All(?) 24 non-lounge Priority Pass locations

Longtime readers know that once I start thinking about a project I'm not satisfied until I've completely exhausted it. Over the last couple days I've written about non-lounge Priority Pass locations multiple times, and it was bugging me so much I decided I needed to finish the job. So, here are all 24 non-lounge Priority Pass locations around the world. I identified them by searching this PDF of all Priority Pass locations for the string "off the bill," which they consistently use to describe the benefit, i.e., "Cardholders can use their lounge visit entitlement to receive AUD$36 off the bill."

After writing this post, but before posting it, I saw via Doctor of Credit that yet another restaurant had been added, at New York's JFK airport in Terminal 8. Bobby Van's Steakhouse is not yet showing on the Priority Pass app, but is already showing on the Priority Pass website.

In other words, these non-lounge locations are getting added pretty quickly, which is nice for folks who have either limited or unlimited free access to Priority Pass locations. Let me know in the comments if I've missed any.

United States

Portland International Airport

  • Capers Cafe Le Bar, $28
  • Capers Market, $28
  • House Spirits Distillery, $28

Denver International Airport

  • Timberline Steaks & Grille, $28

Blue Grass Airport

  • Kentucky Ale Taproom, $28

Miami International Airport

  • Corona Beach House, $30

St. Louis Lambert International Airport

  • The Pasta House, $28
  • The Pasta House & Schlafly Beer, $28

John F. Kennedy International Airport

  • Bobby Van's Steakhouse, $28

Australia

Brisbane International Airport

  • Bar Roma, AUD $36
  • Graze Grill & Bar, AUD $36
  • Corretto Cafe & Bar, AUD $36

Melbourne Airport

  • Bar Pulpo by MoVida, AUD $36
  • Cafe Vue, AUD $36
  • Urban Provodore, AUD $36

Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport

  • Better Burger, AUD $36
  • Mach2, AUD $36
  • Peroni Bar, AUD $36
  • Bistro 2020 & Bar, AUD $36
  • MoVida, AUD $36
  • Bar Roma, AUD $36
  • Wok on Air, AUD $36

United Kingdom

Gatwick Airport

  • Grain Store Cafe & Bar, GBP 15

Japan

Kansai International Airport

  • Botejyu, JPY3,400

Conclusion

In addition to these restaurant locations, you can also use your Priority Pass membership for yourself and up to 3 guests for an hour-long stay at "Minute Suites" locations at the Atlanta, Dallas/Fort Worth, and Philadelphia airports.

It's also interesting to note the variable value of Priority Pass redemptions in different currencies:

  • 15 GBP are worth $20.73;
  • JPY3,400 are worth $31.28;
  • and AUD $36 are worth $28.23.

And even within the United States a redemption is worth more in Miami than at the other domestic locations.

Finally, note that for now you're able to use Priority Pass at multiple locations within the same airport on the same day, so in Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney, Portland, and St. Louis be sure to treat yourself right.

Follow-up on non-lounge Priority Pass locations

After I posted a reminder on Saturday to enroll your Hilton Ascend American Express cards in Priority Pass, I did a little more digging into the non-lounge Priority Pass locations I mentioned at the end of that post. Reader Helmholtz pointed me to this One Mile at a Time post mentioning new locations in Miami and Denver, and I found this Points Guy post (brought to you by Bankrate) describing how their writer was able to take advantage of all three Portland locations on a single afternoon.

A few Portland folks on Twitter confirmed the same details, although one said that you're no longer allowed to buy bottles of wine to go with your $28 credit at the Capers Market location, as the Points Guy writer was able to do in September.

Finally, Doctor of Credit shared that you can receive the $28 credit multiple times if you wait 2 hours between visits.

For folks who are, or who have friends who are, based in Portland, Denver, Lexington, or Miami, this also increases the value of the Chase Ritz Carlton Rewards card, which allows you to add authorized users at no additional cost, each of whom is eligible for their own Priority Pass membership (so you don't need to be traveling with them for them to receive the benefit).

