A day in the life...a frustrating travel experience.

On some recent business travel, I had flights messed up by stormy weather and ATC delays.  I want to share my experiences, and how I tried to make the best of a pretty frustrating situation.


This was just a short trip, one day at a customer site near BWI.  I flew in the evening before so I would be ready to go first thing in the morning.  I stayed at the relatively new Sheraton near BWI. 

Sheraton BWIPhoto courtesy SPG

After I completed my work, I returned the rental car, and took the shuttle to the airport.  I was pretty early and was hoping to get out on an earlier flight.  Unfortunately I wasn't quite early enough.  While looking at the departure boards, I first noticed that all United flights were delayed, as were most all departures that afternoon/evening.  Great.  There is no United Club in this airport (anymore), although there is a paid lounge which is also accessible for AMEX Platinum card holders.  Free wifi is available, and there is a fair amount of open gate space, so no lounge isn't a huge issue.  

Eventually, my flight to Chicago boarded, maybe an hour or so beyond the scheduled departure time.  All seemed well, although I quickly noticed that the DirecTV was not working.  



DirecTV #Fail

Annoying, but the flight time is only 90 minutes, it was certainly manageable to have no IFE.  Unfortunately, this delay kept growing.  Thanks to weather elsewhere, we kept getting new update times, for when more information would be available.  Eventually O'Hare was closed, and the delay continued.




And continued...



While waiting on board, there was only one drink service, and maybe a few water runs over the course of the delay.  Despite this flight being listed online as a dinner flight, it was only catered for the snack basket.  Presumably, the dinner notation was incorrect, but I didn't eat, planning to get a meal on board.  I eventually went back to the terminal, but all restaurants were closed.  There were some bags of pretzels and water available in the terminal.  Until the flight finally departed at 11:55pm eastern, and the snack basket was passed, the pretzels were the only food I had since lunch.  At least I was upgraded!

While waiting out the delay, I was on the phone to the 1K line trying to look at other options.  The best they could do initially was to rebook me for a flight departing BWI at 4pm the next day (Friday).  Not ideal, but at least I had something.  My seat mate was a GS, and she was cleared on a flight on Friday morning.  She eventually gave up and left.  Can't say I blame her.  Later I called back and was confirmed on a Delta flight on Friday morning.  Thankfully, I didn't have to use this option since we finally took off, nearly 7 hours delayed.

Since I was unsure if or when we might depart, I didn't make any arrangements for where I might stay that night.  I searched out some options, while still in Baltimore.  Once we landed in Chicago, I booked a room at the Hyatt O'Hare.  I found a decent rate, and I knew it was close by with a free shuttle.  I didn't even bother trying to push for a free room.  This used to be a 1K perk, even for weather delays, but I don't think this is the case anymore.  Gate agents were on hand to provided rebooking information and a phone number for discounted hotel rates.  





I caught the 1am shuttle to the airport, and checked in at the Hyatt.  The agent must have felt bad for me, since she offered me a free upgrade to a Plaza Suite in the Executive wing.  It was a nice bonus, and actually the same upgrade I got in a past stay there using a Diamond upgrade certificate.  I'll post a review of this hotel later.

While waiting for the hotel shuttle, I called United to see my options for getting home to Milwaukee.  There was availability for flights at 7am, 10ish, and 3pm.  I wanted to get some sleep, so the 7am was out.  I had a meeting I needed to call into mid morning, so 10 was out, so I asked to be re-booked on the 3pm flight.  The agent was helpful, but very much by the book, including reading me a long list of rules before she would assign me an exit row seat.  I was not in the mood at 1am, but at least it kept me awake while waiting for the bus.  

So after some sleep, a workout, and then my morning meeting, I caught a shuttle back to O'Hare.  I walked up to the premium security line, and noticed some new signage:



PreCheck. finally!


I have seen this setup at O'Hare Terminal 1, but the last time I cleared security here, I was flying international (my last-minute Asia trip) and not eligible for PreCheck.  I anxiously walked up to the scanner, and happily got the 3 beeps.  She directed me to the leftmost lane.  I scanned my mobile boarding pass again, and was directed to keep my shoes and belt on, and all liquids in my bags.  The only thing I couldn't have in my pocket was my mobile phone, which I just stashed in my bag.   This whole process was quick and easy, as I was the only person in the PreCheck line.  It took less than a minute.  It was simply wonderful.  One of the biggest hassles of a frequent traveler is dealing with TSA screening.  After this experience, I'm a huge PreCheck fan.  

In all, this was a mess of a travel day.  I got home 16 or so hours after my original schedule, and had another night away from home.  It was quite frustrating overall, but it wasn't all bad, I had a nice stay at the Hyatt Regency O'Hare with a free upgrade, and I got my first TSA PreCheck experience.  


Nelumbo July 31, 2012 at 10:30 am

1Ks still get hotel accommodation during weather irrop. You might want to send your hotel receipt to customer service for reimbursement.

Sounds like a horrible day, Brad. Glad you made the most of it!

As of a few weeks ago, UA was still offering 1Ks a free hotel room for IRROPS.

btw, congrats on getting Pre-check access! Glad to see it finally open in ORD.. Now if only SFO/DEN/IAD!

Brad July 31, 2012 at 05:57 pm

Thanks all.

The agents at the gate knew nothing about this, and only gave me the 'discounted' hotel rates card. Even more annoyingly, there were no rooms available! I'll see what I can do with Customer service.

laurent August 1, 2012 at 09:42 am

Same thing happened to me a few weeks back. Was left stranded overnight at Ohare by United. Never offered a hotel room, or even followed with me since. They also managed to misplace my bag for several days afterwards, which I had to retrieve myself at SFO. I don't have status at the moment, but I have flown 250+k miles with them and their Star Alliance partners ard the world for the past 17+ years. What's the best way to get any sort of compensation from United, considering their current stay of disorganization and lack of customer service?

Brad August 1, 2012 at 05:40 pm

@Laurent Sorry to hear about your experience. Unfortunately United is very much a "what have you done for me lately" business, so your past business will likely do little to make them help you. I suggest you contact customer care online: http://www.united.com/web/en-US/content/Contact/customer/default.aspx

Hopefully they will get in touch with you before too long.

Good luck

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