How I ended up in Portland when all I wanted was to get to Indianapolis


It all started with a rather standard trip to Indianapolis. The weather the weekend of January 4th was horrendous in the Midwest and east coast all totaled about 20,000 flights were cancelled this past week. I had a simple flight path starting in Oakland>Portland>Dallas>Indianapolis. Sure not the most direct but the cheapest option three weeks out by a long shot. Besides from Northern California to Indianapolis requires a stop someplace. Oh the irony though because on January 9th direct service started, btw my trip was January 6th.

So on Sunday I called American and begged they change my flight. They had a waiver in affect to most of the east coast, New England and mid-west airports. This meant I could change the date of travel or the routing as long as I ended up in Indy. Or at least that’s what I though; the exception was you must leave from the same airport. Since American doesn’t even fly out if Oakland I was hosed, as it was my first leg was on Alaska Airlines and American couldn’t do much, next time I will fight harder for a change, cause this nonsense could have been avoided. I was screwed and just had to fly my original trip. Ironically I was trying to help out the airline and make their issue of attempting to accommodate displaced passengers easier, by going direct from SFO or SJC to Dallas. Not only would I have freed up a seat, but I would be one less person they would have to talk to later when things went sideways.

As it is I think I’m a savvy traveler, but that doesn’t mean I know everything, and so even though I try to be proactive as much as possible I still get stuck sometimes.  Which always makes me wonder what happens to the people that wait till their flight get canceled, or don’t know their rights. Do they get stuck in Nebraska or some other place for a week till the airlines digs out of these types of messes and finally gets them home.

So what happened to me, I landed in Portland right on time, but between the time I left Oakland and arrived in PDX, I had received three separate messages about a rolling delay of my flight to Dallas. Of course this would happen, but I was ok I originally had a 2 1/2 hour layover in Dallas, and the delay was now making it an hour, although I was sweating it out.

The plane to DFW finally landed and deboarded. We finally got on, but then sat for another hour while they fixed the water system. Apparently it had been emptied the night before to prevent from freezing and now they needed to fix something. Tic tic tic tic tic. My window kept getting smaller.

We finally left 2 1/2 hours late, if I could have gotten off the flight I would have, but I couldn’t and I had somewhere to be, and even though I was running late, I could still luck out. There could be delays in Dallas or we could pick up time or they could hold my plane.

While on the plane I let my client know what was up because we would land after 9 pm in DFW and I didn’t want him waking up and getting to the office and going where is that guy. I also was able to get my amazing wife’s help in arranging alternate flight plans if needed and a place to stay. I don’t know how I’d make it sometimes without my amazing travel agent.

So I sat patiently on the plane and just waited out the flight, I had Wi-Fi, so was at least able to work most of it. This made for at least one silver lining, zero emails to worry about or deal with when I got on the ground. No I just had to wait out the 3 ½ hour flight and then get my track shoes on to make the trek to the connecting gate.

We landed with maybe 10 minutes to spare but I had to go from the D terminal to the C terminal which meant a tram and four stops plus a run. I did everything I could to make it, but by the time I got there I had missed the flight by no more than 10 minutes. The gate was already stacked for the next flight, and the line was way long. Since my plane was long gone, I didn’t think I needed to sit in line to get a new flight. I went online and sure enough because of the legwork, my wife did, I was able to check in and get a mobile boarding pass for the next day w/out talking to a soul and was good to go for the first flight out to Indy the next morning. Now it was time to sleep.

Fast forward to Tuesday, my flight was set to land at 11:30 AM, which meant I would not see the client before 12:30 PM if I was lucky. With a tight travel week, two cities to visit, the other Portland, things were not good. I was not able to just extend my stay there because I needed to be in Portland and had to leave on Wednesday afternoon to be there Thursday first thing. So after talking to my client and realizing at best we’d get 1 ½ days when two were needed, it made sense to postpone my trip and not actually fly to Indianapolis. Thankfully I just didn’t show up in Indy, the weather still sucked and I had a really good shot it turned out of not making it out of there Wednesday afternoon.

Now I just had to route back to Portland, are you keeping score. Less than 24 hours earlier I was in Portland desperately trying to get to Indy and now I need to figure out how to get here. Again thankfully American came through and after about a 10 minute call the agent rerouted me back to Portland that morning and I’d be able to work there as I needed too. The double bonus was that I was supposed to be out of town Monday to Friday and now I was able to work in Portland Wednesday and Thursday and get home that night. Score.

Yes this is a very long story about my very basic trials of air travel, and in the end most everything worked out. I was able to travel safely, got one of two jobs completed and even got home early. I know I was lucky, others took days to get where they needed to go, and were not only at mercy of the weather but also an airline system trying to replace displaced passengers form 20,000 flights. Whew what a pain in the butt.

The only advice I can offer for everyone including myself, is to be patient, flexible and nice. Saying thank you to the airline agents can go a long way. They are not all nice, but many are and they get pooped on by everyone, so when you are kind it can really go a long way. Also be proactive, pay attention to the weather, get mobile alerts and be ON TIME. This is key, because it can be the difference between getting on the plane today or 2 days from now.

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