Mike's travel rules to live by, RULE 1
I eyed my schedule, nervously. Fargo, ND. April. Early April. Then Long Beach, CA, for the Indycar race. Fargo to Long Beach. Two days in between, one for travel, one for setup. And then, live. Should be OK.
Did you know there is an international airport in Fargo, ND? This IS the same Fargo, by the way, made famous by the movie line, “Who’ do ya have there in that wood chipper?”
And, yes, they really do say, “ya, ya” all the time. But I digress.
Snow falls continuously in Fargo. January through December, it doesn’t matter. And everyone ignores it. Southwest doesn’t fly into Fargo, I’m not sure why…so I was on United, my backup airline (and a client). There are 4 gates at the International Airport. And, if you are ever there, don’t expect them to post your departure gate. They don’t. Everyone just KNOWS. There is one gift kiosk. I bought an “I (heart) Fargo” shirt. I figured I might need it if stranded, snowed in, for days at the airport. At least I’d have a clean shirt.
Here was my plan: I would fly from Fargo to Denver on a United dinky jet. Then from Denver to LA in Business First, on a real jet. I left plenty of time for delay in my layover — or so I thought. The issue was: the same snow storm that was currently stalled over Fargo (and had been stalled the entire winter and spring, and for all I know, for all of history) was ALSO stalled over Denver. Snow falling on Denver’s cedars would fall on Fargo’s wood chipper a few hours later.
WHY spend the money on a Business Class ticket? Is it just to look important sitting in the front of the plane. No, This is travel rule number 1: always buy the best ticket available. While it made little obvious difference for the first leg: Tundra to Denver, it was pure heaven for the second leg. More importantly, if I had to change the flight schedule around, the gate agents would treat me with priority, even though I don’t have a huge standing in United’s Frequent Flyer program — I almost always fly Southwest. But I thought that flexibility was worth the difference in price. BUT, I did NOT book the Business Class ticket initially — I upgraded after purchase. Why? It’s way cheaper. But when you are standing at the gate with Primo Ticket in hand, the gate agent doesn’t know that. It simply shows as a full price ticket. She assumes you dropped $8000, and does whatever she can to help you, while everyone else in line, clutching their Hotwire ticket, or back of the bus bargain ticket, is left standing, fuming, and stressed out. She totally doesn’t care about them: they cost the airline money. She cares about me. I earn her money. I AM HER GOD. Back to my story….
“your flight is delayed 4,528 minutes,” said the United flight status text message. That was the dinky flight to Denver. I’d left plenty of time between connections, but not 4,528 minutes.
I mentioned: there is no gate agents at Fargo International Airport (at least, until the flight is about to load) — so, back through security, back to the ticket desk to figure out how to get to LA before my birthday, quickly approaching in Mid August.
“Oh, no, Sir,” said the ticket agent, “your flight is only delayed about a half hour, you’ll be fine.”
Back to the gate. Why automated text message said 4 month delay, I’ll never know. But don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.
And, an hour later, we were airborne. I settled back in my seat, watching the cloud bank below. We landed in Denver.
“Your flight is delayed 5,345 minutes.”
This time it was real. WTF?! Now what?
Up to the gate agent I go, armed with Primo Ticket. There was another flight leaving RIGHT THEN for LA. Why it wasn’t delayed, I don’t know, but it was going: I had a chance.
They put me on standby for the flight. I didn’t care if I ended up in the middle between 2 kids throwing pop corn, I would be happy to get on that flight. And that upgraded fare would have proved it’s value. Cost to change flights? $0. What would happen if I couldn’t change flight? Arrival, 6 am the next morning.
I sat at the gate. Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick. It was this flight, or the one that arrived on July 4th. Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick. They called my name. I was the last person on the stand by list. I went down the jet ramp. I immediately headed to the back of the plane, the last aisle, figuring I’d be next to that drooling guy with two heads and the bathroom line.
I show my ticket to the flight attendant. “Oh, no, sir, here is your seat.” It was next to the window. It was in business class. It was beautiful. “Would you like a warm towel?”
So you see, Travel Rule Number One WORKS. Even the luggage…
The luggage, of course, flies on your originally booked flight. Result: I made it to LA, but the bags didn’t arrive until the next morning. But, with Primo Ticket, bags are tagged PRIORITY! GET THESE BAGS TO THIS VIP NOW OR YOU DIE SUCKER. So, the luggage? It arrived at the LAX Westin before I had my morning coffee. Those passengers in steerage? Not so much. Total cost of Primo Ticket Upgrade, which is the only reason I got in at 6 pm instead of 6 am? About $150 over the cost of coach. What do you think? Worth it? Or would you rather sleep on the floor in DIA?
This leads me to travel rules. These rules are how I survive the open road. Read these rules. Follow these rules. They are learned in blood. Tomorrow: Hotels, and scoring a suite while everyone else is bumped to a Motel 6 and told to like it.