Back to the friendly skies.. Will I even remember how to fly?

When I board the plane on Monday morning, it will have been over ten weeks since the last time I was at an airport.  That is three times longer than I’ve kept my feet on the ground at any other period in the last year.  I flew over thirty segments between my initial trip to MSP for my new position on September 18th of last year and my last trip back to that same airport on July 8th of this year.  Looking back, the baggage check, gate agents, and flight attendants were getting to know me by name, which seems so unusual now.

After driving my car back through Milwaukee and Chicago on my way to Elyria, I was relieved that I wouldn’t need to go three weeks at a time without seeing Kristin anymore, and I must say that the time apart really helped me understand how lucky I am to have the opportunity to work from my home office.  After 2.5 years of remote work for Online Support, I had definitely started taking the arrangement for granted.  That is not a mistake I’ll be making again.

There are definitely some changes in my travel arrangements these days.  Most importantly, I’ll be traveling to Minneapolis once every couple of months for 4 to 5 days, a far cry from my previous schedule.  Also of note is the fact that, despite my love for them over the last few years, I will no longer be flying out of CAK or flying on AirTran.  Despite the fact that I have already renewed my Elite status for 2013 due to my previous flight commitments, the 2.5 hour round trip commute from home to airport makes the trip quite tiring.  Also, AirTran’s fares have shot through the roof as Southwest continues to convert the airline to their brand, and soon, AirTran will cease to exist.  We’ll be flying on the airline one more time:  Our spring vacation, which I’ll talk about later.

The new airline of choice is United.  After Kristin’s not-so-great experience with them, it was a tough call, but airfares have gone up drastically over the past year and they had some very strong things going for them:

  • They offer the lowest fares for CLE-MSP round trips
  • They offer nonstop service to MSP on early Monday mornings
  • They offer nonstop service to CLE on early Thursday evenings
  • CLE is only about twenty minutes away, saving two hours of round trip driving vs. CAK
  • They are a preferred airline partner of my employer
  • They offer a great quasi-Elite experience without the necessity of earning status

All those things considered, it was a no-brainer that I had to make the switch.  Even AirTran has raised their fares higher than United.  The last bullet was a real kicker for me: Since I won’t be flying nearly enough to earn status on United, I was a bit sad to lose some of the benefits that let me be lazy and show up late to the airport to buzz through baggage check and security.  Fortunately, United introduced a pretty sweet package this year with one of their credit cards, the MileagePlus Club card, that offers Priority Access to baggage check, security, boarding, and gives you a couple of free checked bags on each flight as well.

I balked at the annual fee at first, but then I did the math:  Six round trips to MSP per year X $25 each way for one bag = $300.  One vacation round trip for Kristin and I, with one bag each, adds another $100 for a total of $400 in bag fees.  The card’s annual fee?  $395.  Suddenly, I was breaking even, and it was sort of a no-brainer.

(Seriously, if you’re not using credit cards with rewards like this, you’re not getting the best bang for your buck.  Krissy and I have the Giant Eagle Advantage credit card, it doesn’t cost a thing, it saves us a ton of money on gas, and we pay it off when we use it.  Hooray for free gas and plane tickets and stuff!)

Anyway, back to my trips… I leave bright and early Monday morning for MSP.  I’ll touch down in Minnesota at 8:33, take a taxi over to the corporate office, and walk into my 9:00 meeting right on time.  I hope.  During the four days that I’m out there working at my desk on C7, I have about 28 hours of appointments and four hours of open time to take breathers and respond to e-mails.  It’s going to be one hell of a busy week.  Beyond that, I have happy hours all three nights with coworkers that I haven’t seen in nearly two months and a Twins game with some coworkers on Tuesday night.  Thursday, I leave a volunteer event at 5, get on a plane at ~6:30, and get back to Cleveland a little under two hours later.

Friday’s a work day, of course, but I’ll get to enjoy Friday night and all day Saturday here at home before heading back to Cleveland Hopkins on Sunday morning.  Just after noon, I’ll be on a plane to Orlando for a company event to prepare for the holiday shopping season. I’ll keep busy on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday while the e-mails pile up, and I will take the team back to the airport bright and early Thursday morning.  My flight is the last to leave, so I’ll be chilling at MCO for a while, grabbing some lunch, and probably working via my phone’s 4G.  When I do fly home, I’ll get back to the house at nearly the same time as Kristin.  If I’m lucky, I’ll beat her.

And then, again, Friday’s another workday.  Both Fridays will probably be frantic e-mail reply days.  Looking at the task list I already have on the notepad beside me, I shudder to think what it will look like after all this madness.  All that said, this is the type of flying by the seat of my pants that made Covert Ops so much fun, so it’ll be invigorating to see if I’m still up to the challenge.  Mountain Dew as fuel, and here I come!

In the end, I’m looking forward to a little time off, as well.  I have cancelled multiple vacations this year for various reasons (excessive triple digit heat, Kristin’s new job, etc.) and so I have a little bit saved up.  The plan right now is to take advantage of Kristin’s spring break week and visit San Juan, Puerto Rico before my AirTran A+ Rewards points expire.  It will likely be our final flight on what was once my favorite airline.

Anyway, it’s finally Friday night and I’m off to do some relaxing.  And by relaxing, I mean laundry.