My Insane (Circus) AA Mileage Run & How They Lost Track of Who Was on the Plane!

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american airlines mileage run crazy
Getting ready to takeoff from Las Vegas bright and early.

A Truly Memorable Experience

Yesterday I awoke at 4:30am and headed to the airport for what was supposed to be a LOOONG day of mileage running. On the itinerary were four segments that would eventually leave me in the same place I started. Specifically I was scheduled to fly LAS-DFW-LGA-DFW-LAS.

I chose to do this mileage run for a couple of reasons. Since I am Executive Platinum on American, my chances of upgrades are fairly good. The price was also tremendous. For the $143 ticket I paid 8,976 ThankYou points (at 1.6 cents each thanks to my Prestige). The ticket earns 4,888 EQMs and 9,776 redeemable miles thanks to my 100% elite tier bonus.

An Early Morning Flight

My day started according to plan. I know McCarran Airport fairly well and thus try to avoid getting there any earlier than I need to for early flights. Since I would only be gone for the day, I decided to park my car at a parking lot across the street from the rental car center and I just took the free shuttle to the airport from there. $10 saved!

I arrived at my gate 20 minutes before departure and walked on to the plane. My first class upgrade had cleared already so I settled into first class on an old US Airways 321. Yes, they are flying old US Airways planes from LAS-DFW for some reason. Mixing of the fleets sucks since these planes don’t have power and even first class has tight legroom.

Boarding in Dallas

My flight to Dallas was uneventful. I only had an hour layover so I charged up my devices in the Centurion Lounge for a few minutes before heading to my gate. Boarding had already started when I arrived and I found out that despite being #1 on the upgrade list, I didn’t clear. Just as I was about to get on the plane, they announced that boarding was temporarily suspended due to a small “issue”.

Looking back this was the first sign of trouble, but about five minutes later they simply started boarding again without an announcement. I boarded through the priority lane and took my exit row seat 15C. For awhile boarding was going well until a lady and her adult child blocked the aisle right next to me refusing to be split up despite holding seats in rows 8 and 16.

The Craziness Begins

The daughter had some sort of a handicap and refused to sit away from her mother, which is completely understandable, but something they probably should have sorted before getting on the plane. For about five minutes they stood there blocking the aisle while the flight attendant pleaded with them to take their seats and explained that he would try to get them space together.

Just as they seemed to be complying, he asked the other flight attendant if boarding was complete and she loudly said, “Yes” and then muttered under her breath, “but I really don’t know.” I don’t think he heard that second part because he moved someone around and found the ladies seats 19E and 19F. All was right in the world and boarding continued.

The Longest Boarding Ever

After I had been on the plane for about 40 minutes (with some people being on even longer) the captain announced that we would leave the gate in 15 minutes and then be on a ground stop for another 25 minutes due to weather restrictions in LaGuardia. Then we waited. And waited. Twenty minutes later a huge group of passengers came on board. They must have had a late connection.

Two of these passengers had a lap child and boarding passes for seats 19E and 19F. This meant that the FA had to find the lady and her daughter new seats and the circus truly began. To make things worse other people were now moving seats and it was true chaos. Eventually the FA moved a lady from row 8 to my exit row middle seat (boo!) and settled the lady and her daughter there. Finally after an hour of boarding the door was closed and we were taxiing down the jetway before we stopped somewhere for the ground stop.

But Wait There Is More!

I had a 90 minute scheduled connection in LaGuardia. My hope was to run outside of security and check out the Centurion Lounge in that brief time. Unfortunately by this point we were an hour delayed and I feared I would miss my return flight to Dallas which would make me miss my return flight to Vegas. It wasn’t looking very good.

After 20 minutes of sitting on the jetway (and roughly 90 minutes after I boarded) I hear a ding and the flight attendants are talking on their phones. Then they start coming through the cabin counting people. Next an announcement follows. They say three names and ask those passengers to ring the call button if they are on board. Only one person does. Where are the other two?

Return to Sender

At this point I knew where this whole thing was headed and I was right. The Captain fairly quickly announced that we had to return to the gate for “load balance” issues. Since I knew that I would definitely miss my connection in LaGuardia, I called the Executive Platinum line and was booked on the next flight to Las Vegas.

Once we arrived at the gate the agent came on board and went seat by seat asking people their names. It was insane. I told the supervisor who had also boarded that I was de-planing and explained why. She seemed very upset about the situation and asked me to explain what happened to her and the on-site manager. I was told they lost count and called the plane back because they didn’t know who was or was not on the plane. CRAZY!

Getting Home

Before my return flight to Las Vegas I enjoyed a manicure in the Centurion Lounge (massage times didn’t match up) and then boarded my flight. I was #3 on the upgrade list with only one seat left so I didn’t expect an upgrade and indeed didn’t get one. I boarded and took my exit row seat. Then I received a notification from the app that my seat was changed. I was now in 4F! A couple must not have shown up.

I arrived back in Vegas at 5PM local time. This was a full six hours before I was scheduled to get home. That crazy flight out of Dallas actually benefited me time wise since I didn’t have to fly to New York. The supervisor in Dallas said she would notate my account so I would get original routing credit for the trip. This morning I was only given credit for the segments I flew, so I sent an email to AAdvantage customer service.

Conclusion

I have been on hundreds of flights and have never seen such a disjointed and crazy boarding process. The plane did arrive in LaGuardia almost two hours after it was scheduled to and I am sure the passengers on board were not happy at all. As for me, I was happy to be home to see Baby Elizabeth before she went to bed. Small victories.


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10 COMMENTS

  1. American Air is not a family friendly airline. I have been in the same situation multiple times when using British Air points to fly on American without status. It is practically impossible to sit together with young children without stopping the whole boarding process. For example last flight we went straight to the ticket counter and they booked the children in an exit row which we didn’t realize until we were on the plane. So, yea obviously kids can’t sit in exit rows. So a 15 minute delay caused by me. Happens everytime. That is why i am so happy with Southwest these days.

  2. Nice AA Mileage Run bro. I think it still turned out in your favor, but could have gone shitty real quick.

    In my limited n00b experience, have never flown anything besides SW and Delta. Smooth operators man.
    I only hear about the other legacy airlines. Maybe I will try just so I can be more informed.

  3. Very nice!

    I actually would like to discuss with you all on mileage run from a small town. I don’t live in big hub city, my home airport only has nine direct flights (DL, UA, AS, Alligiant).

    In last December I was able to find PSC-PDX-CLT-SEA-PSC as a day trip on AA (codeshare with AS) for $172, which could have been very nice for mileage run. But the fare was gone in a short time. Now I could find PSC-SEA-JFK-SEA-PSC on AS for $296, or to ORD for $246, which is very decent price but a bit expensive for a mileage run.

    I credit all my miles to AS, so I always fly on AS or AA, with some short routs on DL. How do you find the day trip with decent price for mileage run? Do you suggest me to do it for elite status? Sometimes it’s a balance between actual cost and miles earned. TIA!

  4. And people think Spirit is bad. At least they get non-irop flights off on time. I love AA and this could happen on any flight but at least it worked out for you at the end of the day.

    @Kris – You have the best of both worlds, well at least PDX and SEA. To mileage run effectively you may need to commute through SEA or PDX to get some good deals. Search from those airports and then try to add on the short leg or figure your going to have to drive into one of those cities, in my opinion.

  5. Kudos to you Shawn. I did a similar AA run (PHX – DFW – MIA – DFW – PHX) last year and needed two days to recover!?!

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