Yesterday American saved my bacon on the way home from Frequent Traveler University and the story reveals a few things about how the airline works and what to do (and not to do) when desperately trying to make a connection so it seemed worth passing along.
Delta often gets the most kudos for running an excellent airline operation, but yesterday at least American delivered at a level I haven’t often seen from a US domestic airline.
Pizza in Motion and I were on the same flight flying from Seattle to Chicago. I was connecting to Washington National and he was connecting on a separate ticket to a United flight to Washington Dulles.
Our flight was just a few minutes late out of Seattle. We had a long taxi, were number six in line, when a storm came through that we had to wait for. I had an hour in Chicago, Ed had a little less than an hour and would have to change terminals, and we saw our connecting times evaporate.
Our 2:15pm departure didn’t actually take off until about 2:50pm. And our flight time would be a bit longer than usual as we vectored around significant weather across the country.
An 8:15pm scheduled arrival was showing 8:54pm.
- Ed knew he couldn’t change terminals and turn up for a United flight before the doors closed.
- He checked my flight to Washington National and saw one seat left for sale. He booked an AAnytime (double miles) award — versus paying $1000! — to grab that seat, and could cancel it as an Executive Platinum at no fee if we made up time.
He had spent 25,000 miles, would wind up with a flight credit from United, and would hopefully make it home same night.
The flight seemed to stretch. 8:54 became 8:55, 8:58, and then 9:01.
Ed couldn’t check in for his American flight.
He was able to get onto gogo wireless internet with his phone while also staying connected on his laptop (I couldn’t seem to log off and then log on with my phone). I suggested he use the American Airlines app to tweet the airline. Executive Platinums have a feature in the app to contact the airline via Twitter, and those communications get priority.
The hope was that while we didn’t think they would hold the flight, they might be willing to hold off closing the door to the jetbridge for a few minutes as we ran to try to make the flight.
At 8:48pm we weren’t yet in a landing pattern. After finally touching down about 9:04pm, the pilot came on to say that we came down onto the farthest runway from our gate and would have to taxi for at least 10 minutes. We were at the gate at 9:17pm.
Meanwhile, our connecting flight never showed delayed. We were going to miss it.
Except… the American twitter team uncovered that it was actually delayed until 9:32pm. We had 15 minutes, so 5 minutes to make it from gate H7 to K8 even without the door being held open.
On the American app my boarding pass no longer showed up. And I saw folks getting cleared off the upgrade list. I thought I might not have a seat any longer.
I jumped up from my seat in row 6, was at the front of the aircraft before anyone had gotten into the aisle. And I ran. Which is tough in loafers (I don’t corner well). I figured if I made it to the gate first, I could get them to hold it a minute or two for Ed. I didn’t have a carryon bag — my first time checking something on a purely domestic itinerary in two years (but had 3 suits, a tuxedo, and had thrown countless amenity kits and pairs of airline pajamas into my suitcase to give away at Frequent Traveler Univiersity). That made it a bit faster, unencumbered.
Ed still wasn’t checked in for the flight.
We got to the gate, and they gave us both boarding passes. Twitter had been in touch with the gate, and we walked onto the plane while boarding was still in progress. The flight was completely sold out, but Ed hadn’t been cancelled out.
About that checked bag… it made it. I have no idea how they managed it.
I tweeted American, but not through the app. I never heard back. Maybe I’m on their blacklist and Ed isn’t. Or maybe it’s just the priority that American gives to tweets sent through their app by Executive Platinums.
American held my seat, and my upgrade. I got home when I never expected to — I saw the Hilton O’Hare beckoning for me — and my checked bag even managed to make it too.
Sometimes it’s an airline’s operation that matters even more than its miles, at least that’s how I felt on this trip.
And this, by the way, is what Uber is for.. a snapshot of a portion of the cab line at Washington National airport at 12:45 a.m.
While waiting 4 minutes for my pickup not a single cab came by.