Airport #61/100: Amarillo (AMA)

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Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport · Amarillo, Texas, United States
First Visit: 24 January 2016 · http://www.flighthistorian.com/airports/AMA

I often have to travel to Altus, Oklahoma for work – and Altus is a city small enough that it doesn’t have its own commercial airport.

The closest commercial airport is Lawton, Oklahoma, about an hour’s drive away, but Lawton’s a tiny airport; there are no jetbridges, and it’s only served by a few flights a day on American Airlines to DFW. Wichita Falls, Texas and Oklahoma City are also viable options, as is just flying into DFW and driving for three and a half hours.

Basically, there are no great ways to get to Altus, so for my most recent trip, I decided to at least try a different way and fly into Amarillo, as the price wasn’t substantially different from any of the other options.

Amarillo was pretty decent for a small airport; the terminal felt modern, and it had glass jetbridges and airplane-themed carpet, both of which I like.

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On the negative side, it didn’t have a true TSA PreCheck lane; having PreCheck entitled me to a plastic card enabling me to keep my shoes on and to go through the metal detector rather than the body scanner, but I still had to take my laptop and liquids out of my bag. Signage also was not great for the rental car return; I missed it the first time and had to circle the airport before I found the entrance to the rental car lot, which still had no signs that I could see.

It’s still a bit of a drive from Amarillo to Altus (about two and a half hours, depending on route), but I’d consider using it as my Altus airport again.

My Airport History: Phoenix (PHX)

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Flight Log: http://www.flighthistorian.com/airports/PHX

I don’t end up with too many opportunities to fly through Phoenix. While it’s a large hub for US Airways (now American Airlines), it doesn’t serve Dayton.

As it turns out, In-N-Out Burger is also in Phoenix, and doesn’t serve Dayton.

While I’m sure it’s a trope by now, as someone who doesn’t live in the Southwest, I love when I get to visit cities that have In-N-Out burger. So when my girlfriend and I were taking a trip to Hawaii, we decided to take advantage of our 3.5-hour layover at PHX, and had a taxi take us to Tempe to take us through an In-N-Out. To date, this remains my most expensive trip to a fast food restaurant (a $40 taxi fare to get $10 worth of food), and the only time I’ve taken a taxi through a drive-thru.

Airport #55/100: Little Rock (LIT)

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Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport · Little Rock, Arkansas, United States
First Visit: 21 June 2015 · http://www.flighthistorian.com/airports/LIT


Arriving on a Sunday, I didn’t find Little Rock remarkably different from any other airport of a similar size; a dozen gates with a few small shops and restaurants. The signage could have been a little better – several passengers passed the less-than-obvious, unmarked door to pick up gate checked baggage, and the rental car signs pointed to unmanned counters when the employees were all just operating out of the garage booths directly. Still, it was an airport that it wouldn’t be terrible to be stuck at for a few hours.

I found that out the hard way.

I was originally supposed to travel home on a Friday evening after a full day of work, so my coworker and I had booked a flight departing at about 18:30 local to a 45-minute layover at DFW, and then on to Dayton from there. We’d finished early on Friday, however, so after a late lunch we were done for the day and with nothing better to do, we headed to the airport about four hours early to see if we could get rebooked to an earlier flight.

That didn’t turn out to be possible (our fare didn’t allow same-day same-cost flight changes, and the cost difference wouldn’t have been justifiable), so we each headed our own way to burn a few hours before our flight. Looking to pick up some steps on my Fitbit, I walked around the terminal for a while before passing through security and walking a few laps around the single concourse, before finally settling down to take advantage of the spectacular free wi-fi.

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Then, at about 17:00, I got an alert that my flight was delayed an hour and a half to 20:00, due to incoming aircraft availability. My second flight was still showing as on time, and I would almost certainly miss my connection, so I talked to a gate agent to try to find another way to get home that night. Nothing was available, though, so the best I could do was take my chances with my original flight and hope the flight to Dayton ended up being delayed as well – if not, I’d be spending the night in the Dallas area.

So, watching American Airlines’ app and FlightAware, I finally saw that my incoming flight was at DFW and ready to come to Little Rock to pick me up – right as the weather that had been hovering west of us came right at us.

