Things You Witness On A Mileage Run

I’m approaching a decade of being active in this “hobby,” and while I fly more than ever before (I flew over 400,000 miles last year), I’m also doing less mileage running then ever before.

There are a few reasons for that:

  • It’s simply not economical to mileage run anymore. Back when I was 15, mileage running made sense. Airfare was cheap, routing rules were generous, airlines ran promotion after promotion, and award redemptions were cheap. That’s slowly changing as airfare continues to go up in price, the airlines have gotten stricter with routing rules, we’re seeing fewer promotions, and at the end of the day airlines are selling miles cheaper than ever, which really means there are better methods of accruing miles.
  • I don’t have as much free time as I used to. When I was 15 there wasn’t really much opportunity cost to my time. Now that I’m an adult I have a lot more obligations and “useful” things to fill my time with.
  • It’s all about reviewing new products. The reason I fly more than ever before is because I’m trying to review as many new products as possible. Reading 300 trip reports about domestic American segments just doesn’t sound fun for anyone, does it?
  • It’s just not healthy. I’ve been trying to get healthier lately. I estimate I’ve done close to 500 redeyes over the years, most of which were on domestic flights. To preserve my sanity long term I need to spend more time on the ground and less time in the air. International or longhaul flights are a different story as I find them easy, but domestically there’s only so much overnight torture I can handle.

All that being said, I went on a good old fashion eight segment mileage run this past weekend, and I figured I’d share some random musings. Most of my domestic travel is really boring, but this one was a bit more interesting than usual. In no particular order, here we go (in some cases I’ll intentionally leave out the route):

Being issued an official FAA warning

The purser on this sector seemed fairly nice at first. As the pilots went to use the lavatory he was blocking the aisle with the cart and standing on the other side of it. Someone in the bulkhead row tried to get up during that time, I guess because he either didn’t see the cart or didn’t know the significance of it.

I’ve seen this many times before, and usually the flight attendant will make a hand motion and loudly say something like “you need to sit down please.”

This particular flight attendant explodes. He starts flailing his arms and literally screams “SIT DOWN NOW!” Everyone in the cabin was kind of taken aback by the behavior… it wasn’t what he was communicating, but how he was communicating it.

Admittedly the passenger shouldn’t have gotten up, but clearly it wasn’t intentional and the tone with which the flight attendant spoke to him seemed over the top. So once the pilots were done and the cart was removed from the aisle, the flight attendant stopped by the passenger’s seat to explain why he yelled.

I couldn’t completely hear the conversation, but it seemed like the passenger was telling him that the tone was unacceptable. After a few minutes the purser calls the cockpit and then gets a “kit” out of the overhead bin. He starts doing some paperwork, and a few minutes later presents the passenger with an inflight disturbance report.

Ouch.

Contract Enforcement Team to the rescue!

While it’s not uncommon to see flight attendants and passengers get in an argument (see above), this is the first time I’ve seen a flight attendant and gate agent go at it on the plane in front of the cabin.

The purser on this sector wasn’t especially friendly, and as the gate agent came by to close the aircraft door, the flight attendant started chewing him out and explained that he started boarding the plane before one of the flight attendants was aboard, and what a major violation this was. She said she would write him up. She had a large envelope which read “Contract Enforcement Team,” which best I could tell she handed to the gate agent on arrival.

Speaking of following “protocol,” I found it kind of funny that one of the flight attendants on that sector wasn’t wearing his tie and had his two top buttons undone. Oddly she didn’t call him out on that. šŸ˜‰

Huh? Who’s offering me a drink?!

I was napping and woke up a bit before landing, at which point someone came up to me and asked if I wanted something to drink. The weird part? She was literally wearing bunny slippers with fur, and had on a non-uniform jacket. It took me a few seconds to realize that was in fact the flight attendant.

American’s new A321 diversions

By chance I ran into a flight attendant friend over the weekend at the airport, and she primarily flies the A321s between Los Angeles and New York right now. She explained that apparently the A321s are diverting quite a bit.

She had worked what was supposed to be a roundtrip between Los Angeles and New York.

The flight from Los Angeles to New York got diverted to Philadelphia due to fog. They rebooked all the passengers and then eventually ferried the plane to New York empty.

Then on the return the New York to Los Angeles flight got diverted to Ontario, once again due to fog.

Why are these brand new planes diverting due to fog? Apparently because the planes are so new, the pilots aren’t rated to land below certain visibility conditions. She said it was one of the most bizarre trips she has ever worked, given the double diversion.

Go around!

While this is hardly eventful, I did have a go around into LAX on my Alaska flight from Seattle. We were maybe a mile from the end of the runway and powered up for a go around. I’ve had a few of these before, including on Aer Lingus, British Airways, and Sri Lankan. I’m actually surprised it doesn’t happen more often.

A few passengers seemed a bit concerned, though I was impressed that the flight attendant made an announcement within a few seconds saying that it was just a standard go around and that the pilot would be on the PA shortly to explain. A couple of minutes later the first officer got on the PA to explain there was still an aircraft on the runway.

It only cost us about 15 minutes, and we still just about arrived on time.

