Finding Out Your Flight Is Cancelled While Driving To The Airport

In my 4+ million flown miles I’ve had a lot of flight cancellations/delays. But they’ve almost always been on airlines that I have status with or when I’m flying in a premium cabin.

Yesterday I was scheduled to fly from New York LaGuardia to Tampa on JetBlue with my parents (which is a whole different adventure in and of itself). Everything was looking good, and we left the city a bit early so we’d have time to visit the Centurion Lounge. Five minutes after getting in an Uber I get an email from JetBlue saying that our flight had been cancelled. Crap.

JetBlue-Flight-Cancellation

I was confused at first, since the weather looked fine, and this cancellation occurred hours in advance. As it turns out there was a low cloud ceiling, which was causing delays averaging over four hours. That’s insane.

Usually I can make flight decisions in my sleep, since I’ve experienced just about everything. This one sort of stumped me, though. Do we stop the Uber and just stay in the city? Do we still go to LaGuardia? I was doing my best to get JetBlue on the phone while looking up inventory online, calming down my parents, and figuring out what was causing the cancellation.

When I phoned up JetBlue there was a 15+ minute hold time. While we were rebooked on a flight for this morning, I was looking up availability and noticed there was something out of JFK at 7PM. It had quite a few seats left for sale. Woohoo! While not ideal, at least we’d get home the same night.

As I kept holding I kept refreshing availability for this flight on ExpertFlyer… Y7… Y6… Y5… Y4… Y3…

Crap! Apparently I wasn’t the only person trying to rebook on this flight!

As soon as I saw availability go down to Y3 (which means a total of three seats were left for sale on the flight) an agent finally picked up. She was suuuuper slow, despite my urgency (admittedly that probably doesn’t mean much to her). “Hi, can I give you a confirmation number? Great, it’s XXXXXX. Our flight out of LaGuardia was cancelled, and we’d like to be rebooked on a flight tonight at 7PM out of JFK. There are exactly three seats left.”

Eventually she saw them, but go figure by the time she went to grab them they were gone. Grrrrr!

Gif

After finding the queues at the JetBlue counter a mile long and not getting anywhere with the agent on the phone, we headed to the Centurion Lounge. I figured if I could get my parents some wine and me some peace and quiet, I’d have a clearer head for getting us rebooked.

I’m used to seeing full Centurion Lounges, but I’ve never seen anything like this. There literally wasn’t a single open seat.

Centurion-Lounge-LGA

After getting some work done and monitoring inventory for a couple of hours we decided to head back into the city and call it a day. Space wasn’t opening up on the flight out of JFK at 7PM, and I figured even if it did open up, I’d have no way of rebooking on it, since presumably JetBlue would have long hold times all day.

Ultimately this wasn’t a big deal at all, but there’s no denying that dealing with irregular operations is a vastly different experience as an elite/premium cabin flyer, than as an economy flyer.

On American if I have an issue I call the Executive Platinum desk, which rarely has hold times. And when there are hold times, there are “back door” numbers where I can get connected to an agent almost immediately.

While there are certainly tips for minimizing the impact of irregular operations, there’s only so much you can do when there’s a long queue for agents both at the airport and on the phone…

Now here’s to hoping the weather doesn’t deteriorate further to the point that we’re stuck for another night!

JetBlue

Comments

  1. All of your ExPlatting is making you soft…I think you could have rebooked this online rather than waiting on hold. 🙂

  2. You should know better than LGA. Especially for B6, with their massive facility at JFK. I mean, let’s be honest, after the first few departures from LGA on a sunny day you wait in line to get in the air. “We’re number 21 for departure folks… Though better than cancelled I suppose.

    Plus JFK – which I know also had issues yesterday – has more flights to TPA, or even to MCO, which isn’t the worst drive to Tampa.

    Good luck today, though the weather doesn’t look much better.

