Flying MIA-ORD

Trip Start Nov 03, 2012
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Trip End Nov 06, 2012


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Flag of United States  , Illinois
Saturday, November 3, 2012

Greetings from Seat 15C on United Express Flight 3475, a CRJ-700 from MIA to ORD. I didn't expect to be flying to Chicago today, but it’s been a difficult day traveling standby out of Miami. I’m grateful to have made it out; for awhile there I was nervous I would end up stranded overnight.

After disembarking Norwegian Epic in the Port of Miami at the end of a 13-night trans-Atlantic cruise from Barcelona to Miami, I arrived at MIA in a shuttle van at 10:06 a.m. My original plan was to fly nonstop to Houston on United Flight 518 at 11:40 a.m. aboard an Airbus 319. I knew it wasn’t looking great, however – as of last evening there were 10 empty seats and I was #13 on the standby list.

I’m hoping to fly tomorrow on one of the inaugural flights of the United Airlines Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The first passenger flight is early tomorrow morning from IAH to ORD. The 787 will then return to IAH followed by a roundtrip to LAX. During this trip, I also hope to make a quick visit to Caracas, Venezuela, to check off my 100th country and one of only two nations served by United that I haven’t visited (the other being Colombia, which I am planning to see during a South America cruise in December).

My first problem was getting my luggage checked. I knew my large suitcase was heavy – it’s stuffed full with eight bottles of duty-free liquor, two dozen or so chocolate bars from Germany, and several travel guidebooks (not to mention clothes, shoes, and other items) – but I was stunned when I saw "104" on the scale. Holy smokes! That’s the first time I’ve ever weighed a bag and seen three digits on the display. The customer-service agent said, “Um, you know the limit for SA bags is 70 pounds.” I replied, “Yes, I know that. Yikes, I didn’t realize my suitcase was this heavy. I guess I need to buy another piece of luggage. Is there somewhere around to do that?” The agent replied, “Yep, right over there – I think they have a cheap bag you can get for only 20 bucks.” Excellent!

I walked just about a minute to the nearby luggage shop – how conveniently located! Apparently I’m not the only person who comes off a cruiseship with way too much stuff in their bag! The woman first tried to show me an $85 suitcase and I said no, something much cheaper. Then she dug up the $20 cheapie bag from a cabinet and showed it to me. It’s actually not bad looking – and it has two compartments, so it can expand to double the size if you have a lot of stuff. As long as it survives the trip home, we’re good.

I returned to the check-in area and moved lots of heavy items from my big suitcase to my new bag, filling up the first compartment. Back at the scales, my big back weighed in at 68 pounds and the new smaller bag at 41 (I had also moved a few things from my carry-on bag to the new bag now that I had some extra space). Perfect! The agent tagged the two bags and I proceeded through security into Concourse G. I looked for the United Club, but couldn’t find it. Then I checked on my smartphone and realized there is no United Club at MIA. Crap! I hadn’t realized that; never bothered to check before departing home. There’s a lounge at FLL, so I just assumed there’d be one at MIA as well. Strange.

At Gate G15, I waited for Flight 518. The agent announced at 11:23 that the Airbus 319 had boarded full. Bummer. Now I have to wait three hours until the next flight and there’s a double whammy – no United Club and no free WiFi access in the terminal. :-( (It costs $8 for a day pass to the MIA wireless network.) Only seven SAs were cleared for Flight 18 even though last night there were 10 empty seats. So at least three revenue customers were added to the flight today. Bad luck.

My other option was to travel from the Port of Miami to FLL land try for an 11:43 flight out of there. Last night there were 12 seats open and I would have been #11 on the SA list. That flight ended up only seating one SA passenger; so at least 11 revenue customers were added to that flight today.

Turns out it was really good I did not venture up to FLL because the 2:47 p.m. FLL-MIA flight got canceled. That flight was nearly full; was showing only four empty seats when I checked last night.

There was some drama as Flight 518 got ready to depart. A man came out of the jetway and approached the counter. Someone was sitting in his seat. I overheard as the agents spoke to the man and figured out that he was traveling with someone else who didn’t make it to the airport. They were traveling on the same reservation and when that reservation was canceled, the passenger was offloaded and his seat given away to a standby traveler. But the passenger still had his boarding pass and was able to get on the plane. It took about 15 minutes for the agents to remedy the problem. There was a glimpse of hope that I might end up on the flight – the last SA boarded was party of a family of three. Sometimes families don’t want to separate; so all three people might have disembarked the plane, freeing up two empty seats.

