Stuck at the Airport...in an Awesome Way

I realize that posting a picture of a cemetery is a pretty lame way to celebrate Christmas, so a belated, and much less existential, Merry Christmas to all.  This Christmas holiday brought the gifts of Family, Wii, Thai Massage, and six free round trip tickets anywhere that megacheapairlinenottobenamed flies.  God bless us, everyone. 

Max and I visited my sister and her sweet family in Wauwatosa Wisconsin this year, just outside of Milwaukee.  We played tea party, dress ups, legos, and wii; we colored pictures, visited the Milwaukee Natural History Museum, and gorged ourselves on the delicious food my sister made.  Much fun was had by all and Santa Clause even found us all the way over there (thanks Jenn).   

On our way to the airport I said to Max "I hope that the flight is full so that we can volunteer to go later and get free tickets!"  Max refers this kind of attitude as "Getting my coupon's worth" and it has taken us many places so I don't apologize for it.  I got the idea on the way to Milwaukee when the flight next to us was over booked and they called for volunteers to go on a later flight by offering two free roundtrip tickets.  My heart literally began racing and I started planning all the trips we could take with two free roundtrip tickets.  

I like to plan trips.  I'm a little compulsive about it actually.  I've probably planned several dozen trips in my head (with the help of my nerdtastic "Travel Spreadsheet") that we have never taken - down to the price of hotels and food.  In general I think it's helped to hone my travel skills...if made me a little bit crazy.   

So, when we got to the farthestawayterminal at the airport and I saw it was packed with screaming children and frazzled parents returning from their Christmas visits I had a hunch we were in luck.  As soon as our flight showed up on the board I approached the gate and asked the nice woman working at the counter how full the flight was.

"Oh, it's full honey.  We need a few volunteers to bump until tomorrow morning actually"
(Me, feigning like I'd never thought of the idea)"Really?  Well, what kind of compensation could you offer?"
"A round trip ticket for each passenger as well as a hotel stay tonight and a free meal"
"I think I might be interested in that.  Our schedule is pretty flexible"
"Can I send you into Reagan National instead of Baltimore? (WAY closer to our house and easier to get home from)"
"Yeah, I think that would work."
"You know, if you are flexible you should just keep bumping all day tomorrow morning and rack up the tickets"

...!  Of course!  

So after the nice women dealt with a dozen or so passengers who just didn't get on their flight because they were roaming around the airport she helped us with our vouchers.  

"You know, because you guys were so patient about the whole thing (having to wait forever while she dealt with people threatening to never use the airline again - which they will, because it's super cheap.  Silly) I'm going to bump you up to first class"

We spent the night in a nice hotel and ate a lovely filet mignon in a restaurant akin to the restaurant in The Shining with old timey music and a formally dressed maitra d.  The next morning we bumped one more time, this time getting TWO free round trip tickets for our 'troubles'.  We ended up getting home at 1 pm the next day instead of 12:30 in the middle of the night.  A win win as far as I’m concerned. 

A nice old woman with a suitcase full of cheese latched on to me after signing the volunteer sheet and we chatted together about the places we’d go with our free tickets.  She was so nervous about the whole thing and wasn’t sure it would work, but when it did and she realized she could go see her children a few more times she started scheming about doing it again.  Just as I was boarding our 10:30 flight (our patience waning and our remaining three day weekends already booked)I heard her name called as a volunteer to get bumped to the next flight again.  You go. 

Where are we going to go?  Well, the first is a no brainer – visit our moms in Utah.  And secondly, I think we are going to take a nice midwinter trip to the Caribbean.  We are pretty set on the Dominican Republic, but we’ll see.  And the third is still just a twinkle in our eye at this point. 

But other than rocking the system, I wanted to blog about this to impart some airport lessons learned this past week.  They are as follows:

1.     BE NICE.  If you think that being a brute to the only people with the power to help you in a missed flight situation is going to get you what you want – think again.  There are times to be firm, but if you smile and ask nicely and be understanding you WILL be compensated in kind.  If not in tangible services then at least in good travel Karma, which I think is real and very important. 
2.     Check and re-check your gates people.  During times of high volume traveling, the airport gets nuts and gate numbers change and announcements get drowned out.  If it’s about time for your plane to leave and you haven’t seen the announcement flicker across the gate screen where you are sitting – you are in the wrong place. 
3.     Be Nice.  Don’t reserve your niceness just for when you want something.  People get stressed in airports and a smile or kind word is an easy way to help someone out and spread some old fashion good will across connecting airports the worldwide. 
4.     The people at the gates have power.  They can re-assign your seats, upgrade you, and offer things in the case of a full flight.       

So, happy holidays and happy travels...from my 3 year old self (in the middle)!


  1. Way to go! I've often wish that I could get those free tickets instead of being the ones with crying, screaming babies who have to make that flight or else I run out of diapers! Paradisical midwinter trips are the way to go. Hope it works out for you!

  2. That's excellent! Glad you had a good trip and what a fun ending!

  3. That's an awesome deal Brooke! I can't wait to find out that third place you're planning. Also, super cute photo!

  4. How about that "twinkle in your eye" be to take along Chad and Jen to the Dominican Republic? Ha ha. I'm actually beaming with pride that you came away with six tickets. Atta girl!

  5. AWESOME. I hope you go to the DR. I've heard it's amazing!

  6. Way to go - you deserve every one of those SIX tickets!!!

  7. Oh Jen, I would love to take you with us. We actually asked if they were transferable and the said no. Charm only goes so far I guess.

  8. Brooke, i'm so glad you have your blog link on gmail. It's so fun to catch up on what you guys are up to. You are a fabulous writer, if only I knew what half of the words meant:) J/K, you are brilliant! Hope you guys are doing well!

  9. It is time for the Weekly State Department Blog Round Up and you are on it!

    It is found here:

    If you would like the links to your site removed (or corrections are needed) please contact me. Thanks!

  10. Brilliant. I've always wanted to do that, but it seems that they only have overbooked flights when I have no flexibility.

    Hey, did you tell me that you were living in Ballston? If that's correct, can you tell me what you think of the property/apartments there? We've been given the opportunity to move there next month and I'm trying to weigh my options.