Knowledge is power: Know your routes!

I am a sucker for airline route maps. On almost every flight, I flip to the back of the in-flight magazine to check out the airline’s route network and see if I can identify new routes or partners. Sure it’s interesting, but can doing help you navigate the airlines more effectively? Absolutely! Knowing my airline’s routes recently saved me from being stranded overnight.

Like any good travel story, this one starts with a delayed flight. I was on a weekend trip to Anchorage to do a bit of exploring and finish my American Airlines status challenge. My itinerary was:

AA1281 – BOS to DFW, Departing 3:15pm, Arriving 6:25pm
AA1529 – DFW to PDX, Departing 7:45pm, Arriving 9:40pm
AA6833 – PDX to ANC, Departing 10:30pm, Arriving 1:20pm

My Boston to Dallas flight was delayed by well over an hour, causing an almost certain mis-connect. I thought that maybe, just maybe, my Portland flight might be delayed enough such that I would make my connection in Dallas, but I had no such luck; my flight to Portland left right on time…without me.

When I found out that my flight to Portland had already left, I immediately ran to the next Seattle flight, which was scheduled to depart at 8:30pm. Nobody has more flights to Anchorage than Alaska Airlines and, since Seattle is their hub, I knew that getting to Seattle would give me the most options for continuing onto Anchorage. I explained this to the gate agent working the Seattle flight, who was in the process of closing the flight. Fortunately, she understood the situation and let me onto the flight at the last minute.

As it turned out, I made it to Seattle in time to catch the last flight of the night onward to Anchorage.

This all happened because I know how my airline’s network is structured. Had I tried to work with another gate agent, or call the reservations number, or even had I not been able to explain why I wanted to go to Seattle instead of Portland, I would have been spending the night in Dallas or Portland instead of Anchorage.

So, the next time you board your plane, flip open the in-flight magazine and check out the route map. While you’re doing that, look at the layouts of your airline’s hub airports. Both may come in useful.

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