At 2pm last Thursday, my wife and I received a call indicating that a close friend was in the ICU and may not make it. It wasn’t a shock, as she had been in declining health for a while, but it required a quick decision. We had to get to South Florida from the North Atlanta suburbs as quickly as possible.
At first, I tried to find a flight that day. Delta had…nothing available, even in First Class. Southwest had a flight at 10:45pm that night (or so I thought). I booked that flight for us as it was not too expensive (around $250pp) and then started working on a rental car at Fort Lauderdale airport at 1am (not an easy task as some agencies close at midnight). I realized I should check in for the Southwest flight right away as we were within 24 hours. That’s when I saw that I had booked for the following night by mistake as the website defaults to the next day when searching for flights. I immediately canceled that flight.
Next I tried to use my Delta companion ticket from my American Express Delta Reserve Business card. That allows me to buy a main cabin or first class ticket and get a companion ticket free. I saw availability into Palm Beach airport the next morning so I called Delta. It only took 15 minutes for a call back, but unfortunately, the companion ticket is limited to certain fare classes, none of which were available until the following evening.
That left us one option – drive. We quickly packed and got on the road by 3:30pm. We arrived at my mom’s house at 1:30am early Friday morning. Unfortunately, our friend passed away while we were driving, but we were able to spend the weekend with the family paying our respects and attend the funeral Sunday. We drove back Monday and thanks to good timing and no accidents slowing down the traffic, we drove back in about 9.5 hours. As it turned out, many flights were canceled this past weekend due to bad weather in central Florida and other areas around the country grounding planes. Airline staffing shortages create bottlenecks quickly when only a few flights are canceled or delayed.
Despite having Delta Platinum status, a companion ticket and multiple airlines flying between Atlanta and south Florida, spring break and full flights meant we could not fly on short notice. Luckily, the distance was not too far that we could just drive. I feel for those in these situations more than a day’s drive away. Flights are basically full these days and airlines are struggling to keep up with the sudden increase in demand, especially around holidays. If you are flying this upcoming Easter/Passover weekend, be aware of your options in case your flight gets canceled. Those options could include driving to your destination.