Mileage Run to Anchorage via San Juan: Outbound

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A few months back a really cheap paid first class ticket from SJU (San Juan) to ANC (Anchorage) came up on US Airways. $775 first class during peak season!

I’d been itching to go back sometime for the Alaskan fall and finally get to do a flightseeing tour around Mt McKinley and Denali AND it just so happened to coincide with my US Airways Preferred Status trial.

I was a little bummed when I realized my class of service bonus wouldn’t count towards my trial, but that was still 12,000 flown miles and no worries about upgrades. Tickets from DC to San Juan were only running $200 each way too, so I went for it, booking an early flight into San Juan for the day before in order to have an afternoon/evening to explore.

My flights out to San Juan were pretty uneventful. I’d decided to go ahead and upgrade my CLT-SJU flight using 15,000 miles, rather than worry about whether my complimentary upgrades as a silver would clear for the 3.5 hr flight. The San Juan flight was a little late leaving but we arrived only 15 minutes after our scheduled arrival and within 10 min of deplaning I was on the Avis Rental Car bus headed to the facility.

This place participates in the new Select & Go program, but I’d clearly already been assigned one of the better cars on the lot (and there was no convertibles in sight) so I was soon in my car and on the road. Only to encounter torrential downpours and a difference between how Google Maps labels roads and how Puerto Rico does.

If you’re staying in the San Juan area, seriously consider if renting a car to get to your hotel is necessary. The rain and my lostness having put a literal damper on my desire to explore any further, I checked into my hotel – the Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel & Casino.

The rain also put a damper on my enjoyment of the 4th infinity pool and I wound up spending the afternoon working from my spacious hotel room before meeting a friend downstairs for dinner at the Texas de Brazil steakhouse.

However, nothing could squelch the fun of having people ask me if I was in San Juan for business or pleasure and seeing the range of expressions on their faces when they heard I was just connecting to a flight to Anchorage.  Because it was “cheaper” than flying straight from DC. 🙂

Next morning I headed out to the airport (it was a bit easier to find this time) around 7, and was extremely lucky not to encounter rush hour traffic which I’d completely forgotten about. I made good time and was soon back at Avis being driven to the terminal. There I embarrassed myself by neglecting to take the rental car key fob out of my laptop case and give it to the driver, who several minutes later was tracking me down in the terminal because the car had gone outside the range. Poor man!

The flight from SJU to PHL was my first encounter with a US Airways 757 and I really enjoyed the footrests! I also liked that the flight attendant brought everyone their own liter bottles of water rather than making us ding (or go without, for those who are too shy) the call button for refills. Breakfast was a fairly tasty and very cheesy omelet with a pale slab of hashbrown, fruit plate, and a very flaky croissant. The only bad part of the flight was one of my fellow passengers was having intestinal distress  not making use of the unoccupied lavatory to relieve his gas. (Tip: It is NOT kind to pass excessive gas from your seat when you can use the restroom just because people don’t know who you are).

Nothing to report on the flight from PHL-PHX (Phoenix), although this time I was emboldend to ask for my own bottle of water at the beginning.  At the US Airways club in PHX I was still without my United Club card and learned that the desk reps are not supposed to handle your phone to see your proof of membership. What they can do, however, is call the local United club, if one exists, and ask them to verify your membership. The helpful lady also suggested the next time I was in one to ask them to print a temporary proof of membership for me, which they apparently can do on request.

PHX-ANC was mostly uneventful, except for the rudeness displayed by a fellow first class passenger about my age. Now I’ll admit the flight got off to a bad start. While listening to the pre-boarding announcements so overanxious passengers decided that “those traveling with small children can board after zone 2” meant that zone 2 had been called and literally swarmed the boarding lanes, even though the elite line, which I was at the front of, clearly had not moved.

This ticked off the guy behind me, who continued that grudge on the plane. An elderly couple had been split up and assigned window seats next to each of us. While no one had given my seat away, I explained apologetically to the woman next to me that I needed to get up a lot on the flight and wouldn’t be able to switch with her husband. The guy behind me merely remarked caustically to his 80yr old seat mate that if he wanted an aisle seat he should have booked one.

Karma kicked in at the end of the flight though. As I was racing to the Avis desk after midnight to get checked in, I noticed he was a few steps ahead of me headed for the same line. And I’m glad he was, because then I got to witness a wonderful sight.

Apparently his license and his license extension had expired the day before. And, the women gently explained in the face of his fury, no one in Alaska would rent to him with an expired license. He was none too happy but I couldn’t help feeling that he got what a nicer person wouldn’t have deserved.

When it was my turn, I discovered that my free rental day cert wouldn’t work because summer is a blackout location at all Alaska locations. BUT it was the first time (I’ve rented 2x before) that my Avis status was recognized. I’d been upgraded from an intermediate to a Hyundai Santa Fe (SUV) and was offered a further upgrade to a Ford Expedition or another equally massive option.

I was quite happy with my Santa Fe and left the airport in a tired but happy mood.

Stay tuned for details on my flight over Mt. McKinley and review of the Sheraton Anchorage!


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Heels First is the travels and tribulations of two twenty-something frequent fliers jumping into the world of travel. Join Keri and Jeanne as they tackle mileage runs, elite status, and of course–the perfect travel accessories.

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Living for the little (and big things) that make life so fun, especially mistake deals and crazy last minute weekend mileage runs across the world.


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