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Thu Jan 04, 2001 8:43 pm

Some background on this trip. I needed some last minute miles to push my NW account into the Gold Elite area. I spotted a cheap fare ATL-LAX for $171 plus tax and jumped on it with a planned routing of ATL-EWR-CLE-IAH-SAT-LAX-IAH-CLE-CAK-DTW-ATL.

23 November 2000
CO 1142
Boeing 737-300
Atlanta Hartsfield to Newark International

This flight was oversold really badly, so I decided to head down to the airport early for this 645am flight. The cab dropped me off around 520am and I walked into the terminal to observe around 50 people in line at the CO desk. Fortunately, the Elite line was empty and I strolled right up to the desk and tried to check in.

Unfortunately, due to the oversell situation, there were no seats available for assignment in either First or Coach. However, I checked in for all my other segments and received First Class boarding cards all the way through to LAX. The agent there was highly amused by the mileage run concept and wished me luck. I also had him put my name down as a volunteer to give up my seat on this flight, and he handed me a whole pile of the "Will You Volunteer" forms.

Arrived at the gate and handed over my form. The flight was running about 30 people over, so they expected to use at least a few volunteers. Most of the folks had checked in at the terminal rather than at the concourse (indicative of more leisure travelers than business people?) so the agents had a pretty easy job. I got to chatting with one of them and he suggested trying the new EWR-HKG service for a quick mileage run next year. I might just take him up on it!

The minutes ticked down and it finally appeared that they were not going to need any volunteers. The supervisor, Larry Morrow, came over and did a great job assigning the last few seats among the passengers who had volunteered and those who hadn't received assignments. I wound up in 2A and most of the other volunteers also wound up with First Class seats.

We scrambled aboard and waited a few minutes before pushing back. The seatbelt sign on this aircraft (N70330) was inoperational and we were told that as a result, we had to remain seated at all times until we reached the gate at Newark.

After lift off, a quick breakfast was served consisting of a nice omelet with a pancake and some potatoes, together with a fruit plate. Nothing special, but definitely better than nothing. I grabbed about an hour of shuteye after the service and woke up right as we were descending into Newark.

We touched down after a flight time of 1:31 and taxied to Gate A-26. Along the way, I spotted one of the new 767-400s taking off for IAH. What a graceful aircraft, and one that looks infinitely nicer in Continental livery rather than the "Deltaflot" colors.

23 November 2000
CO 283
Boeing 737-300
Newark International to Cleveland Hopkins

I was one of the first few off the aircraft and headed out towards the stop for the inter-terminal shuttle bus (as the monorail is dead until further notice). Along the way, I ran into "KittyHawk" from the flyertalk.com boards. Her brothers were also on my flight and we chatted for a few minutes until they showed up.

The shuttle bus was waiting at the designated stop and moved us over to Terminal C very quickly. My flight was due out from C99, and the walk to the gate actually took longer than the inter terminal ride. Once again, the flight was oversold and I handed over another "Will You Volunteer" card. The agent pulled up my itinerary and involuntarily uttered "Holy S**t" as he saw the routing. He offered to rebook me on the nonstop to LAX if I got bumped but I told him that I'd rather just skip CLE and head on to IAH, for which he checked availability and agreed.

Sure enough, this flight went all the way down to the wire, but they wound up having to take 4 of us off the flight - me and a family of 3 heading home to CLE. They were immediately rebooked on the next flight, but my routing was a little more complex than that.

A supervisor came over to print up our compensation vouchers ($300 in this case) and to work on reroutes. Unfortunately, they couldn't guarantee me a seat assignment on the next EWR-IAH flight either, but instead on the 1155am one. I pulled out my pocket schedule, poked around for a bit and came up with a connection through MSY that was leaving in about 20 minutes. I was quickly rebooked onto that one, but had to rush to the gate myself to get a boarding card as the flight was already being restricted to gate check-ins.

23 November 2000
CO 385
Boeing 737-500
Newark International to New Orleans Moisant
I sprinted over to C94 just as the agent was announcing the final boarding call for the flight and grabbed my boarding card for 8B. Unfortunately, middle seats were all that was left, but I was grateful for anything. I was stuck between a sweet old British lady in 8A and a guy in 8C who was travelling with the lady across the aisle in 8D. However, there were 3 very attractive young women right ahead of us in 7ABC!

