it did.



My seatmate had already woken up from a nap by this point. He told me to be patient because the views were only get better. Man was he right.







My friends often ask why the heck I fly so much. The usual stones they throw are “Why do you want to be stuck on a plane so much?” or “It might be first class, but it’s still airplane food”. Well I love flying, period. The food is better than most people think, or maybe it’s because I eat just about anything. Also, where else can you see the above views, which in my opinion justified the money, upgrade instrument, and time I spent that weekend. There are some amazing views to be seen at 30,000 feet, if people cracked open their window shades every once in awhile.

The intoxicating smell of cookies being baked in the oven began to waft through the cabin, indicating about an hour to go before arrival. Soon the FAs began coming around offering fruit cups, a choice of chocolate chip or white chocolate macadamia nut cookies, and left over cheese plates from the main meal service. Mindful of the risk of waistline expansion while flying, I decided to choose the healthier option of the fruit cup. It was fairly fresh and tasty.


Shortly after the snack was served, we began to descend. While there was a fairly substantial cloud layer during our approach, there were still some nice views outside.


Mountain through clouds


Alaska greenery through clouds

Touchdown was smooth and taxi to the gate was quick. We deplaned from door 2L. I stopped at the gate to grab a picture of our noble steed in the fading sunlight.


Last edited by dat4life; Dec 2, 13 at 5:18 pm
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Old Dec 2, 13, 2:34 pm
  #8  
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I had a little more than 4 hours to kill before my flight back to the lower 48. I figured a little exercise would do me some good, so I took a stroll around the concourse before exiting the secure area to get my Alaska boarding pass. Of course, I couldn’t pass up checking out the small observation deck which was pretty nice, though there wasn’t really much see at that time.


Tarmac Views


Observation deck


C-17 on Tarmac

Getting my Alaska boarding pass tool a little longer than I expected. There was just one family in front of me, but they were trying to ship 3 bags that were 80 pounds each in the MVP/Gold/First Class line, which I was entitled to use as an AA EXP. The agent was trying to work with them in getting them to take to take some stuff out of their bags, but they weren’t having any of it. Finally, another agent shows up to man the general line a solid 20 minutes later. She waved me up to the counter, and I got my boarding pass seconds later. The other agent and the aforementioned family were still going at it when I left.

I decided to get some fresh air walking outside. It was a good bit warmer than I expected, but still very pleasant.


Downtown Anchorage


Terminal

After getting some funny looks by the po-po patrolling the outside of the terminal (I swear I was not riding dirty), I decided to head inside and clear security which was relatively painless. I was feeling a bit hungry at that point, so I headed to a restaurant just after security. I was seated by a very disinterested host, and it took a good 15 minutes before Susan the waitress came around because she was too busy flirting with the middle aged business looking guys a few tables over. And that was only because her manager noticed and admonished her. Without him, I think I would probably still be waiting be helped. I ordered a tall Alaskan Amber with a seafood salad sandwich. The beer was ice cold and tasty, but the food was very bland. It was a very bad experience overall.


Anchorage Dinner

I was hoping to use the Alaska Board Room on account of my Admirals Club membership, but I was turned away because I was not flying out on an American operated flight. Fair enough, rules are rules. So I found a spot in the gate area to read and watch the gate lice slowly build up.



In typical Alaska fashion, boarding began a good bit earlier than scheduled. I had inquired about the availability of a paid upgrade since it was a fairly lengthy redeye flight, but First Class had checked in and boarded full. After Alaska elites boarded, boarding for partner elites was called.

Alaska Airlines 138
Anchorage (ANC) – Chicago O’Hare (ORD)
Depart: 11:20 PM
Arrive: 8:28 AM
Aircraft: Boeing 737-800
Seat: 6A (Economy)


To be honest, there isn’t a whole to talk about this flight. I chose seat 6A, which really isn’t a bad alternative to being seated up front. It had plenty of legroom, as Alaska does not use a hard bulkhead between First Class and coach on their 737-700s and 800s. The Captain came on the PA during the boarding process giving us quick update on our flight path and promising this would be his only announcement until the morning. The flight ended up being completely full, so unfortunately the middle seat was occupied. But I hardly noticed as I popped a “Zzz quil” as the cabin door was closed, and drifted off to sleep right at “V1…rotate.”