  3. Ben,
    Sorry about the IRROPS headache. It is very nice of you to take care of your parents. What a good son!

  4. I had a Jet Blue 7.30 AM flight from BOS canceled at around 3 AM because they “ran out of planes”.
    Luckily TripIt picked up on that fact and made an angry sound in the middle of the night that woke me up.
    I don’t think I even received an SMS/eMail about that. I had to call the agent and tell her to rebook me on a flight that left 2 hours earlier (and make one hell of a dash to the airport).

    I really enjoy flying jet blue, but the process in case of canceled flights seems to need a little bit of polish 🙂

  5. Now you know what us regular folk go through when calling the regular carriers during irops 😉

    Seriously though, I hope you get home today!

  6. I am confused. Was JetBlue also selling tickets for the 7pm flight on their website? If so, why not just grab the tickets (at whatever price) and then sort out the refund/fare difference issues once booked?

  7. Greg — UA has ~6 flights a day from the NYC area to TPA (all from EWR). DL has ~8 flights a day (4 from LGA and 4 from JFK). Not sure that UA is “leading the way.”

  8. The reality is most people fly economy and the average person probably experienced what you experienced yesterday. During one of the huge blizzards a few months ago here in NYC, a friend who didn’t have status waited 5 hours to get an AA agent on the phone!
    I hope you guys are able to go back home today. Safe travels.
    BTW, I checked that Jetblue flight from JFK and it was also delayed by 1.5 hours… which meant it arrived in TPA at around midnight. Perhaps it was for the best all of you got some rest!

  9. Your flight was cancelled because of weather. I guess EVERYTHING is content at this point.

    Yawn.

  10. I guess I would have gone to the airport anyway if I found out while in the car and hoped they would rebook me on something decent.

    Do they pay for accomodation when something like that happens and they only rebook you on a flight the next morning?

  11. I once had a flight from BOS to MCO on B6, they couldnt find our plane at the airport or any other airport.

  12. Backdoor I use for AA is 800-222-2377. It is for AA web services but they can ticket and rebook no problem. Last week during that DFW weather mess, normal and EXP lines were 3-4 hours wait (not a joke). Called AA web services, got through in 3 minutes and was re-booked without issue. Just save the number in your phone for a rainy day.

  13. This is why I use a travel agent. He responds within minutes if not seconds. Makes changes instantaneously. Don’t understand why everyone who travels semi-frequently doesn’t do the same. DIY is not always better.

  14. Don’t understand why everyone who travels semi-frequently doesn’t do the same.

    As in corporate travel agents? In my experience they are universally terrible.

  15. “There literally wasn’t a single open seat.”

    Except the one at the open table, dead center in your photo. 😉

  16. Yeah, Laguardia was a complete mess yesterday. Even by LGA standards. I was stuck in a 4.5 hour delay at LGA yesterday on my way to ORD. Incidentally, as 2 of my least favorite airports in the world this was just my gluttony for punishment day anyway. My bad. Needless to say, my loss of 4.5 hours of sleep last night due to the delay has me kind of zombie today.

  17. As in ANY kind of travel agent. Precisely for situations like this. If you think you know more than the agent, you can always ignore their advice and use them as an order taker.

  18. Lucky, I am in the same camp as those who wonder why you didn’t just book the JFK-TPA flight and figure out the credit/refund later. Also, I don’t know what card you used to book, but the Citi Prestige card comes with Trip Delay protection, whereby you get $500 per person for a delay more than 3 hours. I have been in a similar situation and been able to claim the difference in price when I’ve had to purchase tickets at the airport (up to the limit, of course), stating that I could not miss a day of work, etc.

  19. @ Michael — Double edged sword, though, especially for someone who travels internationally a lot. When you book through a travel agent then you also can’t make changes directly with the airline (at least in many cases). So while you might have a great travel agent, presumably they’re not available 24/7/365, right?

  20. @ Marc — Since it’s weather/ATC they won’t pay for a hotel under these circumstances.

  21. @ Storm — They were. I didn’t do that because in practice I highly doubt they would have refunded the difference in fare on separate records.

