Danielonfriendly skies

On-board American Airlines - A Weekend Mileage Run to Ft. Lauderdale

With the end of the year drawing closer, and my schedule become quite busy, it's been difficult for me to find enough time to take an extra couple of trips on AA to requalify for my Executive Platinum (EXP) status. I was able to take advantage of the Double Elite Qualifying Mile (DEQM) promotion in January, earned a nice amount of miles on the oneworld MegaDO, and then took two trips to Beijing. However, my spreadsheet told me that I was going to be about 14,000 miles short of requalifying for EXP (100,000 miles required).

About three weeks ago, I found a cheap round-trip ticket on American from Kansas City to Fort Lauderdale. Routing through Dallas, I would earn a little over 4,000 EQMs, along with 8,000 Redeemable Miles (RDMs) with the EXP 100% bonus. Adding in a $50 gift certificate I had purchased with the Amex Platinum Airline Reiumbursement program, the total cost of my run would be under $150.

Another benefit of flying on American was the better chance of getting my complimentary upgrades to first class. American only offers complimentary upgrades to Executive Platinums (Gold & Platinum must use miles or e500s), which usually means that flights will go out with an empty seat or two in first. Additionally, I don't have to worry about my upgrades being sold to a general member for "Tens of Dollars", while top-level elites are left on the waitlist.

mci-fll

My flight to Dallas departed Kansas City at 7:25am, which meant that I would be spending Friday night at the Hilton MCI. It was certainly possible to drive from Lawrence, but that would have meant leaving Lawrence at 5:30am, and getting up even earlier. No thanks. Because I've already requalified for Hyatt Diamond, I decided to book the Hilton MCI, so I could truly requalify for Hilton Gold. It's proved to be a useful status, especially when I am staying in a place that has no Hyatt presence.

At the Hilton MCI, I was thanked for being a Gold member, and was being upgraded to the "Executive King" room. I've stayed at this property several times before, but this was the first time that I was given an upgrade. Also offered at check-in was a coupon that provided one of the following options.

My room was located on the six floor, and despite being an upgrade, I actually considered it a downgrade. Unfortunately, I was in the room right next to the elevators, so I spent about three hours listening to the doors open and close, as well as the noise of people exiting. Had it been earlier (I got to the hotel at 10pm), I likely would have asked for a different room.

My alarm went off way too early for a Saturday, and thirty minutes later, I was at the airport. The agents at the ticket counter seemed a bit confused when I said that I was flying to Fort Lauderdale and back on the same day. However, once I mentioned requalifying, the cheerful agent talked with me for ten minutes about other EXPs he know that do the same thing, as well as the current state of American. We both commiserated about the closing of the Kansas City Admirals Club, to which he recommended that we keep writing in to American, in hopes that it would reopen some day.

While killing some time before boarding, I was reminded of why I love the Kansas City airport more than any domestic U.S. airport. The reason behind it is simple: MCI is so easy to navigate. I have shown up 10 minutes before a flight, and can still make it on-board with enough time to settle into my seat.

This morning, the airport was pretty quiet, although the FirstLine (private security that plays the role of TSA) clerk did tell me that he was surprised at the number of unsavy travelers going through this morning. I guess when I told him that I could push my bags through myself, and he saw the FlyerTalk and Executive Platinum tags on my backpack, he figured that I knew what I was doing.

I guess nobody wants to buy overpriced food and drinks at 6:25am!

Boarding began a few minutes later, and the doors shut early, despite a fairly full flight. I fell asleep about thirty minutes after we took off, and before I knew it, we were landing in Dallas. It was nice to catch some sleep, although I think the short nap made me feel worse.

For the portion of the flight that I was awake, the flight attendant server drinks and Biscoff to everybody in first class.

Originally, my layover in Dallas was just a little over an hour. However, due to our crew coming in late, we departed over an hour late. Quite a few passengers around me were annoyed, which can be expected in a situation like this. As for me, the only thing I was unsure about was whether or not I could return to the Admirals Club.