I woke up a little over an hour outside of Chicago, actually feeling halfway decent. The cabin crew was running a beverage service in coach, which seemed trivial at the time but compared to my red eye in First Class the next weekend it was actually impressive. Regardless, the coffee and OJ was much appreciated. I took a peek outside since the sun was just starting to rise.



We began out decent over Minnesota before continuing east toward Illinois and finally turning south toward Chicago over Lake Michigan, per our Captain. It was a gray, dreary, and rainy day in the Windy City, but I was still able to catch a glimpse of the iconic skyline on final approach. Touchdown was smooth, but our rollout was rather lengthy which I’d assume was due to reduce braking action from the wet weather. Taxi to the gate took quite awhile, and included 3 U-turns. We eventually pulled in next to a Virgin America A319.



First order of business was to make the trek to the H/K Admirals Club, where a nice hot shower was awaiting me. I felt like a new person after showering. Brekkie was a croissant and some yogurt covered pretzels with a ok cappacino from the new Nescafe machine. I settled in one of the quiet room, which had some nice views of the tarmac as well as the active runway. About 45 minutes before scheduled departure, I had pleasure of watching the 737-800 that was operating my flight to DC pull in.


Quiet Room




777-200ER in livery reverse thrust


My ride to DC pulling in.

And that was my cue to head down to the gate, which was just a short stroll away from the club. As I mentioned earlier, I had missed the upgrade on this route the week prior. I was kind of nervous about this flight because it went from 7 First Class seats for sale in the two days leading up to departure. Now, it was showing just 1 First Class seat open and I was number one on the list. Stranger things have happened. Fortunately, the Gate Agent called me up just before boarding and handed me a boarding pass for 3F. Which is probably my least favorite seat in the cabin, but at least I was fortunate enough to get the upgrade. Things could be much worse.

American Airlines 1473
Chicago O’Hare (ORD) - Washington Reagan (DCA)
Depart: 10:30 AM
Arrive: 1:20 PM
Aircraft: Boeing 737-800
Seat: 3F (First Class)


Since I was right at the podium, the gate agent ushered me to the boarding lane scanned my pass before announcing First Class boarding. The FA in the galley greeted me as I entered the aircraft. After stowing my bag in the overhead, and settled into 3F. I really dislike the seat because legroom is restricted due to the hard bulkhead, though it was perfectly fine for this short flight. I passed time by watching the rampers working hard to get out flight out on time, despite the downpour. Big tip of the hat to them.



I soon found out why there was a sudden drastic decrease in available F seats on this flight. A family of 6 boarded and took residence in the forward cabin, including in 3E right next me. I overheard them say they couldn’t believe how cheap First Class was ($150 more than coach) a few days before departure. If we were in the Delta forum, we’d be moaning about First Class Monetization. But since I’m a rational business minded person, good on ya AA for making a few more bucks AND taking care of your elites at the same time. Hear that SMI/J?

PDBs, which consisted of water or OJ, were served just before push back. Take off was to the North. We hit quite a few bumps during climbout, though the ride smoothed out after we climbed above the tops of the over cast.


Gorgeous day after breaking through overcast

Our hardworking FA sprang into action as soon as we climbed through 10,000 feet. Since AA reduced the seating capacity of their 737-800s to 150 after the installation of Main Cabin Extra, only three FAs are required to be on board. Therefore, the FA serving First Class is usually flying solo which certainly increases their workload on shorter flights with meals. Still, our FA was able to serve a round of drinks with warmed mixed nuts and refills before entrees were served. Unfortunately, the aforementioned large family kept on congregating in the aisles and getting in the way of the FA. Though, she handled the intrusions very professionally and was still able to conduct service. Our flight that day was snack flight, with a choice of a salmon salad or a chicken curry wrap. Since I was on the wrong end of FEBO, all that was left was the wrap which was fine by me since it’s usually pretty good.


