What a great day to fly!

This has been my first mileage run in nearly a month, which is a long time for me. The first three segments of my mileage run were TPA-IAD-JFK-SFO, and fortunately they came with a bit of adventure.

First was TPA-IAD. The flight was full but not oversold. The crew was fantastic and Channel 9 was on, although oddly enough the captain’s only announcement was “the seatbelt sign is off, feel free to move about.” That’s it. No weather conditions. No flight time information. No arrival gate information. Nothing. I’m not sure if he kept the announcement short because he didn’t want to annoy people or because he was frustrated and wanted us to know, but if it was the latter I don’t know why he turned Channel 9 on and stood at the door to say goodbye to people.

Once we leveled off the crew made an announcement asking for a doctor or nurse. I have no clue what the issue was, but a few people got up and went to the rear galley, while the flight attendants got the emergency kit. Fortunately there was no diversion. Furthermore, this is the first week in which Ted flight attendants are allowed to give passengers full cans. That’s yet another sign of Ted’s slow death, so I was sure to make a comment about it to the flight attendant and take a picture of this significant week in history.

The approach into IAD was a fun one. While it wasn’t turbulent in the up-and-down sense, we were rocking side to side like a small boat in stormy waters. Unfortunately for me there was a young kid sitting behind me (I have no clue how old he was, but he was old enough to know that 60 plus 60 is 120), and apparently his stomach wasn’t holding up too well, so he threw up all over. Fortunately they got most of it in the airsick bag, but the odor wasn’t pleasant. At least he wasn’t whining at that point, because during boarding he was throwing a tantrum saying that “I want to sit where I want to sit,” while his dad patiently explained that there were assigned seats.

My IAD-JFK flight had been showing as sold out to the last seat for about a week now, so I was hoping for a bump. First I went to the Red Carpet Club in the D concourse to check my email and add myself to the bump list. The lounge was shockingly empty, especially since I’m through IAD at the same time nearly every week and it’s almost always packed. This shows just how much business travel has declined.

I went to the gate a bit early, and the gate agent said the flight was way oversold and she’d probably need my seat. We agreed I would take the IAD-SFO flight on a 747 later in the evening. At that point a crew of four came to the gate needing to deadhead to JFK, and apparently they weren’t listed yet but needed to be on the flight, since they were supposed to work the same plane back to IAD. At that point I thought I was golden. The gate agent even made an announcement saying she would need nine volunteers. WOW! At that point I thought I was in the driver’s seat, so I went to talk to her about possibly getting travel credits instead of a free ticket. She responds with “thanks, but a bunch of seats just opened up, we won’t need any volunteers anymore.” What the hell? This is an E170 with under 100 seats, and you go from needing nine volunteers to not needing anyone in a matter of seconds?

Anyway, I boarded and figured I’d get lucky on one of my other flights, since everything this weekend was showing as booked out (nearly). The whole boarding process I had to listen to the lady in row one bitch and moan about her “14 hour flight to Cairo” on EgyptAir. Um, ok. 

The IAD-JFK flight was quick, although I did want to comment on a new addiction of mine. For some reason Ninetendo sent me a Ninetendo DS and copy of “Professor Layton and the Curious Village.” They thought I’d enjoy it during my travels. I have to admit that I haven’t played a video game since Pokemon nearly 10 years ago. Oh, I was so addicted to Pokemon at the time, and I’d say I was pretty damn good at it. Between blogging, FlyerTalk, and life in general, I haven’t picked up a video game console since.

That being said, I might just be addicted again. Professor Layton and the Curious Village is basically a bunch of puzzles and brainteasers along with a cool storyline. For some reason this game makes me feel like I’m solving a crime in the French Riviera, which isn’t too shabby. Either way, I love how fancy these handheld consoles have become. I remember the Gameboy (and even systems before that), where there were just four buttons. With the Ninetendo DS there’s a touch screen, little pen (stylus it’s called, I think), not to mention two screens. Anyway, I was legitimately fascinated by how high-tech the system was (coming from someone that’s not very technically literate), and will enjoy playing it during my flights from now on, rather than watching re-re-re-re-runs of “The Office.”

Anyway, upon arrival at JFK I went to the gate to see if they needed volunteers. The next flight they could accommodate me on was tomorrow morning, which messed up my return (after all, I’m on a mileage run). I said we’d figure it out, and inquired about getting travel credits instead of a free ticket. The agent agreed, but only offered me $400, saying that was the max. She said she’d call me up if she needed me.

