Attack of the cAAncelAAtor!


Today was supposed to be an easy travel day. Apparently such a thing is not possible. Just a quick hop from LaGuardia to Raleigh-Durham International Airport on American Airlines (technically American Eagle). It would involve a new line (LGA-RDU) and a new aircraft type for me (Embraer E-135). And it wasn’t even so early a departure that I’d have to wake up ridiculously early to get to the airport. An easy travel day indeed.

And then I tried to actually execute on it.

I should have known that there would be problems when it took me longer than it should have to catch a cab to the airport this morning. Or when I was in line to clear security and realized I was trying to get to the wrong secure area, meaning no access to the Admirals Club for a breakfast snack or photos for my lounge guide. Or when I ran in to irrationally slow TSA screening at the correct terminal. But I kept my high hopes right up until I got to the gate about 15 minutes prior to the scheduled departure and witnessed this:

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That cannot be good.

Turns out that the flight was canceled. I have no idea why. I heard someone mention a mechanical issue but I have no idea if that’s accurate or not. With the weather (overcast and low ceilings) it wouldn’t surprise me if the flight was just scratched because it was easy to accommodate the passengers. Either way, I was now late for work in Raleigh.

The AA website was useless, displaying no updated information other than that my reservation had changed. No details about rebooking options or the fact that I had actually already been rebooked as I would later discover.

The AA 800 number was only slightly better. It informed me that I still had my original reservation and made no note of the canceled flight. It also mentioned a second flight but it was nearly impossible to get out of the IVR tree to get to an agent. After about 10 minutes I was finally queued to an agent with an estimated wait time of 16 minutes. Not getting much better.

Realizing that both the line at the counter and the phone were pretty much lost causes I briefly considered going back out to the ticket counter. As I walked in that direction I happened upon another gate that had a couple agents doing a whole lot of nothing while waiting for the flight they were working to be ready to board. About 90 seconds later I had my boarding pass in hand for the next flight out, only about 75 minutes later than the originally scheduled flight.

I have no idea why I got protected on that flight and other passengers didn’t. The gate agent (who did a yeoman’s job handling the upset customers) suggested to another passenger that it was based on status and fare paid. I had neither of those going for me (no status and a ~$130 one-way fare) but, whatever the reason, it worked. The only real problem (as much as it can be considered such) is that the new flight was on a Canadair CRJ-700 rather than the E35. I’m still missing the E35 from my collection.

Truly an uneventful flight other than the lack of apple juice in the beverage cart and a quick 1:10 later I was on the ground at the sparkling new terminal in RDU. Seriously a beautiful airport terminal, though very long to go from one end to the other and I can see how planes could get stacked up with the limited taxi-way area on the inside alley. But, still, really a pretty facility.

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Just another day on the road, living the dream.

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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, LinkedIn and .

7 Comments

  1. Welcome to RDU! Try the 42nd Street Oyster Bar if you’re hungry.

    1. Thanks for the recommendation! I’m here all week and the guys I’m working with mentioned that place so I’ll see if I can get it on the itinerary.

  2. Wow, I am surprised in all your travels you have never been a 135!

    1. Well, I managed to avoid them back when Continental was flying them (they were mostly in IAH and I wasn’t) and now it is pretty much just American Eagle so not a ton of opportunity. If all goes well I should be flying between NYC and RDU with decent frequency in the coming months so hopefully I’ll get another opportunity without having to go too far out of my way.

  3. I like to think of the cAAncelator as a roulette type wheel which contains all the days flights. Someone (in a back room at DFW somewhere) gives it a spin (or 20) and voila – those flights get the random cancellation. Those flights also seem to get assigned the ubiquitous “aircraft taken out of service”, which, oddly, no one and their brother can explain.

    So far, I’ve had ok luck when hit with the cAAncelator – normally auto-re-booked on the next flight. Sorry it wasn’t as seamless for you, but things appear to have worked out.

    1. The only really “bad” part about my ordeal was that I lost the E-135 from my collection. And I’m sure I’ll get that eventually.

      I was somewhat surprised to be rebooked in the first tranche of accommodated customers and I was also surprised at just how willing many folks were to have their arrival time shifted by 6 hours with no useful explanation or justification. I guess the airlines have finally convinced us that our standards should be so low that we’ll accept anything rather than something approximating on-time service.

      The agents working the gate were quite impressive and they took care of everyone as best they could. But they also didn’t have a lot to work with.

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