Riding the Bus with Mohamed-Ali

Watch out for that jab…

Sunday, December 22 would be the day. The day I completed the goal I formally set for myself to visit all of the lower 48 states before I turned 30. I’d leave Washington DC, have a stop over at La Guardia airport in New York City, fly to Boston and then drive up to Maine. Having a 6am flight from Boston back to New York the next morning, I’d just spend the day in Maine and drive back to sleep in Boston on Sunday night. The trip would definitely be a whirlwind, but I was looking forward to achieving my goal, (and eating a few pounds of maine lobster right from the source.)

I took the 15 minute drive from my hotel to Reagan National Airport and returned the rental car. I grabbed the shuttle bus to drive me to my terminal and was pleased to see who was operating the bus. Mohamed-Ali himself… Okay not THAT Muhammad Ali, but all the same it’s always funny how little things like that get a laugh and encourage you throughout the day.

I think George Foreman helped me with my bag, too.

I think George Foreman helped me with my bag, too.

For a split second I considered going up to him and saying, “I want you! You’re gonna fall!” ala Apollo Creed in Rocky IV, just so I could retell the clever story, “Yea once I challenged Mohamed-Ali to a battle and he backed down.” But considering this guy was about as old as the real┬áMohammad Ali and I was at an airport full of TSA agents always on edge and probably looking for someone to taze, I decided to pass.

At this point in my life you'd think I'd have learned not to cause scenes at the airport.

At this point in my life you’d think I’d have learned not to cause scenes at the airport.

I made it through the TSA molester’s club without (much) incident and waited for my flight. I knew I had a tight connection, leaving DC at 10am, arriving at 11:15am into New York and departing for Boston at 12pm. Unfortunately 20 minutes before my flight we were informed of a maintenance issue and told the flight would be delayed “at least an hour.” Knowing I didn’t have a lot of time to mess around if I was going to make it to Maine, I started processing the different options in my head.

The gate agent suggested, “Those with connecting flights” should see the Delta Help desk…” One look over to the help desk showed me a line of 20 people, but I jumped on line anyway. Having been through many re-bookings and delayed flights over the years, I know that calling the Delta hotline is almost always significantly faster than waiting on line. Even though Delta had two agents at the desk, the sheer process of gathering information from a flyer, looking up options and typing in the new ticket is incredibly time consuming. With 20 people on line and and average of probably five minutes per person, you can see how the time adds up, even with two staffers. Calling Delta is almost always quicker, even with shorter lines. It’s the same general process, but waiting on line has one or two agents looking up flights, whereas calling in gives you an agent all to yourself. As I usually do, I decided to time it and see which option got me a solution quicker.

While on line I called up the Delta customer service line, got an agent in less than a minute and explained the situation. I had the one flight from DC to NYC, which was now delayed, then a flight from NYC to BOS. With my delay there’s no way I’d make the connection. Although I’m a huge fan of Delta and fly them almost exclusively so long as the price justifies it, I’m still surprised they don’t have a direct flight from DCA to Boston. I sort of remembered this, but asked the agent to check. She confirmed that all flights to Boston from Reagan National had to transfer through another city. Airlines like US Airways and Jet Blue have multiple direct flights throughout the day, so I wonder if Delta’s run the numbers and doesn’t believe it to be profitable or just haven’t entered that market yet.

My itinerary was a bit shook up as I actually had two separate tickets and bookings, one into NYC and a separate round trip ticket from NYC to Boston. The agent placed me on hold for a few minutes, came back, placed on hold, came back, talked with a supervisor due to the fact I’d already “checked in” for my flight from La Guardia to Boston. Finally she was back and I was all set. I had a confirmation email and the change was reflected in real time on my Delta sky miles account and iphone app. I thanked her and noted the time.

I'm admittedly a Delta fanboy.

I’m admittedly a Delta fanboy.

The duration of the call, from start to finish was just a touch over 20 minutes. I was now eighth in line, and I stepped out. Calling Delta as opposed to waiting in line was the better option by far. I suppose now I got to wait in a seat as opposed to waiting on line… but still. The Delta agent was great and I’m always pleased to deal with professionals in business. Quick solutions like this is why I continue to use Delta.

The timeframe wasn’t the best, I’d still have to wait for my flight leaving from DC to NYC, (now delayed to 12:30pm) but I’d now be put on the flight to Boston at 3:00pm. This would give me plenty of transfer time. Although my time in Maine would now be cut short by about 3 hours and I wouldn’t even get into Boston until about 4pm, (and up to Maine at maybe 6pm,) I wasn’t going to let a small thing like a broken plane get in my way of hitting up state #48. I’d just need to make my handful of hours in Maine memorable. Maybe I’ll add a couple more lobsters to my dinner plans.