The only guy happy about a 4 hour delay


Yeah, that was me last night. Southwest Airlines flight 176 from Nashville to Newark landed at 7:15pm, a delay of 3:45 and most passengers on board expressed relief that their long delay was finally over. And then there was me. I was actually on the ground 35 minutes before I had planned to land when I booked my flights originally. I was incredibly thankful for the delay.

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I was not all that surprised when I got the first notification from Delta that my scheduled flight was delayed. It was only about 35 minutes which I’d consider typical for a normal spring/summer afternoon into the NYC area. The delay quickly extended to 3+ hours and then the automated call came that my flight was canceled. Ouch. Calling Delta to rebook left me with a call-back time of about 20 minutes as I made a beeline to the airport in search of any planes flying towards NYC that night. I called United and quickly learned that they had already cancelled all their flights. Southwest also answered the call quickly and let me hold a ticket on the 7pm flight to Newark – not ideal but I needed something to get home – and the agent ran down all the benefits of my Business Select fare yet managed to miss the most important one: the free adult beverage on board.

Now that I had something booked I was less panicked but still hoping to do better than sitting at the airport all afternoon hoping the flight would eventually make it to the NYC area. Delta called me back and the agent spent about 20 minutes listing me for standby on the JFK flight which was still operating (lots of onward international connections there). But I was still suspect of my ability to clear the standby list and that the flight would operate anywhere close to on time (rightfully so on both counts, it turns out). At the Southwest counter I was behind another passenger who was booked on a late LaGuardia flight but switching to the 12:55pm departure for Newark which was delayed until 3:40. The phone rep couldn’t sell me that flight because it was after 1 when I called to buy but the airport agent happily switched me to that flight.

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Feeling compelled to hedge my bets I still went to the Delta counter where it took another 15 at the counter for the agent to get me a Seat Request card to pass through security. Once at the gate I came to discover I was at the bottom of a very long standby list. That wasn’t going to work so well. The agent at the gate was nice, but he made it clear that the odds were stacked against me. They were already oversold and that was even before trying to clear standby passengers, of which I was around number 15. With that option seeming quite unlikely to be successful I headed back towards the Southwest gates. In the end the Delta flight did go out, arriving 5 hours later than scheduled. I was on the ground in Newark 30 minutes before it took off.

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Back at the Southwest gates passengers were starting to get a bit restless as they’d been waiting more than two hours to get on board but, overall, the scene was pretty calm. I ran in to another passenger who I’d seen out at the Delta counter and who had followed my plan of buying the Southwest ticket to get back to NYC. She was similarly ticketed on the 7pm flight and also managed to swap to the 1pm/4pm departure at the gate. She was slightly bummed to discover that the $20 extra for Business Select would have put her at the front of the line for boarding rather than in the C groups (and the middle seat she ultimately ended up in) and a free drink but exceptionally happy to be getting on board and flying home that evening rather than stuck in Nashville. I also ran in to the woman who tipped me off to the fact that the early flight was still available and thanked her again.

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Boarding was they typical Southwest affair and shortly thereafter we pushed back and headed to the NYC area. There was a bit of a hold en route as more weather blew through but, generally speaking, we did just fine. I watched about 3 minutes of TV just to see that it worked (it did, but there was nothing I wanted to watch available) and otherwise mostly read or napped. I bought a drink for the woman stuck in the middle seat who I had bragged to about getting mine for “free” which caused a bit of confusion with the flight attendants since she had no idea what was going on. And then we landed in Newark. The passengers next to me remarked about how thankful they were that the whole delay ordeal was over. And I blurted out that I was incredibly happy about the delay as it meant I got home earlier (and at all).

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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 .

4 Comments

  1. Instructive and interesting to read. To be honest, here’s where we probably have a bit of a different style. You benefited by 35 minutes and a drink out of all that scurrying about, multiple contacts with lots of agents, time consuming aggravation. Me, I’d rather just relax in a lounge, read a good book, and walk onto my flight when it leaves. But that’s OK. It’s always interesting to learn.

    1. The flight didn’t leave, DaveS. Were it simply delayed I would have been annoyed but accepting. But Delta canceled my flight and the one prior. United cancelled all of theirs as well. Had they confirmed me on to the JFK flight immediately I might have not worried about the Southwest option, even though the JFK flight ended up landing 5 hours later.

      And there’s no way that spending 5 hours in the SkyClub in BNA is better than being at home.

  2. I guess this is “content.” I mean, you have to write something occasionally, no? But, nothing at all instructive. 1) Passengers finds out his original flight might be delayed or cancelled 2) Passenger makes other arrangements 3) Passenger gets home with a delay. There weren’t any interesting tips or take aways. Other than the fact you got home, not quite sure of the point.

    1. Sorry it wasn’t up to your standards.

      I happened to think that holding tickets on two carriers and playing both options is not something most customers do. Ditto for buying a seat on a flight after its scheduled departure time. Or buying the seat on the later flight to use as leverage to make standby on the earlier one, again after the originally scheduled departure time.

      But if you already know those things then I guess you’re way ahead of most passengers. But the fact that there were a few others in the airport following my lead suggests that not everyone is as smart as you.

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