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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 Expertflyer.com 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.