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As a general rule, I try to be proactive with my travel reservations, and encourage everyone else I know to do so as well. This includes things like using [awardwallet] to track my reservations and logging into my frequent flyer accounts to make sure nothing has changed with flights. I also use Autoslash to monitor my car rental costs and also routinely check my refundable hotel reservations to see if the price drops.

(SEE ALSO: Exhibit #143 why it pays to proactively check your reservations)

(SEE ALSO: Autoslash saves the day again (to the tune of $483.98))

My Son’s Flight To Baltimore

I mention all of this as a backdrop to my most recent travel story. I wrote yesterday about my son’s flight to Baltimore last weekend. He had a 38 minute connection in Charlotte

a screenshot of a plane

which is a tight connection but doable if nothing goes wrong

(SEE ALSO: Misconnecting in Charlotte (I should have known…))

Things Start Going Wrong

Of course, things DID start going wrong. I was tracking the inbound flights and it started out fine but then as Saturday continued, I noticed a problem with the plane for his first flight (from CVG to CLT). It kept getting later and later in the day, and his first flight started getting delayed.

I had already dropped him off at the airport and as he waiting at the gate the flight kept getting further and delayed. It eventually took off 49 minutes late, being scheduled to arrive at 10:34 (6 minutes AFTER his connecting flight was scheduled to take off)

a screenshot of a plane

Being Proactive

Before he left Cincinnati, he got a note on the American app, telling him that his flight was delayed (duh) and inviting him to choose another flight

a screenshot of a flight schedule

We talked about whether or not to take another flight (which at this point would be the next morning). There are 2 schools of thought

  • There’s definitely something to be said for not giving up your seat on your existing flight until you literally KNOW that you won’t make it. Who knows what might happen
  • On the other hand, there’s also the argument that if you don’t take the best alternative flight now, by the time you do misconnect, it might be full (in part at least from all the OTHER passengers who have also misconnected)
  • There does exist a 3rd option which is a possibility where you can keep your existing seat but ask a gate agent to “protect” you on the next flight. Had I been there, I might have tried that but I didn’t see any good way to explain how to do that to him remotely.

So after talking about it, he said that he didn’t think he’d make it and took the seat on the Sunday morning flight

a screenshot of a flight schedule

But Wait!

But wait… there’s more!

I was monitoring his flights on FlightAware while he was in the air and noticed something strange. First of all, his flight “made up time” in the air, eventually landing at 10:26, “only” 36 minutes late. And then American delayed the outgoing flight to Baltimore by 30 minutes, even though there was no real reason to do that (the inbound flight had arrived a few hours earlier). My assumption was that there were quite a few travelers coming to Charlotte that would otherwise have misconnected. One of the commenters on the previous post said that “every gate was overcrowded, there was long line at the AA desk, and lots of people were sprinting to catch a connection (one of whom was loudly cursing Pete Buttagieg for some reason).

So as soon as he landed and got back online, I told him to sprint to his gate to try and make his flight.

Astute travelers can probably guess what happened next. The gate agent for his flight to Baltimore told him “Oooooh suerie, but you don’t actually have a seat on THIS flight – you have a seat on TOMORROW’S flight.” 🙁

So he did the walk of shame back to the airport exit and to the hotel that we had booked for him. Part of me was a bit glad because I had actually booked him a nonrefundable hotel, so if he HAD made his Saturday night flight, I wouldn’t have been able to refund it or get it covered by trip delay insurance and been out nearly $200.

The Bottom Line

Normally being proactive about travel reservations is a good thing, but on my most recent trip, it backfired. If we had just sat there and done nothing, it would have all worked out and he would have made his original flights, getting into Baltimore late Saturday night. Instead, trying to be proactive and “save” a reservation caused an unwanted overnight stay.

Have you ever had a trip like this where being proactive about a travel reservation caused problems for you? Leave it in the comments below

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