We didn’t set out to spend 10 hours in the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport and a night at an airport hotel this past Monday. But unlike most travelers who endure such a day, we weren’t frustrated, bored or on the verge of a travel-related breakdown.
We were racking up free flights.
It all started early Monday morning when we checked in for our 10:52 AM flight back to Atlanta at Gate C-9. The agent told us the flight was oversold and they may be looking for people to be bumped. Sure enough, right around 10, the agent asked for volunteers.
The thing was, the next flight wasn’t until 5:21 PM. But in exchange, we were offered two round-trip flights each, plus a voucher for lunch.
I have never been bumped from a flight, or volunteered to. Until this year, I had one of those rigidly scheduled lives, where even an hour delay on a flight would hurl me to borderline anxiety mode.
This year I only have one job, rather than three, and am in between book projects for my book publishing company. But the biggest change is that we became empty nesters. The only mouth waiting to be fed at home belongs to our dog Riley. And one phone call to our neighbors was enough to ensure he’d be fed.
My husband Chris had his laptop so he could work, and the New Orleans airport has free wireless, so he was all set. I had my iPhone with podcasts of my favorite radio show Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me, a good book to read, and access to any magazine I could possibly want in nearby shops.
We didn’t have a connecting flight to catch – we live 20 minutes from the airport in Atlanta. We ride MARTA, the public train, to the airport so we wouldn’t even incur any additional parking fees. And we hadn’t checked luggage so I didn’t even worry about being forever estranged from my cute Travelgirl suitcase.
So why not? My husband went to the agent and got the paperwork.
With that much time to kill, we could have gone back into the city, but faced with a $70-$80 cab fare, plus having to lug our suitcases around, we decided to hang where we were. With it being the first weekend of Mardi Gras and the bonus of the “Party Gras” that followed the Saints winning the Super Bowl, we’d had a spectacular weekend in New Orleans. (Not to mention the amazing restaurants – read more about that in the next issue of Travelgirl.)
Turns out we made the right decision. When the beloved Saints returned to the city that afternoon, up to 30,000 people lined up along the highways leading to the airport, delaying traffic for hours.
So in an hour or so, we took our lunch vouchers to the airport location of Acme Oyster House, Chris’s favorite New Orleans restaurant, and he worked in yet another dozen raw oysters and I had a shrimp Po-boy and yummy red beans and rice.
We meandered over to the sun-filled atrium and spent a pleasant few hours reading, then around 4:00 went back through security and found a lounge near our gate. We enjoyed an adult beverage, watched news coverage of the craziness on Bourbon Street the previous night and chatted with a couple nearby. They recommended Harbor Seafood and Oyster Bar in nearby Kenner should we find ourselves in the area again.
We wandered back to our new home, Gate C-9, where shortly the gate agent once again called for volunteers to be bumped. The next flight was at 6:57, and we could get one round-trip flight each.
So once again, my husband signed us up and I enjoyed the luxury of uninterrupted reading time.
Then around 6:15 we heard the agent made yet another announcement offering two roundtrip tickets each if we volunteered to get bumped until the 10:52 flight the next day. Plus we’d get a night in a nearby hotel. Sold!
The agent started the paperwork for one hotel, but when my husband mentioned we wanted to eat at The Harbor, she switched it to the Fairfield Inn down the street from the restaurant and told us where to catch the shuttle. We walked out of the airport and the shuttle was waiting for us. A very nice lady drove us to the Fairfield Inn, which was perfectly adequate and had free wireless and a nice breakfast in the morning.
And Chris was able to get in one more round of raw oysters (for just $3.00) at The Harbor, a five-minute walk from our hotel.
The next day we hopped on the 10:52 flight to Atlanta. We’d invested 24 hours of our time, but for our trouble? Ten free flights and a free lunch.
– Jan Schroder