Sadly this wishful scenario did not come true because the employee in the family of three is a flight attendant, meaning he could be moved to a jumpseat. Darn! The revenue customer was then given the regular seat. This was a window seat. The passenger complained that he had booked an aisle seat. The agent bent over backward to accommodate him – she changed another standby from an aisle seat to a window seat and then gave the revenue customer the aisle seat. Wow, that was some exemplary customer service (unless of course you were the unfortunate SA who got moved on the plane from an aisle to a window seat!)

Flight 518 ended up departing 30 minutes late due to this situation and then apparently a mechanical issue – I saw one of the pilots walking alongside the plane with a mechanic shortly before departure to inspect something.

I checked the load for the next flight to Houston. It looked hopeful that I might make it on the 2:45 flight from MIA to IAH. There were six empty seats and I was #7 on the SA list. I grabbed lunch at Burger King, sorted photos, talked to Mom, and texted some friends while waiting.

When it came time to board the 2:45 MIA-IAH flight, I checked the load again and was stunned to see “0” in the “Available” column. What?! There had been six empty seats just a couple hours ago. This is when I checked the status of flights out of FLL and discovered the 2:47 flight from there to Houston was canceled. Some passengers were evidently rebooked out of MIA on the remaining seats from that airport. Oh shoot. Then the real bad news – the last flight out, the 5:15 from MIA to IAH – was now showing sold out. Last night there were 28 seats open, so I figured worst-case scenario is I’d make it out then. But now those remaining seats were all held to accommodate passengers from the canceled FLL-IAH flight who could not be rebooked on the last FLL-MIA departure this evening. It began to look likely I would be stranded overnight in Miami.

The agent announced at 2:33 p.m. that the MIA-IAH flight had boarded full and she was rolling the list over to the 5:15 departure. I then walked over to Gate G9, which was in the final boarding process for this United Express flight to Chicago, scheduled departure time 3:03 p.m. I overheard one gate agent telling the other, “We’ve got two seats left.” I was #5 on the SA list at this point. She paged the first person, then a party of two. The party of two did not respond, so she paged the fourth man on the list. “You’ve got the last seat,” she told him. Oh no. I’m now next on the list. Can always hope somebody who checked in for the flight online didn’t make it to the airport in time.

A few minutes go by. The agent pages me to see if I’m in the boarding area. “Mr. Wall, you are next on the list if we have any no-shows,” she tells me. Then I overhear the gate agents chatting – it appears two customers haven’t boarded. One agent says she’s going on the plane to check for empty seats. A couple minutes later, I hear some wonderful words on the walkie-talkie: “There are two empty seats. Repeat, two empty seats. Send down the last two standbys.” YES!!!!!!!

I was told to take Seat 15C, an aisle seat on the left side. I noticed the other empty seat was 12A, a window seat in the more-spacious exit row. Darnit! That should be my seat. But I was grateful to be aboard and didn’t make to make a fuss, so I quietly sat in 15C and smiled that I’m making it out of Miami today.

We departed 10 minutes early at 2:53 and took off at 3:04 from Runway 8R, flying east over the beach and then turning northwest toward Chicago. There’s a one-hour time change; the time becomes 2:04 p.m. CDT.

It’s presently 4:07 p.m. CDT. I’ve been finishing up my blog entries from the last couple days of the cruise. We have about an hour remaining in the flight. Time to relax and watch some TiVo.

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We landed at 4:55 on Runway 10 and arrived into Gate C7 six minutes early at 5:04. I went to the United Club to await the 6:45 p.m. connection to Houston.
Slideshow Report as Spam

Comments

globetrotter on

Been leafing through some of your very entertaining blogs.

I was interested to see that you get to see what number you are on waitlists for seats and/or upgrades. How do you get that information? Is this a US thing as we don't get that over here in the UK? (or at least I have not been aware of it!)

Happy travels. Good luck with the remaining 100+ countries !

lewnwdc
lewnwdc on

With United Airlines, the standby list and upgrade list are posted online for every flight in real time. At some airports in the USA, this information is also posted on screens at the United gate.

globetrotter on

Page not displaying on phone properly so hope this shows up ok.
That is defo something not done here. I had thought perhaps you were in the airline business given the obvious interest and excitement in new planes. Plus thebillions of upgrade points you seem to have! Lol

lewnwdc
lewnwdc on

My mom works for United. :-)

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