Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Not-So-Much Savings

We were trying to save money for the upcoming trip back to the Washington DC area for Christmas. American was asking some ridiculous price, again, for nonstop service – can you tell I’m starting to get just slightly annoyed at their pricing approach to the service advantage they have out of DFW? – and wound up buying tickets on AirTran. AirTran used to have nonstop service to Baltimore but pulled out of that market and now ship just about everything through Atlanta just like Delta. Oh well. The savings was worth it was the mindset at the beginning of our journey.

I rarely fly AirTran. The last time was a one-way pick-up flight between Rochester, New York and Tampa, Florida on a direct service that stopped in Baltimore. I wasn’t impressed with the $69 upgrade to “Business Class” since it did not include anything in the way of a full meal, just a wider seat, upgraded soft drinks and free booze but not much else. Between Christmas Eve and New Year's, however, Air Tran would see my bountiful backside on no less than six flights between Texas, Maryland and Massachusetts and back. For the first journey our flights were scheduled to leave Dallas at 1:15PM and arrive in Baltimore after the change in Atlanta at about 6:45 in the evening, about a 4.5 hour journey compared to three hours nonstop on American. Again, we felt the savings would be worth it.

After parking remote and taking the shuttle to the terminal at DFW we checked in for AirTran’s first flight nearly an hour before departure. At the gate we were informed the flight would be about 25 minutes late this Christmas Eve afternoon. Not unusual for one of the busiest travel days of the year but we only had about 45 minutes in Atlanta to make our connecting flight so already the journey of nerves was well underway. Would we make the flight? Would we have to overnight in Atlanta? Who would pay for it? Not the airline, that’s for sure, if the delay was in any way weather related. At least our flights were scheduled to operate from the same terminal for we both knew that if this had been Delta we might have had to transit any one of five different terminals to get to our flight.

We land and park smoothly enough but with only about 25 minutes to catch our flight which, sure enough, had been changed to Terminal C instead of Terminal D where we had arrived. They made an announcement on board our flight as the door was first opened that any passengers going to Baltimore had about 10 minutes to get to the gate as they were holding the flight for us. By “holding” that meant we were in danger of being left behind for the sake of an on time departure to BWI and we’d be stuck out of luck. Not without a fight on Christmas Eve, of course, but stuck just the same.

We made it and the flight pushed out on time only to make it to the runway before the pilot discovered and subsequently shared with us the fact that he could not get the #2 engine started! Back to the gate we go, off the plane to cool our heels for about an hour while maintenance worked to fix the problem or find another airplane. They fixed ours and off we went to Baltimore, landing nearly three hours late at about 9:30PM.

Mom was there to meet us and the hotel still had our room waiting so we hadn’t missed Christmas. The flights back ran exactly according to schedule and this time the upgrade to Business Class was certainly worth the add-on fee. We checked bags of clothes for free so we could carry on the Christmas presents, the extra room was worth it and being served whole cans of soda and bottles of water as opposed to service by the glass in coach was very much appreciated. All for the sake of the savings.

Not too sure I’d do it again, though.

Gotta go.

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