A Crazy Day Turns Into An Unforgettable Journey, Part 1

It’s been a couple of months since oneworld MegaDO.  And, while I’ve written about fundraising and great experiences in airplanes, there was a whole different adventure before things even got started.  And it wasn’t even planned.

You see, the MegaDOs traditionally have included a trans-Atlantic portion that occurs right before the main event.  It’s optional, and usually a smaller group.  It occurred to me a couple of days ago that I hadn’t taken the time to write it all down, if just so I could look back and laugh about it again years from now.  Indulge me a bit, it’s not a short story.

The trip was supposed to be JFK-LHR-DFW, all done in about 36 hours.  Take off late Monday night from JFK, arrive in LHR for a day with British Airways, quick nap, then board a Wednesday morning flight for DFW to get to the beginning of the OWMD festivities.

So, quick recap.  JFK-LHR flight.  Check.  Fun day at LHR with BA.  Check.  Quick nap.  Check.

LHR-DFW.  Uh, no.  And, that’s where the real fun began.

Working my way out of a deep sleep at about 4:30 in the morning, my phone rings.  We’re supposed to be at the airport around 7:30, so my alarm had already gone off once.  A bit groggy, I answer the phone.  It’s a recording from American Airlines telling me our flight has been cancelled.  There’s about 40 or 50 of us, and I’m the group coordinator with AA.  That means my cell phone number is in every passenger’s record.  My other line rings with another recorded message from AA.  And keeps ringing.  I can’t hang up on them fast enough.  After all, there’s 40 calls all coming to me at once.  I can barely hang up to call Tommy and see if he’s gotten the call.  Instead, he calls me as I feverishly keep hanging up on calls.

A quick shower and off to the airport to change our flight.  We’re there slightly before 6am, and we actually are able to find an AA employee even though the Flagship Check-In is still closed.  She starts helping us find a new flight.  As the dust settles, all seems okay.  Tommy and Melinda are on a Continental flight to Houston with a connecting flight to Dallas.  I’m moved to a British Airways flight direct to DFW.  All seems fine, Tommy and Melinda head off to a different terminal to catch their flight.  I’ll arrive before them to get things organized at DFW.

I head upstairs to the lounge to meet our AA contact so we can start figuring out where people are going to be rebooked.  Except, this is a group of seasoned air travelers.  They’re not waiting for us to rebook them.  They’re all taking matters into their own hands.  I’m sitting there watching people rebook more quickly than we can update the lists.  And, that’s when I find out I’m not actually on the BA flight anymore.  Well, I might be.  In coach, instead of business.  When the system was trying to rebook everyone, it’s moved too many people to certain flights too quickly, and not all the seats come back confirmed. Turns out I wasn’t really on the BA flight, so I needed to work on a new flight for myself.

It occurs to me at this point that a bunch of our people are probably right downstairs at the Flagship Check-In re-booking.  So, it makes more sense for me to head down there and make sure everyone is okay before I head over to the Continental flight.  I get downstairs to rebook myself and a chunk of our group shows up needing new accommodations.  It’s already been a bit of a crazy morning, but it’s about to get crazier.  4 people were having trouble getting new flights, Ben, Sven, Hamish and Alex (apologies if I got anyone’s name wrong, names are not my forte).

The options being presented were going to get them to DFW after the festivities started.  I started working with the agent to get them all on the Continental flight with Tommy and Melinda(and myself).  The agents are able to get us all confirmed on a different flight.  Except, this time, they want to make sure the airline is really going to accept the transfer.  They have an AA associate over at the Continental ticket counters at T4 working with the agents there making sure everything is going to happen correctly.  This is a recurring theme throughout the day.  AA reacted in so many awesome ways to try and make everything right.

We weren’t getting an answer from Continental, but we could see there were plenty of seats open.  So, I called Tommy and asked him to go talk to the Continental gate agent and make sure everything was okay.  Everything seemed just fine, so 5 of us started sprinting to find a taxi.  AA had someone coming back over from T4 to drive us, but it didn’t seem like we had time to wait.  This whole time, I’m still on the phone with Tommy.  And, as we’re almost all of the way to the taxi stand (none of the 5 of us in the shape to be sprinting with suitcases), Tommy tells me Continental won’t put us on the flight.  There’s an arcane (IMO) rule that an airline can’t board a passenger onto a plane if they don’t have a meal for them.  That, in and of itself, isn’t arcane.  But, the airline won’t board you in Business class if they can provide you a Coach meal and NOT a Business class meal. That’s the part I find silly.

So, back inside to Flagship Check-In, where they re-ticket us on a later Continental flight to Houston.  We’re now scheduled to land in DFW around 7:30pm, missing the start of the event.  The AA driver shows up and loads us all into a van.  Tommy calls back and tells me if I hustle, Continental will put me on the earlier flight in Coach.  Giddy up!

Turns out there isn’t room for 5 in the AA van.  Well, there is if one person crawls into the trunk with the luggage.  Yep, that’s me!  They pile the suitcases on top of me and we’re off to T4.  When we get there, I start on a dead sprint to the ticket counter, race through security and run to the gate.  I’m there 25 minutes prior to departure, and the ticket counter didn’t see any issues.  But, the gate agent won’t put me on the plane.  Tommy and I both stand there dumbfounded.  We ask nicely, then we ask more firmly.  We state all the reasons they can let me on the plane.  They steadfastly refuse.  I hand Tommy back the badges for all the attendees that he handed me at 6am.  We’ve now swapped positions again.  First, I was the guy getting there early, now Tommy is.

This was my first time at Heathrow, and I’m generally an AA/oneworld flyer.  I realize I have about 2 hours to kill, so it makes sense to find a lounge I can rest in for a bit and stop sweating.  At this point, I have no idea where Ben and the gang are.  I poke my head in a couple of lounges but can’t seem to find either a Star Alliance or oneworld lounge.  That’s probably because other than the few Continental flights, there are no other Star or OW carrier flights out of this terminal.

More to follow…

About the Author

My goal in life is to fill my family’s passports with stamps, creating buckets of memories along the way. You’ll find me writing about realistic ways for normal people to travel the world, whether you’re on a budget or enjoy luxury. I also enjoy taking us on the occasional detour to explore the inner workings of the travel industry.

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