Hello and welcome to the third and last 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 from Boston in Terminal C, it was a quick trip on the DFW Skylink train to Terminal D for my next flight.
Terminal D is mainly used as the international terminal; however, considering that the DFW-LAX flight is an aircraft re-positioning flight between two long-haul flights, it is not surprising that this flight would depart from the international terminal.
With its lofty and modern architecture and large planespotting-friendly windows, Terminal D is my favorite of the DFW terminals.
And here is the beautiful Dreamliner that will be taking us to LAX this evening.
Boarding began right on time with Concierge Key then the premium cabin. As with most domestic flights, boarding was chaotic with passengers crowding the gate area–the crowds were understandably larger than "normal" domestic flights as we were boarding a widebody.
First impression of the B787-9 Business class cabin: Elegant and modern. American has really come a long way in a short time.
And here we are at my seat. These new Rockwell-Collins (formerly B/E Aerospace) Super Diamond seats can be found on the entire 787-9 fleet and about half of the 777-200ER fleet.
Along with the Zodiac Cirrus seats found on the flagship 777-300ER fleet, , in my opinion these are the best long-haul Business class seats in American's fleet.
I had selected 8L, a window seat in the last row of the Business cabin as it offers a lot of privacy. The seatmap shows a galley to the left of the seat; however, this is more accurately described as a closet and some galley storage. The galley is actually behind the curtain, so the proximity of the galley was not a bother at all.
Storage, and all manner of connectivity can be found in the side console. Here we find the touchscreen IFE remote control, the headphone jack, a USB port, and a universal power outlet. This small storage area, with a closing lid, is very convenient for charging smartphones and other small electronic devices without fear of them sliding away.
The touchscreen seat control panel can be found just below
As can be expected, the legroom is very good.
On this flight, the pre-departure drink service consisted only of water or orange juice–typical AA PDB inconsistency. Slightly disappointing after a choice of full bar on the BOS-DFW leg.
The PTV screen is large and the IFE system is very responsive. The airshow is nice and modern and features a preview of today's flight before departure.
With the typical domestic flight mad rush to get on the aircraft, boarding was completed quickly and we were ready to push back early.
We pushed back on time and the safety video played as we taxied to the runway.
And we're off for a quick 3 hour flight to L.A.
Once in the air, the pleasant mood lighting was turned on
One of the things I love about these newer IFE systems is the ability to view the moving map on the remote screen. It allows my inner AvGeek to continue watching the airshow while playing a movie.
The service began shortly after takeoff with pre-dinner drinks and warm nusts. Dinner orders were taken at the same time–my flight attendant confirmed my pre-ordered choice.
Dinner was served as we crossed over from Texas into New Mexico
I had pre-selected the beef option online. I've had a version of this beef and quinoa dish on at least four flights in the past year. It's getting a bit old to be honest, but it was better than the other options. I had much preferred the more creative catering on the BOS-DFW sector.
As this flight was under 3 hours, there was no separate appetizer, only a small side salad.
One of the 3 FAs working the premium cabin was in charge of bread service after the delivery of the meals by the other two FAs. Her delivery of bread was erratic and somehow she completely missed me. I rang my call button, which I normally hate to do, and it was answered immediately by the lovely FA in charge of my aisle. She was super apologetic and offered extra bread.
For dessert, a warm cookie–typical for domestic flights with a duration of 3 hours or less.
The cabin under mood-lighting after dinner
After the meal service, I put on a movie I'd already seen and took a short nap
I woke up as the lights were turned on to ready the cabin for arrival.
The mood lighting is kept on, but turned down in intensity for arrival.
The endless lights of L.A.
This flight was during the time that Southern California was experiencing terrible wildfires. The captain remarked in his arrival announcements that he was pleasantly surprised we couldn't see the glow of the fires that night, as he had seen them the last several evenings flying into L.A. It sounds like the fires were dying out.
We landed early and arrived at the gate about 15 minutes early, which meant I didn't have to run to my next flight which was leaving from the "Eagle's nest"–the remote American Eagle terminal.
There is a shuttle bus that runs from AA's Terminal 4 to the Eagle terminal every few minutes. Once on the shuttle, it takes about 5 minutes to reach the remote Eagle terminal, which is located beyond Terminal 8. When in a rush, that can be an excruciatingly slow 5 minutes–luckily, I had plenty of time.
By this fourth flight in my crazy same-day West Coast mileage run, I was getting pretty tired and decided not to do any reports for the other flights. To add to my tiredness, what was supposed to be a short 40 minute hop to PHX to catch my redeye flight home, turned into a long ordeal.
We were taxiing to the runway when a technical issue was found and we were made to return to the gate. Doing the math I was getting worried about my short connection in PHX, but the gate agent and FA both told me they would hold the PHX-DCA flight a few minutes because there were over 30 people connecting to that flight. By the time we were cleared to go, we would be landing right about the time the DCA flight was due to depart.
So did they hold the DCA flight for 30 passengers from LAX??? NOPE!
I, along with the 30 other passengers that misconnected, had to be rebooked. I could see on the AA app that I had already been rebooked via Chicago–most others weren't so lucky. It pays to have Frequent Flyer status in an IRROP situation (Irregular Operations) for the priority in rebooking.
Operationally, I think it was a bad move for AA not to have held the PHX-DCA flight for 30 connecting passengers:
1) The DCA flight would have only needed to hold for about 15 minutes 2) It was past midnight in PHX and there were very few options for re-routing passengers 3) Rebooking 30+ stressed, tired, and angry people is no fun for gate agents, or cheap for AA (when considering compensation and rerouting to other airlines) 4) With the winter jetstream creating good tailwinds, the PHX-DCA flight ended up arriving in DCA almost 45 minutes ahead of schedule! It could have waited a half hour and still arrived early.
Despite the poor decision not to hold the DCA flight (in my opinion), overall I think AA handled the delay and rebooking pretty well. As I said, I had already been rebooked before I even landed in PHX.
It is ironic that I could have had 3 of my flights affected by the snowstorm on the East coast on my crazy itinerary, but in the end, it was a mechanical issue on a 40 minute hop from LAX to PHX that caused me to misconnect.
Thanks for reading and I'll leave you with some images of a snowy landing in DC, since there are no reports on the last 3 legs of this routing.
Snowy Northern Virginia landing at DCA
I-495 Capital Beltway Wilson Bridge
Historic Alexandria, VA
Dallas-Fort Worth - DFW
Los Angeles - LAX
As far as the hard-product is concerned, this is as good as it gets on AA--it's an added bonus to have the opportunity to experience this cabin on a domestic flight. I don't readily rate any product 10/10 as a perfect score must entail the best possible product. In my opinion, the combination of this being AA's best Business class hard-product and the fact that this was a 3.5 hour domestic flight merits a perfect score for cabin as is it the best possible product for such a route. With the exception of the small oversight of forgetting me during the bread service, the cabin crew were very friendly and attentive. Again, however, we see how inconsistent AA can be with pre-departure. The IFE was top of the line with a great air show, which the AvGeek in me always appreciates. The catering was decent for a domestic flight, though I've had this beef + quinoa combination on at least 4 flights in the past year. The meal on the slightly longer BOS-DFW flight was much more interesting.
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