Those of us who travel through an American Airlines hub (such as the one in my backyard in Arlington, VA) were given a great gift on October 17, 2015: suddenly flying American became much less of a hassle as its merger with US Airways became complete(ish). This was a conundrum for me, though, when on December 21 I realized that I was one round trip away from "Gold" status with an airline that I had spent the better part of two years avoiding at all cost. But travel is a game for those who are up for anything, so when the answer to the question, "What's the cheapest place I can fly to and home from... tomorrow?" turned out to be New York's JFK International, I set aside my misgivings about air travel between The Capital and The City, and booked the seat.
Quick Uber to the airport the next morning, an hour wheels up to wheels down, stepped off the plane and into the American Airlines Admiral's Club where a light breakfast was on the house, and off I went to Manhattan. This connection actually worked surprisingly well: Catch the "Air Train" from your terminal at JFK, take it to Jamaica Station, and put yourself on an E train or the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) to Penn Station. From there I took my time meandering to Grand Central to catch Metro North up to have lunch with a good friend in Hartsdale, back that afternoon, and suddenly meeting another good friend for an early dinner in Brooklyn (where I was nearly overwhelmed by the urge to acquire a plastic light saber from every street vendor in town). I caught the outbound LIRR back to Jamaica, and Air Trained to the terminal in time to learn my flight was delayed.
No matter, house wine is on the house in the Admiral's Club, and if they know your flight's delayed you're likely to luck into something from one of their other bottles being on the house as well. They currently seem to be pouring some Goose Ridge g3 in a number of airports, a nice little red blend that I'd recommend for anyone's home collection in the $15 range. A couple glasses, and I was on my plane in the first economy row where the girl next to me asked if I'd mind giving up my more spacious seat so that her sister could come from the back to sit together. I moved back about 15 rows. When I woke up just before landing a flight attendant told me that the girls had bought me a glass of "thank you" wine while I was napping. I threw it in my suitcase to be enjoyed later. I love it when one good turn begets another.
This is why we travel, to see two of my very best friends, get re-acquainted with the Goose Ridge g3, gift of a road soda from the girls up front, walk away with a year of AAdvantage Gold (details below), and enjoy a quick planes, trains, and automobiles adventure.
Quick layman's rundown of AAdvantage Gold
If you've ever stood in line at the gate, clutching your zone two ticket while seemingly everyone else gets to take their seats (and overhead bin space) before you, you probably know that frequent fliers earn special status. On American Airlines, the entry-level special status is AAdvantage Gold. Thanks to my New York day trip (and the 28 other American flights I took earlier in 2015), my 2016 gold status nets me:
- Board towards the front of the line (just before zone 1).
- One free checked bag.
- Free preferred seats (better location on plane) and 50% off main cabin extra seats (actually more space) when I book my ticket (those "extra" seats become free if there are any left when I check in the day of travel).
- Automatic upgrade requests on flights 500 miles or less (whether there's actually any space in the front is another story), with a 24-hour upgrade window.
- 25% elite mileage bonus (fly 1000 miles, get 1250 miles credited to me).
- Minimum 500 miles per flight (take a 350 mile flight, get 500 miles credited to me).
Early boarding along with the free preferred and 50% off main cabin extra seats are the real winners here. How I loathe boarding last to sit in the back and not have any overhead space left...