December 25, 2008

A winning combination: Air travel and Christmas

Posted in Air Travel, family at 7:03 pm by Lauren

Allen and I got an early Christmas present from American Airlines when they called for volunteers to give up seats on our flight yesterday. We had already decided we’d volunteer if given the opportunity – and forewarned my parents. We were the first passengers to the desk (we’re pros at running through airports), and we handed over our boarding passes to the agent. She said we wouldn’t be able to make it through to San Antonio that night, and I impressed that that was fine, as long as they would put us up in a Dallas hotel for the night. She agreed, so we sat down to wait until take-off.

Once the flight was on its way, she set us up to fly out on the 7:40 flight to Dallas, handed over two $300 “transportation vouchers” (good for a year!), and gave us a hotel voucher and two meal vouchers ($20 for dinner, which we had just eaten, and $10 for lunch, which I assumed meant breakfast). We got another pleasant surprise on our boarding passes for the morning – first class seats! This would be the first time I’d fly first class, even if it was just an hour’s flight. We learned that the flight had been oversold by 22 people. I think we were among just a few who actually volunteered to relinquish our seats; everyone else was bumped (though with the same perks as us, of course).

We went to Potbelly and stocked up with another two sandwiches and drinks (we’d just eaten around 4 pm). We figured that we would be hungry again when we got to Dallas at 11 pm, and that nothing would be open there then. We sipped a couple of milkshakes on our way to our new gate.

When we got there, the call came out almost immediately: they needed volunteers to give up their seats for this flight. We went up to the counter again and asked what time we would get in to San Antonio if we flew out in the morning (and slept in our own beds!). When we heard that we’d be in by 12:45 pm, we handed over our boarding passes again. When the time came for take-off though, the boarding agent apologized; they didn’t need anyone to give up their seats after all. We didn’t care – another $300 each in vouchers would have been cool, of course, but getting in earlier on Christmas was okay too. And our flights for Christmas morning were first class after all!

The flight to Dallas was uneventful. I bought a pair of $2 headphones to use in my iPod because I couldn’t locate my own headphones before leaving home. Then I read You’re Wearing That: Mothers and Daughters in Conversation, one of my Christmas presents for my mom. A few rows back, Allen enjoyed his book in the exit row window seat.

It seemed sudden when we arrived in Dallas, and in fact, we got in at 10:00 pm instead of 11:10 pm! (For a three hour flight, we cut an amazing amount of time.) We went straight to an agent and asked if there were any flights to San Antonio that night. They said that in fact there was one, but they were grimacing about the standby list. I explained that it would be fine to fly out in the morning as scheduled, but that we had volunteered to give up our seats for an earlier flight, that we were told we wouldn’t get in until after the last flight to San Antonio, and that we just wanted to ask about it since we had gotten in earlier than scheduled. The agent tapped at her keyboard and handed us two boarding passes. She said, “The flight leaves in 25 minutes from the other terminal, and they’re boarding already – I’m going to need you two to hurry.” You know we ran through the airport.

When we got to the gate, the standby list had our names first and second! Not only that, but they had two seats together for us – in the exit row! I called Philip to let him know we’d be getting in at 11:45 pm. He said he’d see us then, and while we were on the flight, he called Mom and told her he’d be coming in the morning after he picked us up. After about an hour, we were in San Antonio, our checked bag was waiting for us, and we found Phil in the pick-up area.

When we got home, Mom was decorating the tree, and Dad was on the internet. They protested, “We weren’t ready!” We put our presents under the tree and talked and watched Law and Order until about 3:30 in the morning. Finally, I wrapped Mom’s book – the present I’d been reading on the plane – and we fell into bed in my old room, dreaming of where our $300 transportation voucher will take us.