Tuesday, August 07, 2012

PNW Roadtrip: United Flight #518 - The Flight That Wasn't

Anyone who knows me, or reads this blog, know I am a United guy. For domestic travel, I exclusively travel with United.  When planning this trip to the Pacific Northwest, I didn't even look at alternate carriers. I fly between 50K-70K each year on United (with O'hare as my hub airport) and never really have any travel issues. Nary a delay, let alone a cancellation.  I know so many people who only have issues at O'hare -- not me. Until this trip.

We were scheduled on the direct flight to PDX leaving at 17h50 on Thursday.  United called MS (who was on this trip with me) to tell him that our flight had been cancelled -- 10 hours before departure.  I told MS that I'd call and deal with United. I called the Premier Gold line to get rerouted.  The wine festival we were attending started on Friday morning at 9h00. We had to get into PDX Thursday night or the whole next day was lost.  I didn't get a call from United for another 4 hours...

I waited on hold for 10 minutes, which is the longest I've had to wait on the Gold line (longer than ever before, but much shorter than most every other call center interaction). I explained my situation to the woman on the phone who told me the only option was to overnight in SFO and get into PDX around 10h00 -- which wouldn't get us to the festival until after noon. Unacceptable. The other option she quoted would have us getting in around 10h00 direct from Chicago. Still unacceptable. The third option had us getting in around 22h00 on Friday night.  She didn't understand that getting in later wasn't going to work.

The best option she came up with was to have us leave at 12h00 -- on Thursday, a whopping 55 minutes from the time she offered this option.  No way we could make it to the airport in that time.

She finally agreed to look at alternate carriers. American and Delta were completely booked -- but US Airways did have two seats available through Phoenix which would get us into PDX around 01h20 arriving at Linfield College (the host of the wine event) around 03h00.  Not ideal, but I was not going to miss this event.

I have never flown US Airways. I had hoped I'd never need to.  I agreed and our flight out was at 20h10. I was not excited.  I felt like I was cheating -- I've been exclusive with United domestically for years and now I was whoring around with another carrier.  Since United couldn't get me where I needed I had to look elsewhere.  Ugh.

How do you handle flight cancellations? Are you proactive looking for flights or do you just go with the flights on which you are automatically rebooked? Do you stay with your original carrier or do you jump ship to an alternate carrier (or an alternate alliance)?

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