Yesterday, I was supposed to fly back to San Diego and my wife to Sacramento. We each had flights booked four hours apart. She on United and your's truly on AirTran as I wanted WiFi. The weather in Boston was dreary. Fog. Rain. Plus President Obama in the area down in Martha's Vineyard meant that flights were a tad all running late. Add to it that VP Joe Biden was in Milwaukee, the Air Tran hub I was connecting through, while my wife was connecting through D.C and these massive flight delays started to mount.
About ninety minutes before her flight I got the first alert from TripIt of her delay, which I immediately forwarded to her with a love note that read. "Go to your gate and ask if you'll make your connection." A few minutes later, my flight, slated for a 5:59 PM departure came through telling me there was no way I would make my connection. Fortunately, I had a very late check out scheduled for 4 PM and was still in my lovely apartment size suite at the Boston Intercontinental. I called AirTran and got a surprised customer service agent who had yet to get a status update, asking what my options were and if I elected to travel questioning if I would have a hotel room waiting for me in Milwaukee or if I needed to take care of that myself. She had no real answer other than the option of rebooking for Tuesday, going to the airport to see what could be arranged or getting a credit for the flights. About thirty minutes later I then received a call from AirTran's corporate customer service wondering "how did you know we had a delay before we notified our CSRs?" I said, the FAA provides flight data to services I subscribe to and then discussed that I was simply hoping to learn what my options were and explained that being in control of my own travel destiny was a far better feeling, than standing in line at a gate, with 100 people, all trying to get somewhere, with no real options other than to then go to another airline in hopes of getting somewhere.
Instead, I sat comfortably in my hotel suite, and reviewed my travel options. With Flight Stats, I was able to also review the departure times for some Virgin America non-stops to the west coast that I saw had availability. While they looked good on the schedules, Flight Stats showed that the flights to SFO and LAX both were running into weather delays. Since my wife wasn't getting out either, I simply extended our stay, in a great hotel, then booked my flight for today, after all my conference calls would be completed.
Had I not received the TripIt Trip alerts or had flight stats I would have been at the mercy of the harried gate agents, had to fend for a hotel room near the airport, and dined on airport area cuisine vs. had all the comforts of home and all of Boston at my door step.
Given we live in an information rich era, there's no reason not to use all the tools at our disposal to regain control of our lives, know our options and be able to decide what's best for ourselves vs. having someone who has layers of process and procedures staring them in the face, with no end of the day concern for what impact their actions or in actions cause you. To me, a good night's sleep, in a great bed with my wife, sure beat the daylights out of being stranded in an airport somewhere without any flexibility in options.
Oh, and yes. Air Tran will fly me today, and to where I need to be tonight, not where I was going yesterday. All at no additional cost other than one more night in Boston.