Saturday, June 12, 2010

A series of unfortunate events and the lessons I learned at the Houston Airport. Thanks Continental!

Saturday through Tuesday I was in Houston at the IDDBA trade show. On Monday I had about an hour between the show and our event.  Since I had to get up at 4:30 the next day for my 7:50 am flight, I was extra responsible and packed my suitcases and called the front desk to confirm what time I should leave for the airport and to ensure I had a cab to the airport.  Yay, ready to go, right?  No, mistake number 1!  I should have set my alarm BEFORE I went!
As displayed above, I proceeded to have an extra fun night out!  When I got back to my room at 2:30, I again was "responsible" and set two alarms, my cell and a wake up call.  At 7:00 Keith called me and I knew I had overslept and would not be on my 7:50 flight back to MPLS, which would have had my home by 11:00 am.  My cell phone was not set properly and the room phone receiver was slightly off the hook:(( OOPS!
So I skipped showering, grabbed my belongings and went straight to the airport to try and get on the next flight to Minneapolis and I sure learned a lot about standby in following 17 hours of my life! 
The next flight home was at 1:40, it was booked, but I was the first person on standby, so the rep felt confident that I would have a seat.  GREAT!  All I had to do was kill a little time and I would still be home before Keith would be home from work.  With that extra time, I hung out at a busier terminal and then at 12:00 went over to my gate.  Only to find out when I got to the gate, the 1:40 flight had been cancelled due to rain!  URRR, now an entire flight just scattered to take up every seat back to MN.  So now I had to get a new standby ticket for the 4:00 flight, number 15 on the standby list.  Another lesson learned:  had I been hanging out by gate, I would have heard the announcement and have been first on the list. 
Like I said, this was my first time flying standby, so I continued to learn something new about every hour here.  A girl behind me was also supposed to be on the 1:40 flight and when I was finding a seat to wait for the next flight, she took off running for another gate so I asked her what flight she was on and they were sending her to Cleveland, then to MN.  So I thought, why can't I do that?  I asked the same gentleman again and he said "that won't work with your ticket and she got the last seat anyway", hmmmmm?  OK, so maybe it won't work with my standby ticket. 
So I went to another rep and asked her and she confirmed there were no seats left, checked a few other connecting options, but thought I would be better off staying in Houston on standby.  Lesson learned:  this agent was willing to put me on a connecting flight, where the last guy wouldn't
So I waited another three hours for my next flight, hoping I would make it home soon because I REALLY wanted to see my boys!  Now the boarding of this next flight was the most hectic, chaotic thing I have ever seen at an airport.  64 flights of people piled up to go through four doorways.  The flight was supposed to leave at 3:50 and didn't board until after 4:00.  No such luck, only 5 standby people made it. 
So I was off to try and make the next flight!  7:00.  I was also considering my options to fly into Des Moines and drive home.  This lady told me I was number 5 on the standby list.  I was a little surprised considering my previous experience.  She also went ahead and got me a seat, as a backup, for the next day to go to Cleveland  to Minnesota and land at 5:30 pm the next day!  REALLY?  But I took it b/c it was the "only option."  AHH, but another lesson:  you can reserve a seat and wait standby for other flights.  Very frustrated at this point, because if I had known this, I would have been able to book a seat on the 7:00 flight when I arrived at the airport and then attempted standby for the other flights.  RIDICULOUS! 
So I call Keith to have him check statuses on a couple other flight options and he sees that I am 19 on the standby list, not 5.  He also noticed there was an 8:00 flight with only 5 people on standby.  So I was pretty irritated, because odds of making the flight as #19 were not looking good.  So again, I went to talk to another rep about switching flights.  So I start asking her questions if I could fly to Chicago or Cleveland, at first it didn't seem promising.  The last two people I had asked suggested I stay in Houston because they would be able to get me to those locations, but couldn't guarantee a seat on a plane to Minnesota.  But this girl was sharp!  Her last name was Doll, and she was a doll.  She saw one seat going to Chicago and found one seat on a connecting flight and got me a seat!!!  You wouldn't believe what it felt like when she gave me a REAL TICKET!  Not standby.  Such a relief to finally get home to my boys.  While in the air, I learned my flight would be landing at 10:00 pm, about 25 minutes late and my connecting flight was leaving at 10:16.  So at that point I was very anxious for the rest for the flight and couldn't sleep or focus.  If my gate was far, there was little hope I would make the connection.  LUCKILY, the gate was close and the next flight was delayed, so I made!  THANK YOU MS. DOLL!
After about 17 hours of travel, I made it home at 1:00 am. 
Biggest standby lesson:  keep asking different agents and don't give up, because eventually one will give you the answer you want.  And on a side note, even though I was misled several times, all the reps were polite and helpful. If this took place at the Philadelphia airport, I'm pretty certain I would have been better off getting a rental and driving home. 
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