American Airlines Cathay Pacific Weather

Beating the Blizzard

It's never good when the airports look like this
It’s never good when the airports look like this

I was in Hong Kong over the weekend for a family emergency. I managed to book some last minute award tickets to leave Thursday and return Monday; I was looking forward to coming home. Saturday night I started getting wind of a possible blizzard hitting Boston on Monday…uh oh. Here’s how it all went down.

To rebook or not to rebook – that was the question (Saturday and Sunday)

My original itinerary was flying on CX 806 from HKG-ORD connecting to AA 1612 to Boston. I was scheduled to land in ORD at 12:20 PM and flight 1612 departed at 3:55 PM.

Late Saturday night I started looking into other options for getting home. I knew I could switch tickets for free since I booked through AA, so I tried to find something on Sunday.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anything that would work with the connection home (I really need that Cathay direct flight to Boston to start!). The best I could find would result in an overnight in JFK. Alternatively, I could pay for a Jetblue flight home but that was going to cost $200.

I then looked to see if I could get home earlier on Monday. The blizzard was scheduled to come in at 700 PM which was exactly when my flight was scheduled to land. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get on an earlier flight to Boston due to minimum connecting time rules – I needed two hours but the flight before 1612 was AA 1670 departing at 2:00 PM.

These were two of the flights I was looking at
These were two of the flights I was looking at

The only option I could find was an earlier flight to JFK departing Monday at 935 AM connecting to a 400 PM flight to Boston. I decided to sleep on it.

Sunday morning I woke up and the forecast just was getting worse and worse. I briefly considered leaving that afternoon and going with the Jetblue option – but I decided against it.

Of course, at that point the forecast had gotten much worse. It was definitely going to be a blizzard and they were starting to say it might be the worst in years. Great. My obsessive nature is a double edged sword – yes it can get me some great flights – but it can also cause me to stress out unnecessarily. If you follow me on Twitter you probably saw that I was getting pretty nervous.

In the end – I decided not to book HKG-JFK-BOS. My reasoning was the blizzard was hitting JFK earlier (actually around 4 PM), so I was afraid that flight would get cancelled. I was just banking on the ability to get on the 2 PM flight someway, somehow.

The moment of truth – how I got home on time (Monday)

Spoiler alert, I’m writing this from AA 1670. Here’s how I made it.

So as it goes with planes, things weren’t looking too good for awhile. As we were about to push back on CX 806, the captain came on to tell us that there was a volcano erupting in Russia or something or another. This pushed back our flight time from 14 hours to 14 and a half. This was compounded by a bit of a delay on the ground in Hong Kong. By the time we were in the air, our new arrival time was 1 PM. Uh oh.

Luckily the weather was pretty good in Chicago, just some light flurries, so we touched down at our late scheduled time. We managed to get to the gate at about 1:00. Unfortunately, the pilot misparked the plane so we had to wait for the ground crew to move the plane into its proper position. Another five minutes!

At this point my plane was on and I had a plan that I had formulated while on my Cathay flight. As soon as I could, I put a call into AA. Of course they were too busy so I had to do the “we’ll call you back” feature. While I was waiting for them to call me back, I loaded up Expertflyer – there were still seats available. I just had to get to the gate in time.

Thanks for the tip @tmount!
Thanks for the tip @tmount!

Oh, did I mention that when we touched down I got my wife’s e-mail saying that my original flight, AA 1612, was cancelled? So it was AA 1670 or spend a few days in Chicago separated from my wife and daughter even longer. Trevor also sent me a tweet saying nothing was going in or out of Boston after 7 PM. My wife had already rebooked me for a flight on Wednesday but I wasn’t going to accept my fate. She also conveniently gave me the gate number of AA 1670 – K16.

Great advice from a smart woman
Great advice from a smart woman

We parked at the gate at around 1:06. By 1:12 I was already waiting for the Skytrain to Terminal 3. Seriously, if you travel overseas and don’t have Global Entry – why not? I might not have made it if I hadn’t blown through customs in two minutes (which basically consisted of the time it took to walk). Okay, maybe I was jogging a little bit.

Once in Terminal 3, I made a beeline for the Admiral’s Club, which I have membership to thanks to the Citi AA Executive Platinum card. I’m actually due to downgrade this card in like a few days – thank goodness I hadn’t done it yet. I made the decision to go to the Admiral’s Club because I was gambling that those agents would be more competent, more sympathetic, and there would be a shorter line.

At the point I was totally sweating and out of breath. I mentioned to the gate agent that coach would be fine (I would have even taken a middle seat of course), but she replied that it shouldn’t be a problem. “The only people going to Boston are the people going home, so everyone else cancelled.” A minute later I received my boarding pass. HUZZAHHHHHHHHHHH! Seriously, it was such a relief. And then of course AA called me back at that moment – guess I’ll have to wait until next time to find out if that would have worked.

Final Thoughts

It always helps to be prepared for these kinds of situations. If I could boil down a few lessons from this particular experience:

– Know your alternative options. You should know in advance what alternative flights are available

– Know how to check for space on the airline. The easiest way would be to try to buy a ticket, but sites like expertflyer save a lot of time and energy

– Know where you’re going if you need to make a tight connection (and don’t check bags!)

Quite simply, if I had been traveling with M, I probably would be in Chicago right now. Of course, if I had been traveling with M, I wouldn’t have been rushing home either. In the end, I’m glad it all worked out. A special shout out to the helpful AA staff on the ground.

It was all worth it!
It was all worth it!


Just an average joe trying to fly his family for less

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