When a 4-Hour Flight Turned into 24

You might have heard the phrase, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade!” What I learned from my prolonged and exhausting trip last week while traveling for an AICPA workshop is my attempt at making a cup of tasty lemonade.

My original plan was to fly from Washington DC to Chicago to Austin. I would be arriving around 10 pm on Saturday and the next day I could study for a Monday exam. Everything was great.

But it did not go like that, at all. I ended up arriving in Austin at 10 pm on Sunday night and cramming at the last minute before the exam.

plane was delayed

What happened was the flight from Washington DC to Chicago was delayed, so I did not catch the flight from Chicago to Austin. The flight was rescheduled to 11 am on Sunday and I end up staying in Chicago for one night. Next day in front of the gate, I found out the rescheduled flight was cancelled. After calming myself down, I called and booked the earliest flight available, which was on Monday afternoon. When I asked the agent for a hotel voucher, she said there was none but she offered to fly me from Chicago to Nashville to Dallas to Austin, arriving at 10 pm on Sunday. Weighing costs and benefits, I went with the latter choice (already thinking like an accountant!).

Things I learned:

  1. If you are traveling for a job interview, keep the interviewers’ contact information handy (both in your phone and on paper), in case you need to inform them unexpected delays.
  2. Always be nice and calm when talking to agents (especially when you wear a longhorn shirt). Being mad at them does not mitigate the problem. First of all, delays and cancellation are not their fault. More importantly, your emotional arguments could distract them from finding the optimal solution for you.
  3. Be firm on your rights. Know your rights and the company’s obligations in unexpected flight delays or cancellations. Reading the company’s official website or 3rd party forums could be helpful.
  4.  Technical side: download the documents you want to review on the laptop when you have internet, in case you cannot find access at the airport. Also, buy a portable battery charger for your phone. Outlets can be hard to find and you might forget your phone in the charging station.

The bottom line: prepare for everything, expect nothing.

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