Curry chicken wrap and white chocolate cookie macadamia nut cooke

In the interest of time, cookies were served with the meal. Normally I’m not a fan of this practice, but given the short duration of the flight it’s understandable. Another round of refills were offered prior to the meal trays being cleared. Soon we were descending over the Virginia country side. The clouds cleared enough for nice views during decent.


Virginia country side

We arrived a few minutes early, and I was back at my hotel less than half an hour after I deplaned. Gotta love smaller airports. I had to get through another week of boring classroom training before I can take to the skies again.

I hope to have the next couple of sections up by Wednesday and the report finished by Sunday.

Last edited by dat4life; Dec 2, 13 at 2:51 pm
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Old Dec 2, 13, 8:21 pm
  #9  
 
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fun report. thanks for sharing
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Old Dec 3, 13, 2:58 am
  #10  
 
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Great report- Was a little hesitant to start when you mentioned that it was USA Domestic...but im glad I read through!
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Old Dec 3, 13, 4:12 am
  #11  
 
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Great report! Thanks for sharing.
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Old Dec 3, 13, 5:20 pm
  #12  
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Chill-LAXing

Training that week was grueling to say the least. Despite being just a few years removed from college, I’m finding it harder and harder to sit still in a classroom setting. 8+ hours in the classroom per day plus a few hours of assignments each night isn’t quite my cup of tea anymore. So when we were released a few minutes early on Friday, I was out of there like Usain Bolt out of the blocks. Running…hmmm that seemed like a good idea. Given my heavy workload during the week and MRing on weekends, the only time I’ve broken a sweat in the last couple of weeks was at the Admirals Club the previousweekend. So a good long run actually sounded pretty darn good.

One of the biggest benefits of my hotel’s location is its proximity of the Custiss Trail which is runs from Falls Church all the way to Washington DC. It’s a very nice running trail, with a nice amount of shade and views, as it runs along the Potomac. With the wind blowing out of the north, I was also treated to views of aircraft on final approach to Reagan’s Runway 1.

I usually just run until I hit the Key Bridge before turning back toward Arlington. But I was feeling pretty good that night, so I kept on going until I covered the 7 miles to the Lincoln Memorial.


Custiss Trail



After I reached the Lincoln Memorial, I noticed a Chinese family trying to take a “selfie” in front of the memorial. Well, we’ve all been there before. I asked if I could help them in Mandarin, an offer they gratefully accepted. A fairly long line formed rather quickly for my picture taking services as the family was part of a large tour group. Well I didn’t have anything else planned for the evening, so I obliged. In return, I got a chance to practice Mandarin, my fluency in which is dwindling by the day as I usually speak in Cantonese with my parents. Or more precisely, Canto-glish. After I shut down the dat4life photography booth, I jogged to the nearest Metrostop which was Foggy Bottom about a mile away. I caught a train back to Arlington, where I grabbed a sandwich from Cozi’s and hit the sack early as I had a early flight the next morning.

Originally, I had booked a noon departure out of DCA which meant I would be making a straight turn at LAX. As the week progressed, time at the beach sounded more and more tempting. So I consulted ExpertFlyer, and found same day confirmable space for a 7 AM departure which would get me in at just after 12. That would give me plenty of time at the beach. A quick call to the EXP and $75 later, I was confirmed on the earlier flights. Additionally, my upgrades cleared again almost immediately after I made the changes.

I rolled out of bed at just before 5:30 the next morning, got ready and caught a cab to Reagan as the Metro wasn’t running at this ungodly hour. There was no traffic as expected, and I made it to the airport a little after 6. Since I had mobile boarding passes already, there was no need to stop at the check in counter. I even had time to grab a croissant and a latte at the Admirals Club before boarding began. Just like the traffic situation around the airport, the terminal was rather deserted. In fact, this is probably the least amount of people I’ve ever seen at Reagan.



