Local pilots and planespotters will be happy to know that LiveATC has live streaming tower communications from National Airport (DCA) and Dulles (IAD). Few things are more soothing and fascinating for the aviation geek than listening to the smooth, seductive tower-and-aircraft dance of ATC broadcasts from your local airport.
One week ago today, I was at IAD after a half-day flight snow delay. On a people mover, we stopped mid-trip to let a funny convoy pass – runway snowblowers coming back from the March morning task. In the middle of the orderly progression, a race was on! Two snowblowers were going for the gold in the last winter blast.
Anyone else miss the snow yet?
If you think you’re flying out of Washington DC tomorrow morning, like I thought I was, you best call your airline right now. United has canceled everything before noon out of IAD, BWI, and DCA. Calling in a panic to my special frequent flyer line, I got one of the last empty IAD to SFO seats for all of Monday. For everyone else, welcome to the madness.
Word is that all the major airlines are canceling their flights before noon and rerouting other flights, telling folks it will be Wednesday before the snowstorm overflow passengers will all get to their respective destinations.
For those that fly often, there is not a sense of envy with the gate agent allows First Class and elite frequent flyers to board the plane first. No, there is only lust for such benefits that are often so close yet so far away at this time of year.
See, frequent flyer status is earned annually. For United, you’ll need at least 50,000 Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) by December 31st to maintain Premier Executive status. It may be one up from cattle class, but when you do long hauls to Europe or red-eyes from the West Coast, those emergency row seats or First Class upgrades make the flights oh so much better.
Which brings us to mileage runs – the act of flying just to maintain elite frequent flyer status. It may sound crazy, but there is a whole airline subculture focused on just such acts of desperation. And this year, at 39,200 EQMs, I’m hell-bent on earning 10,801 more by December 31, 2008.
Wanna learn how I’m doing it at no cost to me? Then keep reading…
If you are picking up a loved one at National Airport, say a hot pregnant wife for example, you will be sent on a circuitous route to the Cell Phone Waiting Area. An annoying drive yes, but not the stupid distant cell phone lot at IAD that is closer to Leesburg than the airport.
The DCA parking lot is packed with occupied yet idle cars on a Sunday night, reminding me of a red light district or gay cruising zone. We all stay in our vehicles till we get the private notice that its time to move on.
And I now have mine. Time to roll…
Do you find yourself wondering if your luggage made that crazy-close connection to your IAD flight? Did the baggage handlers make the dash across LAX like you did?
Now, if you flew United Airlines you can use a handy Bag Check to see if you got lucky. I just made sure my work gear made made the red eye I ran for.
Security lines suck. There is just no other way to describe it. Imagine any other location where you are dragging luggage behind you, trying to juggle papers, and then have to take your shoes off to get somewhere. If Metro started enforcing rules like that, there would be a riot in most of DC.
The biggest problem with TSA security is how long it takes. (I’m going to ignore the “gigantic” problems for now – I’ll hold my TSA ranting for later.) Arriving at an airport is a crap shoot – you could fly through security, or you could wait an hour for a single lane. And, as a frequent traveler, that drives me crazy. It’s a lot of time I could be using doing something useful – like blogging.
So, after seeing the Clear Lanes expand in to Dulles, and then working my way towards the $128.00 fee (most of which is paid by my company), I decided to take the plunge and find out how much faster this new system is. Continue reading
My job puts me on the road. A lot. And, because I fly from DC, I’m a United Airlines Frequent Flyer. For those of you in the know I’ve been a 1K for five years now. For those of you that don’t know what that is – let’s just say I get in a lot of airplanes. So one day Tom asked me “what is it like to travel out of DC?” and after a lengthy explanation he asked me if I would blog about it. So here goes…
Dulles is always under construction. Let’s just assume that is a constant. The benefit is that construction means that there are always new things happening and changing at the airport. Normally they fall in to the category of “oh no” or “not again”. I’m sure I will write about a few of those later.
Imagine my surprise to find a good change! Dulles has something new called the “Diamond Lanes”. These lanes are supposed to be for “frequent travelers (2 or more times a month)”. And – put down your coffee before continuing – the lines are really short! That’s because they are difficult to find. The Diamond Lanes are downstairs in arrivals (baggage claim). To find them, head over to Door 4. There, about 50 feet from the Clear lanes and the Employee lanes, is a new security section. Voila, you just found the back door. Continue reading