Sacramento Flight and LAX Plane Spotting

To maintain my status with Delta, I like to plan creative routes when traveling. For my trip to Sacramento this week, I opted to fly from Raleigh to Atlanta, Atlanta to Los Angeles, and Los Angeles to Sacramento (instead of to Salt Lake, and from there directly, for example… or directly from Atlanta… or many other options).

737-900 First Class

My first flight of the day was on one of Delta’s 737-900s. Though the seats are quite comfortable, and the in-flight entertainment console is crisp, the air-flow in the cabin is horrendous. Older 757s and even 717s have much more directed air pressure, allowing you to remain cooler. Extremely important when you’re in the South!

First Class on a 737-900
First Class on a 737-900
737-900 In-Flight Entertainment
737-900 In-Flight Entertainment
Outlets, outlets everywhere!
Outlets, outlets everywhere!

757-200 Thrust Reversal

My second flight, the longest leg, was on a 757-200. Unfortunately I didn’t get upgraded on this leg (I didn’t really expect to, since I was flying out of Atlanta). The nice thing about this was my seat was immediately in front of the engine. This allowed me to capture the thrust-reversal upon landing in LAX!

All 757-200s use one of two engines (one of which has two variants):

According to the Delta Museum, and using FlightRadar24 to cross-check the tail-number based on flight number, I confirmed that my 757-200 was using the PW2037.

Now for some background on thrust reversal! The purpose of thrust reversal is to take some of the engine’s thrust and direct it forward instead of backwards. This allows for shorter landing distances, less wear on brakes, and make for an all around safer flying experience. If you listen after landing, you will hear a loud woosh – that is the thrust reversal process. The Wikipedia article above identifies three types of thrust reversal mechanisms available for jet engines:

  • Target
  • Clam-shell
  • Cold Stream

Purdue released a very helpful visual guide to differentiate between the three, as well as an explanation of where the thrust actually goes! Since the PW2000 series is a high by-pass engine, the cold stream type is what we would expect, and as you can see it is indeed what is happening:

At the gate in ATL
Thrust Reversal!

Arizona Meteor Crater

And now, a brief reprieve from AvGeekery. πŸ˜‰ Very brief.

En route to Los Angeles, we crossed just south of the Barringer Crater! You can see it up and to the left of the engine intake, below.

Barringer Meteor Crater
Barringer Meteor Crater

Plane Spotting!

Upon Arrival at LAX, I made my way to the SkyClub in the middle of Terminal 5. From one of the seats along the window, I was able to see planes arrive and depart. Given LAX’s traffic, I got to see quite a few wide-bodies, as well as one of Alaska’s 737-900ERs! Lucky, on his blog “One Mile at a Time”, has a very nice guide on differentiating between different variants of wide-body aircraft. Simply put, it largely comes down to the number of wheels, engines, or doors they have. πŸ˜‰

I tried to find the right version of their seat map on SeatGuru, and have provided links to those, as well. If you find something amiss, please let me know!

Boeing 737-900ER
Airbus A340-300
Boeing 777-200ER
Boeing 777-300ER
Boeing 777-200LR
Airbus A380

After an hour and a half, because the inbound flight was a little late in arriving, I was on my way to Sacramento. It’s not a true visit to LAX without catching a glimpse of the Theme Building!

LAX Theme Building

American Airlines: Gold Status Offer

The Offer

A couple of days ago, I received an offer from American Airlines to enjoy Gold Elite Status through December 16th of this year. If I acquire 7,000 Elite Qualifying Miles in that time, I keep my status through January 2018! The icing on the cake is that this offer comes with 10, 500-mile upgrade certificates!

I love surprises!
I love surprises!

The Plan

I’m not 100% sure I’ll be able to take full advantage of this offer, but I signed up to be safe. I have a few routes that I’m throwing around in my head, but it comes down to if I can maintain Diamond status with only my work flights. I value maintaining Diamond substantially higher, since it allows me to confer Gold to my girlfriend for when she has to fly alone.

The Perks

Though Gold is the lowest level of status you can earn with American Airlines, the 40% mileage bonus and complimentary preferred seats are a nice touch. Main Cabin Extra seats are only available at the time of check-in, so it’s not terribly likely, but still a nice perk to have. Though my credit card allows a free checked bag as well as Group 1 boarding, Gold will offer quicker boarding when I’m traveling as well as another checked bag.