Alaska credit card pitching

I do love Alaska Airlines. I’m not exactly sure why. They’re one of the quirkiest, simplest airlines out there. I mean, their planes have less cabin technology than a Greyhound bus, they start boarding roughly two hours before departure, and they’re the only airline on which you won’t ever gain a pound, because their food portions are so damn small.

But the thing I love more than anything about Alaska Airlines — and I’m being genuine here — are their credit card pitches. Why? Because I’m always curious what facts the flight attendants will make up next. Last week I had one flight attendant say that they have 170 airline partners worldwide, for example.

Alaska’s Hazelnut Espresso Vodka is the best thing ever

Alaska might not have any inflight entertainment, but they have Crater Lake Hazelnut Espresso Vodka. It’s quite possibly the tastiest thing on earth. I just discovered it a couple of weeks ago, and I’m hooked.

Alaska-Espresso-Vodka

So while I don’t miss the exhaustion that comes along with domestic mileage runs, I do kind of miss the excitement…

Comments

  1. When did you start drinking? You used to always get just Diet Coke with Lime, but you’ve been talking more and more about the beverages onboard lately.

  2. A few months back out of JFK, the gate agent started boarding us too soon, and we were all huddled in the jetway for about 5 minutes before we could get on the plane.

    The best part was the flight attendant coming out and letting us know how “unprofessional” it was of the gate agent to do that.

    Um, really?

  3. When the passenger received the “disturbance” report, is it something he had to sign? I’m just wondering could he rip it up in front of the FA or say Fuck You as he deplaned and throw it in their face. I think that’s what I would do, once safely on the ground.

  4. Well, if United, American and Alaska copy Delta , you won’t be doing a mileage run ever pretty soon… šŸ˜‰

  5. funny about the LAX go around. i was at the VX lounge a couple months back watching take offs and landings on 24L and 24R, respectively.

    suddenly a WN flight touched down on 24L and at first i thought i was seeing things but then looked over to the guy sitting next to me and he was dumbstruck too. wonder if it was a last min tower decision or pilot error or what?

  6. @Lantean

    Nothing happens if a passenger refuses to sign a document given to him by the airline. This has nothing whatsoever to do with the FAA – I really wish people would stop pinning things to the FAA all the time. This is some sort of document generated by the airline, and the only thing the airline could do is ban the passenger.

    I certainly would not sign it and I would report the employee.

  7. just fyi regarding “Contract Enforcement Team to the rescue!”

    not having all FAs to board the plane is an FAA violation. has nothing to do with their actual contract.
    what if there is a fire? FAs are there to run the evacuation. doesnt matter if its during boarding or during the flight šŸ˜‰

  8. I have to agree on the food on alaska airlines, those carrot sticks and hummus don’t cut it in first class on the sea/san flight.

  9. About the go around, it’s great that the FA came right on and explained what was happening. When you understand it, it’s no big deal, but the first time it can be quite disturbing to be descending rapidly and then suddenly be ascending rapidly.
    Although, we had a go around in MDW during the one day with semi-decent weather around new years between two several day periods of horrible, airport closed kind of weather, and I had a serious sinking feeling. Something like, “please god, just let this plane safely land so that I can go home and go to bed!”. Irrational visions of being diverted somewhere else and not getting home for days were plaguing me.

  10. On the disturbance report, I would have accepted it and informed the FA that I would consider signing it once I’ve had my attorney review it.

  11. On the A321, the crews are certified but the airline is not because it hasnā€™t operated the A/C for long enough. AA had the same issue with the B777 when they first got it, even though the model was 4 years old at the time.

  12. Well, can readers start suggesting routes for you to fly so you can book them (maybe on miles)? I know you want to go on less of them, but Lucky, looks like you still have a long life ahead of you.

  13. Okay, now that some other weird things had been covered by prior comments, what the heck was up with an FA in slippers and not in uniform?

  14. I enjoy your blog more when you’re not worrying about who might get in trouble because of what you’re writing. Some of those crew actions are begging for full disclosure. Come on!

  15. @Lucky: Which airline was handing out tongue lashings and written violations to passengers for trying to get out of their seat during the pilot potty break?

  16. I too am curious about the disturbance report (I’ve no idea why anyone would sign such a thing). How was it presented to the passenger? Like “if you don’t sign this you’ll be greeted by law enforcement on landing?” (Which would be totally unwarranted for the circumstances.) Did the passenger offer any resistance? Personally I’d have just ignored the FA and walked off the plane as usual on landing.

  17. @ Claire — The flight attendant went up to the passenger and said “you’re Mr. ____, right?” When he said he was he said “here, sign this.”

  18. So what are the consequences of signing the report? And what happens if you refuse to sign it or dispute its content???

  19. @ Ivan Y — Not 100% sure, but believe it’s basically just a “warning.” You probably *would* have issues if you didn’t sign it, though.

  20. I too was on an Alaska flight last week and heard the same claim that they have over 170 airline partners world wide. I’ve heard you (and others) refer to Alaska as the slut of the skies because they’ll partner with anyone, but I had no idea just how far that sluttiness had gone! We must have had the same flight crew or even been on the same flight but I can’t remember which it was.

    If you have a soft spot for coffee infused booze you need to try Firelit Coffee Liqueur from St. George Distillery. It’s tough to find outside of the Bay Area but last time I checked they had it at the BevMo in Downtown Bellevue. It’s a little slice of heaven.

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