Conclusion

As someone who values airline credits, lounge access, and the other gimmicks used to sell credit cards at far below their face value, I value being able to get a restaurant lunch or dinner in an airport relatively close to face value.

The fact that I travel a few times a year to Lexington and Portland, where the option is available, means I'll get much more value from the 10 calendar year visits that come with my Hilton Ascend American Express Priority Pass membership than I suspected when I thought it was just going to be good for a few drinks in an Air France lounge.

Enroll your Hilton Honors Ascend American Express in Priority Pass

If you already carried a Hilton Honors Surpass American Express card, or if you recently signed up for a Hilton Honors Ascend card, one benefit it's easy to overlook are the 10 free Priority Pass visits you get each calendar year.

What is Priority Pass?

Priority Pass is a program that gives members discounted access to participating lounges, and certain other benefits. It's not a great program on its own, since the "discounted" lounge access is still $27 per visit and doesn't include any guests.

However, many credit cards now offer a free Priority Pass membership as a benefit of card membership, and if you have one of those credit cards, you may as well sign up. In addition to a membership in the program, the Hilton Honors Ascend American Express card also includes 10 free visits per year. This makes it the equivalent of the $249 "Standard Plus" Priority Pass membership, although it's handled slightly differently by Priority Pass on the backend.

How to get your 10 free visits

If you already had a Hilton Honors Surpass American Express and the Priority Pass membership card that came with that card, then they should still be linked, or at least they were for me. If you never used your Priority Pass membership (and why would you?) then that card's probably extremely expired. However, you can call Priority Pass (972-735-0536 in the United States), give them your information, and they'll send you a new card and provide you with the information you need to create an online account. Once you have an online account, you can download the Priority Pass smartphone app and use that to enter most participating lounges.

If you are a new cardmember or weren't enrolled in Priority Pass already, you won't know your Priority Pass member number until you get your card in the mail. That letter should also include the information you need to create an online account, but if it doesn't, just follow the instructions above.

Non-lounge Priority Pass locations

I didn't realize this, since I've never had a credit card that offered free Priority Pass visits, but it seems they've expanded their options beyond just off-brand airline lounges. There now seem to be a number of airport restaurants, bars, and other venues where you can redeem a Priority Pass visit for a credit towards your order. A few I noticed while clicking around the app are:

  • Kentucky Ale Taproom (LEX)
  • House Spirits Distillery (PDX)
  • Capers Cafe Le Bar (PDX)
  • Capers Market (PDX)
  • Minute Suites (DFW)

At the first four locations, you get a $28 credit towards food and drinks for you and each guest (each redemption uses up one of your 10 free visits). At the Minute Suites in Dallas you get an hourlong private suite for you and up to 3 guests.

Those redemptions might be a better value in some locations than a visit to an overcrowded lounge. And if you lived in Portland or Lexington and frequently ate or drank in the airport before or after flights, in principle you could get $280 in value from a card with a $95 annual fee, ignoring any of the card's other benefits.

Question: how do these redemptions work for unlimited-access cards?

The Chase Sapphire Reserve, Citi Prestige, American Express Platinum and Business Platinum, and Chase Ritz Carlton Rewards credit cards offer a Priority Pass membership with unlimited lounge visits, and I'm wondering how non-lounge locations treat that benefit.

My gut tell me it shouldn't be possible for a Citi Prestige cardholder to receive three $28 restaurant credits with a single Priority Pass card by inviting two guests to lunch at the Portland airport, but I also don't see anything spelled out in the terms that would prevent it.

Does anyone have experience using the guest benefit at non-lounge locations?

The logic and illogic of Delta award pricing

I mentioned earlier in the week that I'm planning a summer trip to the Czech Republic, and discussed some different strategies I'm considering for booking our first few nights in Karlovy Vary (check out the comments to that post for some great reader suggestions for saving money at independent hotels).

Today I finally pulled the trigger on our airline tickets, about one day later than would have been ideal, but you book tickets at the prices you have, not the prices you might want or wish to have at an earlier time.

Because I'd been watching the ticket prices so closely, I noticed an odd price move.

