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2:54am on Tuesday, 1st April, 2008:

Doom Impended


So here I am sitting in the departure lounge at O'Hare terminal 3 section L8.

My flight to London should have taken off 2 hours 30 minutes ago. Indeed, my flight to London did take off 2 hours and 30 minutes ago. Sadly, I was in the air at the time, held in a stack over Madison, Wisconsin, not to land at Chicago until 2 hours later.

OK, so what do you do when you're at an airport and your connecting flight has already left?

Well, first of all I went to the Virgin Atlantic desk, at terminal 5. This was unattended: it transpires that there is only one Virgin Atlantic flight from Chicago every day, and it was mine. The ground crew all go home once it's taken off.

The information desk told me to go back to terminal 2, where Northwest Airlines would see to me. My flight from Minneapolis, delayed because of snow, was a Northwest Airlines flight. The woman on the desk told me my ticket was illegal, and I'd have missed my flight anyway even if it hadn't been delayed, because the minimum connecting flight period is 75 minutes but I only had 39 minutes. I was able to counter by pointing to my ticket, printed 3 days ago, showing that my flight from Minneapolis was supposed to leave at 15:05, not 16:00, so it wasn't illegal. Therefore, I was entitled to be rerouted.

She said I would still have missed the flight.

I said I tried to book an earlier one at Minneapolis when I realised the problem, but that all flights to Chicago O'Hare except the one I was booked on had been cancelled (which is true). Therefore, I was still entitled to be rerouted.

She agreed. However, she stated that the overall ticket was owned by Virgin Atlantic, not Northwestern, and it was Virgin's responsibility to get me home, not Northwestern's. What I should do is show up for the flight tomorrow and speak to the Virgin representatives. She was rather triumphant about this. She even gave me a pink form so I could stay for free at a hotel somewhere in Chicago of Northwestern's choosing at the "lowest available room rate".

Hmm. I think not.

After some more verbal wrestling, I was able to ascertain that there was a British Airways flight to Heathrow leaving in an hour. However, with the time it would have taken me to get over to terminal 5 again, buy the ticket and go through security, I'd have been in danger of missing that, too. Only when I actually enumerated the names of other airlines was she able to tell me that yes, American had a flight at 21:50, which I might be able to get onto.

So, I went to terminal 3, and bought a one-way ticket from Chicago to Heathrow on flight AA98, leaving at 21:50. It cost me $930.40, plus another $20.00 tax apparently levied for my having bought the ticket at the airport.

Because it snowed in Minneapolis this morning, I'm down about £500.

I'll try to get some money out of Virgin tomorrow when I arrive back in the UK, but given that I didn't buy the original ticket myself, I expect my efforts will be futile.


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Copyright © 2008 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).