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On our last night in London, my husband’s phone rang in the middle of the night (this is never good, though because of the time difference it wasn’t that late in the US). It was an automated call from US Airways that said…..We are calling because of a change to your flight number (long pause) from (long pause) London Gatwick (pause) to Charlotte (pause). Your flight is now scheduled to depart at (long pause – much later time)….. you get the point. This happened five more times throughout the night as the flight kept getting pushed back.
We still got up at the time we would have for our original flight – partly because I had already ordered room service to be delivered at that time, and partly to see what our other options would be to get home. This marks the eighth day we have been away from our daughter, so it is time to go. Plus my husband has to work tomorrow, but the daughter still trumps in my book! I didn’t immediately see a cause for the delayed inbound aircraft on US Airway’s website, but I went on the assumption it was weather since I saw there had been snow in CLT the day before when the inbound flight would have left.
The US Airways UK call center line was not yet open when I got up, and I quickly gave up on the US number’s hold and decided to wait for the UK line to open so I could just call for free from the hotel phone. At the very least I knew we would mis-connect on our flight from Charlotte to Houston, so that had to be fixed. I didn’t know if there would be any help they could provide beyond that, based on the assumption that it was a weather-related delay and the aircraft was now on the way from the US. However, it was going to arrive at least four hours late, so I decided to see if we could do better on another flight.
I had a little time before the call center opened, so I researched options and saw our best bet was a direct flight from Heathrow to Houston on United that left late enough for us to make it…if US was willing to rebook us onto it. We were originally booked using US Airways Dividend Miles onto a US Airways flight. I called right when the US Airways UK call center opened and was told that they had already placed us on standby for the first CLT – IAH flight that our schedule would now allow given the delay, but that it was full, so we were confirmed on the one after that. That flight would get us in to Houston after midnight, which would mean almost 24 hours from the moment I was on the call with the US agent. That is a very long travel day just to get back from London. He said there were no other options available due to the flight schedules to the US.
This is where you can make a difference in your own life by being informed and proactive. I could have just said thank-you-very-much, hoped for no further delays, not seen my kid at all that day, and been totally wiped out the following day. Or….present a viable option and see if it works. I asked specifically about the United direct flight to Houston from Heathrow (that I knew had seats available in business class and saw was scheduled for an on-time departure with the plane already on the ground), and after a brief hold, we were confirmed on the United flight. Before hanging up, I confirmed that we had actually been ticketed on that flight by looking it up myself on United’s website with the confirmation number given. We didn’t have any spare time for mishaps.
We quickly finished getting ready and made a bee-line for Heathrow. If all goes as planned, we will arrive home at least eight hours before we would have if we weren’t proactive and informed….and lucky. Presenting your own “Plan B” won’t always work, but it will never work if you don’t ask. Thank you to US and United for helping us get home today (assuming no further hiccups!).
I’d love to hear your stories about how being proactive when facing delays or cancellations has helped you get where you need to be!
This post brought to you by the free Wifi in the Skyteam Lounge in Heathrow Terminal 4 that somehow you can access using a United BusinessFirst boarding pass…who knew? (well, probably everyone but me….)