All in all, it isn’t a bad status to have! Since Delta requires 140 segments to maintain Diamond medallion, and American Airlines only requires 120 to maintain Executive Platinum, it is a tempting nudge to switch. The main detractor is the timing of flights for American when I leave Raleigh (to reach connecting cities), and the frequency of cancellations for the same. Delta’s operational record is what keeps me coming back for more, truth be told. In fact, the COO of American Airlines commended Delta for their record last year!

As I mentioned, though, if I need my Thanksgiving flights to maintain Diamond with Delta, American will be out of luck. Oh well!

Free Nights and Free Flights

Well… mostly free!Β The reason I say mostly free is that though the cost of the night or flight is covered, you are still responsible for paying the security costs and taxes (for flights), and resort fees and taxes (for hotels).

It’s no secret that I am a fan of responsible credit card use, and all the perks that come with them. One of the biggest perks offered by certain credit cards is that of free nights at certain hotels, or free flights for companions. Most of these are limited to once a year, with the coupon code reissued each cardholder anniversary.

I’ve broken down a few of the more common certificates, broken apart by hotel and airline. I have omitted the Companion Pass from Southwest as it is in a category of its own. After 100 one-way flights on Southwest, you get unlimited companion flights anywhere Southwest flies! You can also get it through credit card signup bonuses and creative spending. By timing when you get the Companion Pass, you can have it last for two years.

None of the credit card links below are affiliate links. Please check with the bank directly to see if you are eligible for a better promotional offer, though!


Alaska Airlines

Bank of America offers both personal and business versions of the Alaska Airlines co-branded credit card. In addition to the 30,000 mile signup bonus after spending $1000 within the first 3 months, you get a coupon code for a companion ticket. The coupon code can be applied directly when booking online – you will see an icon next to the prices for eligible routes. Note that you can only apply this discount to flights on Alaska Airline metal, not code-shares or partner flights, and all seats must be in economy.

However, you don’t need to be the one flying, nor do you need to use this credit card for the flight purchase. I used this for my brother and his girlfriend last year, and further reduced the price by paying with my Citi Prestige card to apply the $250 airfare credit.

American Airlines

Before the merger between American Airlines and US Airways, BarclayCard offered a credit card for US Airways that had a companion fare offer. As these cards have been converted into American Airlines Aviator cards of varying tiers, many of their perks also translated. The companion fare is only available for the Silver Aviator card, though.

As with the British Airways card, below, the cardholder must spend $30,000 in a calendar year to earn this ticket, but unlike the other coupons in this category, you can apply this to two guests at $99 (plus taxes) each. This is only valid for economy class travel in the 48 contiguous States. You also earn 5,000 elite-qualifying miles for every $20,000 you spend annually, to 10,000 miles.

It is not currently possible to apply for this card, but there has been talk of BarclayCard being allowed to allow new applicants for credit cards starting January 2017. They are limited to advertising in airports and on flights, though.

British Airways

Chase is no stranger to the co-branded credit card game, and I be going into their other offerings below. Their British Airways credit card has a standard signup bonus of 50,000 Avios for $3,000 spend in 3 months, and can easily peak to 75,000 or 100,000 Avios. If you collect Avios, you might want to hold off until one of those offers return.

The companion ticket offered with this card is known as a “Travel Together” ticket. Unlike other cards, this offer requires a hefty spend of $30,000 per calendar year, but the coupon code is offered for two years. The nice thing is you can apply this code for any cabin class: Economy, Business, or First, so long as you pay the associated fees. These associated fees can easily reach into the thousands of dollars when you look at fuel surcharges, though, so book carefully! Also note that this ticket applies specifically for reward tickets, not purchased tickets – you must use Avios to book your ticket, and your flight must originate from and return to the US.


American Express offers two credit cards that have companion ticket offerings with Delta, and they are slightly different from one another. The Platinum Delta SkyMiles card offers an economy class companion ticket, while the Delta Reserve SkyMiles card offers an economy or first class companion ticket (matching that of the paid flyer). Both flyers are denied upgrade opportunities when companion tickets are used, officially, though not always in practice according to FlyerTalk.

