The blogs I follow post a lot of reviews/reports about flights in first class. I want to post some of these trips as an example of what frequent flyer miles can get you. Generally, these flights are pretty over the top for what you really need (from point A to B), but if you can rake in enough miles, why not do this for the experience?
Also, some of these reports definitely contain some first world complaints, but at least they do cover as many aspects as possible.
Darius at Million Mile Secrets has posted about his take last year from applying for credit cards. His main method of earning miles is via credit card, as he does not travel much for work, or engage in crazy shenanigans like mileage runs. He explains how he raked in over 1 million miles and points in 2011 via credit card signup bonuses. Wow! In his post, he also explains his strategy for managing his credit card scores and making sure his applications don’t set off alarms with any of the credit card providers.
Well, this morning, I decided to standby for an earlier ORD-SFO flight. Which meant I took a redeye SFO-ORD, and then immediately got back on the plane to go back to SFO. My original schedule was a red eye SFO-ORD, and then a morning flight from ORD home, but I was hoping that I could standby back to ORD to complete my mileage runs, and then catch a flight tonight back home tonight. However, since my flight home is not until tomorrow, AA would not rebook it to today, or let me standby today unless I paid. So I guess now I can go spend some time in SF, after flying here so many times 😛
A few days ago, AAdvantage Geek worked me into another post 🙂 We were talking about the planes in AA’s fleet, as mentioned in his blog post. In particular, we were discussing the MD-80’s, which I was stunned to find still being operated when I started flying AA, and also the new 737 -800s with Sky-Interior (links courtesy of AAdvantage Geek).
Anyway, I noticed the new 737 interiors when I got to fly aboard one a few weeks back (also on a mileage run). I took a couple of pictures of the plane’s interior:
The lighting in these planes is a more natural bluish color coming from LEDs. It reminds me a bit of Virgin America’s aircraft because there is more color (though it’s obviously not the same light color scheme). It is kind of pleasant to see that color of lighting though.
Also, notice the luggage bins. They’re similar to the international style bins that you find on 747s and 777s. Although, I don’t think the luggage storage area is as large as the long haul planes. The bin just opens and comes down the same way. Hopefully, we will be seeing more of these aircraft as American placed huge orders last year to modernize their fleet
So I’m on another weekend of mileage runs, with 3 planned trips between ORD and SFO this weekend. No fancy or different routings like last week. Overall the experience hasn’t been as bad as I thought it would be, but it’s been disorienting at times. By that after a couple of trip, I usually don’t know what time it is, or what time zone or city I’m in (so basically, nothing out of the ordinary :-P). I also had earned Gold status for my exploits already, as mentioned before, and after Friday, I now have Platinum status on AA
Anyway, for this weekend’s runs, I’d decided to book a hotel last night, the Four Points Sheraton at SFO. I decided it would be nice to get a night’s sleep in a normal bed, before spending the next two nights on red eye flights from SFO-ORD. Plus this hotel was only 4,000 Starpoints (normally $99) for the night.
Because I arrived early enough to ORD, I was actually able to standby on an earlier flight from ORD-SFO, and I managed to get into SFO early. So I figured, this is great! I’ll grab a bite at the airport (figuring there is nothing around the hotel), catch the shuttle, and then get some work/blogging done before getting a nice night of sleep in (I had a 610am flight). Seemed like a great plan for the night/weekend right?
Deviation from plan
Upon arriving at SFO, I ran into a friend that I had met doing mileage runs last week. Actually, he has a pretty interesting story…he isn’t really that much into the whole frequent flyer scene, but he had a friend that is really into it, and his friend convince him to go on all of these mileage runs. My friend says he plans to blog about his experience, so perhaps I’ll write more about him another day.
Anyway, my friend was going to meet a friend of a friend for dinner in the city, and asked if I wanted to go. I really wanted to just go to the hotel, get a few things done, and then turn in…but after a bit of debating, I decided to just go out with him and meet his friends (who were also very cool). My thinking was that one of the benefits of going through this whole ordeal joyful experience was to meet people, and now I was given an opportunity to make some new friends in the great city of San Francisco. So I overcame the logical and sensible path (and/or the getting “old” side of me), and caught a cab with him up to the Mission district of SF.
