Don’t count on getting there on time if flying

If you are traveling anywhere by air these days, it’s highly unlikely you will arrive on time. While this has been confirmed by industry reports you might have seen on television or read about in the newspaper, I can definitely confirm it based on three recent international trips.

First, I was scheduled out on a morning flight on American Airlines from DFW to JFK, allowing four hours to make a connecting flight with Zoom to London and then on to Wales by car. Oops, the AA flight was cancelled and I was put on a later flight. That’s when the problems escalated.

A call to Zoom indicated its flight to Gatwick was going to be late leaving. So when I arrived at JFK at 5:30 p.m., I still thought there might be a chance to catch the 6:45 departure, but not if I had to wait for by bags. So I talked to a girl in baggage to see if she could put them on AA’s next flight to London. She noted she would. Later, I realized that after 9/11 that your bags were not supposed to go on a flight without you.

I rushed over to the other terminal and arrived at the Zoom check in counter at 5:50, but there was no agent there. I tried to page someone. Then two other late arrivals got through to someone at the gate, but they would not come back to help us. I later learned that the flight did not actually leave until after 7 p.m., plenty of time for all three of us to make it.

A trip back to AA indicated it did not have any kind of share agreement with Zoom so that I could go to London on one of its later flights without buying a new ticket. The agent did give me vouchers for a room and meals.

When I did get through to Zoom the next day, I was able to get on its next flight to London. The only catch—it made a stop in Bermuda.

I checked with AA’s baggage department to see if my bags were already at Gatwick. She passed me along to another agent, who came back with good news—the bags are already there,. I would later learn she meant London’s other airport, Heathrow.

The Zoom flight to London was two hours late and there was no gate for us on arrival. Then we had to wait for buses to come out to take us to the terminal. When we got inside the terminal, there was more bad news—long lines waiting to clear customs with only four agents checking foreigners. It took two hours, but I did have some interesting conversations with a pair of ladies from Australia.

My driver was there to pick me up and we walked over to AA to claim my baggage. That’s when we found out the golf clubs and the other bag were at the other airport. We drove over there—an extra hour or more delay—and I arrived too late to play the Twenty Ten Course.

I did have a wonderful five days in Wales where I did get get to finally play the course that hosted the 2010 Ryder Cup, walking all 18 holes on a bum knee

Returning home from London, the Zoom flight was again two hours late—why not just schedule that time instead of making everyone wait all that time in the airport? This meant that I missed the connecting flight to DFW. AA did have a later flight from La Guardia and I took a taxi over there in the middle of 5 o’clock travel, getting on as a standby and finally arriving at my daughter’s house 24 hours after leaving Wales.

A week later, I was off to Edmonton in Canada to see the final round of the CN Canadian Women’s Open on a Northwest flight that connected in Minneapolis-St. Paul. The man at the gate at the Austin airport noted that the flight was going to be 90 minutes late and offered to get me on a United flight through Denver that would allow me to make connections.

What about my bag? I had decided not to take golf clubs since I wanted to check out the rental clubs. He indicated that getting it switched would not be a problem. It was early in the morning and I must have been half a sleep not to question him. The United flight actually arrived on time in Edmonton, but—you guessed it—there was no bag.

I filled out a lost luggage report and went on to the Westin Edmonton. I did bring my medicine and an extra shirt in my brief case. When I checked with the 800 number the next morning, I was told my bag would be delivered to the hotel later that day. However, a check with the front desk did not find my bag.

I checked with United the next day and was again told that the hotel had the bag. A check with the manager, Mike Lazinby, finally solved the mystery. United had sent a baby car seat instead of my bag. Lazinby made some calls and found my bag was in Minneapolis and would arrive in Edmonton at midnight. Showing an example of customer service that was beyond the call of duty, Lazinby went to the airport and picked up the bag, handing it to me the next morning at the golf course. His good deed did result in a letter to his boss and a thank you note with a nice tip to him.

I thought my return flight was going real smoothly as we landed in Minneapolis on time and the connecting flight seemed on schedule as we all got aboard. I was almost napping when the pilot came on and made an announcement that we had to get off and take another plane because of mechanical problems. So we arrived in Austin about two hours late and it was after midnight by the time I drove to Dallas so that I could run a tournament the next afternoon.

The moral of this story is that you should always try to book direct flights if possible and to never separate yourself from your luggage.

Going to Spain for the World Golfers Championship in 2009 on a direct flight to Madrid worked really well. I flew coach, but really didn’t have problems getting my necessary five hours of sleep. I didn’t have a long wait for a connecting flight to Marbella either where there was a bus to take us to our host hotel.

I wasn’t as lucky on the return trip. First, we had to get up with only four hours of sleep for an early connecting flight from Marbella to Madrid where we had three hours before the flight back to Dallas. After finally getting everyone on the plane, the captain mentioned that we were going to be delayed because of an electrical system problem. We were stranded on the plane for more than two hours before the problem was corrected. Going West means more time in the air and I was really tired after getting home more than 24 hours after leaving the hotel in Spain.

Will I quit flying? Not a chance as there are plenty of more places where I want to play golf and flying is still the easiest way to get to them.

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