My phone rang at 7:00 in the morning on Saturday. “Hello. This is Capital International Airport. Please come to collect your mother at Terminal 2, Door 6.” With that, I knew that my mom had definitely NOT made it onto the Delta flight to Detroit. I jumped into a cab and headed to the airport, wondering ‘now what?’
Getting my mom (aka ‘Gracie’) in and out of Beijing this year for her 85th birthday was definitely not uneventful.
Through the generosity of a friend who works for American Airlines, she flew over 2 weeks ago on a ‘buddy pass.’ Said friend had originally planned to travel with her, but she wasn’t able to get time off from her other (and real) job to make the trip. Never mind, we thought, Gracie has done the trip before, and she’ll be in first class, so they crew will take extra good care of her.And I would be at the airport here to meet her.
Unfortunately, about an hour before her plane was scheduled to land on the night of the 18th, a thunderstorm parked itself over the Beijing airport, forcing the pilots to divert the flight to Shanghai. Of course the airline put her and all the passengers up at a hotel there, but she didn’t have a way to get ahold of me. Fortunately, even though there was NO information about the flight being dispensed at the airport, I was able to find out through my friend in the US that the plane had gone to Shanghai, so I finally left the airport and went home around 330AM. My mom prevailed upon the kindness of a hotel worker to use his phone and was able to finally call me around 5AM.
She finally arrived in Beijing at 7:30pm on the 19th, 21 hours late!
Once here, the question was how and when to get her home. ‘Buddy passes’ are standby tickets, so we had to try to figure out when there might be seats out. AA looked full all weekend and into this week, so a couple on the trip who are Delta employees said they’d give her a pass and escort her home on the 28th. We all loved the idea of her not making the trip by herself. What we didn’t count on was the seats that were empty the night before the flight being bought up at the last minute, leaving my mom (and numerous others) still at the airport when the flight took off. The friends who were to travel with her got the last 2 seats, and had to take them since he has to turn around a fly a plane back to Japan this afternoon.
My mom went to a customer service counter and asked them to call me. The gal at the counter said she’d have to ask her supervisor, but never was able to tell my mom if the call came through. It did — this was the call I had received at 7AM. My mom then prevailed upon a sweet security guard to use her cell phone to call me and got through to me while I was still in the taxi. I told her to go to Starbucks and have a cup of coffee and sit tight. At about 9, one of our favorite drivers who was doing an airport run for someone else, swung over to Terminal 2 and picked us up and took us back to the hotel.
Since my AA friend had sent a text saying that the AA flights didn’t look good for quite a few days (it’s a holiday weekend here), and since neither of us could face the uncertainty of standing by again, I got on the phone with Delta to see what options they had for getting her home. I was particularlly interested in getting her on the flight to Detroit on April 30 since a family that has been on this trip would be on that flight.
The Delta agent told me that they could get her home for 160,000 miles +$34.00. That’s an insane amount of miles for a one way ticket, but I could do it since for some strange reason I had allowed 184,000 miles to accumulate in my account. Then the agent said, “oh, and because you have to use so many miles, we will automatically upgrade her to BusinessElite class.”
“BOOK IT!” I said. Then we could relax and enjoy the extra 48 hours we had.
She left this morning, confirmed BusinessElite class boarding pass in hand, with dear friends who will see her to her connecting flight in Detroit.
As for the 160,000 miles, here’s my thinking…..if I’m not willing to use them to get my mom home, then I don’t deserve to have them!