My Perfect Travel Day

by on October 28, 2011 · 16 comments

in Delta, Trip Reports

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We always hear travel horror stories so from time to time I like to detail days when travel goes as planned (or better).

I was in Miami earlier in the week and had to be in Tampa for a quick media appearance on Daytime TV before heading back to NYC. So I booked Miami-Tampa (one of Delta’s newer routes) with a 6 hour layover, then Tampa to LaGuardia.

Day of travel
That day early in the morning I got from South Beach to MIA airport in about 15 minutes. I arrived an hour before my 7:30am flight and decided to check my roller board because I was flying a CRJ-200 and would have to gate check it anyway. The flight was scheduled to land 8:30am and had to be at the studio by 9am, so any time I could save would be appreciated – plus I didn’t feel like lugging it out of security and then back.

I had selected seat 1B, which is my favorite seat on that aircraft, because the exit rows hardly have any extra legroom and the seats are thinly padded. Delta used to block row 1 from pre-assignment, but now seem to allow it, which made me happy. The flight was empty – with only about 10 passengers. We took off on time and landed 20 minutes early in Tampa. The flight attendant was super friendly and recognized me as a Diamond and offered me any drinks I wanted for free since the plane didn’t have a first class. Though I was content with my iced coffee, the gesture was appreciated. I personally think Medallions should get a free drink on regional jets since it’s not our fault we didn’t have a chance at a first class upgrade!

I had no issues getting a cab at TPA and arrived at the studio 5 minutes early. The segment went really well, we discussed top credit cards and why people should get their act together and get into points. It was a 4 minute spot, so I barely had time to go into the basics, but it was fun nonetheless.

I ended up finishing by 10:30am and my flight to LGA wasn’t until 2:30pm and there were no earlier non-stop flights and all connecting flights through Atlanta would get me in nominally earlier – not worth it to give up my confirmed upgrade. However, I loaded on my iPhone and did a flight availability search for TPA-JFK and lo and behold there was a 12:05pm non-stop flight with plenty of seats open in coach and 4 in First. As a Diamond on a Q fare, the gate upgrade was all but certain.

Generally, you can’t Same Day Confirm change to a co-terminal (which is a different airport in the same city, for example from JFK to Newark or LAX to SNA), however Delta allows it for Diamonds as an unwritten rule.

I called to do this with the Diamond line, because I didn’t want a lazy ticketing agent to deny me at the airport since I had already checked a bag. Sure enough, my friendly Diamond line agent manually reissued my ticket and gave me an exit aisle and wished me luck on the gate upgrade.

Once I got to the airport, I printed out my new boarding pass and went to the Sky Priority lane to ask for help changing my bag to my new flight. The agent entered the request in the system and told me to confirm with the gate agent before boarding.

I got through security in no time and checked in at the gate – the agent confirmed my bag was on the plane and that my upgrade cleared. Score!

The flight left on time and arrived 20 minutes early to JFK. Upon landing, I got an alert from my Delta App that my 2:30pm Tampa- LGA flight was canceled! (The app doesn’t update real-time so if you change flights you often get alerts for your previously booked flights). I had an important meeting that evening that would have been in jeopardy if I wasn’t able to get on the earlier flight.

At JFK, there was no delay in getting a gate and we even parked at gate 20 which is right across from the terminal exit. I had enough time to get a Starbucks and shortly thereafter the bags started coming off the belt and mine was the second bag. Those priority baggage tags are really working these days!

Upon exiting the terminal, the cab line was empty (a rarity at JFK) and the drive to my apartment in Brooklyn was traffic free.

Overall, it was a dream travel day and my elite status allowed me to dodge several obstacles and saved me a ton of time and hassle. I’m not writing this post to brag necessarily, but to show how elite status can really change your entire travel experience. I can’t put a dollar value on getting home hours earlier and not missing an important meeting, but it definitely gets factored into my decision when deciding to push for Diamond Medallion status, which is 125,000 elite qualifying miles every calendar year.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Christopher

    Great story!

  • Benthelefty

    I always think of the “priority carpets” as being silly and overly pretentious. They always cause me to chuckle. The thought of one taped off line with a carpet being more important than the regular non special carpet is always a good laugh (and as a non-elite I walk on it to spite the thought).

