Mileage run report: Delays and Re-routings and more delays

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I wrote here about this mileage run.  Here are my flight photos and short comments, as usual.

Finally, I had some time to write about my recent Mileage Run from Chicago to Singapore, via Denver, San Francisco, and Tokyo.  I never made it to Singapore, hence the strike-through.  I had several delays and missed connections, so needless to say, it was a fun one.

My original itinerary

Needless to say this didn’t pan out as planned.  I definitely gambled on my first connection of 35 minutes, however, we made it out of ORD on time and landed with a few minutes to spare in DEN.  The aircraft for my next flight was all ready to go, but unfortunately air traffic control in SFO delayed our departure by 2 hours.  This made me miss my connecting flight from SFO to SIN.

My second itinerary

As we taxied to the gate in DEN and I received the delay notification, I began looking on my own for alternate routings.  I found a Singapore Airlines flight that would depart at 4:35pm, which would give me enough time for the international transfer in Beijing.  Unfortunately, I was booked on China Airlines and I didn’t notice.  Silly mistake on my part!  So during my flight to Beijing I looked at my boarding passes and low and behold, another short connection.  The difference is that this tight connection would be at a huge international airport and it would be an international transfer, which means customs and security again.  I knew I’d miss it, so as soon as I landed I got on the phone with United and made an adjustment.  Although I did make the mistake of not double checking that I was rebooked in the flight I requested, I do hold United’s agent accountable for booking me in such a short connection given the circumstances.  Agents should be on top of that.  At this point, I’d be better served flying directly to NRT, which I decided to do.

My third (and actual) itinerary

Oh well, so I ended up spending a night in Beijing instead of Singapore.  Not as fancy, but it was just fine.

How United did right by me

Again, I was on a mileage run so getting somewhere at a certain time wasn’t all that important to me.  Still, I was curious to see how United would treat me, given the missed connection in PEK.  They didn’t disappoint.  Firstly, United covered my expenses there and accommodated me at the Steigenberger Maximilian plus food and transportation.  Secondly, United honored my original ticket’s PQM earnings.  Thirdly, I had done a miles upgrade + fees on my NRT>SFO flight.  I didn’t want to take any chances, as this might have been my last 747 flight and wanted to make it memorable and fly upstairs.  I was waitlisted, but R space became available and I cleared within a few days.  To my surprise, United refunded me both the 30k miles + the fees it cost to upgrade!

Things to keep in mind

  1. Don’t gamble with close connections.  Sometimes when we purchase tickets, we pay all the attention to the price of the ticket.  I kept thinking, what if I was on a family vacation and had to catch a cruise or something along those lines.  I would’ve missed it and that would’ve ruined the vacation.  So if you’re on a set schedule, don’t risk it.  Sometimes it’s better to pay a little more and leave a little less room for error.  True, this doesn’t eliminate all possibilities of a serious and impactful delay, but it does mitigate some risk.
  2. Remain calm if the worst should happen.  Throughout this trip I encountered delays, re-routings, excellent customer service, mediocre customer service, excitement, dissapointment….  One thing is certain: nothing gets better by becoming agitated and lashing out at agents or reps at the airport or on the phone.  It just doesn’t get people moving and trying to help you.  It was so frustrating, especially in China, not being able to easily communicate with some of the staff at the airport, and later the United staff.  But being patient was helpful and I could see that the staff was really trying to help me the best way they could.
  3. Flying is so much fun!  This is my main takeaway.  Never forget how amazing it is that we get to fly inside a metal tube and travel super duper fast to get to awesome destinations.

In the coming weeks, I’ll be talking specifically about my flight experiences and also the one gym I was able to visit in Beijing, compliments of United’s hotel stay.

Give me your thoughts