Making SDC work for me. Again.

I’m in the midst of a reasonably ridiculous mileage run this weekend, flying between Philadelphia and San Diego a few times over 72 hours. The originally booked flights were reasonable enough but, thanks to schedule changes and such the connection in San Diego – less than an hour between the arrival and departure which required switching from the commuter terminal to the regular terminal – became rather concerning to me. A quick call to the United reservations line had me switched from Newark-Los Angeles-San Diego to Newark-Chicago-San Diego. With a slightly longer layover in San Diego and no terminal change required I was much happier. Plus, about 15 minutes after making the change the upgrade on the Chicago-San Diego segment cleared (Newark-LA wasn’t going to happen) so that a win all around.

On the day of travel I thought things were going pretty well right up until my Amtrak ride from Philadelphia to Newark got delayed. That delay wasn’t enough to really mess me up but it was enough that I called to double-check my connections. At one point during that conversation the agent mentioned that they had a note in their system to expect delays in the Chicago area later Saturday afternoon. That wouldn’t be good at all.

Once I got to Newark I played around with trying to get on the earlier flight to Chicago; SDC worked perfectly except that the new flight started a rolling mechanical delay as soon as I was confirmed on it. I switched back and forth between the two flights a few times before deciding that neither really seemed like a good idea. Both were taking delays and my sub-60 minute connection in Chicago seemed suspect. I changed again, this time to the non-stop from Newark to San Diego. Yes, I gave up the upgrade but I had a bulkhead window seat which is just fine for me. Plus, no more worries about connections.

The thunderstorms causing problems in Chicago topped out around FL350; we detoured far south of them en route to SAN

Ultimately the Newark-Chicago flight ended up ~30 minutes late which likely would’ve blown my connection in Chicago, except that the Chicago-San Diego flight was delayed, too, thanks to the storms the agent had mentioned to me. Listening to Channel 9 as we flew through the region I heard at least one plane divert and discussion from several others about hour-long holding patterns, major storms and long delays. The second delay meant I would’ve actually made the Chicago-San Diego flight, though that still would have ended badly for me. It was so delayed that I would have lost in my original goal – making the connection in San Diego. The inbound from Chicago landed in the other terminal at SAN about 15 minutes before the scheduled departure on SAN-IAD and we closed the door a couple minutes early. I almost certainly would have missed that flight.

So, yeah, I gave up around 500 miles by changing the routing from the original LAX connection. And I gave up a first class seat when I switched to the non-stop (I finished as #1 on the waitlist for EWR-SAN). But I actually got where I was going in time to catch my next flight. And, as an added bonus, I had enough time to leave the airport for a few hours and grab some dinner. That’s always a win.

And, in case anyone is wondering, I do occasionally fly trips as originally booked. Just not all that often. What fun would that be??

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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.


  1. I have a ZFV departure for a MR, but just got an email of schedule change ZFW-EWR.. Think I have a chance of ditching that segment now, by using schedule change as an excuse? … Would rather leave from EWR anyway.

  2. Jon, you can probably drop the ZFV segment due to the schedule change. Call and ask.

  3. When I’ve tried same-day MRs with short turn around times, I attempt to ensure that I am departing on the same aircraft as I arrive – or schedule a longer connection. SAN may have just a bit too many flights to reliably predict the aircraft, but if you are turning at a station like SMF or PHL, you can often figure it out based on aircraft type.

  4. There where weather related delays all over yesterday, but I don’t think any set back more than 30 mins on flights. And it was mostly because flights flew around the weather.

  5. @Anna: You must ride on your booked Amtrak train and have the ticket scanned by the conductor on that train or United will likely cancel onward segments. There are games to be played from time to time, but that is one aspect I wouldn’t try to cheat.

    @Rob: The ORD-SAN I would have been on was well over an hour delayed. I would have missed the SAN-IAD flight.

    @Carl: Same plane is great when it works. But I was faced with the challenge of finding G inventory, not wanting mid-con redeyes and trying to use PHL over ZFV mid-trip where possible.

  6. Do you mind sharing the stats for your 72 hours?

    # miles flown, # segments, # RDM’s, # PQM’s, etc…

    Did you have a hotel at all during the 72 hours?

    Sounds like hell to me, but I mostly just fly as much as I need to and not a lot more… πŸ™‚

  7. on an sdc with int connection do both the first flight and the connection have to be within 24hrs from time of change?

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