A tale of woe (DEN-YQR on UA/OO) or... the disadvantages of small airports

Discussion in 'United Airlines | MileagePlus' started by PhotoJim, Feb 28, 2013.  |  Print Topic

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Have you been forced to stay in another city because of missing a flight?

  1. Never more than part of a day. I always get home the same day I was supposed to.

    28.6%
  2. One night before I could catch a flight home.

    71.4%
  3. Two nights before I could catch a flight home.

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  4. Three to five nights.

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  5. Six or more nights.

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  1. PhotoJim

    PhotoJim Silver Member

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    I fly DEN-YQR and vice-versa quite routinely, being based in YQR (Regina, Saskatchewan). Recently we were in San Diego and flew home last Sunday. As you likely know, Denver had a huge blizzard last Sunday and flights were significantly affected. My wife and I got home after a 3-hour delay in DEN, and given the weather we were unhappy but not upset. Weather happens, and not much can be done.

    A friend and his four family members were flying PSP-DEN-YQR later in the day and catching the second and last YQR flight of the day out of DEN. Thanks to a late inbound plane (due to the weather in DEN), they were over two hours delayed leaving PSP. When they got to the gate of their DEN-YQR flight, the door was closed, but the plane had not yet left. My friend and his family were left behind as the plane pushed off a few minutes later, despite my friend's protestations.

    Here is where things get really interesting. This was last Sunday. Two of my friend's family members got home... yesterday. The other three are in the air right now. These are the first flights to YQR that have had any empty seats.

    I'm going to write to UA and ask them to strongly consider adding some capacity on this route (the flights to and from ORD are equally full). Currently the two DEN and one ORD flights are almost always on 50-seat CRJ-200s, with the odd CRJ-700 subbing on the Denver route perhaps two or three times a month. Perhaps there are issues with availability of larger craft, but it seems time for United to upgauge the craft to take care of this capacity problem.

    In any event, I thought you'd find it interesting. I've never seen someone stuck somewhere for four days before - even though three of those days had fine weather. I'm not sure if UA could have gotten my friend's family to YYC, YEG, YWG, YYZ or somewhere else that Air Canada could have gotten them home, or if Air Canada too was fully booked.

    Anyone else had any similar stories?

    The joys of small airports!
     
  2. Captain Oveur
    Original Member

    Captain Oveur Gold Member

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    Sorry for your friend's travel difficulty.

    Respectfully, they're not going to add more flights simply based on your friend's experience and/or your letter.

    You have to understand United's position here. They are the only airline that serves that route. That's carte blanche to both charge a lot and not have to make any extraordinary efforts to get people to their destination.

    Your friend should have asked about AC alternatives, but I highly doubt UA would have accommodated since weather is the ultimate "get out of jail free" card for airlines. UA would have to pay for those tickets on AC too.

    In hindsight, there are two things I would have considered. Pro-actively, I would have embraced the waiver and re-booked on a different flight. That might have gotten your friends on a flight on the next day. I say might because it's not a guarantee they would have. Personally, I ALWAYS check the weather at ANY connecting airports and the destination to see if there will be problems. Especially Denver in the winter.

    At the airport, what I would have done was asked for alternatives such as flying into Saskatoon, or even as far as Calgary and just drove. Even with UA's penny-pinching at all costs mindset, I'm sure they would have allowed your friends to get to a different nearby destination just to get them out of their hair (kind of a brash statement, nothing personal). The money for the rental car might have been cheaper than the hotel spend, and they might have home sooner.

    Candidly, and again, respectfully, I don't think your letter will yield of the kind of changes you're hoping for. At best, you're going to get a boilerplate reply essentially saying "sorry, but we can't control weather."

    In the end, I would suggest your friend learn from this about winter weather travel for future trips.
     
  3. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    What the good Captain said. Airlines have all the data they need to decide what the optimal aircraft (considering constraints like available aircraft as well as demand) for a route is; your letter will be a waste of your time.

    Their seats may very well have been given away to other pax, so the plane being still at the gate doesn't mean they could have gotten on if only the door had been opened again.

    And yes, high loads combined with limited alternative routes and bad weather can cause big problems. Not a lot of extra capacity in the system.
     
  4. sobore
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    sobore Gold Member

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    This is terrible truth about travel, you are on someone else's schedule.
    Airlines setup thier schedules in a profitable way with operational considerations.
    This does not help the average passenger who has to fit in to the scheme.
    I will say that four days is a bit much. :(
     
  5. PhotoJim

    PhotoJim Silver Member

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    Was there a waiver at DEN last Sunday? There certainly wasn't one when I was firming up my flight arrangements last Saturday. To be fair, I'm not sure what one would have done. (I used the waiver during Hurricane Sandy when flying TPA-IAD-YYZ; I rerouted to TPA-DEN-YYZ. But rerouting SAN-ORD wouldn't have helped at all because the ORD-YQR flights are just as full as the DEN-YQR ones.)

    YXE might have been an idea (my friend's son did something similar when he had a screwup flying down to PSP on this trip and ended up flying to LAX rather than waiting a day to get to PSP). I suspect my friend checked that out. At a minimum it should have been offered. I suppose ISN and MOT would have been alternatives too but getting a one-way car rental from those cities to YQR is probably a huge challenge.
     
  6. PhotoJim

    PhotoJim Silver Member

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    I suspect this did indeed happen. Our DEN-YQR flight earlier that day was oversold by two. The afternoon DEN-YQR flight Wednesday was oversold by five. (When I say "oversold", I'm speaking of how many excessive passengers there were ticketed on that flight that were at the gate ready to board. Probably they were oversold to an even greater degree than this, in reality.)
     
  7. Flyer1976
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    Flyer1976 Gold Member

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    Let me correct you there on your oversold terminology...

    Overbooked - More Confirmed Passengers Ticketed than Capacity.

    Oversold - More Confirmed Passengers checked in for the flight than Capacity.

    Airlines overbook flights all the time but more than often go out right at capacity so there isn't an oversold situation there.
     
  8. PhotoJim

    PhotoJim Silver Member

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    "Oversold" is what I mean then. Passengers at the gate, expecting to fly but some of them not being able because there are more pax than seats.
     

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