81 Hours In Europe: Copenhagen To London, Trying For An Earlier Flight

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My alarm woke me up at 4:30 in the morning local time which meant it was still Friday (10:30pm) at home in DC.  A text message from my wife told me she was going to sleep as I was waking up.  I didn’t want to tell her I was trying for an earlier flight.  As like  most things in life, I’ve found over the years it’s much better to under promise and over deliver when it comes to my schedule for coming home.

A quick shower and re-packing of my suitcase and I was on my way.  Though there was a train station nearby that was supposed to be easy transit to the airport, I hadn’t done any research on the Copenhagen Metro.  Nothing could be smoother than the trip from Oslo to the airport, and without any first-hand knowledge of Copenhagen I chose the easy (but certainly more expensive) cab route.  My memory is a bit faint from that early in the morning, but I believe the ride was just shy of 200 Kroner, or about $35 USD. Not a lot for a cab, except that it was probably just over a 10-minute trip.  This wasn’t quite as expensive as Oslo where a regular beer or wine at the hotel bar was about $15, but it’s apparent to me that if you want a budget vacation in this area of the world you need to plan very carefully.

I considered it a slim chance that I would be able to catch an earlier flight.  But, since I was only sacrificing a bit of sleep to try, it seemed well worth it.  For those that don’t travel internationally often, the “rules” are a bit different than when you travel in the US.  For starters, you generally can’t stand-by for earlier flights.  Since the airlines don’t maintain standby lists there’s only two ways to get home early, convince a ticket or gate agent  to make an exception or pay to change your ticket.  I’d already paid $600 to change my flight to come home a day early so investing more money to shave a few hours off my arrival time wasn’t likely in my future.  So, I went about being very polite and trying to convince someone to let me on an earlier British Airways flight.

I started at the check-in counter but the agent said she couldn’t help me.  She also said the only thing left for sale on the early flight was Business Class.  That would definitely make things more difficult.  I have Executive Platinum status with American Airlines which translates to Emerald status with oneworld, the alliance American and British Airways anchor.  But, I don’t have any actual status with British Airways, so no real weight to throw around.  The agent directed me to a ticket counter at the far end of the terminal where they might be able to help me further.

That was pretty much when I knew I wasn’t going anywhere early.  You see, it was a contract ticket agent for a whole slew of airlines.  Airlines commonly contract with private companies in some foreign cities to staff their ticket and gate agent positions. That means they have very little power other than what the airline’s stated policies are.  I could find the most sympathetic contract agent, but they likely wouldn’t have the power to slip me on to an earlier flight given what their computers would allow.  After about 10 minutes with the ticket agent I realized that avenue was fruitless and I figured I would take one more shot at the agent at bag check.  Now that I was a bit more awake, I realized it was almost 100% certain that she was a contract agent as well.  Walking back over confirmed it.  There’s no oneworld alliance lounge at Copenhagen, so I wouldn’t be able to have an employee in the club help me either.

My last reasonable chance was to call American again and hope for a miracle.  I got a very helpful agent at the EXP desk who worked on her keyboard, putting me on hold a couple times. She was pretty enthusiastic she could make something happen.  Alas, despite her fantastic can-do attitude, it wasn’t meant to be.  There was nothing left to do at this point but proceed through security and wait for my later flight.  I did walk over to the departure gate for the earlier flight on the off chance that I might pull off a hail mary and convince someone at the gate.  But, as I suspected while walking over, the same agent who was handling the bag check line outside of security was one of two agents handling the departure of the flight.  No joy.

I went to go find myself a lounge to hang out in for a few hours, my mission to get home early fizzling before it even had a chance to take off.

As an aside, if you’re an elite member of an alliance like oneworld, there’s a not very well-marked Fast Track security line hidden on the right-hand side as you enter security.  I wasn’t notified of it when I was handed my boarding passes nor was it marked for oneworld elites.  But, upon scanning my boarding passes, the automatic gate swung open to an empty security line.  The picture below isn’t the greatest but should give you a general impression.  It’s taken from behind the security entrance, so it’s the very skinny set of barriers on the far left-hand side of this picture.  Coming around the bend to security it’s easy to miss.



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