Imagine this scenario. It’s Easter Sunday. Planes are packed. You are holding a one-stop ticket involving a skinny jeans connection and an arrival at an airport nearly 60 minutes from your house. Your total door-to-door travel time will be six hours, if you make that connection.
When you get to the departure airport, you notice there is a non-stop flight to your home city leaving a few minutes before the first leg of your one-stop. Not only that, but it arrives at an airport just 20 minutes from home. Total travel time would be two hours and 15 minutes. A thought germinates. What a delight it would be to hop on that earlier flight. You start envisioning the possibilities and ask the desk agent for advice. She sprinkles on your Easter parade by telling you the non-stop is oversold. Nevertheless, she advises you to check at the non-stop gate which, coincidentally and conveniently, is adjacent to the one-stop gate.
Now, let me transition to the first person. For some reason, even though the news is downbeat, I roll through security and skip down the lengthy corridor to Gate A8 like an Easter Bunny who has OD'ed on caffeine. I bound up to A8 and dangle the carrot to the gate agent (let‘s call him Elijah). With a lighthearted lilt and a hint of a wink, I say, “I am hoping you can help me fulfill a fantasy.” I have his attention. I then proceed to egg Elijah on with the details of my desire--the even trade of the one-stop ticket to Nowheresville (Washington Dulles) for the non-stop to Mecca (Washington Reagan). Elijah seem to cotton to the idea and suggests that, although the flight is more than full, I return to the desk a few minutes before departure time.
In that interim, a second gate agent at A8 starts asking for volunteers to give up seats on the oversold flight to DCA. Then my original flight, leaving out of A10, begins to board. Imminently, I will have to make a choice: Give up my slim hope at A8 or risk losing my confirmed seat at A10. At the 11th hour, Elijah has a pow wow with the A8 ticket-taker. The request for volunteers is rescinded, as seven seats have magically resurrected. Six of those seats are taken by people who are ticketed for the non-stop, but without seat assignments. I, apparently, am the only other potential passenger who has burrowed my way into the proceedings. Elijah instructs all ticketed passengers to board and find any available seat. Any standby list seems to be passed over. I then catch Elijah's eye. He catches mine. His look says, “Come hither” and hither I come. It was like the Red Sea parting as I bunny-hop unimpeded down the jetway into a comfortable aisle seat near the front of the plane. No fuss, no muss, not a peep about money changing hands. The latter is amazing, considering that A) the non-stop flight was undoubtedly more expensive than the one-stop and B) airlines typically charge for any change of itinerary.
While I would like to attribute this success to my mad skills as a professional traveler, it might have been an Easter miracle. On the other hand, this wasn't the first time I've talked my way onto an oversold flight. So, maybe the moral of the story is that the idea of appearing at the airport with a friendly attitude, a humorous line, and overdone make-up (both walk-ons occurred after television appearances) isn't so hare-brained after all. So consider this strategy lent to you. It may be your ticket to pulling a rabbit out of a skycap.