Delta award tickets are not perfectly aligned with prices

While Delta has adopted revenue-based earning on paid tickets, they've only fitfully moved towards revenue-based redemptions. More expensive award tickets do tend to cost more miles than cheaper tickets, but the relationship isn't linear, which means Delta SkyMiles still offer a range of redemption values, rather than a fixed redemption rate.

Today I saw that the cash price of our ideal itinerary had moved from $953 to $1,409, while the award price remained at 80,000 SkyMiles (plus $55 in taxes and fees). Since I was planning to book my partner's award ticket with miles anyway, I did so immediately. Theoretically, this begs the question of whether I got $1,354 in value or $898 in value, but that part doesn't worry me too much, since the revenue price had already increased by the time I decided to book it, turning the decision to book with miles from a head-scratcher into a no-brainer.

What interested me was how I was going to book my own revenue ticket now that the price had shot up.

It still pays to search one leg at a time

I already knew our outbound itinerary was the ideal one, with a short connection at New York's JFK airport and a nonstop flight to Prague, and that itinerary is still available for 30,000 SkyMiles. But perusing Google Flights, I realized that there were still cheap itineraries including our transatlantic return leg.

And that's when it hit me that the final, domestic leg was the one messing up the pricing. The itinerary including the domestic leg priced out at $1,408:

While the same itinerary without the final domestic leg cost just $1,013:

Given those conditions, I booked my international itinerary to end at JFK, and I'll figure out my own way home from there. Revenue flights are just $216 (compared to the full itinerary price difference of $456), and I can redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards or US Bank Flexpoints for that leg.

Or I'll just catch a Chinatown bus if I have to!

Conclusion

I went into this booking with a pretty restrictive set of constraints, so I didn't initially do as much work as I should have figuring out which flights were available at high and low revenue and award prices. Once I realized my mistake, I was able to immediately save hundreds of dollars by stopping short of my final destination and figuring out my own way home from there.

The lesson is clear: search multiple combinations of routes and itineraries in order to identify which legs are the most expensive, and see if you can find alternate methods of transportation to avoid them.

The forgotten joy of booking independent hotels

I'm currently in the middle of planning a summer trip to the Czech Republic to revisit some of my old haunts and check out the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. The plan is to spend a few nights in Karlovy Vary before returning to Prague. This gave me the occasion to do something I haven't done in years: book a non-chain hotel!

Chain hotels are great

For many people, it's become easier and more desirable than ever to avoid chain hotels. AirBNB is a popular option for parents traveling with kids since you often get more space and the use of a kitchen, and in many places it's also cheaper than whatever chain hotels are available. And of course if you're going on safari, camping with bedouins, or hiking Kilimanjaro you're not likely to have options when it comes to accommodations.

But personally, I like chain hotels. Of course there are exceptions, but you can generally count on clean beds, hot water, and decent service. Manufacturing spend on Hilton Honors and Ultimate Rewards-earning credit cards lets me prepay for discounted stays at Hilton and Hyatt properties, and those two chains account for the overwhelming majority of my annual stays.

While there are a lot of hotels in Karlovy Vary, not one of them belongs to a chain. That means while planning this trip I got to brush up on the art and science of booking independent hotels.

Booking independent hotels is tricky

The biggest problem going in is that there's no floor for hotel quality. While hotel chains impose standards (that are occasionally not met), non-chain hotels don't even have standards to fall short of, so filtering a search by number of stars is the beginning, not the end, of finding a suitable room.

I started my search on TripAdvisor to get a sense of the price range available during our stay. After filtering for four-star and five-star hotels, it became a game of trying to make an optimal choice across the variables of price, location, and quality. The third-ranked hotel in town costs $196 per night while the fourteenth-ranked costs $148. I'd surely pay something to move up 11 spots, but would I pay $50 per night? Probably not.

TripAdvisor is a decent way to get a sense of prices and narrow down your options, but you probably don't want to book directly through TripAdviser. That's because you want to lower the final price you pay as much as possible. There are two obvious ways to do so.

