Even though our Charlotte to Miami flight was at 6:10PM, we had our friends pick us up at 3:15PM to take us to the airport. We wanted the extra time to have a celebratory toast at Beaudevin in the Charlotte main concourse. Afterall, we were about to embark on a trip for which we had been impatiently waiting for months. And now was the time to make it happen.
My wife has Global Entry, thus giving her TSA pre-check almost always. I have TSA pre-check as part of my US Airways Chairman Preferred membership. However, on this day, we were flying American Airlines and LAN, where I have no status and no pre-check. So my wife received the three beeps for pre-check, I did not. Yet another #TSAShoulderSyndrome was executed, and I passed through the Walk Through Metal Detector with my dignity, and we went on our way to Beaudevin.
At Beaudevin, we had a very friendly waiter from Ecuador servce us some Italian Prosecco and a meat/cheese plate consisting of craft California Jack, Point Reyes Bleu, and some spicy Salami from Spain. We took altitude sickness medicine that morning, Diamox, to prepare for Cuzco, and apparently it makes all things carbonated taste bad. That was true with a Coke Cherry Zero I bought earlier in the day. The Prosecco had a weird taste. And later, once in the Admirals Club in Miami, even the club soda tasted weird.
While munching away, celebrating life, and sharing platitudes about how lucky we were to be able to take this trip, I received a notification from TripIt on my phone’s e-mail saying that our CLT – MIA flight was delayed by 45 minutes. Me, being the enterprising frequent flier, had an idea. We are both Chairman members on US Airways. US Airways also flies CLT – MIA, and there was a flight at 5:57PM that would arrive 15 minutes prior to our originally scheduled arrival time on the AA flight. First class and Economy were wide open according to FlightStats. So I called AA, and said I was worried we would miss our 3 hour connection because delays could cascade, and asked to be put on CLT – MIA. They ablidged, and our eyes lit up at the opportunity to fly on an A319 in domestic first class with free hooch instead of the Regional Jet in Economy. They said we just had to get to an American Airlines desk to reissue the ticket. We hustled to the AA desk in terminal A from Beaudevin, as we were only about one hour out from the scheduled US Airways CLT – MIA departure. Unfortunately, the AA agent had a line of 5 people in front of us, and was helping track down some peoples lost bags, rebook some people to St. Louis, and so on and so forth. By the time we got up to her, we had only 30 minutes to spare before the flight pushed back. We asked to be reissued, and she refused. She was actually quite obstinate, saying that there is no way we would make it to terminal C where the US CLT – MIA flight pushed back, and our delay was only 45 minutes. As politely and professionally as possible, I let her know that we knew it was tight, and didn’t mind trying, and would appreciate the exercise should we have to come back. She started stalling some more, getting her coworkers involved in telling us we wouldn’t make it. She called a US Airways supervisor, to try to get his validation that we wouldn’t make it. All the while precious minutes were ticking away. Finally, with only 10 minutes to go until our desired US CLT – MIA flight pushed back, and still no reissued ticket from the agent, we conceded that given all the delays and obstination, we would definitely not make it, and resigned ourselves to the fact that we still be on the Regional Jet and not crushing it up front.
So we sat in the terminal and waited for our AA CLT – MIA flight.
Charlotte – Miami
Departure Time: 610PM
Embraer 145 Regional Jet
Economy Class Seat 6A
As far as first world problems go, this was a big one. Out of our 30 flights, CLT – MIA is the only flight on a regional jet. No First Class. Just coach and weak seat pitch. My wife is 5’9″, and I clock in at 6’4″ (1.93m), so while regional jets are manageable, they are not desirable. Especially when on a Business Class award ticket.
During the two hour flight, I played Civilization V on my computer, and my wife read her book. Some Conrad novel about South America.
We arrived in Miami at around 9PM, and made our way to the AA Admirals Club. Our connecting flight to Lima was to board at 11:15PM, so we were going to cool our heels for a while. We got some Malbecs to sip on while we were waiting. Regrettably, TripIt sent me a notification saying our Miami to Lima flight was delayed for 2 hours, from 11:55PM to 1:55AM. I was already quite tired as it was, so the last thing I wanted was to sit around for 2 more hours before a red-eye flight. Nevertheless, I saw this as an opportunity to switch onto the Miami – Lima flight on LAN airlines, which flies a lie-flat seat on a 767, instead of the 757 domestic First Class configuration American Airlines flies on the route. The LAN flight was full, so we bided our time. At around Midnight, our AA Admirals Club closed and we were sent to another one down the D terminal in Miami. I dozed in an out while the creepy bartender would hit on my wife each time she would refill her drink.
Miami – Lima
Departure Time: 11:55PM (Actual 2:00AM)
Business Class Seat 4A
We headed to the gate around 1:15AM, and were some of the first to board. I knew going in that the 757-200 domestic configuration was going to be pretty weak in business class. In fact, I noted to my wife that of the 7 red-eye flights we have on our trip, this one would be the least comfortable. I wanted the 767 lie flat on AA or LAN, but they were either not available for award tickets even 11 months out, or were not a red-eye. Sadly, my expectations were realized. The seats were old. The cabin felt old and ratty. There was, however, a decent sized pillow and duvet. No amenity kit, eyeshades, etc. on this almost 6 hour international business class flight. I was exhausted, so I skipped the dinner and breakfast and tried to sleep. My wife stayed up for it, and had a tasty Mushroom soup, filet with crab meat, and a cheese plate.
I ended up with about 4.5 hours of sleep, which was pretty good for not being able to recline all the way back, or even be cradled in the old-school recliner seats. I brought earplugs that I use while at a NASCAR race, and an eye-shade, and those were indispensable to get some deep sleep.
We arrived in Lima about two hours late, went through the customs and immigration formalities just in time to miss our connecting flight to Cuzco by about 10 minutes.
However, we were in luck as there was another Cuzco flight leaving 20 minutes later, and we talked to the friendly gate agent staff who got us on that flight.
Lima – Cuzco
Departure Time: 7:05AM
Economy Class – Seat ??
Lima to Cuzco is served almost hourly in the morning and early afternoon by LAN all economy A320s. While it is economy, and the seat pitch is brutal, the planes are new and clean, and I found the flight attendants, including one English speaking attendant, to be very professional and responsive. We were bussed to our remote gate, and climbed up the stairs to the plane.
Our original flight had us in 6A and 6B. When getting put on this flight, the gate agent told us we were now in 1A and 1B. When we boarded, 1A and 1B were taken. We figured we would just go with the flow, and posted up in vacant 1D and 1E. Towards the end of boarding, a gentleman came up and claimed 1E. We asked the flight attendant about 1A and 1B, even though we didn’t have a boarding pass to justify it. She said her paperwork had the seats as vacant, but row 2 was empty so we were contento to sit there.
For a short hour flight, a snack plate of local big-Agro snacks were served, including Vanilla Wafers, a Chocolate Wafer, and some table crackers. I had the Chocolate Wafer and some Hot Tea while my wife slept. It was an uneventful flight, with beautiful views of endless mountains the whole way. I used this time to crank out some Trip Report updates.