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The storm, heading right for us

It was a bad storm. The concourse windows were shaking violently, and I got to experience my first (thankfully brief) power outage at an airport.

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And, just as the storm started to clear, another big thunderstorm hit DFW. A little bit after 20:00, I finally and unsurprisingly got the notice that my flight had been cancelled. I quickly booked a room in Little Rock, called American Airlines to get rebooked on flights the next morning, and finally left the airport to catch a cab to my hotel.

The next morning I headed back into the airport, and was able to depart without much trouble.

Because of all of that fun, Little Rock may now be the airport with my highest average time spent per visit – 9 hours at the airport, with two flights recorded in the flight log.

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Downtown Little Rock as seen from the airport concourse

My Airport History: Salt Lake City (SLC)

Flight Log: http://www.flighthistorian.com/airports/SLC

Despite its status as a Delta hub, every SLC flight I’ve been on has been on American Airlines.

It’s also my worst rental car airport with four out of four experiences being poor – I’ve been rented a car with a loose drivers’ seat, had my reserved car given away twice, and been retroactively charged for rental insurance after explicitly declining it. Only St. Louis’s rental car experience has come anywhere close to that consistently bad.

My Airport History: Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW)

DFW

Flight Log: http://www.flighthistorian.com/airports/DFW

DFW is one of the first airports I became especially familiar with, and it’s now one of my favorite layover airports.

Initially, I wasn’t using DFW for layovers at all; my new job had a contractor near Dallas that we had to visit frequently, and so I made quite a few trips to Dallas as a destination.

American Airlines, with their enormous hub there, was the only airline to offer a direct flight there, and they were my employer’s preferred carrier for DAY – DFW. Thus, my first frequent flier elite status came with American Airlines’ AAdvantage program, and once I earned that, I began to focus on using American when I did have a choice of airlines. Since, at the time, American only served Dallas/Fort Worth and Chicago-O’Hare from Dayton, I ended up with DFW as a layover on a good portion of my westbound flights.

Dallas becomes the first airport at which I have a single flight round trip

In February 2013, I had a trip to Austin, with a layover at DFW in both directions. On my outbound flight from DFW to Austin, our pilot came onto the intercom and nonchalantly informed us that the plane on fire outside the right windows is nothing to be alarmed about.

He was absolutely correct; at DFW, they have a fire department aircraft trainer – what looks like an old aircraft, which can be set on fire so that the fire department can practice putting it out. I’ve seen these trainers at a number of airports, but I hadn’t yet seen one in use.

On the return trip, I boarded what I believed to be my final flight of the day at DFW, expecting to fly back to Dayton. Instead, about a half hour into the flight, the lights flickered; a few minutes later, the crew informed us that the aircraft had experienced a generator failure, and while they had a backup, we were going to return to DFW for safety. When we landed and deplaned, I could see from the concourse that a number of DFW fire trucks had followed us back to our gate.

DFW-Fire-Trucks

I don’t know if the problem was worse than the crew let on, or if all the fire trucks were a precautionary measure, but at least I knew the fire crews were well trained.

Percentage of Flights on American Airlines

American Airlines was the first airline I gained elite status on, and for a while, I was able to fly the majority of flights on American (particularly helped by having my most frequent work destination at the time be the Dallas/Fort Worth area). However, by early 2012, my work travel destinations had changed, and travel American Airlines was less feasible for a substantial portion of my trips. I was able to maintain my status for a while, but United became my new preferred airline, and my share of American flights began to diminish.

Because of the substantial lead I’d built up with American, it still took me until this month for AA to dip below 50% of my total flights. I’ve decided to commemorate the occasion with a graph.

AA Percentage

The flight that originally pushed me over 50% was a personal flight from Dallas/Fort Worth to San Jose, California on 15 June, 2009. AA peaked on my first Hawaii vacation’s final flight on 15 February 2012; just after that was when I started favoring United. However, AA was able to hold onto its majority until I flew from Chicago-Midway to Orlando on 4 July, 2014 for a quick weekend vacation. Oddly enough, despite most of my flights being work travel, all three of those milestones occurred on personal flights.

It will take me a while longer to hit 50% on United — 50% of 300+ flights I have now is much harder than 50% of the very few flights I had in 2009!

United Percentage