Category Archives: American

American Airlines Admirals Club Membership Reciprocal Access to Alaska Airlines Board Rooms (SEA, PDX, ANC)

I have an AA Admirals Club membership through the Citi Executive AAdvantage card. I also no longer have an Amex Platinum card, as I cancelled that soon after redeeming my airline credit with them after they got rid of AA/US club access. By canceling my Amex Platinum card, I no longer have unlimited access to Alaska Airlines Board Rooms through Priority Pass Select.

For a long list of reasons, I recently found myself unexpectedly flying from DFW to SEA on AA and then SEA to SFO on Alaska Airlines instead of flying nonstop from DFW to SFO on AA. In Seattle, there’s no Admirals Club, so I thought I’d be out of luck for lounge access, but I figured that there might be a small chance that I could get into the Alaska Airlines Board Room through my Admirals Club membership since AA and AS are pretty buddy buddy. Turns out, this is true: there are certain circumstances where you can access an Alaska Airlines Board Room by virtue of having an Admirals Club membership.

The key thing that you need is a flight marketed by and operated by American Airlines/US Airways. If you have a same day ticket/boarding pass on a flight operated and marketed by AA/US, then you can access the Alaska Airlines Board Rooms at Seattle (SEA), Portland (PDX), or Anchorage (ANC). The AA/US flight can be either the inbound or the outbound flight at any of these airports, and it’s even possible that the boarding pass doesn’t even need to involve one of these airports provided that it’s same-day (it’s not specified in the rules, but YMMV with the lounge agents).

Domestic lounges generally aren’t anything special, but the Alaska Airlines Board Rooms generally have a marginally better food selection than most domestic lounges. They have pancake machines in the morning for breakfast, and there’s usually a hot soup later in the day. I also find AS employees to be friendlier than most airline employees, but maybe that’s my Pacific Northwest bias coming through.

For more information, check out the AA page about this policy and the thread on Flyertalk.

 

 

Advertisements

Best Economy International Flights Ever?

I’m sitting at DFW after a week-long trip to China, and I flew AA on their newish DFW-PVG route. On the outbound, the flight was empty enough that I could get a row of five seats to myself in coach and create my own “flat” bed of sorts.

On the return, I ended up getting an op up to business class. I saw signs at check-in that they might be looking for volunteers (offer of 800 USD travel voucher and a confirmed seat the next day) to take a next-day flight. It turns out they didn’t need any volunteers, but they did end up operationally upgrading a ton of passengers. Based on seat maps from the days prior to the flight, business class went from having a load of maybe 7 or 8 passengers to being a full cabin. I myself got one of those op ups, which I was very grateful to get. They almost took it away because I had ordered a special meal and they said they wouldn’t have enough non-special meals in coach, but with some puppy dog eyes the gate agent called catering and was able to order one additional coach meal so I could sit in business.

Anyway, for those of you who are traveling in coach on DFW-PVG or DFW-HKG, very light loads on the outbound to Asia and oversold flights returning from Asia seem to be relatively par for the course for the summer according to both the gate agents that I’ve talked to and reports on Flyertalk. This could make it an interesting gamble if you don’t want to spend any SWUs as you very well might be lucky enough to get a row to yourself on the outbound and an op up on the inbound.

Inefficiencies in My Life: American Airlines Systemwide Upgrades

I call myself Efficient Asian Man, but there are really a number of inefficiencies in my life that I’m aware of but haven’t really understood. Here’s one such inefficiency.

I qualified for AA Executive Platinum status last year thanks to an overly generous promotion that should have been targeted but wasn’t for a short period of time. Along with this status came 8 systemwide upgrades, which are great as they can be used to upgrade a ticket purchased in any fare class. So not only do you get 8 of them, you can buy cheapo tickets and upgrade those cheapo tickets. It’s great! (so great that I doubt they’ll last given the merger, or we probably won’t get 8 of them).

Here’s the inefficiency: if presented the offer at check-in, I would almost never pay $250 to upgrade my seat to business class, but I have happily used 5 of my 8 SWUs for the year. I am willing to endure 10 hours of international coach instead of pay $250 to get those 10 hours in business class, but I could also sell my SWUs (ignoring the fact that you’re not supposed to sell them) for roughly $250 each, which means that I shouldn’t be using them on myself.

