I am a million member of American Airlines which gives me lifetime gold status, most of my miles were actually accrued on TWA which I joined when they first started the program in the early 1980’s and were transferred to AA’s Advantage program. Gold, which does have its benefits is the lowest level in AA’s elite status and being at the bottom of the pecking order I get last pick on upgrades, if I can get them at all. The major benefit of gold for me is being able to pre book emergency exit row seats and at 6’3” this alone can make a trip more enjoyable. I can also check in at the first class ticket counter to avoid the long check in lines, but I have found sometimes it is even faster just to use the self service kiosks. Another advantage of gold is being able to board right after the First Class, Exec. Platinum’s and Platinum’s board so I am assured overhead space for my carry on luggage. And for every 10,000 miles I fly, I receive four 500 mile upgrade coupons electronically deposited into my AAdvantage account.
My wife accompanied me on this trip to keep her miles up and she also is Gold but has to fly 25000 miles a year to keep up her status. Because she accompanies me on most of my business trips she is just about able to keep up her status.
While I am not a road warrior, I fly enough that the $350 a year membership fee for the Admirals club is well worth it for me, especially when there are delays and cancellations. The club receptionists are also agents and can handle any rebooking without having to stand in a long line to get to a gate agent, this alone has proved to be worth the cost of membership over the past few years.
When I made the reservations for this trip, I had requested first class upgrades by using the 500 mile coupons we have in our accounts, 5 for each direction. If there are any seats left after the Exec Plats and Plats get theirs we would be notified 24 hours before the flight, we did not get the notifications for any of the legs and while the seat map for this first flight showed 3 first class seats available, when we checked in we were told we were on the wait list. At the gate the video monitor showed our names but there were 5 other names in front of us so we did not get upgraded on this leg and also for the entire trip. We were outranked by higher elites, full fare coach ticket holders and paid upgrades. This is the second trip in a row this had happened to us so sometimes these coupons are not worth anything if you can’t get upgraded.
Our outbound was from LGA to DFW, then on to LAS. We live in Southwestern Connecticut and LaGuardia Airport, or as I call it LaGarbage is both 35 miles and 35 minutes from our house. Even though we are close to LGA you never know about the traffic so we always leave the house a little over 3 hours before departure, we park in an off airport paid park and lock hotel parking lot and use the hotel shuttle to the airport, we find this arrangement cheaper than using LGA’s parking lots and better for the car than using the scratch and dent off airport parking lots like Avistar. There were no traffic delays and we were at the ticket counter in one hour from our house. After going through security we went to the Admirals Club, one thing about the Admirals Clubs is except for a few of their clubs like in Terminals A and C in DFW, they offer fantastic views of the ramp area and LGA’s is no exception. The club is located on the second floor of Concourse D and from different areas of the club you can see both sides of the ramp area and depending which runway is in use, you can watch them taking off and landing. This was a quiet time of the day as you can see and I apologize for the quality of the outside photos but I was taking them through tinted glass.
NOW TO THE TRIP REPORT
Views of the LGA ramp.
One of the seating areas of the LGA club, as you can see it was a quiet day, normally the club is very crowded.
Our MD-80 arriving from STL at gate D3.
Crowded gate D3.
Lineup of departing airliners for runway 31, I counted 17 in line.
Because I am against AA’s decision to drop their food service, we have been boycotting their Buy on Board program. We bought some club sandwiches at the Au Bon Pain in the food court at LGA and had our own in flight food service. Considering how bad AA’s food had become before they dropped it and what they are selling now, we like these club sandwiches better. Really strange that you can get all the soda and juice for free, but they charge $2.00 onboard for bottled water.
We had what my wife and I call our seats, 21 A & B are the second row emergency exit row seats on the 2 side. With all the leg room we have it feels like a smaller first class seat, although not as wide because the tray is in the armrest so the seats are about 1 inch narrower than the standard coach seat.
Hazy skyline of New York with the Hells Gate Bridge in the center, a railroad bridge over the East River.
Teterboro Airport, (TEB), this is where I took my first flying lessons and soloed.
Love Field (DAL) with Dallas skyline in background.
On taxing in at DFW, the flight attendants announce the gates for the connecting flights and she did not say our flight so we knew something was wrong. Our arrival gate was A29.
DFW to LAS
Seats 21D & 21F
When we deplaned, we checked the departures on the video monitors and it showed our flight was scheduled for gate A33 but was delayed from the scheduled departure at 2:20 pm to 4:00 pm, since we landed on time at 1:25 pm we now had an over 2 hour layover. After checking in at the Admirals Club in Terminal A, I wanted to ride the new Skylink train around the airport. My wife was not interested in taking the ride so I left her in the club and rode the train. The views from the train are awesome, the outer loop goes right over all the gates and you can look almost straight down on all the airplanes parked at the gates.
The only views from the Admirals Club in Terminal A, and also its twin in Terminal C are of the parking garage.
One view of the club, sorry for the quality but I did not want to use the flash.
Views from the Skylink shuttle.
Skylink shuttle station.
Since the Skylink shuttle is inside security, the only way anyone can ride this train is if you are flying in or out of DFW, but I recommend it to anyone who has extra time to take a ride around the airport, the entire loop is about 12 minutes.
The views from the Admirals Club in the new terminal D are awesome, it is on the second floor overlooking the ramp area. The windows are tilted out from the top so you can almost look straight down. The last time I was in this club an AA 767-300 from Zurich taxied in and it was the captains final flight before retirement. I watched as the airport fire trucks sprayed an arch of water over the airplane as it taxied to the gate. Wish I had my camera with me for this photo opportunity.
