Hello and welcome to the first report in a new series of flights!
For many of us on the Frequent Flyer status hamster wheel, December can be mileage run season if you need just that little bit more to maintain status or make it to that next level for the year. However, since the introduction of spend requirements by U.S. carriers several years ago, mileage runs have generally become less useful in the pursuit of status. In fact, I hadn't done a true mileage run in years.
I wasn't originally planning on doing a mileage run but, being just under 10K EQMs (AA Elite Qualifying Miles) away from the next status level by the end of November and no December AA flying planned, I decided to go for it. With the Holidays around the corner, I didn't have much time to spare so I booked a reasonably-priced multi-segment trip to the West Coast in First/Business returning the same day. I specifically booked the Premium cabins because discounted First/Business fares earn double EQMs (full-fare F/J earn 3X EQMs), allowing me to cut the distance needed to earn 10K EQMs in half and doing it in a reasonably comfortable way. In the end, I earned 11,392 EQMs for the trip, which worked out to 7.03 CPM (Cents Per Mile)–a decent rate for premium cabin travel.
While true low-CPM mileage runs in Economy have mostly become a thing of the past for U.S.-based frequent flyers, Premium cabin EQM/EQD runs can still be worth it when decent fares are found, especially if you're an #AvGeek and don't mind flying just for the sake of flying.
As I touched on in the introduction, this trip was booked using the multi-city function on AA.com. There are nonstop AA flights from DC to the West Coast; however, direct flights would only yield about 9000 EQMs (4,500 actual flown miles). The goal being to fly over 5000 miles to comfortably earn over 10K EQMs, I needed to fly to a city to the east of DC and backtrack to the West Coast, so I decided on Boston. The itinerary was originally booked as: DCA ✈ BOS ✈ DFW ✈ LAX ✈ PHX ✈ DCA
I could have done BOS-LAX nonstop; however, I routed myself through DFW intentionally to try the B789, which I will cover in the 3rd report in this series. I would have also preferred a nonstop LAX-DCA for the return, unfortunately there was no red-eye to DC that evening so flying home via PHX was the faster option….at least that was the plan.
This is how this trip was supposed to go:
Due to a delay down the line, this is how it ended up:
When piecing together these types of quick trips with so many segments there is always a good chance that something will go wrong. If something were to go wrong, I expected that it would be in the first few segments as a snowstorm was bearing down on the northeast U.S. that day. Ironically, despite the snow, the first three flights were generally on-time–the problems arose in LAX.
Pre-flight & Check-in
The morning of departure I arrived at the airport just under an hour prior to departure, right as it started to snow. The weather forecast was calling for 4-6" (10-15 cm) of snow for the DC area, but I wasn't too worried about my flight being delayed as it had only just begun to snow.
As I was only doing a day trip, I didn't have any bags to check, just a backpack with a change of clothes. Although I had checked in on the app, I headed to a kiosk to print boarding passes as a back-up in case my phone ran out of batteries. I had my charger, but I'm always paranoid about these things and feel safer having real paper BPs.
Check-in area of DCA's beautiful terminal.
Looking down the main hall decorated for the Holidays.
Security was a breeze as there was noone in the TSA Pre-check lane at this early hour on a Saturday.
There's no doubt that DCA is an AA hub with so many American flag tails.
There were balloons at the end of the Concourse, though I'm not sure what they were celebrating.
Boarding was orderly and started right on time. The snow was really starting to pick up in intensity.
The First cabin of the E190 fleet is configured in a 1-2 layout compared to a 2-2 layout in Economy.
When travelling alone, the solo side is an obvious choice. These Pre-Merger US Airways aircraft have recently had their cabins updated to the standard Post-Merger AA grey leather.
The seats are comfortable with 20" of width, but the seat pitch is a bit tight for domestic First at 36".
Operations at DCA were running generally on time as I could see from the ballet of pushbacks and arrivals during boarding.
AA A319 pushing back
VX A320 pulling in to the gate
B6 E190 pulling in to the gate
Shortly after boarding was completed, the doors were closed and we pushed back from the gate a few minutes early. An announcement was made from the cockpit that we would need to wait in line for deicing behind several aircraft.
There must have been quite a few aircraft in front of us waiting for deicing as the wait was rather long.
Luckily, once it was our turn, the deicing process was quick.
By the time we were taxiing again, it had been over an hour since we had pushed back from the gate.
Taxi was quick and there was no line for the runway so we were off in minutes.
Snowy Crystal City, Arlington, VA
As it was a very short flight, the cabin crew wasted no time in beginning the in-flight service.
I had a Bailey's and coffee and a few items from the snack basket. I was surprised the coffee was served in a cardboard cup. Back in the US Airways days it was normal, but coffee mugs have been used since the merger. I've had real mugs on smaller American Eagle E170/175s and CRJ700/900s, so I'm not sure why they used cardboard–maybe it was due to the slight turbulence.
With a flight time under an hour, we weren't at cruising altitude for very long and began making our descent into Boston where, according to the news from the cockpit, the conditions were moderate snow.
Yep, it's snowing alright.
Whoa, we came awfully close to that cargo ship! Hopefully it was just perspective.
Despite the hour wait for deicing at DCA, we made up some time in flight and landed with only about a 30 minute delay so I still had plenty of time to make my connection to DFW.
View of our E190 on deplaning.
A319 deicing at the gate next door. Deicing at the gate is so much more efficient than waiting in line like at DCA! Of course, it requires more equipment and labor, but it makes for faster turnaround times during snow events.
Thanks for reading!
Washington - DCA
Boston - BOS
Overall a pretty average flight in domestic First. The refurbished cabins look much fresher than the worn out old PMUS cabins these E190s had until recently. The crew was friendly throughout the very short flight and checked on drinks regularly--I was offered two refills. However, it didn't feel very premium to be served drinks in cardboard and plastic cups. Like most AA aircraft, this E190 was equipped with WiFi. I didn't pay for the WiFi, but it was convenient for checking on flight status as use of the AA app and AA.com is free.
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