Perhaps I’ll feel differently after flying AA’s 77W in business class (which I’m slated to do in September), but I’m honestly fine with coach most of the time. Sure, you might not sleep as well, but I find that my ability to sleep on planes is mostly a function of whether or not I’m actually tired and not so much a function of seat comfort. Plane food isn’t great either way, and I could instead pay $20 at the airport to buy better food (good thing AA flies out of Terminal 2 at SFO); I could also pay $20 for IFE that I truly want; service isn’t necessarily better in business class (as seems to be common for domestic carriers, many of the flight attendants in business class seem to be more “experienced”–to put it euphemistically–with widely varying levels of how much they give a s***); and I already get first class lounge access via my Executive Platinum status. I guess availability of power ports is one thing that doesn’t really exist in AA coach, but I could always be ghetto and camp out in the bathroom and use the power port there.

Granted, as I said before, you’re not allowed to sell SWUs, which is perhaps the best reason to justify my usage of SWUs on myself, but it looks like I’ll requalify for AA Executive Platinum this year, which means I’ll have 8 SWUs to use next year, and it’s apparent to me that I’d strictly prefer trading them for cash rather than use them on myself. Hmmm…

The Worst Part About Being an AA Flyer Out of SFO

I’m generally quite content flying AA out of SFO, and I’m much happier flying AA than I ever was flying UA (although I’m sure that the devaluations will come soon for AA and we’ll all be fleeing to nowhere).

But the worst part about flying AA out of SFO for me is the fake red-eyes from SFO to ORD or DFW. I’m sitting in an Admirals Club at DFW as I write this, having just come off AA 1052 which departs SFO at 12:15am and arrives at DFW at 5:35am. Total flight time in the air is just under 3 hours, and taking into account departure and arrival proceedings, it means that you can’t get more than 2.5 hours of sleep on the flight. This does not make me a very happy camper.

Granted, it’s my choice to take these flights. It enables me to connect to morning international departures out of ORD and DFW, and you get so many more miles than connecting through LAX, but I always kind of hate myself when I fly these things. And getting an upgrade to first doesn’t really make it any better.

Oh well, maybe I’ll learn better for next year and stop booking itineraries like this

Random Thoughts on 2/3/14

I’m going to be on vacation (actual vacation!) for the next two weeks, so expect more sporadic posts. In general, this blog is increasingly hard for me to update with real content given my work and travel schedules, so I’m not sure exactly what to do. I clearly don’t have the capacity to make it a one-stop shop like many of the other blogs, but I also want to write more than just trip reports, which is all I’ve been doing for the past couple of weeks. I’m thinking of briefer posts that touch on things that are on my mind. I also have a number of friends who say they want to read my blog to learn more about the miles and points world, and I know that I do a bad job for beginners, so I’ll try to work on that.

Here’s what’s on my mind now:

1) I jumped on the Citi Executive AAdvantage card for 100,000 miles after $10,000 of spend in 3 months, $450 annual fee, and $200 statement credit. I got the card in the mail Saturday morning, went to CVS and bought 10 Vanilla Reloads, and am halfway to the minimum spend requirement. I love that I didn’t have to call Citi about the charge (on the other hand, I hate US Bank for constantly declining my Club Carlson cards). I’m debating whether or not to try to go for $40,000 of spend for the 10k bonus AA EQMs, as I’m mostly debating whether or not to try to hit AA Executive Platinum for next year. I currently have about 50k EQMs booked, but I just don’t know if it’s rational for me to really fly 100k paid miles on AA every year. I would probably just do it if there were a closer source of VRs to me, but I think I need to get in a car (which I don’t have) to find them reliably, which makes this proposition less appealing.

2) I really don’t think that you’ll be able to combine EQMs from American and US Airways for status on American next year. Most bloggers seem to think otherwise, but I don’t understand why since you can credit flights to either program for EQMs. Why would they allow this AND allow you to combine EQMs? Seems like too good of a deal to be true.

3) I am constantly reminded of how much United sucks and how good of a decision it was to switch to American. I helped a friend book a flight from Thailand to the US, and Thai decided to cancel one of his flights and move him to a flight that left him a 5-minute connection in Hong Kong. Clearly, this doesn’t work, but United didn’t even email him to tell him his itinerary was now impossible. Thankfully, I was able to fix things, but I honestly don’t understand how normal flyers deal with United.

4) More United bashing: a reader told me that a United agent told him about new restrictions that will be placed on United awards along with the devaluation. If this turns out to be true, I think anyone who burned most of their United stash will be very glad that they did…

Vegetarian Economy Meals on American Airlines

Breaking Down Two Mileage Runs for 30,000 EQMs to get AA Executive Platinum
Getting a Chinese Visa
Planning a Mileage Run to Shanghai
Vegetarian Economy Meals on American Airlines
Hotel Review: Crowne Plaza Shanghai
Eating in Shanghai
Getting a Chinese Massage aka Tui Na
First Class Lounge (No. 69) Shanghai Pudong PVG
Concluding Thoughts on My Mileage Run to Shanghai


On my trip to Shanghai, I received 6 distinct VGML (strict vegetarian) economy meals/snacks on American Airlines. American doesn’t offer that many special meal options, but they have the basics.