Book using credit card rewards

The premium Ultimate Rewards-earning credit cards, US Bank Flexperks Travel Rewards card, Citi ThankYou Premier, and I'm sure some other cards offer increased value when you redeem your points for travel booked directly through the credit card company. That means if a property is available for the same (or a lower) price through a credit card portal, you can get more than 1 cent per point in value.

In my case I'd like to redeem my Ultimate Rewards points for 1.25 cents each for my stay, but the property I identified as the best value wasn't available through Chase's travel portal (in such cases you may still be able to book by calling the bank in question).

Book through a shopping portal

Another great option is using a shopping portal like TopCashBack to click through to a online travel agent like Hotels.com. When you do that, you're able to earn both cashback and Hotels.com Rewards free nights. TopCashBack pays out less when you choose to collect Rewards nights (5% instead of 9%), but the two programs together still offer the equivalent of 15% off the price of your stay (once you accumulate 10 Hotels.com Rewards nights).

A drawback of making reservations at chain hotels through Hotels.com is that you typically don't get elite status benefits. But if you're staying at an independent hotel, that's no drawback at all!

Pay with discounted gift cards

Finally, you can save even more by paying with Hotels.com gift cards bought at a discount. For example, the cashback portal Lemoney pays 11% on the first $100 in Hotels.com gift cards you buy each month (and you can stock up when Lemoney periodically lifts the limit on the number of times you can earn "Turbo Cashback"), and Hotels.com gift cards are available through Raise for 7% off.

You can apparently combine the balances of Hotels.com gift cards on this page, although I've never used that feature myself.

Conclusion

So, that's how I plan on booking our independent hotel in Karlovy Vary to hopefully get the equivalent of a 26% discount off the room rate. What other tips are there for saving money on independent hotels?

Guest post: Seated app review

Today's post is another guest contribution from Robert Dwyer about his experience with a new restaurant reservation and rewards app called Seated. You can follow all Robert's culinary and viticultural adventures on Twitter @RobertDwyer.

We wanted to check out a new spot for brunch this past Sunday. I recalled seeing some of the better/up and coming restaurants in the Boston area in the Seated app so I gave it a try.

Their program works by giving you gift cards (Starbucks, Uber, Amazon) when you make a reservation and dine at participating restaurants.

I like deals where I get rewarded for doing something I wanted to do anyway.

How it works (from their site)

  1. Download the Seated app (available on iOS and Android) 
  2. Search from the best restaurants in your city, and pick when you'd like to eat 
  3. Choose your $15-$40 reward credit (Uber, Starbucks, or Amazon) 
  4. Book dinner, eat, and repeat! 

My experience using Seated

Making a reservation via the app is pretty straightforward. You select your city then can sort by cuisine/neighborhood/price. Strangely they don’t seem to allow search by restaurant name, perhaps to encourage discovery? Not sure, but with enough scrolling I was able to find the restaurant wanted.

From there, you have to make a reservation through the app. The reward you get depends on the number of people in your party and the time of the reservation.

For our Sunday brunch for 3 people we needed to spend $72 before tax and tip to get a $17 reward. For the same restaurant for dinner tonight 3 people would need to spend $90 to get a $15 reward.

This is smart on their part because they can tune the reward to encourage you to spend more than you otherwise would. And it allows them to dial back rewards when demand is high.

It turns out, prices are quite modest at the restaurant we selected and we would have had to order things we didn’t really want to get to $72 for the 3 of us. It’s kind of like they dialed it in that way.

It’s unclear to me whether money spent on alcohol counts towards the spend target required for the reward. Some states have laws that are jumpy about these sorts of things, and MA is surely one of the worst in that regard. If alcohol were included, it could make hitting the target a lot easier. Let’s hope for the best in this regard and keep it on the down low if it works.

If we would have spent $72 we would have gotten paid out either by submitting an image of a receipt -or- by linking bank account credentials for them to monitor. Your choice. You don’t have to tell your server you’re dining with Seated or anything like that.

