Rain, a tire change and a trip in vain

The weather on the eastern seaboard today was pretty ridiculous. Heavy rains, winds and general misery meant that many flights were delayed or canceled. I was fortunate when I arrived at Washington’s National airport that I had mostly dried out on the Metro ride and that my flight was only 30 minutes delayed for departure. With a double connection routing today staying on schedule was critical to to plans for actually visiting Wyoming.

Alas, that 30 minutes did not hold. The first indication of a problem was the pilot coming up to the gate area to chat with the agents. The second hint was when I saw a couple maintenance guys walk under the planes with a large jack. And then the pilot picked up the PA and uttered the two worst words in air travel, “Well, folks…”

IMGP5961He suggested that the tire change would only take 5 minutes and that we’d still likely make our connections. After about 15 minutes we were told another 15 minutes. Then we were told another 30 minutes. At this point my layover in Minneapolis was shot. I was going to miss my first connection. Not good.

IMGP5955I headed back up to the SkyClub to talk with the agents about my options. The next flight into Rock Springs, my eventual destination, would not arrive until well after dark and I was departing again early the next morning. There was no point in going on the trip at this point. Such a scenario is known in the industry as a “trip in vain.” I’ve had such before and the airlines are generally pretty good about handling it. Delta was not so much today.

The agents in DC insisted that I would have to try to make the connection in Minneapolis anyways, even though the official timing had me with only 20 minutes from scheduled arrival time to my original departure time. I knew it was basically impossible – especially at MSP, which is huge – but they would not consider it a trip in vain. In other words, they were happy to cancel the ticket but had no intention of refunding my fare, even though the mechanical issues ultimately were what caused the more significant portion of the delay.

On to Minneapolis and into the SkyClub there. Quite a lovely lounge, really (the one by C12) and tremendously helpful agents, to a certain extent. The woman I was dealing with understood the trip in vain issue and agreed with me that it was strange the DC agents insisted I take the flight. She started making calls and was able to get me rebooked back to DC this afternoon but was having trouble processing the refund of the ticket. 

Apparently they are insisting that I pay for the part of the ticket I used even though I only used it because the other agents insisted that I had to try to make what was an impossible connection. Not a good scenario and I’m pretty sure not in line with the printed policies of the airline, but I need to review the latest Contract of Carriage to confirm that.

On the plus side, at least the bits of fly-over country that I saw were looking quite nice as the photos show. And I’ve been flying enough lately that I’m not all that broken up about missing out on an extra 10 hours on airplanes and 12 hours in Wyoming. I don’t even think I was going to be in a particularly nice part of the state. C’est la vie!

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.