First up was curried chickpeas with rice, broccoli, and a single carrot. This entree was the exact same entree as what I received on my flight on AA’s Flagship Service between JFK and SFO, but in a smaller portion and with sadder accompaniments. The carrots were still both mushy yet unchewable, a scientific feat if there ever were one, and they’re still serving a non-vegan margarine. But in all fairness, the entree is perfectly edible, except for the carrot.

I've had this meal before

I’ve had this meal before

For the mid-flight snack on flight number 1, I got some sort of wrap with wild rice and cranberries and other vaguely unidentifiable objects in it. It was confusing.

20131019_174656

Meal #3 served prior to arrival was some sort of pasta dish with cherry tomatoes and yellow peppers, but I have no idea what the white cheese-like curds were. They were flavorless, so that supports the idea that this dish was still vegan, but I can’t fathom why they chose to use flavorless unidentifiable white things as sauce instead of something like a basic tomato sauce. As a plus, the cantaloupe was sweet.

20131019_233214

All in all, the meals for my flight from ORD to PVG were unimpressive, but the meals on the way back were slightly better.

The fourth meal didn’t look promising, but it was surprisingly tasty. The couscous had flavor even without the tomato sauce, and the dessert was more interesting than a piece of fruit, but I’m not sure why they even bothered with the salad, and the bread roll was one of the toughest things I’ve ever tried to eat. I tried to rip off a piece with my hands and gave up.

20131021_180951

The mid-flight snack was a mini sandwich with pesto, green pepper, and squash. Somehow, the bread for this sandwich was edible while the bread that came with the previous meal was not.

20131022_001747

Finally, this wasn’t the strictly VGML meal since the flight attendant just gave me the normal meal as she said that the vegetarian meal was the same thing but much, much sadder. But again, given how terrible the roll in meal #4 was, I was surprised that the croissant and muffin were quite edible in this meal.

20131022_034119

Overall, I’d say that this was probably on par with the VGML meals I got on Air Canada, which is to say not that great. Surprisingly, I think that United does a pretty good job with their VGML meals.

Non-Thoughts on the AA Devaluation Scare

Since every other travel blogger has posted multiple times about this, I might as well throw my hat in the ring as well, but I’m not going to talk/speculate about the devaluation itself so much as write about things tangential to the devaluation.

1. So many blogs posted about the supposed devaluation, which I guess is fair since it would be major news if it were true, but so few added actual new information or perspective. Lucky was the one to break the news, and I think Gary has the best write-up, and those are two blogs that any miles enthusiast should follow. But I didn’t really get anything of value from any of the other countless blogs that wrote about it. Is this symptomatic of every blogger wanting to be a one-stop destination for travel news? Or maybe that many bloggers just don’t have anything new to say?

2. I read a fair number of people writing things like, “I’m soooo glad that I chose not to pursue Executive Platinum status because of this devaluation”, which I’m not sure I understand. Obviously, I am choosing to mileage run to get AA Executive Platinum, and I’ve already booked my flights, so I’m pretty committed. But even if the value of AA miles decreases, I think the primary value of status on an airline isn’t derived from the increased redeemable mileage earning rates. For one, Platinum status on American already gives a 100% mileage bonus, so you don’t get anything incremental by being Executive Platinum. But to me, the unlimited domestic upgrades, higher upgrade priority, systemwide upgrades, better customer service, international lounge access, and waived fees are much more valuable. So while the devaluation would certainly be unfortunate, I’m not sure why this would have that much of an effect on people’s choice to aim for top-tier status or not.

3. Before I started working, I used to think that companies were well-oiled machines where everything was vetted multiple times and people didn’t make mistakes. While that may be true of some companies, I don’t think it’s true for most places. Just like how I think it’s incredible that air travel even exists given all of the complexity and moving pieces to maintain thousands of flights a day, I’m surprised that we don’t see more mistakes like the one by AA today. Perhaps I’m just naive, but I think the simplest/likeliest answer for all of this is just that companies make mistakes, and this is an example of a mistake. Will frequent flyer programs be devalued in the future? Of course. But I don’t buy all of the cynicism and fear that other bloggers are selling.