Bottom line

We would have gone to the restaurant anyway, and it was quite good so I don’t regret tinkering with the Seated app. But since I didn’t end up being rewarded for the dine it wasn’t a fruitful first experience.

That said, I’d happily try again in the future. Their list of participating restaurants in the area is terrific and it doesn’t take much cognitive bandwidth to use the service.

Sounds like too much work? Check out these three dining programs that earn rewards passively.

One weird old trick for cancelling the most annoying subscriptions

Back in November several shopping portals started running promotions offering bonus points if you signed up for an 8-week digital trial subscription to the Wall Street Journal and Barron's. The terms were a bit tricky: you had to keep the subscription for 45 days, but if you kept it for 56 days (8 weeks) you'd be charged for another month. That created a small window (which we're currently in) where you can cancel your subscription, keep the points, and not be charged for another month.

The points haul wasn't huge, but my purchases did track, and each batch cost me $1.06 after taxes, which I thought was a pretty good deal.

Dow Jones subscriptions are not meant to be cancelled

The Wall Street Journal and Barron's are both Dow Jones publications, and while you can manage your subscription online, you cannot cancel your subscription online. You need to call 1-800-JOURNAL for the Wall Street Journal or 1-800-544-0422 for Barron's, although in practice it seems the agents at either number can manage subscriptions to the other.

The Wall Street Journal call center combines the absolute worst elements of the call center experience: the lengthy script begging you not to cancel ("your subscription is paid up through the 27th, you can cancel until then, are you sure you want to cancel now?"), the terrible connection, the language barrier.

I was ultimately able to successfully cancel one subscription that way with a phone call that lasted 19 minutes, although it felt much longer. On Sunday I mustered up the resolve to make another round of calls, which is when I discovered the call center isn't open on Sundays.

That was the last straw for me.

Citi and Bank of America still offer disposable virtual credit card numbers

Virtual credit card numbers are a fairly old gimmick introduced by a few banks in the early days of online retail so that customers wouldn't have to share their "real" credit card number with online merchants. I don't know if they were ever "popular," but now they're distinctly unpopular, with to the best of my knowledge Bank of America and Citi being the only remaining card issuers that allow you to generate single-use credit card numbers for online transactions (let me and fellow readers know if the comments if you know of any other issuers).

To access virtual credit cards in Citi online banking open any card, then click on "Get Virtual Account Number" in the righthand pane. To access them in Bank of America, navigate to your account activity, scroll all the way down, and look for "Use ShopSafe."

Both banks appear to use the same technology, and I want to stress again, it is old. But it still works, and you can still generate disposable credit card numbers with customized spending limits and expiration dates. These numbers can only be used online.

Use virtual credit card numbers to auto-cancel subscriptions

The $0 liability offered by virtually all credit cards today on unauthorized charges has made the original purpose of virtual credit cards fairly remote from the modern experience. While you should still review your credit card activity carefully for unauthorized charges, it's trivially easy to get such charges reversed (some merchants would say too easy!).

But when you're dealing with sketchy merchants like Dow Jones and their outsourced call center, virtual credit card numbers offer a commonsense way to make sure you're not charged for subscriptions you don't want. Just change your billing method to a virtual credit card with a low limit and early expiration date, and your subscription will cancel itself.

Is this right?

I'm not a priest or a lawyer, and I'm especially not your priest or lawyer, so I don't have any insight into whether giving a sketchy merchant a credit card number you know (but they don't know) they won't be able to charge is legal or ethical or whatever.

I know it wouldn't be my first choice, which is why I tried to cancel my subscriptions the "right way." But when I realized I was not being dealt with in good faith, I no longer felt any compulsion to deal in good faith with them.

But even if you decide not to use virtual credit card numbers in this way, remember that Citi and Bank of America credit cardholders still have this potentially useful tool at their disposal.

Hyatt Globalist or Hilton Diamond for reimbursed business travel?

