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    know & Go

    Persistence (sometimes) pays, even with the airlines


    The last couple of years I’ve experienced a disheartening increase in delayed or canceled airline flights that have made me miss connections. They pile on extra hours of travel before I reach my final destination. At least I’ve learned that polite persistence can lead to some perks that make up (at least a little) for the inconvenience and give me back some sense of control.

    When the agent delivers the bad news about the flight, I run down my wish list. Upgrade to business class? Better seat in coach? Free meal? I remain polite, but I never take the first “no” as a final answer.

    For example, when my connecting flight from Dallas to Albuquerque was canceled, a gate agent booked me onto a flight leaving six hours later. She was very sorry that the airline never gave vouchers so that passengers could get a meal while waiting. When I noticed that the family in front of me in line had received vouchers, I had plenty of time to seek out a supervisor and ask for clarification on airline policy. I never did get an explanation — but I did get a coupon to use in any of the airport’s restaurants. The green chili chicken tamales at Pappasito’s Cantina at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport proved to be the highlight of the day. And I learned an important lesson: Ask the right person.


    I put this hard-won knowledge to use a few months later when I arrived at Honolulu International to discover that the departure of my flight was delayed and I would miss my midnight connection in Phoenix. Moreover, I had been rebooked on a long and circuitous route back to Boston.

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    The desk agent was very sorry that she didn’t have the authority to seat me in an emergency exit row and told me to call the airline’s toll-free number. It was a brushoff, if I’ve ever heard one. Instead I asked her supervisor when he came to check on the long line of disgruntled travelers. He hit a couple of keys on the computer and my request was granted. The extra legroom offered some consolation for the extra hours in the air.

    I haven’t scored that business class seat yet. But somehow I suspect that more delays — and more opportunities — are in my future.

    Patricia Harris can be reached at