Even though I got to the gate in the middle of the boarding process, there wasn’t much of a line as the flight was very lightly loaded.

American Airlines 2498
Washington Reagan (DCA) – Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW)
Depart: 7:00 AM
Arrive: 9:20 AM
Aircraft: Boeing 737-800
Seat: 4A (First Class)


I pleased to find a newer Boeing Sky Interior equipped aircraft at the end of the jet bridge. While the number of BSI equipped 737s in AA’s fleet has been increasing over the past couple of years, this was my first time on one. The captain was in the forward galley greeting passengers as they boarded, which was a really nice old school touch. Gestures like this cost airlines nothing, but does wonders for perception. I really wish that more captains did this, though it’s certainly understandable if the pre-flight work load is heavier for a particular flight.

I settled into 4A, while a game of musical chairs was played in the rest of the cabin to accommodate several mom and daughter pairs. 4B remained empty until just before the cabin door closed, when a very cute girl about my age took up residence there. Judging by the way the FAs fawned all over her (“Aww sweetie, I haven’t seen you in ages. You’re all grown up now! Let me know if you need anything, hun.”) she was a NRSA, which I later confirmed when we chatted.

After the cabin door was closed, the captain made his welcome aboard announcement from the inside the cabin, another nice old school touch. Instead of the usual the FAs are there primarily for your safety speil, “our great FAs are here to take good care of you”. Unfortunately, the FAs weren’t as advertised, but more on that later. He closed the announcement with the “We’re glad you’re here.” advert which is prominently, but tastefully featured in the safety video.

Taxi time to runway 19 was very short this morning, and there was no need to hold. The flight crew applied take off power as soon as the plane was lined up with the runway, and we were climbing over the Virginia. Due to strong storms that were making its way through the southeastern US, the captain announced earlier we would be cruising at a rather low altitude of 26,000. Our flight path would take us south toward Charleston, South Carolina before turning due west, and then finally turning south toward Dallas near Oklahoma City. We entered an a thick cloud layer not long after take off; it took quite awhile before we broke through that. But when we did, we were treated to a beautiful sunrise.



As I mentioned earlier, the FAs didn’t quite live up to the captain’s billing. That said, they were generally adequate for the most part and certainly weren’t the worse crew I’ve ever had.

Despite smooth air during our climb, drinks were not offered until nearly an hour after take off. It was a solid 30 minutes after that before hot towels were delivered, and another 30 minutes before breakfast was served. Since I switched flights late, I was unable to pre-order. Though I was able to get my first choice of the quiche, which was tasty though not as well presented as on some of my other flights.



During the meal service, we entered a think layer of clouds, which we didn’t break out of until we descended into the DFW area.


Pea Soup Outside

After trays were collected, the FAs disappeared in the galley. Aside from an occasional passing FA asking my NRSA seatmate and since I was there if we needed anything, the FAs were conspicuously absent from the cabin. I killed time by surfing the internet on my iPad. Since I was unable to catch ESPN’s College Game Day, I browsed through ESPN and a couple of local sports news sites to catch up the latest news on the college football teams I follow. Being a native Lousianian, I’m more or less obligated to root for the LSU Tigers even though I have no true affiliation with the school other friends who are alumni. I was reading an article on LSU’s bout with Auburn University later that evening. My seatmate noticed, and asked if I was headed to Baton Rouge for the game. Up until that point, I’m sure she thought I was one strange dude with my picture taking. But we ended up chatting all the way until we deplaned.

Her mom was a FA, and she was able to use those flight privileges to head to Baton Rouge for the aforementioned huge game, which she was going to with some high school friends. We ended chatting a good bit about the game among other things, even though she was wearing the stripes of the wrong Tiger (the Auburn Tigers). Oh man. A SEC rivalry. At Tiger Stadium. At night. In the fall. Does it get any better than that? Can I change my ticket, pretty please.