The male flight attendant spent much of the pre-pushback time flirting with the three girls and came up with some really pathetic oneliners like "I wish we could save overhead space for girls as cute as you, but I am afraid you will have to check those". Anyway, we pushed back exactly on time and were airborne to New Orleans within minutes.

I slept most of the flight, and declined their meagre offering of a turkey sandwich for lunch. Flight time was 2:47 and we made a textbook approach over Lake Pontchartain into the airport, flaring just about 100 feet past the runway threshold.

23 November 2000
CO 1642
McDonnell Douglas MD-80
New Orleans Moisant to Houston Bush Intercontinental

I had around an hour to kill in N'awlins, so I decided to wander over to the Southwest gates and moo at the passengers there. Meanwhile, I received calls from assorted friends to check on my progress. "You are WHERE?" seemed to be the catchphrase of the hour!

I walked back to my gate and picked up my boarding pass for 3F. The flight was completely empty with just 8 passengers aboard. The flight attendants were full of giggles and modified the safety announcement so that it went "This aircraft is equipped with 8 emergency exits, so pick one each and don't fight later!".

Flight time was a very quick 0:54 and we were at the gate in IAH within minutes of touchdown.

23 November 2000
CO 629
McDonnell Douglas MD-80
Houston Bush Intercontinental to San Antonio

The next flight was due out of C31 which was a fair hike away from where we came in. I used the walking time to call Dollar and confirm my rental car reservation for Los Angeles, and then grabbed a quick lunch from Popeye's chicken along the way.

I arrived at the gate just as they were calling the preboard for First Class and Elite, so I wandered aboard and took my seat 3A. The flight attendant managed to get everyone's drink orders before the regular boarding commenced, which was fortunate as the flight was packed to the gills. It was interesting to contrast this with the previous flight - an example of where the hub-and-spoke system fails to deliver.

Flight time to San Antonio was 0:38 and we touched down smoothly and taxied to gate 31. I spotted a bunch of Kitty Hawk International DC8s lying on the tarmac gathering dust on the way there, along with a few other interesting types I had never seen before (like a SunWest 737-200).

23 November 2000
CO 515
Boeing 737-700
San Antonio to Los Angeles International

I spent the short layover at SAT watching the Vikings-Cowboys game on the TV set at the Fuddrucker's, realizing that Randy Moss is quite an amazing athlete in the process! My friend Chad (who I was supposed to be meeting in LA) called just as I was about to board and I chatted with him all the way down the jetway.

I took my seat 2A and the flight attendant Leslie came around and took my drink order (Heineken). She was a very friendly sort and spent a while chatting with each of her 3 passengers in First Class (and even grabbed my cellphone to have a short chat with Chad too!).

Soon after takeoff, she came around with another round of drinks (Vodka Orange) followed by dinner, which was accompanied by a pretty decent wine. Of course, I abstained from too much of that since I had to drive.

The movie was "The Perfect Storm" and Leslie reccomended that we keep our seatbelts fastened while watching it, and I was inclined to agree after watching it. Flight time was 2:54 and the inflight service was quite exceptional all the way through it.

23 November 2000
Los Angeles
I headed out to the rental car shuttle area and caught the shuttle over to Dollar. My reservation was for a compact, but the agent gave me an upgrade to minivan when I told him that I was gonna be returning it later the same evening.

My plans were to meet up with Chad and his friend Jeni at the "Jerry's Famous Deli" location on Ventura Blvd. in Studio City. I got there around 745pm and they arrived soon after. We spent an enjoyable few hours chatting (teasing "Chad" about his important role in the presidential elections!) and playing video games at the adjoining arcade.

Chad and Jeni headed home around 1045pm and I got back on the freeway to the airport. The traffic was a little more than on the way up, but I made it down to the rental return by 1120pm and was back at the terminal by 1145pm for the 130am departure.

24 November 2000
CO 202
Boeing 757-200
Los Angeles International to Houston Bush Intercontinental

I checked in at the E-Service center around 1145pm for the 130am redeye to IAH. I was very pleased to see that the automated upgrade system had worked as promised and had delivered upgrades for all segments.

At the gate, the flight was pretty badly oversold and the agent (Mary) began by offering a $250 voucher for volunteers. She soon upped the ante to $300, followed by $350 and finally $400. At that point I figured that it was worth it, so I handed over one of the "Will You Volunteer" forms after confirming with the other agent (Shelley) that they would rebook me in F on the non-stop to CLE at 630am.

