What happens when your flight is diverted?
As we were preparing for our final descent into the Charlotte airport around 6:30am on Sunday I noticed the fog was pretty thick. Suddenly we sharply changed course and climbed back above the cloud cover. I was sitting near the flight attendant and saw her pick up the phone to talk to her colleagues. “oh, we’re going back up? Are we going to try again? Where are we going?” Unfortunately, although we made eye contact, she did not share the answers to her questions. Shortly the captain came on the loud speaker to let us know that the airport had been closed to air trafficdue to fog and that we were being diverted to the airport in Columbia, SC which was about a 20 minute flight away.
We landed in Columbia just before 7am and were not given information for at least an hour. In the meantime we were free to use our phones, but not able to deplane. I called the consumer reservations line for American while I was on the plane, the hold time was estimated at 56 minutes. Luckily, as a travel agent, there are special account desks that we can contact in situations like this. I had already looked to see that there was a flight leaving Charlotte for Fort Lauderdale around 9:30am. Within 2 minutes I had my flight changed to the later flight and crossed my fingers that we would leave for Charlotte in time to make the new connection.
While the captain had announced that all traffic in and out of Charlotte had been grounded, the online flight boards showed that our flight was the only one that had been diverted, while others had been delayed by less that 10 minutes. This of course meant that my original connection left for Fort Lauderdale long before we flew back to Charlotte.
We did finally take back off from Columbia and landed in Charlotte at 9:02am. By the time we deplaned, in terminal E my connection to Fort Lauderdale was boarding in Terminal C. I didn’t have any checked luggage, so I, along with my carry on were able to hustle through the airport and make it to the next gate just in time for me to board, before my seat was forfeited to a standby passenger.
While everything worked out well and I arrived at the hotel with about 30 minutes to unpack before our opening session started, I would not have been as lucky had I booked through American Airlines directly or without the services of a travel agent and avoided the hour on hold. That seat certainly would not have been available on the 9:30 flight an hour later, nor would I have made it had I been required to stand in the customer service line once I arrived in Charlotte.
This serves as my reminder to all of you who book vacation packages with us that include your airfare, as most do. The sooner we know of a problem or even the potential of a problem the higher probability that we can find a solution that will minimize your travel inconvenience.
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