Tuesday, March 17, 2015

An Unplanned Night in Houston

Well, I didn't get too far today.

The plan was to get from Fort Lauderdale to Kirishima, southern Japan. Instead I got as far as Houston.

My United flight from Houston to Tokyo was repeatedly delayed: something about a problem under the floor, eventually traced to a cargo door.

I retreated to the KLM club where I'm grandfathered (an appropriate word) in at no cost.

Eventually, 6 hours late, the heavily fueled 777 lumbered out to a runway, and waited for a British Airways 747-400 to get off the ground. The captain then announced he had gone illegal: had takeoff occurred two minutes earlier, he would have been within federal rules for time spent in the cockpit.

As soon as I got off the plane, I walked briskly to the United club. I was the first there from the abandoned flight, and the receptionist waved me through when I started to dig in my backpack for one of the single-use lounge passes I carry.

At the top of the escalator, four agents were ready to help me. I was lucky to have Jackie.  It took about 20 minutes, but the outcome was perfect. She:
Booked fights for the next day. Instead of flying to Tokyo Narita, I'm flying to Tokyo Haneda (via San Francisco). That is good, because my flight to Kagoshima will leave from Haneda. Previously, I had to transfer between Tokyo Narita and Haneda.
Chose great seats for me (bulkhead). 
Booked me into the Marriott, right in the Houston airport terminal. United paid for the hotel and meals.
Spotted that an ANA flight I have in April is not properly confirmed. She got on the phone to fix that.
While she was on hold, Jackie asked me how I managed such a long trip with only my small carry-on backpack. We chatted about hiking in southern Japan, then about running, and her too-playful dog. I have so often met airline people who are great spirits.

After that I helped myself to a beer, feeling just a little guilty I had not paid for admission. I took advantage of the WiFi to change hotel plans.

An email came in, offering either 6,250 miles or a $125 certificate. I had paid for the entire trip from Fort Lauderdale to Japan, then back to Minneapolis, with bonus miles for signing up for credit cards. Extra miles are always welcome.

So, instead of first going to Kirishima, I'll spend a couple nights in Kagoshima, a city I love.

Distance Miles
Duration HH:MM
Houston, IAH
San Francisco, SFO
UA 1723
San Francisco, SFO
Tokyo Haneda, HND
UA 875
Tokyo Haneda, HND
Kagoshima, KOJ
NH 623

Note: I produced the map at the top of this post with Great Circle Mapper. (Thanks Bob.)

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