Archive for September, 2009
After my wonderfully relaxing evening at the Tavern at the Park, I walked back to the hotel and started to pack. I’d have to leave the hotel at 10 the next morning to get to O’Hare for my 1:10 p.m. non-stop flight back to Austin. I’d get it at at 3:50 p.m. and hopefully miss the evening rush hour on the trip home from the airport.
At 10:35 p.m. my phone rang. It showed I was getting a flight status update from American Airlines. A flight status update 14 hours before the flight?
The automated flight status update is one of the best features American Airlines offers and there is no good reason to not sign up for it. Whenever I take a trip, whether it is a mileage run or a vacation, I sign up for this feature. With it I get an automated call two hours before my flight leaves, letting me know if it is still on time, the departure gate, and the estimated arrival time at my destination. If anything changes I get another call; more than once I have been at a departure gate and learned that that there was a gate change or flight cancellation, getting the call before the gate agent made the announcement to everyone else. American has recently improved the services: when you land at your destination you get another call welcoming you and telling you the baggage area for that flight.
As I said, I normally get these calls two hours before the flight; this one was more than 14 hours in advance. I answered the call and got a recording letting me know that my 1:10 p.m. flight for the next day had been canceled, and that American was working on other arrangements.
Twenty minutes later the computer called again to let me know that I had been rebooked on a Chicago-DFW flight, then DFW-AUS. I’d leave ORD at the same time, but get into Austin 45 minutes later.
I called the Platinum desk to see if I could get my exit-row seating, but none was available. Fortunately they were able to move me from the middle row to the aisle. I asked the customer service representative about my original flight — I had never had a flight canceled 14 hours in advance. She said there had been a lot of bad weather through the midwest and Dallas that caused numerous cancellations: those cancellations meant that they would not be able to get the aircraft to Chicago for my Austin flight the next day.
Because I had signed up for AA’s flight notification alerts, I had my new reservations set up before I went to bed that night. The next day I found out how lucky I was.
I checked out of the hotel the next morning and took the train to O’Hare. I used the self-check-in terminal and went to the security line. Once again, I found out how valuable my elite status was. The line at the security check-in was extremely long, but there was another line with no waiting for passengers with elite status. Using that line allowed me to go to the front and get through security much faster. I’d estimate I saved at least 30 minutes!
After a visit to the Admiral’s Club, I went to the departure gate for my DFW flight and boarded the aircraft. With the cancellation of the non-stop to Austin and all of those passengers being moved to other flights, this one was completely packed, not an empty seat to be found anywhere.
We departed on time and had a smooth flight to DFW, landing on time.
During the flight I spoke to the lady in the seat next to me and found out how lucky I was to have signed up for the AA flight status notification. This lady was also scheduled to take the non-stop flight to Austin. When I got to O’Hare, I already had my reservations for the new flight to DFW. However, the lady had not signed up for the notification service and did not know about the cancellation.
She arrived at O’Hare and tried to check in at the self-service kiosk, but was not able to because she had to reticket. So, instead of a quick check-in, she had to wait on a very very long line to get her ticket. Then, she had the even longer line at the security check-in. She had not allowed for that much time and almost missed the flight. Let’s just say she wasn’t happy.
“American should have allowed me to check in at the first class line so I could have gotten my ticket sooner, and I should have received free beverages on this flight because of my harship” she said.
That is a nice thought, but the reality is she should have been there earlier, and should have signed up for the free flight notification service.
As I mentioned, we arrived at DFW on time, and after a short layover, I boarded my flight to Austin. Although it had rained all day in AUS, we managed to arrive between storm clouds and landed on time. I was home by 6 p.m.
All in all, a good trip to Chicago, and thanks to American Airlines flight status notification, a good flight home.
The two-day conference in Chicago went very well. I learned a lot and made many great contacts.
On my last night in town I walked the short distance to Millennium Park, site of President Obama’s victory speech last November. I wanted to see one of the most intriguing sights in the park, the Cloud Gate on the AT&T Plaza. Thanks to its kidney-bean shape, many simply refer to it as “The Bean.”
By the way, I used my new Palm Pre cell phone to take all of the photos in this story; I am amazed at how sharp they are!
The structure is 66-feet long by 33-feet high and weighs 110 tons. According to the website, “The 110-ton elliptical sculpture is forged of a seamless series of highly polished stainless steel plates, which reflect the city’s famous skyline and the clouds above. A 12-foot-high arch provides a “gate” to the concave chamber beneath the sculpture, inviting visitors to touch its mirror-like surface and see their image reflected back from a variety of perspectives.”
