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Journal of nicholas (3034)

Friday August 04, 2006
05:01 PM


[ #30532 ]

I seem to have this backlog of things rattling around in my head that possibly should have been written down here. So here's a start:

After OSCON I was booked to fly back to LA on United's flight at 5:38pm. I arrived at the airport about 4:30pm, and started to check in on the automatic machine. Once I put in my confirmation number it merrily told me "flight delayed until 8.50pm" an presented several options including "change flight".

"Curious", I thought, but having no good idea of what options were available to me (and at what cost) I decided that the best option was "cancel" and queue up to talk with the humans on manual check in. I assumed that everyone else on the flight would be trying to wangle their way onto alternative flights, and as wasn't that early they'd all have a head start on me. It seemed that for the price of some more queuing I would be able to go on standby on another flight, with the fall back of the delayed flight if that failed.

By the time I reached the desk the estimated time had slipped back by another 30 minutes, and having heard horror stories before I could see where this one was going...

The woman at the check in desk could see another flight about an hour later, but for some reason wasn't sure if it was American or Alaskan Airlines. Given that the American desk was in sight but empty she inferred that it was Alaskan, so printed me out a real ticket ("don't lose that, I can't replace it") and I walked down to Alaskan's (longer) queue, where I recognised people from the United queu.

The man at the Alaskan desk was quite happy to take the United ticket (which surprised me at first, but he cheerfully explained "they will pay us" and now it makes total sense - Alaskan fills seats that were empty, but doesn't need to discount the fare). After a lot of fiddling with the computer, and walking off to check with someone else, he asked "window or aisle seat?" and "was an exit row OK". (Of course - more legroom). I'd lucked out - I wasn't just on standy, I had a seat. I didn't deserve this (I wasn't about to miss an internation connection, and had no urgent need to get to LA) but I wasn't going to turn it down either. (Bed bed bed)

So I went through security to the gate (power and free wireless) and e-mailed to my revised arrival time to various people, including my colleagues Adam and Zach, who were supposed to be on the same United flight at me, and I'd not yet met at the airport. It turns out that they'd arrived at the airport at 4pm, and seeing that the flight was delayed decided to put the time to good use in the airport bar. Rich, who was to pick us up, texted Adam, and Adam and Zach walked the length of the airport to get to the Alaskan gates to find me. No-one had suggested to them that they could go on standby, so they were hostage to the fortunes of United. There was still a chance - the gate staff directed them to go back out to the check in desks, where they were able to get on standby for the Alaskan flight. However, there were a lot of people on standby so it didn't look good.

When they came back to explain this the woman sitting opposite me in the lounge said that she'd been booked on the United flight, but was now on standby for the Alaskan flight, with a firm seat on the later Alaskan flight. It also seemed that by now the United flight had been cancelled, so Adam and Zach were looking worried. They went back out and got transferred onto standby on the later Alaskan flight, but even that wasn't looking good now.

Luckily for the woman, she was one of the two people on standby who were called, and by some strange co-incidence she was in the seat next to me, so we chatted on the way down. (She was going to LA where her daughter was about to give birth, so even a few hours would make a difference). But I had to leave Adam and Zach to fate.

So imagine my surprise when I got off the plane only to see Adam and Zach standing there. After a lot of stress, they lucked out too. A couple in first class were delayed in traffic, and about a minute before the gates were closed, Adam and Zach were called. (Having no checked baggage clearly helps here). So they had to suffer first class for a couple of hours, and enjoyed rubbing it in in Rich's car. Although it seems that all that Alaskan's first offers against economy on a regular airline in Europe are decent seats and free spirits. I doubt United's would be any different.

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