The Platinum SkyMiles card offers 35,000 miles after spending $1,000 in the first three months. Of those, 5,000 are Medallion Qualifying Miles. You can also earn 10,000 MQMs every $25,000 you spend annually. There is currently an offer with a $100 statement credit, as well, which helps offset the annual fee of $195.

Similarly, the Delta Reserve card offers 10,000 miles after your initial purchase. All of these miles are also MQMs, which helps you maintain status. You also earn an extra 15,000 MQMs for every $30,000 you spend annually. Though this comes with a $450 annual fee, you get unlimited SkyClub access in addition to the companion ticket to help soften that blow.


The Miles and More credit card by BarclayCard was recently upgraded from a World MasterCard to a World Elite MasterCard, and given a visual makeover as well. In addition to the standard co-branded card perks (extra miles earned for related spend), you receive a companion ticket annually. There are quite a few restrictions associated with this application, unfortunately, specifically in the fares you can apply the ticket against. The good news is there is no minimum spend associated with this as with British Airways.



The Fairmont card from Chase has an introductory offer of two free nights after meeting the $3,000 spend, and follows up with an annual certificate for a night – every year you spend more than $12,000.


Citi offers two Hilton cards, though only one comes with free nights. The Hilton Reserve card starts with two weekend night certificates after spending only $2,500, and also has an annual weekend night certificate for years that you meet a spend of $10,000. Keep in mind that these are only for weekend nights. There are limitations where you can apply these nights.


Hyatt currently has a promotion where you can get two nights at any Hyatt, world-wide, once you meet the $1,000 minimum spend. You are also given a complimentary night on your cardholder anniversary for hotels that are categories 1 through 4. There is no minimum spend associated with this certificate.

International Hotel Group

Just like the Hyatt card, above, Chase has a credit card for the IHG family of hotels that offers an annual certificate that is good for a free night at any IHG property. Not bad at all for $49 a year!


Chase (told you they knew the co-branded game!) offers both personal and business variants of their Marriott credit card that will give you 80,000 points for meeting the minimum spend of $3,000. There is also an annual certificate that you receive after your first year as a cardholder that is good for a free night at any category 1 to 5 hotel.


The last card on my list is the newly upgraded Visa Infinite Ritz-Carlton from Chase. For completing the minimum spend of $5,000, you receive three nights at participating category 1-4 hotels. You do not receive an annual certificate with this card, however.

Citi Prestige & TripBAM

Earlier this week I read about TripBAM from Harlan’s experience using it in conjunction with the Citi Prestige’s 4th Night Free benefit.

I wrote about the Prestige’s 4th Night Free benefit recently, and explained how it can be used to save tens to hundreds of dollars on an extended hotel stay. TripBAM in turn monitors hotel rates daily and sends you a notification when the difference in fare exceeds a limit you configure.

Harlan outlines the process to then apply that rate to a reservation you make through Citi Prestige’s Concierge:

  • Make the original reservation with the Prestige Concierge, using the 4th Night Free benefit
  • Create an alert with TripBAM to notify you when the price drops
  • TripBAM will notify you if/when the rate dips
  • Call the hotel directly and mention your confirmation number. By using the confirmation number, you can apply the new rate to the existing reservation.
  • Because you use the original confirmation (that Citi Prestige created), you get the original value reimbursed.

Another fun use of this benefit is to find a hotel that is offering a 5th night free rate. If you do, double check to make sure that the 5th night shows as having a cost of $0. Because the last night is free, you will be reimbursed for the 4th night, leaving the net cost as the first three. Not bad, right?

I’m unclear how either of these will work once the new Citi benefits take effect next year – receiving a credit for an average of the nights instead of the 4th night, in particular. However, until then I plan on taking full advantage of this!

Bank of America: “Museums on Us”

One of the less frequently publicized benefits to cards offered by Bank of America is their “Museums on Us” program. On the first full weekend of each month, cardholders are allowed free entrance to certain museums around the country. A full list of eligible cards as well as participating museums can be found on the Bank of America website.

An important restriction is that this admittance is limited to the cardholder alone – any guests will have to pay. Additionally, special events and ticketed shows are also excluded from this feature.

