December 28th, 2012


Flying and the lack thereof

This was our original plan for visiting people in Dallas this holiday:
We would host dinner on December 25.
Then we would fly on American flight 1801 nonstop to Dallas at 9am on December 26.
We would then attend a reception for a childhood friend on December 27, and a meeting with my parents' financial advisor on the morning of December 28, and dinner with my extended family on the evening of December 28.

December 25

Hosting dinner worked as planned, and since we were trying to pack as well, we did a lot of things ahead of time, so it went very smoothly.

At 11pm on December 25, we got a phone call. I didn't recognize the 800 number, and I couldn't hear anything intelligible for 30 seconds, so I hung up. But when I tried to check in online, I discovered that flight 1801 was canceled. We were now scheduled to fly a day later (December 27), on flight 4417 to Chicago at 3:10, connecting to flight 2345 at 5:25.

This meant that we would miss the reception, so I tried to call American to see if there was an earlier option. This led me to discover that American's number was the number that had called me at 11pm. After an hour and a half of horrible, staticky hold music, I gave up for the night and we went to bed.

December 26

In the morning, I waited on hold with American for forty minutes, only to learn that there was nothing better available; even if we had been willing to fly to Waco or Tyler, there were no available options.

So we called people to express our regrets at missing the reception, and we settled in to enjoy the snow day. The snow day was actually very nice. We didn't have any plans, and we weren't going to make plans with anyone because of the snow and ice, so we got to really have a day off. The only downside was that we had given away most of our Christmas leftovers in the expectation that we wouldn't be around to eat them, so we had canned soup instead of delicious leftovers.

December 27

On December 27, we drove out to the airport, expecting to connect through Chicago. (Reminder: flight 4417 to Chicago at 3:10, connecting to flight 2345 at 5:25.) However, flight 4417 to Chicago was delayed. When I first got into line to try to reschedule, the flight was predicted to land at 5:17, and I prepared to make the case that 8 minutes was not enough time to make a connection between gates in two different terminals. But I didn't have to make that argument; by the time I got to the head of the line, flight 4417 had been delayed by another hour. We got a new plan: we were going to try to fly standby on flight 1469 nonstop to DFW at 6:35, and if that failed, we had seats reserved for a connection through Chicago on flight 4229 at 12:15 to flight 2345 at 5:25.

A quote from the afternoon as we waited to see whether we would get to fly standby on flight 1469: "I guess this day hasn't been a total loss. I just found a dime on the carpet."

It was time to talk with my family about how much delay we should accept before giving up on visiting them this season. But I couldn't reach them during the afternoon; they were at the reception. I finally spoke with them just before flight 1469 was to board. We agreed that I would try to call before takeoff if we got on, but I would definitely call if we did not get on, so no call meant to expect us.

One agent had predicted that we were likely to make it on to 1469, but the flight was delayed long enough to let the unaccounted-for reserved passengers to show up. We were first on the list for standby, but when they finally called for standby passengers, there was only one standby seat available. We had only barely discussed that possibility. Lori had said that I could fly without her, but I was not resolved enough to act quickly on that opportunity; I passed on that single seat.

I called my family again, and we came to an agreement: the plan to connect through Chicago to arrive on the evening of December 28 was still worthwhile, but if it did not work out, we would give up on going to Dallas this holiday.

We got new tickets for the connect-through-Chicago itinerary. The agent offered us the option of fling standby for the nonstop flights at 7am or 9am, but he thought it would be very unlikely that we would get to board; we decided not to wake up early for a slim chance.

So what had happened to our checked bag? We were given a guess that it had flown to DFW on flight 1469. We hoped for more than a guess, though. We could not find any AA staff willing to give us more than a guess, and the effort left us frustrated and irate.

December 28

As we drove to the airport, we tried to guess how likely it was that we would get to Dallas at last. It was hard to feel very optimistic. But the advantage of the four-hour layover in Chicago was that it was much less likely to be disrupted by delays.

When I heard the request "passenger Melton for Chicago, please come to the desk", I was expecting to hear that something else had gone wrong. But it turned out to be good news: flight 4229 to Chicago was oversold, so they wanted to put us on the direct flight to Dallas. Which direct flight? Flight 1801, which had been scheduled to leave at 9am but was delayed until 1pm awaiting a pilot's-compartment oxygen bottle that had to be flown in from Washington. So when I say "good news", I mean good news for us, not necessarily for anyone trying to fly to Chicago or trying to make a connection in Dallas.

As I write this paragraph, we are aboard flight 1801, the two-days-later counterpart of our original flight. We have been in the air for almost two hours. I am starting to feel optimistic about our prospects of getting to Dallas today.

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