Monday, July 25, 2011

Do I Take My Own Advice? You Bet!

The sixth most popular posting in the history of this blog is my Airline Crisis Survival Guide which tells people how to avoid major weather-related airline difficulties and, if you find yourself in one anyway, how to get out of it.

Yesterday (Sunday), I found myself dealing with one of O'Hare's (ORD) many meltdowns returning from the American Weather Conference in Baltimore. By the way, I had a wonderful time and I want to thank the organizers for inviting me!

Some background: Saturday, persistent thunderstorms caused flooding and numerous flight cancellations at ORD so flights were already full. I had been concerned Saturday evening about Sunday's weather in Chicago. So, the first thing I did was see if I could avoid it. I was on United.

  • I could get to Denver, but the flights back to Wichita were full. I'd have to standby. 
  • Houston wouldn't have gotten me home until late Sunday evening and I'm leaving again this morning, so that didn't work.
  • So, I decided to take my chance on ORD even though I was expecting thunderstorms.
Sunday, as I predicted and feared, there were thunderstorms! We were 45 min. late arriving but I had plenty of time to make my connection to Wichita. I walked from ORD's concourse B to F ("where the fall of Saigon is reenacted daily") to learn: Flight to Wichita cancelled. What to do?

Below is a radar image I grabbed showing the original complex of thunderstorms departing Chicago to the southeast and the new thunderstorms developing to the west and northwest that threatened ORD later in the day.

All of the flights from ORD to Wichita on United and American were oversold for both yesterday and today!  I would have to standby. Standing around chaotic gates with anxious people to maybe get on a flight doesn't appeal to me. There was no way to go from Denver to Wichita (oversold!), etc., etc. Given the deteriorating weather situation (United was delaying and canceling flights by the minute), I decided to follow the advice I offer in the guide and get out.

There was a flight leaving for Omaha in less than 30 minutes with one seat left. So, they put me on it, I hustled and made it. Drove the 5.5 hours to Wichita and got to see a truly spectacular sky and great storm between Topeka and Emporia. I enjoyed myself much more than being part of the hassle of unhappy, tense people trying to salvage their travel plans. 

The Airline Crisis Survival Guide's advice (absolutely free, just click on the above link) has been successfully used by many people. You might wish to print it out and put it with your travel materials. 

And United: Go back to flying bigger planes to Wichita!

3 comments:

  1. Amen to United flying bigger planes!

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  2. Mike, knowing full well you wanted to get home and that family and business priorities may take precedence over the checkbook, I still have to ask. . .

    Did they want extra money for rewriting you to Omaha instead of Wichita? (I've been able to do stuff like that at no charge, for, say, Ontario instead of Burbank in California on an equipment delay -- but nothing so far away as your reroute was yesterday, so was just curious.)

    Similar question from Tightwad Keith: the night before -- when you saw storms coming to O'Hell but obviously no airline emergency had been declared yet -- if they had had the availability to reroute you through Denver or Houston at the time, is it your experience they would have done so without a fee (assuming it was less than a "full fare" ticket)?

    ---

    ( P.S. - I have a flight-attendant cousin who was in Chicago yesterday morning when the storms hit, and due to work a flight back to Portland, Ore., later in the day. The plane hadn't even come in from Portland yet. He posted on FB all morning what a mess the day was going to be, but. . . after the storms cleared, somehow air-traffic caught back up again and he got to Portland within a few minutes of schedule.)

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  3. Keith,

    I checked, all of the later Wichita flights made it but were delayed by varying amounts. I have no way of knowing if my standby would have been successful.

    Yes, United had "waivers" in effect proactively for Chicago (i.e., I could have changed via DEN without charge) the evening before. BUT, while there were plenty of seats from BWI to DEN, DEN to ICT was -- surprise -- sold out. So, I couldn't see switching to DEN (which had a chance of afternoon thunderstorms) just to risk getting stranded there, thus I opted to stay with Chicago.

    There was no charge for the flight to OMA. The UA people were helpful, but I sincerely believe the ICT flights are often the first delayed or cancelled in Chicago. I have no idea why this might be but it certainly seems to be the case.

    I'm now in Dallas (600+ miles in 24 hours) for business. I'm very happy with my decision.

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