It’s hard to argue with free, though, so if you are in the area it is definitely worth taking advantage of! If you would rather see a full list of all participating museums, you can find that here. Note that the Smithsonian museums are not included, but are free for entry, so double-check to be safe!

2016 Fall Hotel Promotions

It isn’t uncommon for loyalty programs to run seasonal promotions, and hotels are no different. Currently, the larger brands are running some rather profitable promotions. If you are a member at one, or many, of these chains, it is always a good idea to subscribe to the email notifications offered by the chains.

Hilton HHonors

Hilton is running a spectacularly good promotion currently. In fact, it’s an extension of the current promotion given the way it was received by the traveling community at large. There are very few restrictions – largely based on the rate you pay. All hotels and resorts qualify, and there are no requirements for the length of stay. Once you are registered, you earn double points for all stays until December 31, 2016. Simple as that!

Starwood Preferrred Guest

SPG’s new promotion, More For You, won’t be open for registration until September 12th (running until December 18th), unfortunately. However, until then they have a game open where you can win many instant prizes – including Starpoints and free night certificates. Better still, all entries (limited to one per day, per account) goes into a final draw of 5 free nights and 50,000 Starpoints.


The 2016 Fall promotion being run by Marriott is similar to Starwood’s game, but instead of entering daily online, you are required to stay. With every stay after your second, however, you earn an additional 2,000 Marriott Rewards points (up to 10,000). Each stay will also enter you in the grand prize drawing of 100,000 points. There can be 100 winners!


Hyatt’s current promotions are for points redemption and purchases instead of earnings, but a full list can be found here. If you find out otherwise, please let me know!

International Hotel Group

For a few seasons now IHG has been running a customized promotion known as Accelerate. What I mean by this is that while the promotion is available for all IHG members, the earnings and criteria are customized for each member. You can find your personalized offer here and register at the same time. Since it is customized, I can’t lay out the specifics, but I can show you what I was offered!



Regardless of which loyalty program(s) you belong to, it is in your best interest to opt in for their emails and even their physical mailings. They offer quite a few things. I was invited to stay at the Westin Lagunamar for a timeshare pitch thanks to this. Five days and four nights for $499? Yes, please! Happy earning!

Vacation Report: Stowe, VT, Day 5

Stowe, VT, Day 1: Arrival to Burlington

Stowe, VT, Day 2: Farmer’s Market!

Stowe, VT, Day 3: Cider Doughnuts & Cheese

Stowe, VT, Day 4: Mt. Mansfield & Montpelier

Stowe, VT, Day 5: Return to Raleigh


On my return from Stowe, VT I flew back from Burlington, VT (BTV). The first flight was from Burlington to Detroit, and then routed from Detroit to Raleigh.

The full route can be seen here, courtesy of the Great Circle Mapper.

Flight Plan
Flight Plan

I only managed to upgrade to First Class for the first segment, as the second was a popular flight. Even with Diamond Medallion Status, it’s a gamble when flying out of a Delta hub city! As with the flight up, I went for window seats.

Breakfast at McCarthy’s

My girlfriend’s family usually reserves McCarthy’s for their last morning in Stowe, as it was my last day, they made an exception. I had quite a nice breakfast with made-from-scratch corned beef hash, fresh 12-grain wheat toast, and an omelette with spinach, Feta cheese, and artichokes.

Menu cover at McCarthy's - no plastic is a common trend in Stowe
Menu cover at McCarthy’s – no plastic is a common trend in Stowe
Mediterranean omelette with freshly made corned beef hash
Mediterranean omelette with freshly made corned beef hash

After breakfast, we couldn’t resist the opportunity to pose with the bears at the entrance. πŸ™‚

Carrie and I with the bears outside McCarthy's
Carrie and I with the bears outside McCarthy’s

Back to BTV

The return drive to Burlington International Airport was smooth, even with construction on I-89, and the route to the airport was marked clearly. Avis was a breeze, as always – it is worth signing up for their Preferred program, and it’s free! As I saw on my arrival, Burlington does offer TSA PreCheck, which had my hopes up. Unfortunately it was the “lite” version, where you still have to remove toiletries and laptops from your bags. At least you don’t have to get undressed, so there’s that.