The Bean is, as you can see, highly reflective. Given Millenium Park’s proximity to Lake Michigan, seagulls can be seen everywhere, sometimes landing on top of the Bean. It is such an unusual structure that I laughed at the thought of the first seagull telling the other birds “You know, I think we can land on that thing!”
I walked across the street to The Tavern at The Park. The weather was so mild that I chose a table outside. I was not very hungry so I settled for an appetizer.
The food was great, the weather was wonderful: I even met a young man at the table next to mine who had graduated from the University of Texas and was anxious to return to Austin. He seemed to prefer our 68 days of triple digit temperatures and ongoing drought this summer to doing another Chicago winter; I can’t say that I would disagree with that choice.I walked back to the hotel, enjoying the mild weather, and looking forward to a good night’s sleep before my flight home the next day.
If you have followed my blog for a while, you know that I rarely, if ever, have the chance to travel for business. Virtually all of my airline miles have come from my own trips and mileage runs. Given that, it’s a pleasure to say I just returned from a rare business trip, four days in Chicago to attend a conference.
Making the travel arrangements was easy; the corporate travel agent agreed to let me fly American Airlines to Chicago (ORD) due to their good fare. but, for some reason, limited me to non-stop travel, AUS-ORD. When I asked about flying through DFW, the answer was a very blunt “no.” So, I didn’t even bother to ask for the routing that a Twitter friend suggested, Austin to Chicago via Tokyo. Oh well.
My flight departed Austin at 1:10 p.m., quite a pleasant change from all the 6 a.m. departures I’ve had on my mileage runs. My first-class upgrade came through; while I ended up with the bulkhead seat it still beat sitting in coach. Since I was in first I even got a hot lunch. We landed in Chicago at 3, and by 4:30 I was at my hotel.
The conference management recommended the Club Quarters at Michigan and East Wacker and got us a good rate, so I booked that. I had looked at staying at a Starwood property, but the closest Sheraton was a bit too far a walk for me to the conference location, so the Club Quarters won. The location just off of Michigan Avenue helped a lot too. It’s an unusual hotel: from the outside it looks like it was originally constructed as an office building that was later converted to a hotel. The rooms were not very large, but featured a microwave, refrigerator, and free Wi-Fi, so I was pretty pleased with it. The best part of the room was the spectacular view.
I took all of these photos with my new Palm Pre cell phone. I am very impressed by its excellent camera; I even left my digital camera at home.
Once I unpacked, I headed for my favorite Chicago restaurant — Giordano’s Pizza, home of the famous stuffed pizza. There are two schools of thought on Chicago pizza: some prefer the deep dish served at Pizzeria Uno and Due, and I have to admit it is very tasty. But when all is said, and done Giordano’s stuffed pizza is my favorite.
Not surprisingly the Chicago weather was mild, much cooler than the triple digit temperatures we had been experiencing in Texas, so grabbed my jacket as I set out for dinner. I knew there was a Giordano’s on Rush Street, just across the river from where I was staying, but that was not even a consideration that evening. Michigan Avenue was closed for several blocks for Oprah Winfrey’s 24th anniversary show, an event that brought more than 20,000 people to the giant stage built in the middle of Michigan Avenue. I did not want to battle that crowd, so I went in the other direction to Giordano’s location at the Prudential Center. Thankfully, I didn’t even have to wait for a table!
I should have eaten only half of the mushrooms, but they were sooooo goooood! And then they brought my pizza. I had ordered the Tropic Delight featuring cheese, Candian Bacon, and Pineapple.
I had not eaten at Giordano’s for a few years, and had forgotten what a daunting task it can be. I can easily eat a 10-inch pizza here in Texas. But the 10-inch at Giordano’s had so much food that it was much more than I could handle.
I didn’t eat it all, but I certainly enjoyed what I ate. While there are many pizza places in Texas, I have not yet found one to compare to authentic Chicago-style pizza. I walked out of Giordano’s completely stuffed with a big smile on my face, and returned to my hotel.
The two-day Social Media conference, organized by Ragan Communications, began the next morning.There were several valuable presentations, and I am now following several new friends on Twitter.
More to follow…
We’ve all sat on planes, reading our books or listening to music as the pilot makes an announcement. Some of us actually listen to those announcements, but most seem to pay little attention to them.
This week the he passengers on an Aer Lingus flight from Dublin to Paris got quite a scare however as they listened to the messages. The crew played a pre-recorded message, not realizing that they were playing the wrong one! Let’s just say some passengers were shocked to hear the message that was played. Follow the link below to get the full story.
Thanks to the Airline Reporter for following this story!