Sharon and I have experienced this situation on two separate occasions, so I’m sharing it with everyone. Not knowing that this type of flight change is possible can result in missing your flight and needing to be rebooked hours to days later than you intended to travel.
What am I talking about when I say a flight can be un-delayed? Well, I’m sure there’s a more technically accurate term for this, but I’m not an expert, just a regular passenger. It’s easiest to explain by showing what happened to us on a flight in 2019 from Orlando to New York – LaGuardia on American Airlines.
For various reasons, I don’t like to take late flights. This is more true now than ever because there’s a whole day where a single delay can cascade through the airline schedule, throwing off multiple flights. However, on this day, AA only had one direct flight from Orlando to New York and it left at 7:43 PM.
With a later departure time later in the day, we’re able to work on things around the house before dropping off Dobby the Poodle at “camp” (the kennel). We’re then able to pack with her out of the house (She has a thing about suitcases. Doesn’t like them. Can’t figure out why… ;-)). We had all of that done by early afternoon, bags packed by the door and thinking about where we would stop for linner (lunch/dinner) before heading to the airport.
At 2:39 PM, I received the first notification from American Airlines:
At the time, a late-season snowstorm was hitting the Chicago area.
I tracked our flight using the FlightAware app and found our plane was flying from Chicago to New York – JFK before Orlando. Combine the weather delay in Chicago with the runway delays at JFK due to construction at the time, and you have the perfect storm for late-day delays or even cancellations.
I give American Airlines credit with the advance notice about the delay. There’s not much to do at Orlando Airport so I’d rather sit at home for an extra hour than at an airport gate watching TV.
Then at 3:52 PM, I received the next message:
Ugh! A 9:55 PM departure time would mean we wouldn’t get into LaGuardia until after 12:30 AM. We’d still need to get a ride into Manhattan so sleep wasn’t going to happen until 2 AM. That was, if we didn’t sleep on the plane, which was now almost certain.
Sharon ended up taking a quick nap while I worked on some things for the website. Then at 6 PM, I received another email. I figured this one would be where they cancel the flight.
Our flight went from being delayed for 2+ hours to leaving on time. They sent this message 105 minutes before the flight was due to leave.
It turned out that AA swapped planes and put us on an aircraft that was already parked at Orlando for the night.
“Wake Up, Sharon; We need to leave. NOW!!!”
Forget about a leisurely dinner before heading to the airport. I grabbed our bags and threw them in the car. Thankfully this was a short trip so we were only bringing carry-on bags. We decided to park at the airport terminal parking, instead of off-site, to save time. MCO’s TSA checkpoints can be horrible but since we have TSA Precheck and CLEAR, I wasn’t worried about long security lines.
With a bit of accelerated driving, luck finding a great parking spot and breezing through security, we were at our gate 50 minutes after leaving our house (a record.) Boarding was due to start in 15 minutes, which was just enough time to grab a burger to eat on the plane, and relax as we made it on time.
We sat at the gate past the boarding time. And sat. And then:
While we rushed to the airport for our plane, the new plane had no crew. Kudos to the American agents working the gate who gave constant updates. The first delay was because the flight crew just landed and the flight attendants were en route from their hotel.
The second delay was because no one from AA bothered to notify the crew at the hotel that the flight time had changed, so they were still at the hotel but we were told, “they’re definitely on their way now.”
When they arrived, the waiting crowd gave them a round of applause as they walked to the gate. We all wanted to get on our way.
The captain’s announcement after boarding was the best. To paraphrase him:
Hi there. Thanks for flying American. I was supposed to be staying in Orlando tonight but then I was told I’m going to New York. I don’t know what happened to your flights today or why you’re delayed. Anyway, thanks for your patience. I guess we’ll get on our way to New York. Again, thanks for flying American.
I give American credit for proactive flight alerts. I received them simultaneously as the alerts from TripIt with my TripIt Pro service, which wasn’t always the case. The problem is that the system is almost too good. People rely on technology to plan their lives. If you tell me my flight will be two hours late, I’m going to adjust my schedule accordingly. If you’re a casual flyer (and most of the people on a flight from Orlando to New York are leisure travelers), you’re not going to have the luxury of rushing to the airport if you’re still at the pool when the alert comes in that your flight is back on schedule.
Given, there is this vague disclaimer on American’s email notification:
Please note that times and locations are subject to change.
