Just after I posted my pack like a pro post and headed to bed, I was awoken less than 2 hours later to an automated call from American Airlines. I never leave my phone on loud when I sleep and from now on I will be doing this on purpose before traveling since this accident was in fact a blessing.
My original flight from Atlanta to Chicago had been canceled and American had already rebooked me on a flight to Chicago, but through Miami. Yuck. I hate the Miami airport. It’s always packed and is a disaster to navigate around groups of people who have no idea what they are doing. (Thanks to a few years of traveling for work I now have become an airport snob and pick my favorites for layovers. MIA is not on this list). Also, Miami is not at all on the way to Chicago. That route would have landed me in Chicago 5 hours AFTER my originally scheduled flight. Blah.
1am doesn’t seem like a great time to make travel arrangements, but at this point I was trying to get home around the same time as my mom was landing from LAX and my dad from Japan. We’re such such a traveling family..ha! Well, I had one option that I found online through Philly, so I called the number on my AAdvantage card and asked for an agent. That flight was sold out, but I could be rebooked through New York LaGuardia and land roughly 15 minutes before my parents arrived IF I was willing to leave for the airport at 3:30 for a 6am departure. Also to be noted, the connection time at LGA was only 45 minutes. Enough in the minds of employees, but even 5 minutes or so could delay a bag from transferring to the next flight, or worse, a longer delay could cause me to miss my connection altogether. Trust me on this.. Anything 45 minutes or less gives you a 50/50 shot of both you and your luggage making the next connection. I once traveled to Birmingham, Alabama through Charlotte and had to have my bag delivered to me at 5am the next day. At least I had clean clothes to wear to work. Also note, airports will not deliver luggage to private residences after hours, so you’ll have to wait until they can get to you unless you’re staying in a hotel in which case they can deliver at any time.
*It can also help if you book your seat as far to the front of the plane as possible to cut down on disembarking time and give you more time to reach your gate.
After rearranging my flight, my new wake up call was exactly an hour from when I got off the phone with the agent. I decided I needed to shrink my luggage from regular to the smallest option I had so I knew I could carry it on and avoid the luggage transfer debacle. (The only thing worse than being delayed is having to go back to the airport several hours later for your luggage). I woke up my husband to ask him if he could take me to the airport two hours earlier and I laid in bed pretty much wide awake until my new alarm went off.
330am might seem really early to leave for the airport when you’re only 30 minutes away. However, I am still trying to figure out the Atlanta airport and the best and worst times to fly. Having spent the majority of my life flying out of O’hare, I could almost always count on a window period of 3 hours to allow for leaving home, fighting traffic, parking my car, checking my bag and getting through security. More often than not I had plenty of time on the other end to grab a bite, buy a book, etc.
From the minimal experience I have had at ATL, I know the first flights of the day (anything in the 5:30-7:00 window) mean lots of passengers and long, long lines. Today was no exception. At 4am, all the major airlines had exceedingly long lines to check in and curbside lines were flowing into the road. Thankfully I didn’t have a bag to check anymore and I had my boarding pass on my mobile app. I was able to scoot past all these wait times and enter security. Well, Atlanta is also only operating from ONE checkpoint currently. Yes, the busiest airport that boasts having traveled over 100 million passengers last year is feeding everyone through one line. There’s also no priority lane for first class or status fliers and the TSA pre check lane doesn’t open until 5am. Therefore, before 5am, no matter who you are, you and everyone else will be entering the same maze of security and will be fed into one of many channels. I made it through in under 25 minutes, however as I peaked over my shoulder the lines had grown immensely as all those baggage checkers had moved over to the next stage of their journey before getting to the gate.
The hard part was done. The only thing I had left to do (and that I recommend you do as well if you’re making a tight connection) is get ahold of the terminal map for your layover. Spot the gate you’re landing in and the one you’re departing from and make a mental note of how to get from A to B). Some airports require a bus or tram to get to the next terminal while others allow you to walk the distance. It helps to have a plan of action before you get there so you can hit the ground (maybe literally) running. Luckily my gates are only 3 doors apart. And knock on wood I think I’ll make it just fine.
This could probably throw anyone into a tizzy and it did indeed stress me out a bit, but to make up for the uneasiness I decided to use two of my earned upgrade stickers to arrange a first class seat and soften the blow of an earlier flight, a new route with layover, and a day ahead of me on only 2 hours of sleep. Plus free breakfast and coffee out of a real mug don’t hurt either. **remember in my last post how I said to dress yourself appropriately for flying? You’ll have an easier time of being upgraded in tight situations if you’re dressed the part. Gate agents don’t want to put Mr. Plaid PJs and Miss yoga pants and flip flops next to their best paying customers.
Where there’s a will, there’s a way. And it goes a lot more smoothly if you have a flexible mindset. We’re just about to touch down in New York! I’ve been blogging from the sky. Happy Thursday.