The flight finally left with 13 volunteers needed. A Redcoat (Phil) came over to assist with the rebookings and the hotels. Since I expected to be on the 630am flight and it was already a little past 2am, I told him that I wouldn't need any. He collected names and headed out to call the hotel and get things set up.

Meanwhile, I get to the front of the line and the agent (Kathy) began the process of rebooking me. She suddenly realizes that the 630am to CLE is not operating because of the reduced holiday schedule. She offers to book me on the 920am nonstop, but that was unacceptable because that didn't get to CLE till 5pm and I had to meet a friend there for lunch. I scrambled through my pocket schedule for other possibilities, but Mary (who had just finished rebooking the other pax) told me that I had better hurry since their shift was up in a few minutes and she intended to leave at that time.

I struggled and came up with a 5am America West flight through PHX arriving in CLE around 2pm. I was told that "It will take too long to rebook you on another airline so you will have to go on Continental". I decided to go on the 705am to IAH and connect to CLE arriving around 430pm. However, this would not allow me to take my scheduled NW connection from CLE, which left exactly 8 mins later. Kathy told me that I could make it "if you run" since I didn't have any checked bags. I declined. The non-stop ERJ at 745pm was oversold to authorization, but Kathy told me that she had managed to book me on it. She printed out my itinerary and I noticed that she had booked me in Y, rather than F, which was what I had given up. When I challenged her about this, Mary intervened and told me that "You paid $200 for this ticket and you expect to fly in First Class? Thats not happening!". That said, she grabbed Kathy and they walked away.

Needless to say, I was furious about this. I called CO reservations at the 800 number and asked them if they could do anything. The agent who answered my call told me that I hadn't been rebooked at all beyond IAH, but she went ahead and booked me through to CLE. The CLE-ATL was booked to authorization though and she couldn't do anything about it.

Around 3am, I called NW Elite services and spoke to Sandra there. She was able to confirm my upgrades into F, but was also unable to confirm me on the CLE-ATL flight.

Around 330am, I called my mom (one benefit of living 8600 miles away from her is that I never feel guilty about calling at weird hours of the night since it is bright daylight there!) and spent 15 minutes complaining to her about the sheer injustice of the situation. She agreed, as all good mothers do.

Around 345am, I found myself a comfy spot on the carpet by gate 68B and tried to grab some rest while staring at the nose of a United 747-200 no more than 10 feet away from the window.

24 November 2000
CO 1662
Boeing 757-200
Los Angeles International to Houston Bush Intercontinental
Around 430am, I headed off to the ticket counters to check in for my flights. The E-Service centers were not online yet, so I dealt with Joe at one of the counters. He printed out my boarding cards, including those for my 8 minute connection at Cleveland. I told him that this was not a legal connection and asked if he could try again to rebook me on the 745pm flight if it had opened up. He replied that "these are Northwest operated flights so you will have to talk to them about that". I pointed out that these were ticketed on CO stock with CO flight numbers, but he just shrugged and asked if there is anything more he could do for me.

I was beginning to crave a cup of coffee by now, so I asked him if I could get a meal voucher. He replied that "when you accepted the compensation we offered to volunteer your seat, you gave up any further claims from us". He then showed me the relevant line on the "Will You Volunteer" form. I asked if he would be willing to do so as a goodwill gesture. He paused a second and replied "I could do that, but I choose not to do so".

I was incensed by this attitude and immediately called NW Elite services again, primarily to get my flight fixed but also to have someone to complain to about this! Tracy was able to book me on the 745pm flight and then connected me with Ms. Jackson at Continental Customer Service who appeared to be pretty high up. She was extremely apologetic and promised that I would receive a written explanation from Continental after they completed their investigation. She also added that she was putting a note in my record to offer me a meal voucher.

At around 640am, I boarded the aircraft and took my assigned seat 5A. A few minutes later, another agent came on board (I couldn't see her name tag) and offered me an envelope. I opened it to find a stack of free drink coupons with expiry dates of 12/31/99. I told her that since I was in First Class the drinks were free anyway and besides the coupons were expired. She just looked sheepish, took them back and walked away.

