Warning: long mostly boring travel story ahead (and not packing).
For the 2nd time, I encountered how partner airlines have communication difficulties. I mostly wrote this sitting in Tirana, Albania, in May, with my suitcase sitting at Washington Dulles, hoping to be reunited quickly.
As I was considering how this happened (and how to avoid it in the future), I came to no easy answer. So I thought I would give a brief rundown on the check versus carryon dilemma faced by those of us not traveling from a somewhat major airport and why I usually check my bag, even though I am carryon legal.
Factors for making a decision:
- Trip length: Do I catch a 30-40 minute flight from my small local airport (10 minutes from my house) or do I drive 2 1/2 hours and pay to park at DFW? For travel of a week or two, I will usually opt to drive and park (and carry on). For trips longer than that, I like flying and leaving my car parked safely at home (and check). This was a 2 month trip, so the car definitely stayed home and the suitcase checked.
- Layover length at DFW when I fly: my choices are usually 1 hour or 4-5 hours. Or I don’t HAVE a choice. This time was a 1 hour layover.
- Valet check: you CANNOT take a carryon suitcase on board my hopper flight. You must valet check and then wait for it to be unloaded onto the jet bridge in Dallas. Subtract a minimum of 10 minutes from your layover length. Then subtract 15 minutes to change terminals.
- Weather: What on earth is Texas weather going to be doing? If storms roll through, my first flight can easily be cancelled or delayed. This time storms, tornados, and occasional hail were happening in the area. Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio were all being issued Travel Advisories.
- Miles or money: with miles, I have fewer (to no) options and it means another connection on the East Coast. I am growing to love business, but I still won’t pay for it - so it’s miles when available.
All of which meant that this trip: I needed to fly from home, had only one hour for my connection, was facing the variable of lots of weather, and had an additional connection at Dulles. A small delay of 30 minutes on the first leg would mean the choice of me and my suitcase staying together and both of us missing the next flight — or me making the flight and my suitcase not. I am more important (and I keep essentials in my backpack) so I checked it. Fall 2022, same choices and I made my connection with only 3 minutes to spare as the last person on. Waiting on valet check would have delayed my whole trip by a day.
This time, all my flights worked perfectly. I had plenty of time (but not an excess), with an extra connection next at Dulles (because Miles).
Herein comes the part where I felt like a newbie traveler. At Dulles, I moved from AA flights to a BA flight (all booked one itinerary through AA). Having been stopped at Heathrow in March coming home from Madrid and forced to stand in a long line to get a new boarding pass (the Iberia-issued one would not work), I asked about that when I arrived in Dulles. Sure enough, I needed new ones. I did not even THINK about asking if my suitcase needed a new boarding pass…. Which it apparently did. Why, I don’t know. But I should have remembered to ask.
There was plenty of time for the transfer. It was marked Priority and should have been first off and handled immediately since I am Executive Platinum. But thanks to my Apple Air Tag, when I arrived at Heathrow for my next flight to Tirana, I could see my suitcase still sitting at Dulles.
Cont in comments.