What could they do differently? Maybe an asterisk at the bottom saying that American is still working on trying to get your flight to have an on-time departure and you are expected to be at the airport for the time of the original flight in the case they can make that happen. Would that make people happier or more upset? Knowing I have to be at the airport on time just to wait for 2 hours because American (or any other airline) can’t decide what time my flight is going to leave is not going to bring me joy.
I’m sure some people don’t get alerts like I do and just show up at the airport, only to see the delayed flight. So for them, AA switching planes and cutting what could have been a two-hour delay to a one-hour delay is a huge win.
I’d say, just know when you get a flight notice about a delay, it might not actually happen. Plan on getting to the airport for an on-time departure but be ready to wait out the delay. Here’s an instance where having access to a lounge at the airport really comes in handy. It’s just a pity we don’t currently have access to the American lounge.
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Did not know this. Useful article.
Is Dobby a house poodle?
Dobby is a free poodle ever since we presented her clothes for Halloween. She prefers socks, we just don’t give those to her. She takes them herself.
This happened to me for a Southwest flight. The flight was delayed and delayed some more then 60 minutes before the original time the flight was undelayed. Luckily, I decided to just go to the airport and hang out in the lounge. When I boarded, the plane was less than half full. From there I learned sometime it’s just best to go even if the flight is delayed.
This has happened to me a few times. Not often, but like this story, I had some close calls where I was going to wait before going to the airport then suddenly things were on time again.
If you travel often enough, lounge access is definitely worth it for situations like this.
We’ve had this happen to us a few times—by one particular airline—in order to address over booking problems. We knew the flights were overbooked ahead of time and the airline sent out notices that the flights would be delayed by 2-3 hours, just enough for people to decide to hang around at home or wherever thinking they had a couple extra hours to get to the airport. Fortunately, we went to the airport anyway to wait in the lounge, knowing about this trick, and sure enough, the flights were suddenly updated to “on time” about 45 minutes before the originally scheduled time. So the airline never had to pay overbooking compensation to all the victims who could not suddenly appear at the boarding gate.
This happened to me over the Christmas holiday. Flight from Kyiv to Tbilisi was listed as a 10 hour delay. I made arrangements to stay longer at my hotel and headed to the cafe. I killed about an hour when I got a text from FlightAware that my flight was now on time. I scrambled and made it to the airport but I had to wonder, what if I’d left my hotel for some sightseeing? Well, the answer is I would have missed my flight.
On a related note, I’ve also had a flight reinstate after being cancelled. They cancelled the flight shortly before boarding and while I was waiting at the special services counter, they made an announcement that they found another aircraft and would be operating the flight with only a 45 (then, ultimately 90) minute delay. Interestingly, some people had already been re-accommodated on other flights requiring an added connection- legend has it, those people were never heard from again :).
I had a comment that was showing yesterday evening and seems to be gone now. If flights can be undelayed can comments be uncommented?
We monitor and approve all blog comments. After writing it, you can see your post but no one else can. Sometimes it takes a little longer for us to review them all. You should see it now.
We live in Worcester, Massachusetts where the airport occasionally has commercial service. This is one time when they did, about 10 years ago. Spirit flew to Orlando – one flight a day, 3 times a week. We were booked on the Saturday flight scheduled to leave at 3 pm. We received a message at noon that our flight was delayed to 6 pm. So, we decided to meet our daughter for lunch and leave for the airport at 5 (tiny airport, only flight of the day, no security lines, no long walks to the gate), arriving at about 5:20. Now, at 1:00, during lunch, we receive word that our flight is back to 3:00. Jump up, leave our daughter and our half-eaten food, race back home, load the bags, leave for the airport at 2:15, make it OK. Lucky it was a small airport. IF we had missed the flight the next one was 3 days away. IN retrospect, should have brought the bags with us.
That occurred to me on a AA flight. At first it was late for more than 2 hours and 3 hours before the original time, the flight was not late again. I also always set up a flight alert on Airportinfo.live just to be on the safe side. You then get messages if the flight is delayed or canceled. Very useful.
This has never happened to me in over 50 years of regular flying. Never been bumped either. The secret: don’t fly with any North American carrier. I generally prefer Asian airlines for their far superior service, cleanliness and on time performance. There are of times I have flown on American carriers but with the exception of business class, they have been at best, ordinary and more often, disappointing.