Before boarding the LAS leg of the flight we purchased some more sandwiches and proceeded to our gate. We boarded at 3.:30 pm and just after 4:00 pm the captain announced that there would be a slight delay because of a maintenance problem. He said that there was a problem with the nose wheel brake that stops the nose wheels from spinning after the landing gear is retracted and they were disconnecting the system so the flight could continue
My wife gets nervous anytime there is a mechanical problem with the airplane but fortunately for her I am an FAA licensed aircraft mechanic (A & P) so I explained to her that there was nothing wrong with the aircraft brakes.
Again our first class upgrades did not come through so we took our assigned emergency exit row seats. On an airplane with 3 across I always book an aisle and window seat if possible leaving the middle seat open. If the flight is not sold out most times the middle seat is open so we can spread out. If they book the middle seat then we take the middle and window or aisle seat and give the passenger the other seat and so far we have never had a complaint from anyone who was assigned the middle seat. This flight was sold out so I shifted over to the window seat and my wife took the middle seat.
This 757 is a former TWA airplane and the seating is different from AA’s 757’s. Instead of emergency exits over the wings, TWA opted for the additional doors aft of the wings and the lavs are located just before these doors instead of in the rear next to the galley, the only bad part about these seats is that there is no under seat storage so everything has to go overhead for take off and landings.
I still like to fly on former TWA airplanes, even though it says AA on the outside, the galley carts on these 757’s and former TWA MD-80’s still have the TWA logo on them and it brings back many good memories of TWA and their friendly flight crews. But these former TWA 757’s are leaving the fleet this year and AA is removing all the rear galleys on all their MD-80’s so the TWA logo’s will disappear shortly.
There is a FA seat on the lav bulkhead facing aft at seat 21F, so we struck up a great conversation with this FA, but because of the FA sitting there I was not able to use my digital camera to take pictures taxing out from DFW or landing at LAS. We also found out that AA played a game of switching airplanes and that was the reason for our initial delay. The scheduled AA 2011 goes from BWI to DFW to LAS, but AA took our airplane to cover another flight and we had to wait for a 757 from PHX to cover our flight.
The FA came in from Tulsa earlier on even another flight and because of the delay he had almost a 5 hour layover. He told us he lives only 15 minutes from the airport and even though he was midway through his workday he went home and took a nap. Our flight to LAS was 2:22 minutes at 36000 feet and we landed at 5:11 pm, almost one and a half hour late.
Views of part of the Grand Canyon
Views of Lake Mead, the light areas around the shoreline used to be under water, but due to the drought and excessive water usage these areas are now above water. The lake is at is lowest level ever.
We had no free time during the day on this Las Vegas trip, but on a trip there 2 months ago I took these pictures from the top of the Stratosphere tower. I have been going to Las Vegas for over 40 years and I have seen Las Vegas transform from a small desert town to this huge urban area. As you can see from these photos the smog that on some days covers the city. To get away from the smog we drove out to Red Rock Canyon and once out of the city the sky turned a beautiful blue. Las Vegas keeps on growing and growing and I think the only thing that will stop Las Vegas from growing is the mountains to the east, federal and state lands to the north and the California border to the south, and that’s if they don’t run out of water first.
Views from a previous tip from the Stratosphere tower.
Views of Red Rock Canyon.
At night we took in the fountains at the Bellagio and also the atrium to see what was on display. They change the floral display about every month and this month they were celebrating the Chinese New Year.
Fountains at the Bellagio
Atrium display in the Bellagio celebrating the Chinese New Year, the year of the pig
LAS to ORD
Seats 18E and 18F
Airtrain at LAS to Terminal D
You can not get away from gambling almost anywhere is Las Vegas, even in the airline terminals there are slot machines next to the gates.
Slot machines in LAS terminal.
Winglet equipped B-757 at gate D10.
View of the winglet.
When I booked this flight these were the only 2 seats together in the second row of emergency exit seats so we did not move over from an aisle seat. The flight departed on time at 10:10 am and the flying time to ORD was 3:01
Las Vegas skyline on take off.
The flight was uneventful and again we provided our own in flight catering from the Port of Subs kiosk in the terminal. We arrived in ORD on time at 3:30 pm at gate H8. The FA announced that the gate for our flight to LGA was gate H13. On arrival we checked the departure board and it showed our flight to LGA scheduled for 5:10 pm was delayed to 6:30 pm. We went to the Admirals club and decided to purchase some sandwiches there for dinner on the ORD to LGA leg.
Admirals Club in ORD, again apologize for the quality of the non flash picture.
Views of the ramp from the club at ORD.
Ramp view with the Chicago skyline in the background.
ORD to LGA
Seats 21D & 21F
And again our first class upgrades did not come through and again we took our assigned emergency exit row seats. Since our favorite seats were already taken, I booked on the 3 side, leaving the middle seat open. This flight like all the others was sold out and again I shifted to the middle seat and again no complaints when I gave the passenger the aisle seat.
The delay was caused by high winds at LGA forcing them to use only one runway so ATC had a flow control delay in effect. Because they needed gate H13 for an incoming flight, we pushed back at 6:30 pm and sat near the runway until just past 7:00 pm when we finally took off. The flight was smooth except for some turbulence on approach to LGA.
Because of some good tailwinds, the flight time was a quick 1:29 and we touched down only 25 minutes later than scheduled. AA had put our luggage on an earlier flight so when we went down to the baggage carousel our luggage was already there.
We called the hotel shuttle to pick us up and soon after we were on our way home to Connecticut.
When I first decided to keep track of this trip to write a report, I thought that this trip would be boring and not worth writing about, but I hope enough happened to make this report worthwhile reading.