  22. @ Neil S. — Right, I’m used to delays at LGA, but usually they at least don’t cancel. Ultimately it’s significantly more convenient and it has a Centurion Lounge, and it’s not like JFK is immune from delays. If in the same shoes again I would have probably done the same again.

  23. @ anon — You might want to read the post again: “ultimately this wasn’t a big deal at all.”

  24. This is one (of the few) things that I really like about United. United will allow you to rebook right away on their website during irregular ops free of charge as long as seats are available. They even give you the option of switching to another aiport and will tell you how far away that airport is. I’ve used this feature many times and saves the 60 minutes on hold.

  25. One of my “favorite” recent experiences trying to reach reservations during a busy time was trying to get in touch with someone at AA. Couldn’t even get in a queue to be put on hold (the system would not patch you through to an agent) and, after a bunch of re-dialing, it gave a call-back option instead of waiting 1-2 hours. Sounds fine except that when they called back and tried to connect me with an agent, that person probably hang up the phone to avoid dealing with a client. 🙁

  26. Even boutique agents are tied into 24/7 after-hours services these days. It’s a competitive necessity. I have many times called back to the US from overseas at odd hours and been helped instantly. If necessary, they put me on hold while they call the carrier on the (presumably) agent-only line. I think travel agents are MORE necessary in the internet age – with call centers outsourced and/or downsized and experienced staff let go – rather than less.

  27. @Lucky – Autocorrect strikes again unfortunately “Usually I can make flight decisions on my sleep, since I’ve experienced just about everything.” – computer swapped your “in” to “on” my sleep.

    Did wonder how long it would take for someone to mention “back door” access 🙂 although, compared to some comments on previous posts, commentators are being restrained here for now.

  28. That’s par for the course in that rat infested pit known as New York. Nothing ever runs on time in that city.

  29. I am a small business owner and I use Flight Center’s Corporate Travel division for arranging most flights. I have nothing but great things to say about them, from re-booking cancelled flights or missed connections to following up with airlines for compensation on cancelled flights. Being able to count on them allows me to focus on my business. And they have an emergency 24-hour number I can use outside of M-F office hours. If it fits your situation, I agree with the travel agent recommendation.

    Craig

  30. “Usually I can make flight decisions in my sleep, since I’ve experienced just about everything.”

    As this article makes clear what you have rarely experienced is having little or no status. When you have no status your primary option is to wait in line with everyone else. You can wait on the phone or you can wait in person but either way you’ll be waiting. Sometimes for hours or even days on end.

    There is some criticism of the carrier’s response that sounds reasonable until to realize that B6 is being compared to the experiences of a top tier member on the legacies. Try talking to AA or UA or DL without any status whatsoever and see how quick they are to respond to your needs. Chances are you’ll be in the exact same boat as B6 if not worse.

    In order to keep things moving smoothly more airlines need improve and update their web and mobile solutions so that users can make corrections themselves without further penalty.

    It would also be nice if the airlines allowed changes to missed connections as soon as they’re mathematically impossible instead forcing you to wait until after the next aircraft departs.

    What the airlines need to stop doing is claiming that someone will meet your delayed aircraft at the gate to handle your busted connection. Unless you’re a celebrity or you’re arriving in Japan it’s a bluff and nobody is meeting you at the gate.

  31. Funny, I could have taken that Centurion lounge picture myself, was there between 2pm and 3pm in the afternoon yesterday. Truly was a mess but the staff were extremely helpful, apologized numerous times, trying to find us seats, helping with food and drinks – eventually they found a couple of those ottomans and we sat against the wall, was fine with me. Very refreshing to come across people who genuinely seemed to care.

  32. @NeilS: The drive from MCO to TPA might not be bad, but being on any MCO-bound flight *IS* horrid. Remember why most people go to MCO — MiCkey mOuse. Crying babies, kids who make animals seem civilized, and parents who don’t know how to parent. The last flight I took into MCO was trying to get out of the NYC metro after Hurricane Sandy. Never forget.

    @Greg: UA sucks for Florida and NYC flights. Usually it’s B6 or DL if you want in/out of Florida.

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