If you are primarily focused on hacking leisure travel, "choosing" between Hilton and Hyatt doesn't make much sense: earn Hilton Honors points with manufactured spend at grocery stores with an American Express Surpass/Ascend card, and earn bonus transferrable Ultimate Rewards points on office supply spend with a Chase Ink Plus or unbonused spend with a Freedom Unlimited. Then you can simply choose the right currency to redeem for each stay, and over time adjust each currency's earning rate accordingly.

Reader AG wrote me the other day to ask a different question: for a frequent business traveler with fully reimbursed hotel stays, "Which program do you believe offers the best value for loyalty when dealing with reimbursed business travel?"

Earning and Redeeming

The easiest way to compare the value of two programs for reimbursed travel is the amount of spending required in order to earn a free night. Since AG has enough paid travel to reach top-tier status in the program of his choosing, this simple result is easy to calculate and present side-by-side:

Note that this chart reflects the changes coming to Hilton point earning in April, 2018.

The chart shows is that you can pretty closely map the amount spent on room rates and charges at properties in each chain with the number of free nights you'll earn at them.

The mapping isn't perfect, and if you were convinced that, for example, 95,000-point Hilton properties are not, in fact, the equivalent of 30,000-point Hyatt properties but instead mere 20,000-point properties, then you might conclude that Hilton in fact requires 50% more spend for an equivalent night. That's not a conclusion that's going to fall out of the math, but rather from your own experience and preferences.

Bonus thresholds

An additional consideration is what bonus thresholds will be triggered by a frequent paid traveler. Both Hilton and Hyatt offer bonuses after staying a certain number of nights. What I've done in this chart is convert those bonuses into an equivalent amount of spend:

I've converted the Hyatt Category 1-4 and Category 1-7 awards into the equivalent number of points if the certificates are redeemed at the highest tier property possible (adjust for your own redemption preferences).

If you have 100 paid nights planned and intend to spend an identical amount of money at either Hilton or Hyatt, this chart shows that Hyatt essentially "tops up" your actual spend with an additional $13,077 of what you might call "synthetic" spend, almost enough for 3 free nights at top-tier properties (although $2,308 of that synthetic spend can only be redeemed at Category 1-4 properties!). Hilton adds just $5,000 in spend-equivalence, barely enough for a single top-tier night.

Paying

Note that this discussion has completely ignored the points earned by the credit card you choose to use to pay for your stay. Might the bonus points earned by using a chain's co-branded credit card change the calculation?

Going from earning 20 Hilton Honors points per dollar to 32 points per dollar (actually slightly more since the Ascend's bonus points are earned on taxes in addition to room rates and charges) reduces the amount of spend required by 37.5%, while charging Hyatt room rates to a Chase Hyatt credit card reduces the amount of spend required by just 31.6%. Since Hyatt stays required somewhat less spend than Hilton stays to begin with, the advantage of the Ascend card over the Hyatt credit card has the effect of narrowing or eliminating that advantage, depending on the category of your desired redemption.

Conclusion

Looking at these results, it seems clear to me that holding all else constant, Hyatt offers frequent reimbursed business travelers superior value to Hilton, especially when they intend to redeem their points at properties in the top half of each chain's redemption chart. Points earned on purchases at each chain are roughly equivalent, while Hyatt offers considerably more lucrative bonuses to very frequent travelers.

This conclusion should naturally be adjusted according to your own situation:

  • will Hyatt's smaller footprint keep you from booking all your reimbursed stays with them, forcing you to split your paid nights between two or more chains?
  • will Hyatt's smaller footprint keep you from redeeming your points, or force you to settle for less desirable destinations or properties?
  • have you checked for award availability at the properties and destinations you're interested in? Does one or the other chain tend to have more or less availability at the properties and during the seasons you're interested in?

No single hotel chain, or airline, or rental car company, or cruise line works for everybody. And thank God! If it did it would be overrun and the value would be killed immediately. A hard look at the numbers can make it easier to make an informed decision, but it can't make the right decision for you.

