If you fly enough, or maybe even if you fly at all, you will accumulate some stories about being wronged or inconvenienced by an airline. Occasionally however, they surprise you.
I recently booked a USAir flight itinerary from Orlando to Philly to Phoenix to Santa Ana. If perfectly executed, this plan would get home moments before my kids fall asleep which is important to me. Obviously, having multiple connections increases the likelihood of a snag.
Upon arriving at the gate for the first flight (moments ago), I noticed that it has been delayed by 15 minutes but I quickly concluded that this probably will not cause a major problem for me. The gate agents announced that "weather in Philly has delayed some take-offs" and we cannot land there until our arrival gate is evacuated. As I was thinking through the implications of this, the agents called me to the counter.
The good people at USAir had reviewed my itinerary, taken note of the risk that my multiple stop itinerary would be disrupted, and booked me on a completely different route through Houston that will get me home 1 hour earlier than the original plan. No cause for a major celebration, right? After all, if they cannot get me to my destination, it is a problem for them as much as it is for me.
Here's the remarkable part. They re-booked me on a Continental flight thereby transferring the revenue from USAir to their competitor. Based on my many attempts to pull off such a maneuver for my own convenience in the past, I can tell you that airlines are extremely reluctant (and that's probably an understatement) to transfer revenue unless it is an absolute last resort. They would usually prefer to pay for your hotel to stay overnight in some connecting city rather that do this. Today, USAir did it for me voluntarily based on what they thought would be best for me.
This is especially remarkable given that, at this point, it looks like I could still probably get into and out of Philly in time to make all downstream connections. I am sitting at the Continental gate now; we'll see how it all turns out but I am quite pleased with USAir for having anticipated a potential problem and taken costly steps to prevent it from coming to fruition.