Know When to Hold Them, Know When to Fold Them

I had planned a trip south to see family this weekend and for once had decided to make things easy on myself, catching a Friday afternoon flight out with a connection in Charlotte that would get me there early evening instead of my typical 11PM arrival. So having made a rare effort to reduce my stress, it was with increasing uneasiness that I watched the weather forecast for Friday projecting afternoon snow for DC and a huge mess for Charlotte.

No travel advisories had been issued for Charlotte although the place was projected to be blanketed in ice so I just had to sit tight unless I wanted to pay a $150 change fee to get on a direct flight to a nearby airport. I did tweet US Airways in case they could help, and they helpfully responded with a link to their Move Up option.

For $75, waived for Dividend Miles Preferred members, you could change your flight (at the airport) as long as the flight was within 6 hours of your original departure and had the same number of stops. Booo. The only flight that would get me to Charlotte (and out) before the storm hit left 20 minutes before the 6 hour window. And my other options that would avoid delays were all non-stop and didn’t qualify.

But I did decide to move up my DC-Charlotte leg in case the storm hit DC but not Charlotte and I could still make it. So I left work at 10:30 AM (not sure my boss was thrilled) to request space on the noon flight out. I got it, although I wound up seated in the second to last row in the back. The flight eventually left after a 45 min delay and I arrived in Charlotte to wait for 5 hours for my next flight.

I whiled away the time in the US Airways club bar area, trying out the steak salad (tasty, but a little mushy) and amusing myself listening to the conversations of various business men. The most entertaining was the lengthy discussion about how the Kardashians actually became famous.

And during this time I kept getting calls from US Airways’ automated system announcing further delays to the flight, finally settling on a 7:21 departure. Around 6 I headed to the restroom and grabbed one last glass of wine for the 30 minutes before I’d head to the gate. And as I had been doing all afternoon, I idly refreshed the flight status page.

Which now announced that my flight was departing at 6:24. And it was 6:13. ACK!

I flew out of the club and starting sprinting down the people movers. Fortunately I was better shod in some of my favorite 4” Marc Fisher pumps this time (and probably could have beat Jeanne had she been there) as there were no helpful golf carts along the way. I arrived heaving and frantic at gate E2 in 5 minutes to discover the flight had been moved to the end of the terminal (not my end) to gate E27. Calves aching I eventually arrived at the gate at 6:25 to discover, no surprise, the flight hadn’t left.

Other folks showed up breathless and worried shortly after me and we all congregated in the small waiting area to wait. And wait. The departure time kept getting pushed, and finally at 7:20 they announced the flight was cancelled and gave us a priority number to call to get rebooked.

Booo. So I called and the later 9:19PM flight was still on and had space. I decided to give it a try instead of the morning flight so I wouldn’t miss any more time with my family. Then I called my dad who wisely recommended I take the morning flight if I could get a hotel room. That way I’d know I had a flight, in case the 9PM wound up cancelled and the morning flight filled up, plus I’d be better rested than I would be having spent 4 hours more waiting in the airport and probably more fun to be around (he didn’t say that last part, but I know it to be true).

I pulled up the Starwood website and discovered my default hotel, the Sheraton Charlotte Airport, was sold out, but the Four Points Charlotte had award availability. I quickly snagged a room for 1600 points and $30, and called US Airways back. They had no problem rebooking me for the morning, so I then called the Four Points to find out where to meet the shuttle.

It was time to give up for the day. I really really wanted to get home, but realized delaying til morning would make it more likely I did get home and in a state worth being around. And as I was walking out to the hotel shuttle I got another call from the US Airways automated service announcing that the 9PM flight was delayed until at least 10:49PM for deicing delays. Yep, I’d definitely bailed at the right time.

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Heels First is the travels and tribulations of two twenty-something frequent fliers jumping into the world of travel. Join Keri and Jeanne as they tackle mileage runs, elite status, and of course–the perfect travel accessories.

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  • I had a sort-of-similar experience on Wednesday: I was going to a church conference and doing an IHS meetup in Nashville and had booked a flight that went to Nashville (via Atlanta) in the morning and returned in the evening. It might seem silly to fly from BHM to Nashville via Atlanta, but it was fairly cheap, and I expected to be able to work on syllabi and other stuff in the air and at the airport. I also hate driving.

    The 5:30 AM BHM-ATL flight was delayed, and we were sitting on the plane being told they had no idea when we would be able to depart. A quick calculation later, I decided to ask the flight attendant if I could get a refund if I deplaned and drove to my destination. Since this was the first leg of the trip and since it was due to a tech problem, I was able to get a refund. Not optimal, but as repeated “DELAY” notifications came in via the Delta app while I was driving, I discovered that I had chosen wisely.

 
 

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