When I was booking my flights for my 6 marathon runs on 6 continents in 5 days, I knew there were specific flights I needed to book to make such an event possible in a very short span of time. One of the routes that was absolutely necessary for it to work (if I wanted to finish my event in the US) was the Australia to South America leg. To make the timeframe happen, I had to fly one of the sparsest passenger flight routes in the world – directly from Australia/New Zealand to South America. There are only two flights to make their way from Sydney to Santiago, Chile – one direct from Qantas and the other from LAN with a short stop in Auckland.
The Perfect Flight Schedule Almost Turned Into A Big Mistake
Originally, I had booked an award seat on the Qantas flight – it was direct, left later, and arrived earlier than the LAN flight (because of the stop in Auckland). But, it was in coach. I am normally not adverse to flying in coach but part of the purpose of this trip was showing other runners what kind of airline comforts could be had with only miles. The other part was that I really did not want to sit somewhat upright after just completing my 4th marathon distance in a little over 2 days and have to run my 5th after 12 hours in that position.
But, since it is a rare flight path, business seats on that Qantas flight never opened up. They did open up on LAN so I opted for that which meant I would Sydney earlier and get to Santiago a little later. It meant the Santiago leg would be tight but still doable and a risk I figured was worth taking. I did realize, though, that if there was a problem with the flight/weather, I was stuck. I would either have to wait until the next day or skip South America altogether – neither an option in my book. However, I took the plunge and booked the route, after all, it was the perfect flight schedule for me – business class on a somewhat direct route without having to transit the US first.
There was one little thing that was nagging at me though. If I was on Qantas and there were some kind of flight delays/mechanical problems, it would be possible that they might swap out an aircraft or at least have a better way to deal with it since Sydney was their hub. But, since there was only one LAN flight each day there, there would be no swapping of equipment and it was not their hub. I would be stuck.
And that is exactly what happened! We had lined up at the gate and they were not ready to board yet as there was some security thing to deal with. All of a sudden, my TripIt Pro notification went off and I saw that there was going to be a little bit longer of a delay. I quickly went up to the counter and asked about it and, sure enough, it was a mechanical issue and they were hoping to have news within the next 60 minutes – not take-off but news! I started to get a bit anxious! I asked about switching me to the Qantas flight (remember, that left later) but they said there were no business seats left, just coach. I asked if that would be possible and they said it would but that I would have to wait for the manager to make the decision.
I headed off to the lounge and met another traveler along the way from that flight. We spoke on the way to the lounges and then she went off to enter the Qantas First Class lounge while I only had access to the business lounge. She kindly invited me in with her as her guest and that turned out to be very helpful! Not only is that lounge beautiful and everything an AVgeek would love (great runway views) but they also had very helpful staff members in there that got to work trying to get me in business on the Qantas flight. They said they would be able to do economy for sure but that there were just two business seats left so it would take some work (as others were requesting it at the gate as well).
In the end, we left about 80 minutes late and arrived in Santiago about 1 hour late (which made me run much quicker than I thought I would be able to in order to finish that leg!) and everything turned out well. But, choosing the perfect flight schedule almost became my biggest mistake of the trip. It all worked out! Of course, if I had not receive the incredible welcome that I got in Santiago, I may not have been able to run as fast as I needed to! 🙂
Some Tips If Schedules Go Wrong
So, if something similar happens to you, what should you do or what could you do to avoid something like that?
As soon as you know there is a problem, get to work on it. The lounge personnel are normally a great place to begin (if you have access) or the elite phone line (if you have status). Failing that, just get to the customer service counter in the airport or the gate desk quickly to lay out your options. With other people also about to be inconvenienced, it pays to be first.
If you are doing something similar where you have selected the perfect flight yet you do not want to have some problem pop up that could derail your trip plans, there are some things you can do. First of all, try to make sure that you are using an airline with a good ground presence. For example, if I had had that problem on Qantas, since Sydney was their hub, I might have had some more options or they may have been able to move a bit quicker on that. Dealing with an airline that has a single flight out of that airport can make things more difficult as their ability to help everyone may not be equal to the airline with a big ground presence.
Another thing is to make note of flights that would work in case your flight has problems. If weather is moving in, check for other connections that may avoid the weather issue altogether. In fact, when you are booking the flight, you may even take that into account. If your connection is in JFK during January/February with Delta, it might make more sense to see if there is a connection through Atlanta instead. Less of a chance of a snowstorm there!
While I know this may be much more difficult if you are traveling someplace on vacation, I was actually at the head of the list for switching to the Qantas flight because I only had a carryon. If I had checked bags, it would have made the process more difficult and the agents less likely to want to deal with that compared to someone that already has their belongings with them. If that is at all possible to do and there is a possibility that something may mess up your schedule, having only carryons will make you much more flexible for changes.
Sometimes, things go completely out of your control. Do your best to remain relaxed and calm. Unless you are on your way to sign some big contract that won’t wait, just take it easy. Even with the success of my event on the line, I just had to relax and realize that if I got there so late that I could only run 20 miles, I would run 20 miles. It was something out of my control and out of my hands and I was just going to have to do whatever I could with it.
Plus, remember that you will get on the plane at some point and then you can just sink into whatever seat you are in and not have to worry about moving fast for a little while anyway! 🙂
What are your tips or did you have a perfect flight schedule go completely wrong?