A Mileage Run to the Bahamas
The first day of my 48-hour quest for Platinum was my DCA-PHL-NAS-CLT-DCA trip with a 2 and a half hour layover in Nassau. Let me just say straight out that I do not recommend doing a mileage run to Nassau until construction there is completed. Especially when you have another flight to another country the next day. But I will get back to that.
My upgrades on my PHL-NAS-DCA legs cleared.
My flight to Philadelphia left out the US Airways commuter gate at Washington-National. Anyone who often flies US Airways out of DCA is familar with gate 35A. You sit in a waiting area until your flight is called and take a shuttle bus out to your plane. Flights board within a few minutes of each other and things are pretty efficient. My flight to Philadelphia was supposed to land at 8:13 and my flight to Nassau boarded at 9:45am.
So I wasn’t worried at 7am when my 7:15 am flight hadn’t been called yet. Then it was 7:15. Then 7:30.
They finally announced our plane had landed and I felt pretty relieved. I still had plenty of time for my connection to Nassau.
I boarded the plane and relaxed. Until a heavy downpour began. They put a ground stop on flights out of DCA and the pilot let us know that we’d be #20 in line for takeoff once it stopped. And as it poured, we waited.
A few people on my flight were also going to Nassau and my iPad came in really handy. First, I was reassuring people that if we left soon, we’d make it. Then as 8:45am approached, I began looking at other options for everyone. The was a later flight that got in as soon as my return flight departed. Darn.
I admit that my itineraries weren’t the smartest itineraries, but they were the cheapest I could do at last minute. I had myself in a little bit of trouble. I could get to the Bahamas, but I couldn’t get back in time to do my Jamaica trip with Keri.
I started looking into other options. Could I switch my tickets to DFW or somewhere else out in the Texas area? I came up with a list of options of places I would like to go instead of the Bahamas (making sure to map out the miles, just to make sure). At this point, I was already committed, so I was willing to take a financial hit to fix this.
We finally departed around 9am and the flight took about 45 minutes. Interpreting “You may now use your smart phones” very broadly, I whipped out my iPad and checked the status of my next flight. 15 minutes late. I had 15 minutes to catch the plane.
When I got off the plane, a woman called me by name over to the side to rebook my next flight. I really appreciated how pro-active US Airways was, but I asked if I had any chance of making my original flight. She gestured at my bagless self and said, “I assume you have checked luggage, you’ll need to rebook.” I let her know I didn’t, and I REALLY needed to make this flight. She said one word: “Run.”
As I ran, I saw her reach over to the phone, and I assume (but don’t know for a fact) that she called over to the gate. The Philadelphia airport’s international gates are on the opposite side from the commuter gates, but there’s a shuttle that runs frequently between the two. I got on a shuttle that left as soon as I reached it and I got to my gate so quickly, I didn’t actually need to run for it. (In fact, the gate agent figured out I was the person trying to make the flight and gestured that I could slow down).
One other person boarded after me. We only took off 20 minutes late and the pilot seemed pretty sure he could make up most of the time. I brought some paperwork with me, so I really appreciated the space in First Class to spread out and use those in-flight hours efficiently. I had about two hours to make my connection in the Bahamas, so I felt confident. I even looked up the terminals ahead of time to see my path through the airport.
Except the terminals I researched weren’t the terminals we landed at. I didn’t look up the wrong airport–it was just outdated. The international terminal was basically closed at Nassau for construction. That meant we were lead down a make-shift hallway to the local terminal of Nassau through customs. It took about 20 minutes to walk. The hallway wasn’t large enough to pass people, so we were all as fast as the first person in line. (I didn’t realize the need to be first until I was already off the plane).
At this point I was a little worried. We were walking all the way to this terminal, which meant I had to walk back. That’s another 20 minutes. And when you leave the US flights area of the Nassau Airport, you have to go through US pre-clearance. That means customs and immigration before even landing in the US.
I went through Bahamian Customs & Immigration and exited the secure area. I asked the nearest person the fastest way back to the International Terminal. There was a shuttle every 20 minutes that had just left and walking takes 15-20 minutes. The man looked over at my departure time and exclaimed, “What are you doing over here?!” He motioned a car over, pretended to yell at the driver, while opening the door for me. He told the driver to drop me off at the other terminal. And he did, very quickly.
I awkwardly tipped the driver, not knowing what the culture is like there and hoping I wasn’t offending him and ran into the terminal. And hit a very slow line in US Customs & Immigration.
By the time I got to the Customs agent, there were 15 minutes to my departure time. On an international flight. I desperately blurted out what I was doing, why I was there, and that I was about to miss my flight. The agent asked me three questions: How many miles do I have? How many miles is platinum? How many miles did I have left till platinum? I answered extremely precisely and the man stamped my passport, wishing me good luck.
And I ran. When I say I ran in this case, it wasn’t fast walking. It wasn’t a speedy jog. I was all-out sprinting as if I were running for my life. When I reached the gate, the door was already closed. In between gasps, I got out: “Please.” The man called his supervisor who asked, “Is that the girl who came in from Philadelphia?” I nodded vigorously and I was somehow let on the plane. The plane started departing immediately after I sat. I was hyperventilating and looking longingly up at the area where they store the oxygen masks. It took controlled breathing and a stiff drink to get my heart rate down, but I made it back to the United States in time for my Jamaica flight.