Three days in Texas: surviving cancelled flights

You’re on your own.

That’s the first thing you’ve got to understand when an airline cancels your flight and tells you to rebook.

YOU have to be proactive, regardless of what they say about rebooking you. They’ll rebook you, but it could be many days hence. (Mine was three days).

I learned a lot from my recent ‘stranding’ at Dallas-Fort Worth airport after tornadoes and other beastly weather cancelled hundreds of flights. I was supposed to be home on Saturday night. I got home on Tuesday morning.

In the interim, I got myself rebooked out of DFW several times, only to see those flights cancelled. Flights to Vancouver – cancelled twice. Flights to Chicago – cancelled twice. Flight to Seattle – delayed with a strong chance of being cancelled.

I took rebooking into my own hands. I went to the airport and stood for hours in line to speak to customer service agents. During that time, I was also on the phone to the airline’s customer service agents. I was polite. I joked and laughed with fellow travellers in the lineups. I thanked the customer service agents over and over again. I suggested ways for them to get me out of Texas: “can you book me to Vancouver through Mexico?”

What got me out of Dallas in the end, on a flight to Vail, Colorado of all places, was pieces falling into place:

  • DFW has free airport wifi. It cuts you off after a while, but I kept reconnecting. I would’ve paid for wifi access had it not been free. Another option is to go to an airport restaurant with free wifi and order the cheapest thing on the menu. Park yourself there for as long as you can.
  • Kept my Iphone charged using charging stations and my portable charger, “Mycharge“.
  • Frequent checking of the American Airlines app on my smartphone thanks to the free wifi. This is how I learned I’d been mysteriously booked on the Vail flight, while I awaited a flight to Chicago. The Vail booking just popped up on my phone. When the Chicago flight was cancelled, I RAN to the other side of the terminal to try to get on the Vail flight. With 30 people on a standby list and the plane already boarding, I didn’t think I’d get on. The agent recognized my name, handed me a boarding pass from Los Angeles to Vancouver for the next morning and then put me on the Vail flight, which continued onto LA.
  • It’s a good idea to get familiar with the airport. DFW has a number of terminals and moving between them is time-consuming. I would’ve missed the Vail flight had it been in a different terminal.
  • TSA-Pre/Global Entry. Get a pre-check designation. In Canada, this is achieved with a NEXUS card. Make sure there’s a pre-check logo on your boarding pass. This will save you lots of time by avoiding general security lineups. Many airports have designated pre-check security lines that are ALWAYS shorter.
  • My scarf-dress-pullover-pillow-blanket-lifesaver garment. I won’t travel anywhere without it. Bought it online from Encircled.
  • Good underwear. Exofficio. I wanna be cremated in this underwear so I can spend eternity wearing it.
  • Hotel Tonight app. Was able to book hotels while I stood in customer service lineups at the airport. Used it to book hotel rooms in Dallas and LA. Takes no time at all. Airlines DON’T pay for rooms when cancellations are weather-related.

I was reunited with my suitcase in Vancouver when I arrived. I wasn’t able to retrieve it in Texas, which is why I had no clothes. The airline elected to put it on a flight to Vancouver, which arrived a day and a half before I did.

My inconvenience was minor. A few vacation days lost and about $350 USD I didn’t expect to have to spend. Three hotel nights, food, long distance phone charges.

Many people lost their homes and personal belongings. Some lost their lives. Their suffering was profound.

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