Nightmare Trip Beginnings: Flight Cancellation Scares and Delays

I’m back from my first trip of the year and first time ever to Italy, Austria and Germany and I can honestly say it was amazing with a few rather stressful exceptions. Having flew in last night, I’m still suffering from bad jet lag, but I wanted to get at least a post up today since it’s been a whole week! Whenever I travel I always have unique experiences and I can honestly say I can’t make these stories up!

The Cancellation Scare

Last Tuesday I was supposed to begin my trip by flying to Paris on Air France and connect in Paris to Venice. I had planned for a 4 our layover and was determined to be well prepared unlike my last time through Charles de Gaulle airport. You never want to allow less than 2 hours for a layover as immigration and customs lines can be long. Another story for another time.

I live about a 2 hours form the airport; with a 2:30 scheduled departure time, I had planned to leave my home at 9:30 and arrive to the airport by 11 just to be safe. i checked in online the night before and everything looked great. Enter the first notification from Air France. About 10 minutes before I was due to leave my home, I received a text message that my flight had been cancelled!

I almost had a heart attack! The notification advised me I had been automatically rebooked on a new flight scheduled to leave at the same time as my previous flight. It had a different flight number, but was still an Air France flight. Having worked in aviation, I know that sometimes this happens when the airplane type is changed. I logged onto the Air France website and couldn’t find any information about the new flight.

Now Air France in the US is partnered with KLM and Delta for their customer service department. Confused, I decided to give Delta a call to see what was going on. I didn’t have to wait too long and a representative picked up in less than 10 minutes. They needed some basic information and were able to pull up that the original flight wasn’t cancelled afterall, rather it was delayed.

I was now really confused since I had the notification that I had been rebooked on a new flight. Did they have any information on why? She did not, but the representative placed me on hold and was able to find that the flight was delayed 12 hours and had to be given a new flight number as technically it would be leaving after midnight, a new day. You can’t have two flights with the same number, on the same route, on the same day.

What Happens to the Venice flight?

I thanked the representative and hung up. I felt a little better, but now was really worried about my connecting flight and my hotel reservation and ride to the airport. Checking the Air France app, I could see that my connecting flight to Venice had not been touched. I wanted to take care of this before dealing with the hotel.

Calling Delta back, I reached a different representative and once again confirmed some basic information and asked about my connecting flight. She apologized for the delay and rebooked me over the phone right away. I was ecstatic! Why? This may sound strange, but it’s actually common in the aviation industry not to rebook a connecting flight until the first flight has become airborne in case of further delays.

Rebooking can be really complicated. You don’t want to have too many rebookings on a ticket or else you have to do a reissue of it. When you reissue a ticket you must ensure the original ticket is linked to the new one. From experience it was something I tried to avoid at all costs. If you wait long enough, the central reservation computer is smart and can figure out the next best flight automatically for you.

In my case, the flights to Venice are on smaller planes and are usually full. I wanted to make sure I would have a seat on the next flight to Venice upon landing in Paris. It was a good thing I did! As it turns out, I would be able to make the last flight of the day to Venice, but I would have to run for it as it would be a tight connection, 1 hour and it wouldn’t arrive to Venice until midnight.

I thanked the representative and decided to call the hotel in Venice to find out about late night transportation. My hotel reservation was for the Hilton on the Giudecca canal, across from the mainland area of Venice. The only way to get there from the airport so late was by private taxi. It would have to be prearranged in advance. It was 150 Euros. Not wanted to book anything yet, I let the hotel concierge know I would get back them.

Only 20 Minutes Late!

You never know what is going to happen with flights. Things are always changing and if a flight can possibly get out early it will. Knowing that I might sit around for 12 hours, I decided to go to the airport early anyway. By then it was 10:30 am. Two hours later, I swung by the Air France ticket counter and patiently waited in line.

Understandably people were really upset about the situation. Never take out your frustrations on the ticketing agents. They are just doing their jobs and want you to get to your destination as much as you do. They have to stay late until the plane leaves and will be hearing frustrations and negative comments form a lot of people. On top of that, oftentimes they have nothing to do with the delay. In this case, I was able to find out that the inbound Air France flight landed late due to bad weather.

The originally crew scheduled to operate my flight that was delayed had a sick member and could not legally operate the flight being short one. Since the only Air France crew available was not the inbound crew, they have a minimum amount of rest time they need before thy are allowed to work the next flight. With a late landing that morning, the crew rest time gets pushed later and later.

Back to our story….when it was my turn at the counter, I greeted the agent and advised him I already knew about the delay. I knew from experience that KLM and Delta also operated flights out of my home airport. I explained that I had already spoken to Delta about my connecting flight, but wanted to check and see if any other routing options were available through maybe Atlanta or Amsterdam.

The agent did a key keystrokes and told me that they were currently finalizing the KLM flight to Amsterdam. He called over to the KLM desk and was advised if I could make it through security in time, and was okay with a middle seat I could be on that flight. The key was that by not checking any luggage this might be possible. Any checked luggage had to go through an additional TSA screening. Since it was only 1 hour before departure, it was past the deadline to accept checked luggage. If your luggage doesn’t arrive, you can’t travel.

I didn’t care about which seat I had on the aircraft as long as I was on the flight. I ran to security and was worried about the line, but it went pretty fast. I ran to the gate and was among the last passengers to board! I found my seat in the back of the plane and with my luggage. Everything went right on time and I found myself arriving at 9:55 am in Amsterdam.

I checked in with the agents upon arrival and was told I had a 6 hour layover before my flight. Ironically the new connecting Venice flight would land only 20 minutes after my originally scheduled time!

The Moral of the Story

Be flexible with your flight options by getting to the airport early. It never hurts to ask. When you ask, always be polite. Don’t take out your frustrations on people who may have no control over the issue causing the delay or cancellation. Delta/KLM/Air France was great and notified me as soon as they knew about the issue. They rebooked and rerouted me efficiently and got me to my destination only 20 minutes late.

Could I have asked for compensation? Probably, but why? I don’t want to get greedy, all I cared about was getting to Venice. I could care less about getting a credit back or miles. I booked a cheap ticket and technically I wasn’t supposed to be able to change it without a fee. When I get to my story about flying home, I’ll explain once again why their customer service was excellent!

Travel light if possible. Having a checked bag won’t give you a ton of options with standing by or taking a different flight. I have a ton of new content headed your way soon! I’m excited to share it with you, but for now, I need to get some sleep. I have to go back to work tomorrow! Until next time, happy travels!