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In some ways, I am always amazed by the fact that air travel actually works as often as it does. With so many thousands of flights everyday and all those planes in the air, it seems like it should fail more often than it works. And that’s not even accounting for the fact that it’s always possible for weather to disrupt flight operations. Recently I had an experience where I ran into some IRROPS (irregular operations) that had Southwest trying to give us (my wife, 2 of my kids and I) a 12 minute layover in Baltimore (BWI). While I have run through the airport before, I think this would have been cutting it AWFUL close.

The Trip to Orlando

Awhile ago, I was in Orlando for a few days for a conference. Since it was going to be held at the Marriott Orlando World Center which features a waterpark onsite, I thought it would be a fun trip to bring a couple of my kids with me. While I would have to pay extra for their plane tickets (or use more points), the hotel would be paid for, since there’s no increase in cost for putting 4 in a room compared to just me. We had a direct flight on Frontier heading to Orlando, but on the way back we were flying Southwest with a connection in Baltimore. Probably a good thing we got that extra baggage allowance to make up for all the conference swag I was bringing home 🙂

Noticing Flight Delays

Our flight was originally scheduled to leave Orlando (MCO) at 5:35 p.m., arriving Baltimore (BWI) at 7:45 p.m. Our connecting flight to Cincinnati (CVG) was scheduled to leave at 8:35 p.m. A 50 minute connection was tight but I thought doable. But as I started checking on my flights, I started noticing problems

(SEE ALSO: What’s the best site to track your flights?)

(SEE ALSO: The #1 trick to tell if your flight is going to be delayed)

First our flight was delayed by 10 minutes. Nerve-inducing but still maybe doable. But then it was delayed again (now departing 6:12) and arrivng

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That was going to be a big problem with our connecting flight set to leave at 8:35 p.m.

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I saw that there was another flight going from Orlando to Baltimore leaving at 4:35, so I figured it wouldn’t be a problem to have Southwest put us on that earlier flight.

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Southwest has a free cancellation policy and free changes, but normally you do have to pay any fare difference. In this case that would be over $200 per ticket. But I figured given the flight delay they’d figure it out.

But the first agent I talked to was not helpful. She was very friendly but said that their policy said that they could only move us to the earlier flight for free if the first flight was set to arrive AFTER the connecting flight was taking off. She said that all we could do was go to the airport and talk to the on-airport staff or wait for the flight to be further delayed. That seemed a bit ridiculous to me since 12 minutes clearly had to violate the MCT (minimum connection time) and make this an illegal flight.

(SEE ALSO: Southwest just changed my itinerary to include time travel)

Southwest Fixes the Problem

We still had a few hours to kill (it was about noon at this point), so I wasn’t sure what to do. Eventually I figured I would try the old HUCA (hang up, call again) standby move. I got another agent and she had no problem moving us to the earlier flight.

The other flight (our original flight) did end up getting further delayed, so perhaps it would have worked out anyways.

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The Bottom Line

Or maybe by the time that flight had gotten “sufficiently” delayed, the earlier flight would have been full as Southwest tried to move people’s reservations around. I was really not looking forward to sleeping in Baltimore. I mean I’m sure it’s a nice city and all but… :-). Just goes to show why you should always proactively check your flights and reservations.

Ever had a situation like this where an airline wouldn’t move you due to a flight delay? Leave it in the comments

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