Anatomy of a Mileage Run: Why Our Editor Flew 8,300 Miles in 25 Hours on a Trip to Nowhere

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We arrived 26 minutes early in Atlanta, ample time to walk over to the Sky Club in Concourse F to visit the outdoor Sky Deck and enjoy a ginger ale and the warm sunshine. However, I was on a schedule and had to proceed to the gate in Concourse E. Since I was going to be sitting for a prolonged period on the flights to and from Lima, I decided to walk to E, bypassing the Plane Train.

Boarding was already underway by the time I arrived at the gate but I soon became aware that things were moving very slowly. Indeed, we were 11 minutes delayed in our departure and arrived 14 minutes late in Lima. Since I wasn’t sure what Peru would require of me in terms of landing formalities or whether I could simply proceed through an in-transit checkpoint I was a little concerned, but there was nothing to be done at that point.

The purser, Tracy, introduced herself and asked if Lima was my final destination. Her jaw dropped when I said no, it’s New York and showed her my itinerary. I suspect that my itinerary became a subject of conversation on the part of the crew and that some, including the captain, had different theories about the reason for my trip. Tracy told me that once she explained to him that it was a mileage run, he appeared relieved, but I never did find out exactly what he was thinking.

Upon deplaning in Lima (it took forever for the jet bridge to arrive), I asked the agent greeting the flight how to proceed. It took him a few minutes before he fully understood that I was getting right back on the same 767-400 and going back to Atlanta, with departure scheduled roughly an hour hence. He directed me to an in-transit checkpoint where there was not only no wait time but I was encouraged to carry my bottle of water with me through the walk-through metal detector. I was the only passenger and the agents there were very accommodating considering that Spanish is a language I know very few words in.

The in-transit security check went so fast that I had time to stop in a few souvenir stores and buy a few items to prove I had actually been in Lima. I then proceeded to Gate 19 for boarding and it was bedlam. The lines were crazy and there was an additional security checkpoint set up in the middle of the gate area.

One agent was walking through the milling throng asking whether anyone was in business class and she brought us forward to a new line so we would be able to board first. The security check was perfunctory and quick and I was soon back on board, being greeted by Lily, the purser on the return flight.

While I watched movies and enjoyed the meal service while remaining awake on the flight down, it was my intention to sleep on the way back. I gathered an extra duvet and pillow and prepared for bed once we were aloft, stopping to sample some of the dinner service (yes, dinner on a flight departing at 2 hours past midnight). It was at that point that the captain, on route to his rest seat, stopped by my seat and said in a jocular manner, “Young man, you’re supposed to be asleep. You’ve been up all night”

After a quick nosh, I managed about four hours sleep and watched yet more reruns of some of the early episodes of Downton Abbey (thanks, Amazon Prime app!). As I woke up, another flight attendant, whom I hadn’t seen during the flight to that point, walked by, smiled, and enthusiastically said to me “One more leg and your journey will be over.” Everyone seemed to know.

We had departed 13 minutes late from Lima but were only three minutes late in arriving at the gate in Atlanta.

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