I still simply can not get over the fact that it was the better part of 15 months between the time I got off my last jet to the day I set foot on my next one. Had you told me that would be the case on 1JAN2020 I would have laughed in your face (you could do that back then before COVID ya know)!
I don’t mind admitting that I was a bit nervous about flying again and travel at all. This from someone who “normally” flies tens of thousands of miles per year and all over the world. But that long away from travel and not having tested the “new norm” I wanted to pick a fun spot to visit.
There was also some planning involved in the fun. I want to fly somewhere I could enjoy and feel safe and have as good an experience as I could along the way. Thus, with way too many points in all my frequent flyer accounts, I booked a direct South Bend to Dallas flight on American in First class.
Why Dallas? I have not had any amazing BBQ in, well, 15 months+ now and one of my favorite spots on the planet is Hard Eight near DFW.
The flight down really was fine. My wife made a very comfortable mask for me and having had both of our vaccination shots (and waited 2+ weeks) I felt comfortable throughout the experience. I will say I am not a fan of the “dip-N-sip” game for onboard beverages that will be the norm until at least mid September when hopefully the mask rule on jets is dropped.
Now this entire trip was paid for one way or the other with points. I used points to fly (other than a few bucks in tax) and had a soon to expire Hyatt free night cert and they were nice enough to put us in a room with an airport view at the Hyatt Regency DFW and the app check-in and room key (in app) worked perfect avoiding any kind of wait at the counter (and avoiding people as well). I would rather have stayed at the Grand Hyatt DFW but sadly I could not use my Hyatt card free night cert.
We took an Uber and have been slowly racking up free credits from my monthly $50 Uber buys in Paypal funded with my Amex Platinum card for the Jan-June $30 back via Paypal. That and the normal monthly Uber credit made the ride both ways free. We switched from our comfy travel masks to toss-away 3M N95s because we did not want to smell BBQ until we had a chance to wash them out!
I have reviewed Hard Eight near DFW before and there was one major change this visit. The place was, on a Friday night, only to about 33% of capacity of people. There was almost no line to order food (normally out the door) and seating was wide open i.e. the closest table with people near us was 10-15 feet.
The food was just as good as my taste memory remembered and the sirloin was one of the best ever. The ribs were, as always, fantastic and made the trip worth it by themselves. I really had to pace myself to enjoy this treat since I had flown all the way from South Bend just for dinner after all! What a treat.
Our flight home was just before lunch that allowed us to have breakfast in the Centurion DFW. I was told they have only been reopened for about 6 months and, as you can see, have moved to staff providing you food as you request from the buffet.
At 9:30AM the lounge was mostly empty but by 10:30AM on a Saturday it was packed and at capacity and they were turning folks away. The spa is closed but may reopen in the coming months.
My carryon is a Samsonite Winfield 2 hardsided spinner that fits perfectly in the overhead on a CJR700. On the way down the South Bend gate agent suggested plane side checking and I told them it fits and they shrugged and let me go. In Dallas the AA gate agent glared at me when I told her it will fit and that it fit on the way down and still put a tag on it. I simply carried the bag on and tossed it into the overhead (at least she did not take it from me like AA did to my fellow blogger Gary)!
The flight back was also fine. The FAs were reasonably attentive and kind and one of them was about to go work for Delta mainline.
Overall it was really a fun and reasonably safe way for this fully vaccinated frequent flyer to get his feet wet again with travel. I paid for the flight with points. The hotel with a free night cert. Uber rides were free. Centurion was free with my Amex Platinum card and food was free as I have a bunch of Ultimate Rewards points and am using the pay myself back for restaurant charges so that too was free.
I have a few more trips in the coming weeks then am staying grounded till this fall. I hope there will either be a massive drop in COVID cases by then and or a booster shot available by that time. I hope, as I have planned, 2022 will be a much more frequent travel year for us all! – René
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