Right now I am crammed into seat 27E, a middle seat, on board Delta Air Lines Flight 2362, a Boeing 757-200 flying from Los Angeles to New York’s JFK, instead of sitting in an Economy Comfort window seat headed to Honolulu … and I am happy about it. Let me tell you why …
This morning at 6:55am my first flight of the day pushed off the gate at JFK to Salt Lake City, my second flight from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles similarly pushed off and landed as expected, but from the moment I got off the plane at LAX, bound for Honolulu, the typically unremarkable travel became a complicated and stressful travel scenario travelers fear and that we hear of all to often.
My flight to Honolulu was scheduled as planned, my return flight from Honolulu to LAX, departing just three hours after I was scheduled to arrive, was OK, but my connecting flight home tomorrow morning, at 6:30am from Los Angeles was cancelled due to impending severe weather. From this moment, I faced some odd comedy of errors.
When I landed I immediately received a phone call and email from Delta informing me my flight tomorrow morning had been cancelled due to weather and I’d need to make alternate travel plans. From the gate I walked straight to the help desk and an agent quickly suggested I skip flying to Hawaii and head home immediately on a flight leaving in 30 minutes, I agreed and was issued a boarding pass. When I arrived at the gate I was told I could not board the flight, they had given my seat away since I was not in the boarding area. The total time elapsed from when I received my boarding pass and arrived at the gate was less than four minutes. Arguing wasn’t going to help. Looking at the growing lines at the help counter and at the SkyClub I sought alternate options, but all the ‘normal’ alternative options were nonexistent. There were no seats home today from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, Salt Lake City, Seattle … and not just to JFK, but to LaGuardia, Newark and Boston as well due to the impending blizzard.
I returned to the SkyClub to look for travel options and watched a number of frequent flyers raising their voices as the staff worked to assist them and one man was raising his voice at an agent on the phone. The first rule of dealing with a challenging travel situation is to never raise your voice to those who are attempting to help you. When airlines start canceling hundreds of flights all at once keep this in mind … you are not the only person desperate to get home.
After trying the logical options I found a flight from Los Angels to Kansas City International Airport, arriving around midnight, connecting to a 6:30am flight from Kansas City to New York’s LaGuardia Airport. This connecting is not one any reservation system wants to allow, but the woman assisting me in the SkyClub made some calls to make it happen.
While Theresa W., the SkyClub agent, worked on getting me confirmed on these flights I reached out to Kansas City International Airport to enquire about the best places to sleep in the terminal. I have been to the airport in Kansas City a few times, but never scouted it for sleeping. The response back from the simple question was the airport having found me a hotel room at the airport Marriott. This saved me a lot of leg work while I tried to confirm my flights … everything seemed to be falling into place as well as they can fall into place when everything is falling apart. Then, just as I figured I was home free, I was informed the airline was likely to cancel the flight from Kansas City to New York.
I let out a sigh, and was placed on the standby list for the flight I am sitting on. I was 9 on the standby list for a flight that was already oversold. I thanked the agent for her help and resigned myself to either being stranded in Los Angels or Kansas City for a day while listening to a man two agents down raising his voice demanding he be put on a flight to Boston, spewing about being an elite frequent flyer (which does help, and I am one as well with Delta), despite the flights being canceled or oversold. I made a comment about his behaviour, thanked the agent again, when I was told to hold on …
… so I held on … and went from being number 9 on the standby list to the SkyClub agent calling revenue management and clearing me for the flight with a confirmed boarding pass. The flight remained significantly oversold with no seats available and somehow I was holding a boarding pass sending me back to JFK at 4:30pm, putting me in my house 10 hours earlier than the alternative option.
Middle seat or not, I was going to beat the blizzard and be home with my kids … which is why I am thrilled to be crammed into seat 27E at the moment.
What is the moral of this story? If you find yourself facing wide spread delays and cancellations skip yelling at the people seeking to help you. Do some homework on your own for alternative options and above all else be polite, genuinely appreciative and you’re far more likely to have the agent go out of their way to get you were you need to be going.
Being a good traveler and a polite person goes along way. For me, today, it got me a hotel room squared away (which I had to cancel) thanks to the folks at Kansas City Int’l Airport and a flight home thanks to a fantastic Delta Air Lines SkyClub agent, when it seemed there were no seats to fly me home.