Chile - Peru 2009

Home to Santiago, Chile

3 November 2009

General Information

Local Map

Photographs and Commentary

The best laid plans don't always work as expected. We started planning this trip early in 2009 and made the reservations for the trip to Santiago and return from Lima. Since we were using frequent flyer miles, we were limited in our choices of flights. We booked early in March and got what we thought was a pretty good itinerary. The New York to Miami leg was a mid afternoon flight that gave us several hours in Miami before boarding the Santiago leg. I don't particularly like Miami International Airport because I have had more than one bad experience flying to/through here so I liked the idea of a few hour layover. About a month ago we received an e-mail from American Airline advising us of changes in three of the four legs of our trip. The only change that concerned me was the layover in Miami which was now one hour and fifteen minutes. I called American and was assured that the short time would not be a problem and that making changes in a frequent flyer itinerary is a problem. Silly me... I didn't fight this further.

We arrived at LaGuardia Airport and everything looked good. I had received a text message from American advising that the flight would be on time. A check of the weather also told us that it would not be a factor on either the departure from New York or arrival in Miami. Boarding was scheduled to begin at 6:35PM for the 7:05 flight. At 6PM the equipment was still not sitting at the gate and I got increasingly nervous. When the inbound flight arrived we knew that there would be a delay that would cut our chances of making the Santiago flight, but we could still make it. When it got to around 6:50 and the boarding process was not initiated, I knew we were approaching a high probability of not making the connection. The probability of missing the connection reached 100% when they announced that there was a mechanical problem with the plane and that the flight would be delayed until at least 9:45. They also announced that we would definitely miss our connection and that all arrangements for overnight hotel stays, food vouchers and rebooking on tomorrow night's flights would take place in Miami.

Around 8:30 the mechanics gave up trying to fix the plane and towed it away from the gate. This confirmed that the flight would not take off until after 9:45. We had to wait for an incoming flight, which turned out to be late. We finally left LaGuardia at 10:45 and arrived in Miami about three hours later. On arrival we were directed to agents who booked us on tomorrow's flight and gave us the vouchers for the hotel and food. We wound up in the Wyndham Hotel at the airport... better than the Days Inn that a few of our fellow passengers got. We finally got to bed around 3AM.

The lesson, confirmed by the ground agent in Miami, is that you should never accept an hour layover on a late night flight or for international connections. In nearly 40 years of frequent travel by air I have missed a few connections because of weather or mechanical problems. However, I have never had to spend a night in a hotel and wait for the next day's flight. In today's situation, even if we had the afternoon flight, a four hour delay would still have put us at risk of missing the connection in Miami.

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