    Obviously drinks and better seats (and the other details discussed above) are the real advantage!

  • McCool Travel

    Stories are more powerful than a list of tips. Fantastic!

  • Mark

    As good as this story is, I am bailing on DL because of its un-customer friendly 72 hour rule on award tickets. But, moderately amusing anecdote. Good job.

  • Anonymous

    Agree that rule is bad. I’m dipping my feet in the AA waters… I’m hoping I’ll be swept off my feet ;-)

  • Matt

    The differentiated “carpet” aspect may be somewhat silly and pretentious, but the ability to use it to skip lines is a *huge* benefit for elites. I don’t really care what color the carpet is, but being able to bypass lines of non-elites is one of the largest benefits of being elite in the first place. Drinks and upgrades are nice too, but when you spend enough time flying to have elite status, particularly with largely domestic non-transcon flying, the ability to line-jump adds back a ton of sanity that may otherwise be lost. It allows me to spend, absent IROPS, essentially no time waiting at the gate prior to boarding (of course, every so often a plane boards early, particularly a small one, and I get the “you must be Mr. Matt, we’ve been expecting you” from the GA when I get to the boarding area).

    If you fly a few times a year, waiting in long lines is just an unavoidable and mildly unpleasant part of the experience, one that you put up with, maybe zone out, etc. When that becomes a few times a month, it starts to become significantly more unpleasant and mentally draining, or at least it did for me when I started flying regularly as a non-elite. The more you fly, the more even small benefits add up into the difference between enduring and enjoying the experience.

    It may just be that I hate waiting in lines, but the “carpet benefit” is *HUGE* for me.

  • Jason

    This might be a stupid/newbie question, but did you have to pay extra for the gate upgrade.. Or did they just give it to you because you’re Diamond Medallion Status??

  • wilson

    great story!

    had a similar experience coming back LIH>LAX>JFK with my wife on a recent sunday. When we arrived at LAX at 530 am our 6:30 flight was oversold (so no chance at the BE Upgrade), but being both Diamond, got priority for a bump, asked the GA to confirm us into BE (which she did for us, but the first flight she could do that for was 430 pm! not ideal). We anyhow took the confirmed upgrade and the 2 $400 vouchers, and went to skyclub. Immediately starting poking around on EF, and saw that that the 1:30 pm flight went from F0 to F2. At 8:30 am, well before the 3 hr window for a SDC, called the diamond line, explained my situation, and they reissued the tickets for both of us into BE for the 1:30 flight. So we went from no upgrade to $800 in vouchers, 2 confirmed seats in BE, and 4 extra hours in the lounge to watch NFL…it was a perfect sequence of events.

  • Anonymous

    Complimentary due to medallion status

  • Michael

    that 72 hour rule is really not enforced. I was in Paris on day of travel on award ticket and told them I was not feeling well and they allowed me to change my ticket — for a change fee (I’m EP on AA but have no status on Delta) but did not alter my ticket. It was really worth it.

  • MVI

    How do you tell if a flight is oversold?

  • Jamison

    As an AA Executive Platinum, they always allow me to change co-terminals too ;) , same day standby though…..

  • wilson

    Well, the easiest way to to tell is when you check-in (either online or at the kiosk) the screen will let you know that they might be taking volunteers for a bump to a later flight, due to an oversold situation. Since I got that message the night before (and I have been confirmed into BE on later flights after taking a voluntary bump out of LAX/SFO to JFK before), I checked in with the GA as soon as we arrived and let them know that we would take a bump, but only if they could confirm us into BE on a later flight. She was able to accommodate this, so we went fwd with it.

  • Ryan

    Glad you had a great trip! You are the Points Guy, of course you have to re-qualify for Diamond this year!

  • Sfobuddy

    I can’t WAIT to get Diamond status!

  • Anonymous

    Just last night after 40 minutes on the phone I was able to change my daughter’s (who’s Diamond) Award business class ticket FCO-LAX trip return to another date and Got $43 credit. The agent went out of her way to not ding me. Amazing, amazing!

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