I fly Delta because flying United is very stressful

Let me start off by apologizing to any readers who have contacted me in the last few days that I haven’t managed to respond to yet. I will get to everyone eventually, but I have had even less time than usual as my life has been consumed by wrapping up my responsibilities at work and planning my move.

Now that I’m safely ensconced in first on my last leg of the night, I have time to share today’s mini-travel-hacking saga.

My apartment is totally empty

If you’ve been following my adventures on Twitter, you know I had a lot of problems unloading my (very nice!) furniture at laughably low prices. Finally I broke down and sent out a blast e-mail to my company listserv offering it for free, and instantly had a dozen or so people willing to take it off my hands. The couple that ended up emptying my apartment even gave me some cash for the furniture, which I thought was nice of them since I’d offered it for free.

Ground stop in Chicago

On my way out the door to head to TF Green International Airport, I checked the status of my flight to Chicago and saw that it was both delayed 2 hours and cancelled. Quite an achievement, as I’m sure you’ll agree.

Crisis mode

United had already rebooked me on a two-stop itinerary arriving late tomorrow night, which didn’t work for two reasons: I’m going to a concert tomorrow night in my destination, and my apartment is totally empty, so I had nowhere to sleep (see above).

There were no more Delta flights out of Providence tonight, but I checked Boston and there was a 6:47 flight to Detroit which would allow me to connect on to my final destination.

I called United and was told there was a 45-minute wait to speak to an agent. While on hold, I quickly signed into my Alaska Airlines account and – incredibly – found there was low-level award space on the entire ex-Boston itinerary. Unfortunately, Delta still only allows round-trip award reservations – and that applies to reservations made through Alaska – so I booked a return flight in September at the low-level as well.

While still on hold with United, I packed up the last of my suitcases and headed out the door to the train station. When I finally reached an agent, I quickly explained the situation and asked him to book me on the same Delta flight I’d already made my award reservation on. He was happy to do it, but had to call in to Delta's reservations line, which meant another 10-minute hold.

Finally, he came back on and said he’d made my reservation on Delta and gave me a new Delta confirmation number.

On the train

Alaska allows free cancellations within 24 hours of booking on award bookings, so I refunded that ticket immediately just in case Delta cancelled one or both reservations as a double booking. Then I added my Delta Skymiles number to the new, paid reservation and selected my economy comfort seats.

One benefit of being rebooked onto a different carrier on the day of travel is that you’re typically booked into an expensive, last-minute fare bucket, in this case a full-fare economy “Y” fare. That meant that if there were any first class seats available on my Delta flights today, I’d be virtually guaranteed an upgrade as a Platinum Medallion, and also pick up a rack of bonus Skymiles and Medallion Qualifying Miles.

And indeed, my upgrades cleared first at the gate for both my flights today.

Things to follow up on

For reasons I can’t begin to understand, I decided to pay for my checked bag on United online at check-in, instead of at the airport. I never do this, so cannot begin to imagine why I thought it would be a good idea — it never is.

That means United now has $25 of my money that I’m going to have to request refunded, call, e-mail, and tweet about until they give it back, because they are just terrible about refunds.

Additionally, I’ll request original routing credit for my United itinerary, which they’ll hopefully credit to my Aegean Airlines account. While I’m fairly sure they’ll go along with that, this is one I’m not willing to go to the mat over, since while Star Alliance Gold is a fun travel hacking goal, to get the most benefit from it I would then subsequently have to fly United, and ensuring the original routing credit would require more interaction with United than I’m willing to commit to.


Since we're about to take off, here are my take-aways from today's little adventure:

  • Never pay for your checked bags online. Why would you?
  • Keep your eye on developing situations, like the today's radar-tower fire in Chicago.
  • Be proactive: know your options and book refundable backups, if necessary.
  • Ask the ticketing carrier to book you on other airlines, if they can get you where you're going.
  • Don't forget to add your frequent flyer number to the new reservations.
  • And ask for original routing credit from the ticketing carrier.