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.