The announced flight time to Houston was 3:01 and I slept like a baby all the way through. The sweet old lady next to me actually had to wake me up once we landed with a polite inquiry of "Are you getting off here? I was worried about you - you didn't move at all during the flight." I gave her a quick synopsis of my LA saga as we taxied to the gate, and she expressed appropriate horror.

24 November 2000
CO 1992
Boeing 737-800
Houston Bush Intercontinental to Cleveland Hopkins
My connection at IAH was only 32 minutes, so I hurried over to D3 just as they were beginning to board the 737-800. I was in 3A for the 2:31 flight and slept most of the way. There was a lunch service which I declined.

As soon as I deplaned at CLE, I proceeded to the desk to try and track down my friend who was a gate agent for CO at the airport. I had called his home earlier from IAH, but his wife said that he had already left for work. Anyway, there was a very distinguished looking agent standing at the desk and I approached him with my itinerary in hand. He burst out laughing and came across the counter to shake my hand. Finally, something today was quick and painless!

He told me that someone had put a note in my record to "offer apologies and all possible assistance" to the me. In the spirit of that, he told me to hang on while he sent the aircraft back to IAH and then we could do dinner at "Max & Erma" on Concourse B. I was definitely game for that since I had skipped lunch on the flight. I headed off to check voicemail and make some calls while he checked the pax in for the flight.

I returned around 30 minutes later, just in time to watch the maestro finish up the paperwork for the flight and send it on its way right on time. We then headed out to Concourse B, with my friend laughing at how security seemed to single me out for extra attention.

Dinner was good, with my friend choosing Chicken and myself picking the Bacon Bleu burger with a Budweiser draft. We discussed sports and airlines and plenty of other stuff over the next 40 minutes or so - and then it was time for him to head back for a LAS flight and for me to head over to concourse D for the ERJ to Atlanta.

24 November 2000
CO 4181
Embraer RJ-145
Cleveland Hopkins to Atlanta Hartsfield

I wandered over to D14 where ATL was about to start boarding. The agent there had also seen the comments in my record and asked me about them. I gave her the story and she was surprised, but assured me that Cleveland was a lot more hospitable than LA.

Boarding commenced a few minutes later and I was the first person aboard in seat 1A. I gate checked my carry-on and made myself comfortable as the pax filed on board the RJ. It was a pretty full flight, but it finally went out with 7 seats open.

The 1:37 flight down to Hartsfield was pretty turbulent, but the RJ seemed to weather it pretty well. I chatted with the F/A during one of the extended "remain seated" periods and told her about my experience. She shared a story about her own poor experience with LAX staff while non-revving. Looks like those folks have a reputation for being asses.

My bag was waiting for me on the jetway as soon as the door opened. I guess the Elite tags helped, 'cos the only other bag already out was one with CO Elite tags. I didn't wait around to see how long the others took!

Headed out to the MARTA station and got on a Northbound train home. The guy sitting next to me tried to make conversation, and made the mistake of asking "So, where ya comin' in from?". I laughed and began listing off the cities. He looked puzzled, but I just smiled and said "It's a long story...."

"The A340-300 may boast a long range, but the A340 is underpowered" -- Robert Milton, CEO - Air Canada


Thu Jan 04, 2001 9:57 pm

What a brilliant post! You really are quite an amazing person if you survived all this stuff. Ever thought of auditioning for the next "Survivor". I think you would do pretty well!!! If I was in this situation, I think I might have just killed myself! 


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Sun Jan 07, 2001 3:47 am

Excellent post! At least you were promoted to CO Gold Elite. You can now upgrade companions to First Class.



Sun Jan 07, 2001 5:28 am

Great story! Just out of curiosity, how did you manage to book so many legs on that fare? I'm having difficulty finding an online site that will allow me to book more than 4 legs.
Posts: 3035
Joined: Mon May 29, 2000 2:21 pm


Sun Jan 07, 2001 5:34 am

Excelent post! This reminds me of getting creative while non-reving.

Happy Flying,


Sat Jan 13, 2001 4:14 pm

Sean, another in the long line of fabulous travel experiences...and reports!

Lets see...

Just curious how much was the entire ordeal?

You did SAT-LAX on CO? Is that just a non-hub flight?

Like the above poster, I would love to learn how you booked that trip for so little. I would do that, but since I only have like 10,000 miles on CO, I don;t think I would get all the upgrades.


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