We enjoyed a number of beers and great food at The Monk’s Kettle. I am very glad I went, although this led to me being sleep-deprived, as well as another mini “adventure.”
Hotel: Four Points by Sheraton SFO
The restaurant took a while and all, so I didn’t get to my hotel room until about 1am. Meaning that if I were to stick to a safe schedule, I’d have to wake up at 4am to take a shower and try to catch the hotel’s 435am shuttle to the airport. Even with this tight schedule, I decided to get a few pictures and do a mini-review of this hotel. There wasn’t much to this hotel, so I took a picture of the main area and the bathroom.
Overall, the room was pretty basic. It was clean and functional, and pretty close to the airport. The hotel says that the rooms are being renovated, and this particular room (at least the bathroom) looked like it had been recently renovated. I think the nearest restaurants to this hotel were about .5-1 mile away, in San Bruno…so it’s not a great place to stay if you’re looking for walkable things to go to. The hotel is also fairly far from any public transit options (BART or Caltrain). If you want to be in a more transit accessible hotel, as far as SFO SPG properties go, the Westin Milbrae is probably a better choice. It’s a nicer hotel and is about a 10 minutes walk from the Milbrae BART and Caltrain station, but it is also a bit further from the city (it’s on the opposite side of the airport as the Four Points). Anyway, after taking a few minutes to take these pictures, I set my phone alarm for 4am (it was past 1am at this point), and rolled into bed…
The Next Morning…
I woke up once or twice, to find that it was well before 4am. So I just kept going back to sleep. However, the last time I woke up, I was wondering why I hadn’t heard my alarm yet, because it seemed like it had been well over 3 hours.
I rollved over, looked at the clock, and it read 505am. Uh oh! And my flight was at 610am. So I quickly got out of bed, took a shower, called the front desk for a cab, brushed my teeth, and packed up my stuff (which was basically my computer and phone that had been charging). I got to the cab probably around 515am, and took off for the airport. I explained the situation to the cab driver, and said that I didn’t really expect to make the flight at this point. He assured me that we had more than enough time, since it was only a 15 minute ride to the airport (if that!). So I thought, well, maybe I’ll be ok, since it’s a Saturday morning, and who the hell flies on a Saturday 6am flight? (Bonus points if you answered mileage runners).
Anyway, I got to the airport at 530am, security took about 5 minutes or so (unlike my slow TSA ID checking experience at DCA, where checking the ID took about 5 minutes…), and was at the gate before 540am! Wow! I even had time to stop by and fill up my water bottle. I ended sleeping another couple hours on the flight (I had the whole row to myself on this flight!), and then woke up and used the Internet for a bit. And here I am now, at the AAdmirals Club at ORD, awaiting my next flight…
This is pretty geeky for travel stuff, but also pretty cool 🙂 AAdvantage Geek posts that the creative studio Nomo has created posters showing the runway patterns of the busiest airports. AAdvantage Geek has also been on the OneWorld MegaDO, so it’s worth going through his recent posts.
Hyatt has finally announced their first quarter promotion. They are awarding up to 44000 bonus points (55,000 if you have the Hyatt Visa) based on number of nights stayed from Feb through April. FrequentMiler and One Mile At A Time, among others, have good posts on how to take advantage of this. I was thinking of mattress running this myself, because I could use the points and status later this year on vacation. Hyatt points (which you can also get by transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards points), are a decent value. It only takes 22,000 points to stay at top tier properties, and some of their high end properties are in the range of $600 a night. So I think mattress running this promotion could get you rooms at about that rate.
Of the major chains, Hyatt probably has the nicest properties and gives their top tier elites some of the nicest benefits. As FrequentMiler points out, “I’ve been eyeing Hyatt’s Diamond status ever since I learned about its incredible benefits: four confirmed suite upgrades per year, free breakfast or club lounge access, late checkouts, and more.” The only slight drawback is that they tend to have fewer properties than the other chains.