(Almost) Chile-bound – a hedge pays off

I don’t know about you, but I really don’t like it when:

  • You cancel plans (say, climbing or skiing ones) because of forecasted weather but the weather ends up being favourable
  • Finding out the item/service/commodity you just bought went on sale shortly after your purchase
  • Make the decision to change airline travel plans e.g. because with imperfect information you are quite sure you will miss your connecting flight; don’t get on your original flight; and later find out you could have made your connecting flight, which would have saved you a great deal of trouble.

Fortunately, #3 did not happen today.

This round of travel involves many steps, all tightly interwoven and dependent on each other. Like blocks in an igloo. Or like this engineering marvel: a ring created out of Pringle chips. If you remove one chip, the entire structure collapses.

Getting to my final destination of Nevados de Chillán required:

  1. Flying from Boston to Miami
  2. Catching the connecting flight from Miami to Santiago, Chile
  3. Flying from Santiago (SCL) to Concepción (CCP), Chile
  4. Ground transport from Concepción to Las Trancas

Many steps: BOS to MIA to SCL to CCP to Nevados Chillán.

It was only when I was looking at why the travel time from Miami to Santiago was so much longer than I expected (~9 hours) that I learned just how large Colombia (440,800 sq. miles), Peru (496,200 sq. miles), and Bolivia (424,200 sq. miles) are in size! Texas (268,597 sq. miles) is super dinky in comparison.

Closer up of Chile stops/destination in relation to each other. Note the scale at the very bottom of the image.

As I write this, I should be in Miami by now with plenty of time to spare for my connecting flight to Santiago. But I’m not because I made the decision at the check-in counter to change my flight to be a full 24 hours later (same time tomorrow) based on estimates from non-airline (in this case, I am flying American Airlines) websites (e.g. Google which is based on FlightAware); forecasted weather for the next few hours and tomorrow; and predicting how a ton of flights were going to be backed up. The original departure time was supposed to be 1645 hr. This was pushed to 1730 hr this morning, which still gave me enough time to make the connection. We continued to check flight status right before leaving the apartment, and during the drive to the airport. AA continued to stand by this 1730 hr departure, despite predictions from FlightAware of a delay of over an hour. As of right now, this is the status of that flight:

Original departure time was 4.45p then 5.30pm. The plane still hasn’t taken off.

Of course, so that airlines can minimize the official delay time, the flight has been pushed off from the gate for a long time now, and just sitting on the runway waiting for takeoff, with passengers wanting to gouge their eyes out, I’m sure.

So yes, I can now feel vindicated about my decision, but it really was not clear at the time. Firstly, my SCL to CCP domestic flight was on  a separate ticket with a partner airline that would have been the same airline I would have flown had I kept that leg as an AA reservation. Nevertheless, AA could not make changes here. I did this to save a couple hundred dollars. Maybe the moral of this is to try and have all legs of a journey on one airline.

Before I made the decision to shift my departure to be 24 hours later, I needed to see if I could change my internal Chile flight and what this would cost. Comically, when I called LATAM customer service and tried to do this, the agent told me their system was down for maintenance. WTF. Who schedules maintenance on a fuckin’ weekday afternoon. So I didn’t know what was going to happen there. But I was also sure I was going to miss the connection in Miami so I’d just have to sort that out later.

The next complicating factor was travel insurance would likely not cover the additional and non-trivial expense of having to get a separate private shuttle from CCP to Las Trancas due to my late arrival, if my original flight actually had taken off in time to make my connection.

I might be wrong, but it seems like the pain and inconvenience of travel is rarely conveyed. On the whole, it is a relatively small price to pay for the reward of the destination and experience, but it is still very much a necessary evil to me. The neuropathy in my left leg from the Spinal Cord Injury, inability to sleep at all on planes (sleep is a big issue for me in every day life too), and the back pain from all the hardware holding me together makes me loathe/dread flying or any other kind of transportation that involves sitting for long periods of time.

I’m not thrilled that my layover in SCL is now 7+ hours instead of the original 4 hours as they did not have seats on the same flight the next day (I was told by the organizer that the whole process of disembarking, collecting bags, rechecking bags, and getting onto the domestic flight took them ~3 hours yesterday). But I would have been a lot more unhappy if I was stuck in Miami overnight or Santiago for who knows how long. I was lucky that Scott was there to drive me to the airport, wait with me to see how things transpired, and drive us back; and be able to sleep in my own bed tonight. As Tim (the organizer) said, you’re the best person in the whole group for this to have happened to. Yay, I’ll take one for the team.

In any case, I’ll be going back to Chile for very different reasons and under very different circumstances from 8 years ago when I was in Santiago. It will be an experience, that is for sure.


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