After the short flight from National Airport, I made my back to the American Flagship lounge located near K19. Inside, I received a warm welcome from the three agents behind the front desk and an offer to show me around the lounge. As I had been inside several times before, I declined, though I appreciated the offer.
Five friends of mine were already inside the lounge, so we spent the next few hours catching up. All seemed well until I received word from a friend that there might be some delays on our flight. I quickly logged into ExpertFlyer and thanks to their FLIFO tool, learned that our flight was delayed two hours.
I wasn't too surprised about the delay, given the lack of reliability with American's 777-200 fleet, though I was still a bit concerned. With no spare 777s sitting around O'Hare, the plan was to use the 777 flying in from Shanghai to operate our flight. In a perfect world, that would be a great idea, though two words popped into my head that would make or break the flight...crew rest.
The FAA only allows flight crews to work so many hours before they are considered "illegal". Once the allotted time is up, the crew must receive their mandated rest time before they are able to fly again. The flight time from Chicago to Beijing is usually around 13 hours. When you factor in a two hour delay, there is little, if any room for a delay like ours.
I walked out to the gate area around 5:15pm to stretch my legs and noticed a large presence of Chicago Police Officers. Though the crowd seemed calm, any further delays would likely lead to aggravated passengers, so this was a good precaution. As I was walking around the gate, the agents announced that $12 food vouchers were available for passengers, so I walked over to get one.
At 6:38pm, we received the final delay notice. American was pushing for a 7:54pm departure. Though I knew it was unlikely, I figured they knew what they were doing. Less than an hour later, American & TripIt emailed with the news that the flight was rescheduled to 9:30am the following day. There were quite a few grumbles in the Flagship Lounge and we all descended upon the desk to check on alternate accomodtions. For those with connections, the only available options were midnight flights from Houston or Los Angeles on Air China in business class. The agents happily rebooked two of my friends on the Air China flight and we bid them goodbye as they raced to the departure lounge for the flight to Los Angeles.
Once everybody who needed to make the Air China flights were taken care of, the agents printed out hotel vouchers for those of us who would have to spend the night. The offer was for the Hilton O'Hare, which is connected to the terminal, so we gladly accepted.
The Flagship agents also provided some food vouchers to cover dinner. Between the three of us at the Hilton, we had quite a collection of vouchers that ultimately led to a nice steak dinner at one of the restaurants inside the Hilton.
One of my friends checked their bag that contained some items necessary for the overnight, so after fighting unsuccessfully to retrieve the bag, we walked over to the Hilton for dinner and to get some sleep before the flight to Beijing the following morning.