In the meantime, the gate area was PACKED, and it was pretty obvious that they were way oversold. They made at least a dozen announcements asking for volunteers, as they obviously didn’t want to IDB (involuntarily deny someone boarding vs. voluntarily denying them boarding) anyone. A line formed with one of the agents to process those that were volunteering and several people were given free tickets. They started rebooking people on the American flight three hours later, and even offered people business class instead of coach. That sealed the deal for many!

Finally it was my turn. I won’t go into too many details, but the agent was amazing. Simply one of the finest customer service professionals I’ve run into in a very long time. Not only did she give me $600 worth of travel credits, but she gave me a hotel, a generous meal voucher, and insisted on rebooking me the next day in a way that worked well for me. More than anything else it was her positive, upbeat, proactive, “I’ll-take-care-of-it” attitude that impressed me. I tried to buy her a Starbucks gift card at the airport, but they didn’t sell gift cards. Instead I gave her the Starbucks gift card I had (which had about $20 on it), to thank her for her patience and positive attitude under tough conditions. A ramper friend of her brought her a cookie a few minutes earlier, so I told her to enjoy some coffee with the cookie.

I’m quite happy at the moment, a full $600 richer than I was this morning. Thanks United!

PS: The funniest part came when I checked into the hotel. I’ll post about that in a bit, but it’s the funniest hotel experience I’ve had in my life.

Filed Under: Mileage Runs, United
  1. Is there a known best weekend of the year during this “spring break” time-frame that is best to fly in to try and get a bump? Seems like spring breaks are pretty spread out for colleges, but perhaps they are more standardized for K-12 schools?

  2. Besides JFK based crews being thumbs up, the same can be said for JFK staff. You didn’t say in which class you’re flying in. Might I think first???

  3. Just curious. Why did Nintendo send you a DS? Did you enter some kind of contest or they just like Lucky? 🙂

  4. Re: landing at IAD

    As you didn’t go outside, you probably couldn’t tell but today was W-I-N-D-Y. I was down at the Cherry Blossom Festival downtown and swear I was about to be blown over a few times.

    Last night, I flew into DCA on a DL 767-300. Yes, for some reason they flew the 767 again last night into DCA (hasn’t happened since the Inauguration). We landed Rwy 1 (unfortunately, not Rwy 19 as that is a much cooler approach). Anyways, we were rocking back-and-forth fairly bad. It was some insane cross-wind last night/today.

    Oh come on Lucky, post some more details about your rebooking! You know us FTers/blog readers don’t like vague stories, ha.

  5. Did your AMAZING GA route you to a BOS-SFO/LAX/SAN leg so you could get DEQM and TRDM miles worked in there?

  6. @ Justin — I don’t think there’s any one week that’s the busiest. Probably the week around Easter is busy, but in general the loads are very high for March through April. I’ve noticed an interesting trend this year, though. It seems to me that more and more spring break travelers are flying to far off places despite the recession, mainly because of the low fares. In the past I’ve never seen loads this high in March, so I can’t help but think that it’s related.

    @ Dan — Yes, the JFK employees are excellent, at least past security. 😉

    @imm2b — Nope, they seemed to think I would enjoy it during my travels and wanted to get my thoughts on the console and the game.

    @ DiscoPapa — Patience, DiscoPapa, patience. I promise it’ll come in time. 😀 A 767 into DCA sounds pretty awesome!

    @ Pat — Oops, I totally forgot about that. She would have happily done it, but I didn’t ask.

  7. Regarding the free nintendo DS, is that a perk of having a public blog? Have you gotten any perks from airlines trying to woo you because of this blog? Seems like it would make good business sense, but also something we readers might like to know so we can judge your impartiality. 🙂

  8. @ pkdonnel — I’m being vague on purpose. I think you can figure it out. 😀

    @ Justin — Thanks for bringing that up, as I’d like to clear it up. I have NEVER been offered (or accepted) compensation of any sort from airlines). I got a free ticket on the inaugural OpenSkies flight thanks to Randy Petersen, although I think I was pretty objective with that report. HotelClub.com also “gifted” me a $400 stay at the InterContinental Chicago last year. The Ninethendo DS was sent to me without any stipulations, but I really did enjoy it, which is why I posted about it. Since my blog isn’t really about video games, I felt comfortable with that. I would never consider writing a good review in return for compensation, though, as that’s not right IMO.

    Along the same lines you’ll see that I’ve written positive reviews of companies/websites that just emailed me (with no form of compensation), which I legitimately found good and thought my readers would appreciate. For what it’s worth I haven’t made a cent off of my blog (at least up until now).

  9. I’m not clear on the difference between a “free ticket” and a “travel credit” when being bumped…And why you think there’s an advantage w/the credit (?)… Thanks!

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