As promised, we turned south near Oklahoma City and followed I-35 straight toward downtown Dallas. This gave us great views of Love Field and Downtown Dallas during the initial descent, and then Arlington during the final approach.


Descending over I-35E


Dallas Love Field


Downtown Dallas

In an effort not to further weird my seatmate out, I mentally waved to my office which I hadn’t seen in six weeks at that point. It would be another month before I would physically set foot in my office again. #roadwarriorproblems


AT&T Stadium and Rangers Ballpark in Arlington

Our final approach was flown parallel with Emirates’ 777-200LR, who was completing a long journey from Dubai. We touched down firmly on Runway 35R about 10 minutes early despite the much longer than usual routing. There some fairly decent plane spotting opportunities this morning while taxiing to the gate, beginning with a brand spanking new AA A319, which had just entered service a few days before.




That’s so two liveries ago.

Our originally assigned gate, C35, was still ocupado as the 757 parked there had gone mechanical. So we waited about another 20 minutes or so before there was another empty gate for us. Upon deplaning, I caught the Sky Link to Terminal D where my flight to LAX was departing from. Enroute to terminal D, I was treated to nice views of 777s of both Emirates and Korean Air.



Fortunately, my flight was departing from D23 which is right next to the Terminal D Admirals Club. Since the commute time to the gate was negligible, that gave me an hour or so to get some work done AND still have some spare time for some pictures.




AC D Bar


AC D Seating area

While I do prefer the Terminal A Admirals Club because of the rain fall showers and the privacy of the former Flagship Lounge, the Terminal D club is a nice change of pace with it’s bright and airy design and great tarmac views.


[i]The 767-300 taking me to LAX[/i[



Engrossed in work, the hour flew by. I packed up my stuff and headed down to the gate. Just as I walked out of the Admirals Club, I heard the gate agent announce a delay of an hour due to a traffic flow program. I went right back upstairs and nested in one of the cubicles to get some more work done. An hour later, repeated the same process. Thankfully, boarding was called a minute or two after I got to the gate.

Last edited by dat4life; Dec 15, 13 at 8:42 am Reason: wrong picture
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Old Dec 3, 13, 5:21 pm
  #13  
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American Airlines 2463
Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) – Los Angeles (LAX)
Depart: 4:50 PM
Arrive: 6:05 PM
Aircraft: Boeing 767-300ER
Seat: 5G (First Class)


It’s a rare treat to get a widebody on a flight within the contiguous 48 states, other than transcon routes and the odd hub to hub flight these days. I purposely chose this particular flight when made changes because I knew my upgrade chances were good, despite being on a very elite heavy route, due to the larger premium cabin. While I wouldn’t want to be in AA’s old business class product for more than a transatlantic flight, it was more than adequate for a 3 hour domestic flight.

The only two noteworthy items to report on this flight were my seatmate and the crew. My seatmate was what I can only describe as a Hollywood type. She came in dressed in a heavy coat despite it being only about 70 degrees outside, and was rather rude to the gentleman in 5B as apparently she could feel the air flow from his air nozzle. She eventually got a FA to intervene who tried to adjust the nozzle to avail as it was still “blowing on her.” That said, she was perfectly polite to me asking for my blanket because I wasn’t using it and apologized for elbowing me accidentally a few times. (These seats are quite narrow.) There were a couple of newbies in today’s crew. They were perfectly friendly, though a bit forgetful at times (for example, FEBO). Overall, service was very good.

Hot towels signaled the beginning of the meal service, followed by drinks and warmed mixed nuts. Entrée choices today were a chilled steak salad or barbeque chicken served with mac and cheese and broccoli. While the steak salad is an old standby, I gave the barbeque chicken a whirl and was not disappointed. The sauce even had a good kick to it, and the mac and cheese was tasty. The broccoli was overcooked but still edible. A choice of pretzel or... something else was offered. Of course, I chose the delicious pretzel bread.





