Thursday, August 5, 2010

Greetings from Irvine & An Airline Happy Story

I would like to believe that when something good happens on the way to a tournament that it will bode well for the whole trip.  Many travel blogs are filled with airline horror stories.  In fact when I Googled airline horror stories it came up with 241,000 hits.  I've had my share of misadventures when traveling, such as the La Guardia bomb scare that delayed my departure to Chicago last year.  However I've also had airline good stories.  If you read my final National Open post you may recall my narrative about my good fortune on the return trip.  So here is another case of "What did you step in?"

When I finished yesterday's post from DFW it was 2:21.  I know the time stamp on the post says 3:21.  My computer was still on EDT.  My flight was scheduled to start boarding at 2:20.  If I have a suitcase that I'm going to carry on the plane then I make sure I'm at the gate and ready to board when I'm called.  There is nothing more annoying then getting on the plane with tons of people in front of you and finding no space in the overhead bin near your seat because some knucklehead has decided to put his stuff in the overhead bin over seat 9A, but he's sitting in 25B.  He's put his carryon items there because he doesn't feel like dragging his somewhat oversized suitcase back to his row.  Also he assumes that there won't be any space back there because the back rows boarded first.

Since I only had a backpack and purse that both could go under the seat if necessary I didn't rush down to be one of the first people in coach to get on the plane.  I calmly finished the post, and went to grab a sandwich and bottle of water for the flight.  Trying to pay for the items I got in a line with a slow cashier and some person who was trying to purchase something where he had some card that would give him a discount or for free.  This took several minutes to take care of.  I almost just left the stuff, but I didn't feel like paying $10.00 for the same sandwich on the plane, assuming they didn't run out by the time they got to me.

Finally I pay for the stuff and get to the gate expecting to find a bunch of people still standing in line on the jetway.  There were 4 or 5 people who look like they were standby passengers hoping to get on the plane.  The gate agent sees me coming and says you must be "Mrs. Wright, we've been looking for you."  As I hand her my boarding card I hear over the PA "Last call for Flight 1285 passenger Wright".  Any time I've heard those announcements I've thought to myself "What knucklehead didn't leave enough time to get to the airport and to the gate on time?"  Now the good folks from American Airlines are wondering where I am.  Oops! Stupid cashier!

The gate agent takes my boarding card and hands me a new one and tells me I'm now in seat 3B.  Sweet! Instead of being tossed off the flight because I was late and they gave away my seat, I got upgraded.  Bulkhead window seat in first class! How nice is that? The sandwich that nearly caused me to miss the flight now has become irrelevant because I will be served a hot lunch.  As I'm standing on the jetway to board I texted my husband to tell him I was late to the gate and got bumped to first class.  His response was "What did you step in?"

Good question, but I think the answer is; it pays to be loyal to an airline and accumulate enough miles to get elite status in your chosen airline's frequent flier program.  In this crazy "make flying as annoying as possible" age having elite status makes flying less annoying.  With my frequent flyer status on American I don't pay bag fees, my bag comes off first, I can check in on the first/business class desk, I can choose any seat in coach including exit rows when making my reservation, I get to board early, and at many airports I get to go through a shorter security line.  These are the things the airline touts as benefits to being in their program, but there are the unwritten benefits that arise in situations such as mine yesterday.

They have some empty seats in coach including mine that they want to fill with the waiting standbys and they have yours truly who is late, but has platinum status in their frequent flier program.  What to do?  Do they give away my seat because I'm not there within the time set by their rules?  Yes they could do that and if there had not been any empty seat in first class I might have been SOL and ended out spending another 2 hours in DFW.  I suspect they're not going to put a standby in the empty first class seat, but they can move me because if I had been on a full fare ticket I would have gotten the upgrade automatically.  They win on all counts.  They fill up the plane and they make a loyal customer very happy.  When things like that happen it affirms why I prefer to fly American even if there is a cheaper fare out there on the competition.

It was nice to arrive in style.  John Wayne/Orange County airport is a nice little airport.  Easy to get through and close to the hotel.  The hotel has a free shuttle to and from the airport.  I wasn't even sure American flew in there since I know it's a very popular spot for Southwest Airlines.  When making my plans I thought I might have to fly into LAX (gasp, gasp) or San Diego and rent a car.  Fortunately I won't need a car until I leave on Sunday to drive down to San Diego for a few days to visit my nieces.  I love having my nephew and nieces in California.  They're a perfect excuse to come play chess in California.

As I mentioned yesterday one of the things I do love about the US Open is seeing old friends.  It's like a gigantic family reunion where you see the cousins that you haven't seen ages.  Every year I go to the US Open I come across somebody that I wasn't expecting to see.  Yesterday I ran into friends who I had traveled to Budapest with for Susan Polgar's chess and culture tour of Budapest.  They weren't playing in the tournament, but they wanted to visit and see who was there.  I also ran into one of my friends who were part of our US Open late night hearts games.  I haven't seen him at a US Open since 1991.  I have seen him a few times since then, but it's been a long time since we've attended a US Open together.  We had a lot of catching up to do.  I'm sure before the week is over I'll meet up with some other old friends and make a few new ones.

20 minutes until game time for me.  I need to pull myself away from the computer and get ready for some chess.  I haven't seen an advance entry list for the 4 day schedule so who knows whether I'll get the 2600 who will have me for lunch, or the 900 who hopefully I'll have for lunch.  I'm not really concerned about it.  It's times to play some chess!!


American Patriot said...

Good luck!

chesstiger said...

Always nice to have an upgrade to first class. I hope the hot meal was delicious.

Good chess and meeting old friends, what more does one want from tournaments? Nothing i guess.

Polly said...

Tiger: Sad to say, airline meals even in first class can't be described as delicious these days. It was fine, and I loved the warm cookie for dessert. Free wine makes anything taste good. :-)