If you've faced this kind of situation, what do you do? Do you stay by the gate for the entire time, or do you go back to the lounge, and constantly check the flight status?

The crew arrived shortly after I returned from the lounge, and we were aboard in no time. I was originally worried that this delay would make me misconnect on the way back to Kansas City later that evening, but all was well in the end.

American Eagle ERJ-145 trying to overtake us

After take-off, the crew came around with hot nuts, and performed the meal service by the AA standard of FEBO. On flight numbers that end with an even number, meal orders start from the front. For a flight that ends in an odd number, meal orders take place at the back. This is different from United, which used to give elite passengers priority for meal orders, and then eliminated that system in favor of the Continental "everybody is equal" mentality. So far, I've always gotten my first choice on AA flights.

For today's lunch, we were offered a chicken salad, or a cheese enchilada. Both came with chips and hummus, and the enchilada also came with a side salad. I was quite hungry, so I selected the enchilada, which was surprisingly good for airline food.

The meal also included a large bag of pita chips and some hummus. Thumbs up, American!

Who can turn down a freshly baked cookie?!

As we begun our final descent into Fort Lauderdale, the Captain came over the PA to announce that the airport had shut down for ten minutes, and that we would have to circle once or twice before landing. Luckily, this did not add too much time to our delay.

Do you see the rainbow?

A special visitor in FLL. Oakland Raiders (boo!) charter

Once inside the FLL terminal, I called the EXP Desk to check on my flight back to Kansas City. The flight back to Dallas was delayed quite a bit, leaving me only 50~ minutes to get change terminals. Normally, I would be fine with a short connection like this, but the DFW airport is quite large, and I'm not as used to it as I am Chicago or Dulles. The agent, who lives in Dallas, offered me some directions to my next gate, tips on where to catch the SkyLink train, and then checked some backup flights if I were to misconnect. Great service as usual from the EXP Desk.

:D

AA 737 Heading to Chicago

On-board the flight back to Dallas, I chose a seat in the last row of first class, which would offer me the opportunity to get my first meal choice. Normally I don't care too much about this, but my goal of today's trip was to spend as little money as possible, so the ability to eat a larger meal was a goal of mine on both flights.

Plane Spotting Area by the runway!

I'd love to be down there!

This afternoons meal choices were a large shrimp salad, or a chicken parmesan dish. I've seen the chicken parmesan photographed on FlyerTalk several times, but today was the first time I've actually been able to eat it. And again, for airline food, it was quite good. The chicken was cooked well throughout, and the piece of chicken was larger than you would receive on most airlines. (Continental d.b.a. United, I'm looking at you...)

Cookies were offered for dessert. Unlike United, American still provisions their after lunch/dinner cookies on plates, while United offers it's first class customers a brown bag containing the miniscule cookie.

We began our descent a few moments later, and got a glimpse of the cloudy day in Dallas. It looked as though some rain had rolled through while I was gone, although there was no rain standing when we landed.

As expected, I had enough time to make it to my connecting gate, paid a visit to the Admirals Club, and then walked over to gate A15. While waiting to board, the gate agent told her colleague "We're going to have a ton of misconnects tonight". From my earlier glances at the flight display board, it looked as though there were a lot of delays for both inbound and outbound flights.

Boarding began moments later, at which point I discovered that two of the passengers in first class this evening had bought an upgrade for fifty dollars a piece. It seemed as though this was their first time up front, and they planned to take full advantage of it. I guess the concept of free alcohol was quite pleasing to them. Unfortunately, they fell asleep for all but the last ten minutes of the flights. Oops.

Snack & Drink Service

The flight to Kansas City is always a quick one, so I had enough time to read the newest American Way, and then snap some photos of the spectacular sunset.