We got to the gate a little over an hour later than scheduled. I immediately my way to the rental car bus stop as soon as I deplaned. To best facilitate my time at the beach, I thought it was best to rent a car so I could be on my own schedule. While regular rental rates were quite expensive, I managed to score a $15 rate with Avis via Priceline, AND the friendly agent upgraded me to a “SUV”.


Not bad for $15. Excuse the crappy parking job

Having learned my lesson a couple of years ago trying to drive to Santa Monica from LAX on the PCH on a Saturday afternoon, I decided to head south. While I love Washington DC, the coast was such a refreshing change from the monotony of the classroom. So refreshing in fact, I cruised up and down the PCH for an hour before finally settling on El Segundo Beach right by the airport.









El Segundo definitely wasn’t the best beach I’ve ever been to, but it gave me exactly what I was craving for. A little surf, sand, sun, and best of all it wasn’t crowded. Throw the sound of a heavy departing out of LAX every once in a while, it was my own little slice of paradise for a day. Oh yes, speaking of departing heavies there were some amazing views. Please excuse my crappy iPhone pics. I had left my camera in the car, and really didn’t feel like getting up.


LAN 787


An unmarked 747


SQ A380

After an hour so relaxing, reading, etc., I went back to the car grabbed my running shoes and iPod to take a run on the what I thought was a jogging trail and take a closer look at the LAX departing traffic. Judging by the dirty looks I got and the signs I finally paid attention to after running about 2 miles, the jogging trail was a bikes and rollerblade trail only. Oops… Oh well. The sight of a BA 747-400 and LH 747-8i screaming overhead while running was more than worth the dirty looks.

I relaxed for an hour or so longer on the beach before packing up and heading to the In N Out on Sepulveda Blvd. I am not a fan of In N Out by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, I think their burgers are just ok. Give me a Whataburger any day over In N Out. Ok might be a smidge biased, but I digress. Anyways, I’ve wanted to visit this particular location given its proximity to Runways 24L and 24R, making it one of the most accessible and best plane spotting locations in the US given the variety of traffic.

A long line greeted me as I pulled up, but luckily someone was leaving as I arrived so I was able to get a parking spot quite quickly.



As if reassuring me I was in the right place, an ANA 77W screamed overhead less than a thousand feet above me as soon as I stepped out of the car. Despite the long line, service was very quick. I had my double double in hand aroung 15 minutes after I stepped into the restaurant. I found an open table outside to enjoy the heavenly sights with dinner.



After I finished eating, I headed to the park across the street were hardcore plane spotters and families alike were enjoying the beautiful early fall day.



As I began taking pictures, one of the plane spotters approached me and we began talking. Keep in mind these guys are not FTers. They knew very little with respect premium cabins or elite status. In fact, I had to explain the concept of mileage running to them. What they care about are the aircraft themselves, and how amazing the concept of flight is still today. To put things in perspective, if you gave them a choice of a First Class seat on a 737 or a middle coach seat on a 787 from LAX-IAD most of them would pick the 787 just so they can scratch it off their list. In many ways, I’m a lot like them though the time I’ve spent on FT has jaded me when it comes to comfort in flight. But at heart, what I care about most is the joy of flying. This is what makes business trips and the occasional mileage runs so appealing to me. There’s just something inherently beautiful and free about flying.

Needless to say, I got along with these guys quite well. And we spent a better part of 3 hours just chatting about av geek things and snapping pictures. I usually bring my little point and shoot camera on business trips as my DLSR is just a bit too bulky. Had I known I would be doing this, I would have sucked it up and brought my DLSR anyways . Being surrounded by the spotters didn’t help as nearly all of them had huge telescopic lenses, which made be feel even more inadequate.