What a 10-minute schedule change taught me about Delta — and about myself

It's no secret that the core of my travel hacking practice is manufactured spend. I focus on low-risk, high-reward opportunities to earn points and cash with credit card purchases and liquidate those purchases back to cash as quickly as possible. But while different travel hackers focus on different areas, I don't intentionally ignore the other elements of the game, and I don't think anyone else should either:

  • keeping an eye out for mistake fares may let you save money on trips you're already planning to take, or go on short-notice jaunts in premium cabins if your schedule is flexible enough.
  • taking advantage of status matches between loyalty programs, especially before trips where status might be particularly valuable.
  • using shopping portals strategically to earn seasonal shopping bonuses or secure outsized rewards like the Southwest Companion Pass.

One of the oldest travel hacking tricks I know about is using schedule changes to rebook from less convenient to more convenient flights while avoiding change fees and fare differences.

How a 10-minute schedule change saved me $2,000

One of the beauties of living in a city with a perimeter-limited airport is that we have non-stop flights virtually everywhere within the perimeter. That means I can fly from my most convenient airport basically anywhere within the Midwest, Northeast, or Southeast without a connection. To some destinations, however, those flights are just once a day, which can create schedule conflicts with people whose schedules have less flexibility than mine.

My trip this weekend back to the Midwest proved to be just such an occasion. Back in November, I'd booked our flights on the early-afternoon nonstop to and from the Midwest in each direction.

But it wasn't to be; my partner had an urgent work meeting that afternoon that couldn't be changed. I quickly calculated that I had three options:

  • a same-day confirmed change;
  • a same-day standby change;
  • bullshitting.

I understand that there are people who treat same-day confirmed and same-day standby as core elements of the travel hacker's inventory — and good for them! As a Gold Medallion, in principle I should have waived same-day confirmed and same-day standby fees, which would have made either option, in principle, possible.

But — and this is just between us — I have no idea how that works and I wasn't about to experiment on a trip that I actually wanted to go on.

That left bullshitting as my first line of offense.

My front-line customer service representative had some well-justified skepticism

Once I learned about the problem, I checked my reservation details and immediately noticed that our original outbound flight was scheduled for 3:10 pm, while a few weeks later it had been rescheduled for 3:00 pm. So I picked up the phone and called Delta, asking them to reaccommodate us on a connecting flight later in the day.

I explained that the earlier flight didn't work with our schedule. After all, if we wanted a 3 pm flight, we would have booked one, right? My adorable representative repeatedly asked me, "you can't make it to the airport 10 minutes earlier?"

After I repeatedly explained that no, I could not make it to the airport 10 minutes earlier, she told me that there would be a $250 change fee per ticket, plus any fare difference (these were very cheap tickets, so the amounts involved would be a few thousand dollars more than I actually paid).

I calmly told her that the new departure time didn't work for us and that we needed to be rebooked on a later flight, and she said what was perhaps the funniest thing in our entire conversation: "we have a 90-minute change policy." I can only assume she meant that Delta was free to move the departure time of a flight 90 minutes in either direction without reaccommodating customers, which is untrue, but in a way so absurd it's hard to believe even she believed what she was saying.

So I asked for her supervisor.

My customer service supervisor had rebooked me before she even picked up the phone

After about a minute on hold, a Delta supervisor picked up the phone, told me that she understood I wanted to be rebooked on the later connecting flight, and asked me to hold while she took care of it for me.

It was absurdly painless.

Conclusion

There are no heroes in this story.

  • Why do passengers book flights they're ultimately unable to catch?
  • Why do airlines change their schedules so often?
  • Why do airlines charge change fees for passengers whose schedules change?
  • Why must everything be a battle?
  • Why must we treat merely not being fleeced as a triumph in its own right?

I don't have answers to those questions. But I do have an answer to one question: what should you do if a front-line representative refuses to rebook you after a minor schedule change? Ask to speak to their supervisor, and demand to be rebooked.

If your new flight leaves earlier, explain that you can't make the earlier departure time. If your flight arrives later, explain that you'll miss your meeting, wedding, or tryst. No airline has ever been forced to come up with an explanation for why their schedule suddenly changed, so feel free to apply some imagination and explain why you can't possibly accommodate their change in schedule.