Despite the delays, I was very pleased with this mileage run. Not only was I much closer to renewing my Executive Platinum membership, I had an enjoyable time flying around the country, and it was even nicer to fly on an airline that valued my business, as opposed to classifying me as an over-entitled elite. Next year will be my deciding year for which status to keep, as I am not sure if I'll have enough time to flying enough for top-tier on American and United. Luckily, I will be graduating from KU in May, so I'll be able to dedicate more time to traveling, and potentially get a job that will let me travel.

Stay tuned for some more trip reports from my recent trip to Honolulu, as well as a cross-country trip that I recently took to earn some extra miles on both American and United.

Comments

#1
Jimgotkp September 18, 2012 at 03:11 pm

The food on AA is so much better than UA's... :)

#2
FriendlySkies September 18, 2012 at 03:14 pm

Oh yeah! I'll post a pic in my next TR of the UA 99cent taco bell F wrap. Wouldn't see that #%!& in AA First. :)

#3
Concerto September 18, 2012 at 04:21 pm

Enjoyed the report and the photos very much, FS! Oh, and I saw the rainbow once I started looking at the right photo! LOL

#4
Caleb H September 18, 2012 at 10:12 pm

Hey Daniel-

Loved the post. I'm an MBA student at KU and live in Lawrence, too. Ironically, my best friend and I took this trip from MCI on Delta this past weekend, too. We stayed at the Sheraton Fort Lauderdale Beach Hotel (you can see it in your picture of the beach), and our gate was the one right next to the Hawaiian charter.

It's too bad you weren't able to stay on the ground... the weather was beautiful (only a few showers) and the water was fantastic. Great for a long weekend!

RCJH!

#5
Tom / Sit In First September 18, 2012 at 11:34 pm

Thanks for sharing.

I can't recall an AA flight that wasn't completely full in front.

#6
FriendlySkies September 18, 2012 at 11:37 pm

@Concerto: Thanks!

@Caleb: Thanks for the comments. It's nice to see that there are other people in Lawrence that are active in the FT/Blog/Travel world! Most people scratch their heads when I try to explain this stuff to them... RCJH!

@Tom: I've had it happen maybe four or five times this year. Seems like it happens the most on the MCI routes, which is not surprising. Also had it happen once on a mid-con (either LAX or SFO to ORD).

One other big difference with AA, which I like, it that you don't have an entire plane load on the waitlist for an upgrade. At the most, I've seen 10~ people on an SFO-JFK upgrade list. On UA, that would likely be double or triple.

#7
Tom / Sit In First September 18, 2012 at 11:47 pm

The bulk of my domestic AA flying has been the lax transcon and NYC-Mia. There I see 40+ names on the upgrade list quite often for the transcon.... Probably far more AA elites on those flights than any out of mci.

#8
Tom / Sit In First September 18, 2012 at 11:48 pm

Have you ever been to the beach in FLL?

#9
FriendlySkies September 18, 2012 at 11:51 pm

@Tom: I may have gone there once, several years ago, but my memory of my last trip to FLL is a bit fuzzy. Perhaps flying NK is the reason for the memory issues.. :D

I guess it also depends on when you fly, etc. The only time I saw more than 40 was a UA flight, which had 75 people on the upgrade list for MCI-DEN. This was shortly after UDU began, and during the time when we still had 757s in Kansas City. :(

#10
JOHNB300M October 8, 2012 at 01:48 pm

Great trip report. I started flying AA this year after a long run with UA. UA has just gotten so DRAMATIC.... I upgraded my MIA-BDL flight on AA to F for $135 last month. While not dirt cheap, it seemed like a decent deal to experience AA First for my first time.(On their 737)

I have to say, I was BLOWN AWAY by the difference in service between UA. AA serive was down right "fancy" compared to UA. Much more leg room, though the seats aren't leather. It was after 9pm so no meal, but it was bottomless coctails and warm nuts (that were actually warm!) Then we all got warm moist cookies. And to top it off, as we were coming for approach, I awoke to find a little AA mint laying on my iPod. It was literally a "special" experience and only helped me to forget my history with UA that much quicker.

Cheers :)

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