Trip Report Series
Self-Connecting to an International Flight: Lessons Learned
Review: Singapore Airlines Economy Class, San Francisco – Singapore (via Hong Kong)
Review: Plaza Premium Lounge, Hong Kong Chep Lap Kok Airport
Review: Free Singapore Stoppover Tour, Changi Airport
Review: Tigerair (now Scoot), Singapore to Denpasar, Bali
Review: Premier Lounge, Bali Ngurah Rai International Airport
Review: EVA Air Economy Class, Denpasar, Bali to Taipei
Review: China Airlines Lounge, Taipei Taoyuan International Airport
Review: China Airlines Business Class, Taipei to Seoul Incheon Airport
Review: Korean Air KAL Prestige Lounge, Seoul Incheon Airport
My recent trip to Bali started off on a bit of an anxious note since I took on the risk of “self-connecting” from a domestic to international flight on separate itineraries.
I tend to book long-haul international trips using multiple reservations, as I feel that this method permits me to combine different itineraries that work for my schedule, while also enabling me to maximize accrual (and redemption) of frequent flier miles as well as get the best prices.
Well, this is generally a safe practice if you break up the journeys over multiple days (i.e., fly to New York or Los Angeles the evening before, then taking the international flight out the following day). But doing same-day connections can be really risky. I’ve been burned on this before.
Welp. It happened again.
I booked a one-way flight from San Francisco to Singapore (via Hong Kong) on SQ1, leaving at 1:15 AM on Friday, July 28. This meant that I had to travel to SFO on Thursday evening, July 27. As I had residual travel funds with Southwest, I booked a one-way leaving from DAL to SFO at 8:40 PM on the 27th.
I was planning to leave my house around 7:30 PM, as I live fairly close to Love Field, and literally seconds before I grabbed my stuff to leave, I got a notification that the flight was delayed until 11:00 PM Dallas time.
This was not going to be good. It meant that I would arrive at 12:30 AM (at best) into SFO, which was way too late to make a connecting flight from International Pier G.
I calmly opened up my phone, googled flights leaving from DFW to SFO that evening (I’m so angry that FlightTrack PRO is no longer around, because I really could have used it at that point) and saw that the minimum fare for the two American flights leaving from DFW to SFO that evening were around $303 one-way.
I hailed an Uber and beelined it to DFW.
I first called American Airlines, because I wasn’t able to book the flight online and wanted to assess whether those two flights were even planning to leave on time. Who knows, maybe there was weather in the area that was causing flight delays. I was too harried to check. I was placed on a callback, and then I called Southwest in the intermediary to cancel my flight to SFO. Thanks to the generous cancellation policy, the residual travel funds on SWA were put back into a credit shell, although I don’t have a lot of time to use them.
American called back, and there were enough seats left on the two flights, and the 8:40 PM flight had been slightly delayed until 9:30, which was favorable for me. There was also a 10:04 PM, but I wanted to snag the earlier one.
I had to book at the airport, as this was the prompt given to me on AA.com. The ticketing time limits on American’s website prevented me from booking everything myself.
At the ticket counter, I had to shell out the $303, plus an additional $35 for booking at the airport. Totally not customer friendly at all. But it could have been so much worse. At that juncture, I just needed to get to SFO in order to connect in time for my Singapore flight.
The gate agents at DFW airport were kind to let me move up a few rows to Main Cabin Extra in order to get off the plane sooner. Even though the 8:40 flight didn’t wind up taking off until slightly before 10:00 PM Dallas time, it arrived into SFO around 11:30, which allowed me plenty of time to make my connection to the international pier.
When the American flight was at cruising altitude, I had a few drinks to ease my self into the trip ahead and pretty much worked for the entire flight.
So, in hindsight, I learned a lot of lessons from this experience:
- Same-day connections are really risky on the outbound journey. It is a bit more acceptable on the inbound (the downside being that you’re very tired, but at least your trip is over).
- You have to be prepared to shell out money in case IROPS happen
- You have to know what tools are at your disposal to figure out alternatives
- You have to explain things very clearly to the gate agents and be patient and kind to them. The lady who was working for the SFO flight at DFW that day was extremely sweet in allowing me to take a seat in MCE so that I could get bin space and deplane as quickly as possible.
- I should have remembered vouchers and credits that can be used towards these flights. I had $200 in AA gift cards from the AMEX platinum card that I completely forgot about, and in hindsight, that would have defrayed the hole that was burned into my wallet from this last-minute walk up purchase.
- While frustrating, the whole situation was completely my fault and I accepted full responsibility for making such a booking just to save some money here and there. I really just needed to get to SFO.
- Finally, I am proud of how calm I remained through the process. Not to self-congratulate, but it could have made things much worse or more stressful for the long journey ahead.
Just thought I’d share this story with readers. Have you ever experienced something similar? If so, share what your outcome was like and if you have tips or strategies on how to handle the situation.