Making a good call on travel. (Thank you @southwestair!)

Was flying from Kansas City (MCI) to Sacramento (SMF) via Denver (DEN) on United. Original schedule:

Fri, 20JAN12 UA34583 L KANSAS CITY, MO
(MCI) 1:59 PM
(DEN) 2:47 PM
ERJ 170  
Fri, 20JAN12 CO3754 W DENVER, CO
(DEN) 6:51 PM
(SMF) 8:30 PM

Okay, so it was a drag to have a 3+ hour layover in Denver, but there are worse problems to have.  Got to MCI at 1:00pm to find out that my flight was delayed 30 minutes because our plane was arriving from Chicago (ORD).  They were getting a dusting of snow.  The local United gate agents said – “No problem – the plane is in the air.” Except that an hour later, I checked online to find that it wasn’t. 

It left the gate for de-icing then was sent back to the gate because of ground holds in ORD.  Ugh.  At 2:41pm, the plane “departed” but again, it was only away from the gate – not wheels up.  I’m figuring I’m still in good shape – it’s only an hour flight from ORD to MCI, so even if the plane gets to MCI by 5:00pm, I still make by 6:51pm connection in DEN because we pick up an hour going west.  Plus the United gate agent gave me an insurance policy.  He reserved a seat for me on the 10:05pm from DEN to SMF, so even if my MCI to DEN flight was really, really late and I missed by scheduled connection, I’d still get home.  That was nice to have in my pocket.

By 4:00pm, the plane still hadn’t left ORD and I heard another traveler talking to his group to the effect of – “there’s a Southwest flight that leaves later today…” Ding! Light bulb.

I jumped online.  Lo and behold to my delight, Southwest had a flight from MCI to SMF via LAX that departs at 6:10pm, arrives to SMF at 9:30pm.  Bought the one-way ticket for $149 and walked from Terminal A to Terminal B – (it’s a long walk and partially outside in 20 degree weather, but I needed the air after spending three hours at the United gate.) Even got an A27 boarding assignment on Southwest.  Life was good.

Had an empty seat from MCI to LAX and emergency row when I switched seats from LAX to SMF.  Woohoo!

I checked this morning on the United flights.  From ORD to MCI:

City: Chicago, IL (ORD – O’Hare)
Gate: B22
Check-in Terminal: Terminal 1 Concourse B
Scheduled Time: 11:57 a.m.
Scheduled Date: Fri., Jan. 20, 2012
Actual Time: 2:41 p.m.
Actual Date: Fri., Jan. 20, 2012

City: Kansas City, MO (MCI)
Scheduled Time: 1:25 p.m.
Scheduled Date: Fri., Jan. 20, 2012
Actual Time: 6:07 p.m.
Actual Date: Fri., Jan. 20, 2012

From MCI to DEN:

City: Kansas City, MO (MCI)
Gate: 14
Check-in Terminal: main terminal
Scheduled Time: 1:59 p.m.
Scheduled Date: Fri., Jan. 20, 2012
Actual Time: 8:49 p.m.
Actual Date: Fri., Jan. 20, 2012

City: Denver, CO (DEN)
Gate: B54
Terminal: concourse b
Scheduled Time: 2:47 p.m.
Scheduled Date: Fri., Jan. 20, 2012
Actual Time: 9:39 p.m.
Actual Date: Fri., Jan. 20, 2012

There was nearly a 3 hour layover after the plane arrived at MCI from ORD. My hunch is that they needed to get a new crew because of daily hour restrictions.  Imagine being in MCI and seeing your plane land to take you to DEN only to hear that you have to wait three more hours to leave?

And I would have BARELY made the connection from DEN to SMF, assuming that 25 minutes was enough to make it. (I would hope they would have held the 10:05 DEN to SMFflight for me). Not to mention the complete stress the whole trip.)

[wiping sweat from brow]

Kudos to Southwest for making their ticketing and travel so darn easy.  Lesson here – don’t book United flights in the Winter. I didn’t even travel to or through Chicago and it still caused a mess.



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