Weekend of Delays (and a Mini-Mileage Run!)

Labor day weekend for me always means heading to the Midwestern United States, more specifically Iowa and Illinois, to visit family.  As with recent years I fly out of Panama City while my younger brother flies out of Orlando and we typically meet in an airport before the final leg north.

This year, thanks to a 12 hour window between the FAA Authorization expiring and Delta raising their fares to match the decrease in taxes I was able to get tickets from our respective starting points with a little bit of cash saved.  On top of this, we couldn’t get to our destination until late afternoon, but the 1-stop for that arrival time was going to cost close to $600.  That is just way too much for that flight, period.  I wound up getting creative, looking for an out of the way routing that could save me a few bucks.  I played around with a few options mostly trying to fit MSP or DTW into the itinerary, which just wouldn’t work out no matter what I tried.  Ultimately I wound up stumbling across an option on Kayak.  I could route myself ECP-ATL-MCO-MEM-MLI and essentially spend the entire day on airplanes, while picking up an extra 1,100 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs), while actually saving $50 off if I took the early morning ECP-ATL-MLI routing.  Seems like a no-brainer: get to my destination when I want to be there and not super early, save a few $$$, and pick up a few extra miles.  Thus the Delta Air Lines Tour of the Southeastern US was born.

I got up at 4:30am as I have been all too often to catch the early morning flights to ATL or MEM and headed to the airport.  I was checking a bag today (yes, this was a dumb decision), which I had decided to do since I was going to have to have an agent manually check me in due to the number of segments I would be flying that day.  Upon reaching the agent, I got the strangest look and without him saying anything I just mentioned “Yes, it’s intententional.”  He told me he had not seen anything as “crazy”, tagged my bag and wished me good luck on my aerial sightseeing tour.  He would later board the aircraft and give me the good news that I had cleared for the last upgrade seat before the aircraft departed, and with a handshake I moved to seat 4A.  While the crew at ECP isn’t technically Delta (they all work for a ground service subsidary called Regional Elite), I have had nothing but great customer service from them on the ground.

Delta 2286 ECP-ATL (MD-88)

The rest of my flights that day went really smooth.  My connection in MCO to “pick-up” my brother was a bit tight and essentially just walked off one plane and on to the other.  Later we would find out in MLI that my bag didn’t move with the same speed as me and missed the flight.  That wouldn’t have been so bad, but the ATL-MLI flight the bag was on wound up being 2 hours delayed, so I wound up having to kill time before getting my bag back and proceeding to the middle of a cornfield for the weekend.

...And This is Why My Bag Got Delayed.

The time I actually spent in Iowa and Illinois was great.  Got to see a lot of my family including my Dad, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins and ate some great small town food while enjoying the cool weather.

Driving through Joy, Illinois (Pop. 373) After Breakfast

A Former Rural School In Illinois - Made Me Wish I Had My Camera Along

When it was time to head back to the Sunshine State, both my brother and I headed back for the Quad City International Airport, with him going back to MCO via MEM and me back to ECP via ATL.  Surprise, surprise, there were delays on both flights.  Thanks to the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee, the MEM flight got delayed until 5:19 (about a 30 minute delay), while mine was at one point posted for a 7:03pm departure.  I was almost certain that I would be repeating last year’s stay at a Atlanta airport-area hotel courtesy of Atlantic Southeast Airlines, but thankfully the ground stop was released earlier than expected and we took off shortly after 6:00pm.  I enjoyed my upgrade, got to ATL, walked two gates over and waited for my flight back home.  It too was delayed, but only slightly, and I got home essentially on time.  I guess I can’t complain too much about that.

My Brother Took the Last MLI-MEM Flight - A Casualty of MEM Reductions

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