Hello and welcome to the second report in this 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 mentioned earlier, 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.
Having arrived a little over 30 minutes late due to a de-icing delay on departure from DC, I had less time to make it to my next flight, but still had a comfortable cushion.
Despite the snow most flights out of Boston were showing on time, including mine.
I would have liked to have time to visit one of the Priority Pass lounges, but only had about 10 minutes before boarding so I just headed straight to the gate.
A view of the iconic BOS control tower on the way to the gate.
Here is our ride to Dallas–a new-ish A321 with sharklets.
We'll definitely be needing de-icing
Boarding began right on time with Concierge Key, then the premium cabin.
Pre-merger AA A321s have the same seats in domestic First as the 737s with Boeing Sky Interior and IFE.
When booking on AA.com, you can distinguish between PMAA and PMUS A321s by the description of the Aircraft. PMAA A321s are labeled "32B-Airbus A321 (Sharklets)"–not to be confused with 32T, the Transcon A321s with First Class and lie-flat Business class. PMUS A321s are simply labeled 321; I usually avoid these on longer flights as they have no IFE or in-seat power.
Good legroom at the standard PMAA 40" pitch in Domestic First.
Not much of a view for the moment
Though the IFE is touchscreen, there are also remote controls in the armrests.
When the snowed slipped off the window, I could see the storm was still raging.
Shortly after getting settled in, I was surprised when a flight attendant came by to take orders for pre-departure drinks. Not only are pre-departure drinks rarely done by PMAA crews on domestic flights, but when they are, in my experience, it's usually just a choice of water and orange juice. To be fair, PDB service is more common on longer domestic flights, but it really is hit or miss on PMAA metal. For this flight we had a choice of anything from the bar so I had a coffee and Baileys.
During boarding I could see several planes pushing back and being de-iced. Unlike DCA where aircraft line up for de-icing on a remote stand, for which we waited an hour on my DCA-BOS flight, AA de-ices aircraft at the gates in Boston, which is much more efficient.
We pushed back several minutes early and de-icing began immediately as a truck was on standby. As I was saying, they're much more efficient at handling snow in BOS than DCA–but then again, New Englanders deal with snow more often than Washingtonians.
The de-icing only took a few minutes and we were off.
We taxied past Cape Air parking stand. It looks like a baby airplane nursery :-P
Lining up on the runway and takeoff
Snowy Boston on takeoff.
Once we got above the snowstorm we found blue skies again.
Unfortunately, my IFE, along with several others', wasn't working and despite multiple attempts by the cabin crew to re-start the system, mine never came up. It's a shame to have an aircraft with IFE and not be able to take advantage of it. Luckily, I had my tablet to have some entertainment on this 4 hour flight.
About a half hour into the flight, the lunch service began. It started out with warm nuts and a pre-meal drink. As it was a Saturday around brunch time, I had a mimosa (sparkling wine and orange juice).
When your IFE screen isn't working there's always the view outside the window, at least once the clouds started to break up as we flew away from the snowstorm.
There were three options for lunch, including one vegetarian option as usual. Though AA domestic First catering can be hit or miss, I've been seeing some creative options lately and on this flight I was pleasantly surprised to see a Vietnamese Rice Noodle salad with chicken as an option. Aside from being an "exotic" dish for a domestic flight, it was quite tasty.
Looking out the window, I was surprised to see we were flying on the Canadian side of the Great Lakes. It look like we took a long route to get around the snowstorm.
For dessert, a simple cheesecake.
The F cabin in the dark after the meal service.
After lunch, I read for a bit and took a nap. This particular model of seats found on newer A321s and 737s with IFE are quite comfortable with soft adjustable headrests, good cushioning and decent recline. In my opinion, these rather rare seats in the AA domestic fleet are better than the even-newer-model seats that are being installed on some refitted PMUS aircraft and older AA 737s–the newer Domestic First seats are the same seats being installed in Premium Economy on the long-haul fleet.
I woke up as we were making our descent into DFW.
Flying over DAL - Dallas Love Field, a major Southwest Airlines operation and site of the airline's headquarters.
Downtown Dallas and the Trinity River
Nice sunset colors as we land.
AT&T Stadium (Cowboys Stadium)
Despite the odd northerly route, we landed on-time.
Last rays of sunlight as we taxi to our gate.
We parked at Terminal C, where we arrived at the gate right on time, so I had plenty of time to get to Terminal D and my 787-9 flight to LAX.
Our northerly route and the impressive snowstorm bearing down on the East coast.
Thanks for reading!
Boston - BOS
Dallas/Fort Worth - DFW
A good flight in a comfortable cabin with a pleasant and attentive cabin crew. It would have been an even better flight had the IFE worked. The catering was good and refreshingly different.
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