My Harebrained Scheme to ‘Commute’ Between Austin and Dallas, and the Two Key Lessons it Taught Me

I’m at Frequent Traveler University by the Dallas airport (at the Hyatt Regency DFW).

And since I’m living in Austin now I decided, why not just commute?

Flights go for as little as $64 each way as long as you’re buying them in advance when flights aren’t full and it isn’t an event week(end). That meant I could fly from Austin to Dallas and back for less than the cost of a hotel night at the group rate.

I wouldn’t have done this if we were in downtown Dallas, but we’re at the airport already anyway. And home is a 13 minute drive. Why not? I would get to sleep in my own bed, next to my own wife, instead of spending another night in a hotel (nothing against the Hyatt Regency DFW – I’ve done several nights here before!).

Naturally, though, that just tempts fate. And a big storm rolled through, there was talk of tornadoes somewhere but while rain and aircraft movements is fine lightning is not.

Not only were takeoffs and landings suspended, but the train that circles the airport terminals was shut down.

My inbound aircraft was coming from Los Cabos, Mexico and it diverted… to Austin. With a bunch of aircraft out of position, there were air traffic delays getting back to DFW, and it looked like my flight home would be more than 2 hours’ delayed. That would have meant getting less than 4 hours’ sleep at home. So I decided to just head for the Hyatt Regency instead.

  • I had booked all one way tickets. I didn’t want a change of plans to mess up my onward travel. Since two one-way tickets was the same price as roundtrip, and even a roundtrip was less than the cost of a change fee, I was buying truly free flexibility.

  • There was no problem cancelling my Dallas – Austin flight and having it refunded.

  • That left a morning Austin – Dallas segment that I wasn’t going to use, since I wasn’t ever going to make it to Austin in order to fly back.

  • I asked if that could be refunded, or retained as a credit. I was told no — I could still fly home to Austin on my current itinerary and use the flight if I wished, but I couldn’t do anything with that other ticket besides fly or let it waste.

  • That would have been fine, it was a sunk cost and I wanted to get some sleep. But I decided to press farther. After all, I had 10 minutes to kill while I waited for the hotel shuttle outside of terminal D (arriving in terminal C I’d just walk through the parking garage..).

  • They left me with a credit, documenting the ticket to waive the change fee. An extra few minutes was worth real money to me.

The point of all of this is to always have a backup plan think two to three steps ahead. And to always ask and ask again for travel providers to help you if you have a request that seems plausible.

I got rest last night, I got the cost of the tickets covered (in the form of a refund and a credit) and that’s basically a wash with the hotel night. The Hyatt gave me a toothbrush and a razor. I had an extra pair of underwear in my laptop bag (yes, really). And I simply had to present in the same shirt I wore the night before.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I’d feel bad for you, but I commute weekly from Austin to DC. From Dallas/Fort Worth, you should have just hopped on a Mega Bus 😉

  2. I guess my question is how did you manage to get them to give you a credit? You had all one ways and had voluntarily canceled the (I assume) AA ticket that would have gotten you to Austin to catch the (I assume) AA flight back to Dallas, so they had no obligation to waive any rules on that flight back you were going to miss. Nice agent?

    There are some limits to asking again and again and you happen to have high status along with outsized clout with (I assume) AA, so I wonder how great of advice it is to tell the general public basically, “Oh, just keep asking them to waive their very clear rules for you because it worked for me!”

  3. Gary,

    I enjoy reading your writing, and I know that the title field in a lot of CMS editors doesn’t have a spell check, but the term is “harebrained,” as in “having the intelligence of a rabbit.”

    Unless you were making a really subtle pun about getting a free razor…

  4. This would have been a good use of BA Avios bookings on AA. Not the best redemption from a cpm perspective but decent enough and great flexibility.

  5. Gary, did you make reservation at Hyatt as soon as you came to know that you are going to spend the night there? I’m sure you didn’t already have a rewards reservation there since you would have forfeited points if you canceled the same day (if you had taken your AUS flight).

    Also why didn’t you just book DFW-AUS and back with Avios? They cancel freely atleast one day before …

  6. Gary,
    LOL with your below sentence:
    “next to my own wife”…as opposed to somebody else’s?

  7. I laughed at then I events comment…this is the weekend of the American Country Music Awards at AT&T Stadium and a major gymnastics eventing Fort Worth. I am surprised (and disappointed) that FTU was this weekend and a hotel agreement was successful.

  8. Gary,
    Tonight at DFW and Austin both are worse than yesterday if that is possible. My elderly mom was supposed to come to Austin from DC and he flight to DFW was diverted to Shreveport. She is in in Air right now back to Dallas without a connecting flight to Austin. And I called and asked if they will give her a hotel room and the answer was no because this was all due to weather. On top of all that, her iPhone decided to die when she will need it the most. Now I am hoping she will call me from a stranger’s phone and I will walk her through the process of connecting her iPad to the DFW free wifi so we can facetime and I can help her as much as possible.

  9. @Nick – while it took a couple reads through I think Gary is saying the credit was for the DFW-AUS flight. He says that the only options for the AUS-DFW flight were to “fly or let it waste” and I presume Gary did the latter.

  10. I got a kick out of your using one of my favorite expressions (except it’s actually harebrained scheme) to describe you’re experience. I was trying to think of where I first heard that term, and then one day I was watching one of the classic 39 Honeymooners episode and voila! Harebrained scheme basically describes any Ralph Kramden get rich quick idea.

  11. @Nick Obviously AA doesn’t have to credit the residual value but it’s a nice thing to do, considering it’s abundantly clear that Gary intended to use the 2 OWs as a RT.

  12. If you had booked DFW to Austin in the evening and back to DFW the following morning as one round-trip, I believe you could have gotten the whole thing refunded.

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