The Encounter


Alaska 737-800


United A320


AA 777-200ER


AA 767-200
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Old Dec 3, 13, 5:24 pm
  #14  
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[i]Delta 767-300ER


Delta A319


TK 777-300ER

The crown jewel of the night was my last spot of the night: Air China’s A380. Unfortunately, the sun had almost set by the time the China Southern flight arrived so my camera was nearly worthless. However, I was able to get a passable quality video of it on my iPhone. Here are some screen shots from that video.





It was certinaly an impressive sight. What was even more impressive was the pungent smell of burnt rubber permeating through the air after the huge jet touched down on the runway. I left to return my rental car after that as I wanted to make it to terminal in time to shower and grab a snack at the LAX Admirals Club before my redeye to Chicago. At this point, I was a bit worried about my upgrade as it hadn’t cleared yet and there was only one open seat left. But I got notification that it had cleared just as stepped onto the terminal bus, so my angst was for naught.

There was nothing noteworthy about my flight to Chicago. I fell asleep shortly after take off and woke up just before we landed at 4:30 bloody AM or 20 minutes ahead of schedule. I made a beeline to the Admiral’s Club as soon as deplaned only to find it opened at 4:45. No big deal. Just. Need. Caffiene. Once inside I freshened up and grabbed a latte. One nice thing about being in the club that early are photo ops as there are very few patrons at that time.









20 minutes before scheduled departure, I made my way to the gate through the deserted terminal.
It just so happened that the same aircraft that brought to Chicago from LAX would operating this next leg of my journey as well.



American Airlines 956
Chicago O’Hare (ORD) - Washington Reagan (DCA)
Depart: 6:10 AM
Arrive: 8:55 AM
Aircraft: Boeing 737-800
Seat: 5A (First Class)


Although this aircraft was in the old livery, it was equipped with the attractive Boeing Sky Interior. Interestingly until that weekend, I had logged exactly 0 flights on BSI equipped 737-800s out of 78 flights on AA 737s since 2011. That weekend, I had all three of my 737 flights were equipped with the BSI.



The load was very light in First and in the economy. Open bar PDBs were offered by our friendly FA, who also invited us to move around as we wished given the light loads. I wish I took him up on the offer because I missed a beautiful view of Chicago skyline as I chose to remain on the AB side of the aircraft. As with nearly all my flights out of O’Hare, we took off to the north climbing over Lake Michigan for a while before setting course to our destination.

Though I’d missed out on the shot of the Chicago, I did have a great view of yet another sunrise, after we climbed above the cloud layer which seemed to the theme for this weekend.



A continental breakfast consisting of a fruit plate, a small thimble of yogurt, and choice of a bagel or biscuit was offered. I requested and was granted a bagel and a biscuit. While the I preferred the cereal offering of just last year, this was plenty filling.



Trays were promptly cleared, and refills were repeatedly offered throughout the flight. We soon began our gradual descent into Washington passing over Dulles which meant a Runway 1 approach.


Flying over Dulles

Our excellent FA collected cups and mugs literally seconds before out landing gear dropped, and we turned to line up with Runway 1.


The Key Bridge and Reagan National Airport in the distance

Touchdown was bit firm, and the taxi to out gate was very quickly. I burned a $35 Uber credit to get me back to Arlington as I was too cheap to pay for a cab and too lazy to brave the Metro. Another week training to go before I headed home next weekend…

Last edited by dat4life; Dec 3, 13 at 9:02 pm Reason: Fix picture
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Old Dec 3, 13, 5:33 pm
  #15  
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Originally Posted by theshaun View Post
fun report. thanks for sharing
Originally Posted by Andriyko View Post
Great report! Thanks for sharing.
Thanks for reading!

Originally Posted by kniesel View Post
Great report- Was a little hesitant to start when you mentioned that it was USA Domestic...but im glad I read through!
Thanks, kniesel. I admit I was hesitant to finish writing and posting because of all of the great reports posted of late, including from our resident heavy weights. But I enjoy writing, and it’s a nice change pace for me as a study for the “test of my life.”!
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