Different Airlines – Same Routes – To Chicago with American Airlines and British Airways
Or “Oh Sandy. You came and you gave without thinking….”
- Cheap Flight? In the autumn? Which planet are you on? (The Introduction)
- To London, BA Galleries First, American Airlines FlAAgship Lounge
- AA99 – London Heathrow to Chicago O’Hare International
- Crowne Plaza O’Hare
- Hyatt Regency O’Hare
- One-Time Exception: From Addison to Downtown – Riding the L
- Trials, Tribulations and Sandy (THIS SECTION)
- O’Hare T3 and the American Airlines FlAAgship Lounge
- AA98 – Chicago O’Hare International to London Heathrow
- Homeward Bound
- Oh Sandy, you came and you gave without thinking… (The Wrap-up)
Remember the skies were dark in my last post… well this is where I learn not to ignore the voice in the back of my head…
I have this nasty habit when aboard to stick either to CNN or when in Chicago watch NBC a lot – for me, its part of “being connected to the world”. And the news reports of Sandy and the devastation that storm was bringing.
I watched with interested with the path, and took no notice in the beginning. On Friday, the path began to change and headed for the East Coast.
There was a nagging thought in the back of my mind, but I dismissed it…
Saturday, 27th October
I was watching the box and was slowly aware of Hurricane Sandy’s path. Looking at it, it looked like it would be rough, but I would make it out ok on the Monday with the proposed route via Philadelphia.
That thought changed quickly when my friends who live in Jersey City (who were also in Chicago at the same time) they were told to evacuate from their residence as soon as possible
Putting 2 and 2 together in my brain, I realised that getting out on the itinerary I had (ORD-PHL-LHR) could become very troublesome without pro-actively doing something about it.
It was a quick shift to the British Airways site, and I noted an advisory was in progress already which would allow me to change flights.
Reluctantly, I picked up my US phone (I was glad I got that little cheap flipphone a this point), and dialled the 1-800 number. Within 6 minutes, my call was answered and I explained the situation to the operator. I was offered flights a day earlier – departing the Sunday as opposed to the Monday – and was offered a choice of the 09:00, 18:00 or 21:30 flight out of ORD to LHR directly. As I had cause to remain in the ORD until the evening, I plumped for the 21:30 flight, and hope the flight wouldn’t be too bumpy.
No charges were made for the change and I put the phone down, thinking I had beaten the storm.
At this point, I also gave a call to the InterContinental Hotel O’Hare as there was no point in keeping the room at this point, and release it to someone who might actually need it.
The changes were reflected in my booking (as I was monitoring the changes through MyFlights), and all looked good.
OLCI came and went and I plumped for a seat in the back of the plane. Closing the seat map, I thought that would be the end of it.
Boy was I wrong.
Sunday 28th October 15:33.
I had finished packing up from a good weekend and catching a lot of friends when a text message hit my phone. My fun mood that I had dropped at that moment when I saw this:
The words that came out of my mouth were none too polite at this point.
It was a case of pulling out the laptop and dialing the 1-800 number again. This time the hold time was long. Very long as everyone else was racing to rebook.
Lets put it like this: I had time to:
- Have a coffee
- Go to Walgreens in Shiller Park and back
- Discover the joy of LactAcid! (that stuff has improved life a tiny bit)
- Have another coffee
- Check my mail and flight stats multiple times
Whilst on hold I got another message from British Airways – one that made me glad I picked up the phone when I did…
A quick check using the BA App confirmed the bad news:
My motivation to hold suddenly increased at that point. The BA site was jammed at that moment, so all I could do was wait.
Finally, 1 hours and 20 minutes later my call was answered.
After a discussion of what had gone wrong, the agent pulled up my file, and saw what he could do – he could put me on an AA flight out of ORD THAT NIGHT at 22:45. I checked if it was the only option. The agent’s advice was simple “Hang around – you’ll get stuck”.
I took that as a sign to take the flight.
The agent offloaded from BA296 and switched me to AA98, and reissued my ticket, so I could check in at the airport. The changes reflected within seconds in my booking as MyFlights alerted me to the changes
1 hour 30, I pressed the hang up button, with only a $9 charge hitting my little AT&T flipphone.
Best $9 I’ve ever spent.
Breathing a bit more of a sigh of relief, I thanked my friends who were looking after me, thanked the conference manager (who was preparing another room for me on the conference rate I was on), and I headed up to the hotel reception, so I could high-tail it to O’Hare.
There I saw a shuttle was heading for the airport. I took it. Being only person aboard – it was straight to T3.
Overall: This is where customer service comes into its own with exceptional circumstances at play. Whilst the waits were long, British Airways did one of the most important things they could – that was to get me home in a timely and safe manner – even if it meant sending me via a oneworld partner.