A high annual fee credit card earned back its worth — thanks to its airport lounge access when a team of Delta Air Lines reps helped me make it work on time when things started going south.
Airport lounge access is great for food, drinks, and a respite from the crazy gate areas. But airline lounges with help desks can easily save your day — and job.(Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Enrollment may be required for select American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more.)
Not So Picture Perfect
I recently made a quick, one-night trip to New York to attend a special preview of the Chase Sapphire Lounge by The Club at LaGuardia Airport (LGA).
The event took place around noon on a Thursday, and I figured it would last until around 2:30 or 3:00 PM. Because New York’s Port Authority imposes a 1,500-mile perimeter rule at LaGuardia, there are no weekday non-stop flights back to Los Angeles (where I live). That dictated I’d have to make a connection.
The best option for my budget and schedule was a 6:00 PM departure from LGA, connecting in Detroit (DTW), and arriving home at LAX around 11:15 PM. Great! That would give me plenty of time for the bus ride to Delta’s Terminal C and hang out in the swanky Sky Club. I could start editing the pictures taken during the lounge preview, begin making notes for my post, and have a bite to eat before boarding my flight to DTW.
I looked into flights from Kennedy (JFK). But the pricing and available seats were pretty gross. Plus, there’d be the added cost and time of getting to JFK. So, I stuck with my original plan.
Some readers know that I’m a freelance photo editor and work for entertainment industry clients and their jobs. (Movie premieres, music festivals, parties, concerts, T.V. shows and movies, etc.) This time of year is hectic: award season. It’s when I work events such as the Oscars, Golden Globes, Critics Choice Awards, etc. And because of the double-whammy SAG-AFTRA and WGA last fall, the Emmys were thrown in for good measure last week.
Some of the jobs can be done remotely. Others require me to be onsite.
After I booked my trip, one of my clients asked if I could work an onsite job in Beverly Hills on Friday — the day after the Chase Lounge event. I couldn’t say no because I love my clients and job (and am still financially recovering from the strikes last year).
I later found out my call time was 10:00 AM. Lovely. I told my client that I was on the last plane back to Los Angeles on Thursday night — and if something went sideways in New York or Detroit, I wouldn’t make it to work the next morning. I’d completely understand if they wanted to replace me.
My client said no one else was available and we’d have to hope I’d make it back in time.
You already know where this is going, right?
“You’re not going to make it.”
The Fly Delta app alerted me that my flight from LGA to DTW would depart ten minutes late. My 37-minute connection was now 27 minutes. Not ideal. But my arrival and departure gates in Detroit were pretty near each other. I could make it before the boarding door closed 15 minutes before departure to LAX.
I helped myself to a glass of ice water inside the Sky Club — and got another alert from Delta.
My flight was now 20 minutes delayed. The inbound plane hadn’t yet departed from Atlanta (ATL).
So, I’d now have a 17-minute layover in Detroit. And that’s if no other problems arose. (In my experience, these delays keep building.)
I started sweating. I once missed two consecutive days of work for the same client and during award season because I was stranded in Fargo, North Dakota.
It would be bad if I missed work again.
I walked over to the service desk area. All three service desks were fully staffed — and completely available.
A Delta rep named Eileen waved me over and invited me to sit down.
“I’m a little worried and need to be at work tomorrow. I don’t think I’ll make my connection in Detroit,” I told her.
“Don’t worry,” she said calmly and confidently. “We’ll take care of you.”
She looked at my itinerary, punched around a bit on her computer, and made a face.
“You’re not going to make it,” she confirmed. “The doors to L.A. will close before you make it to the gate.”
I told her I didn’t check any bags and was willing to fly whatever route it took to get me home that night. She and two other reps teamed up to try and find a way.
They quietly thought out loud: “That won’t work,” “No, that’s too late,” and “It’s full.”
A flight from JFK departed in two hours. But given it was now 3:40, that was a dicey proposition — especially because of traffic. Everything else that night from JFK was full. Bad weather was expected during the next few days. I was booked on jobs for four days straight — including another onsite Saturday.
But then came a break. “I’m going to call the gate,” Eileen said. I thought she called the gate in Detroit and asked if they’d hold the flight a few minutes for me. She told the gate agent my name and confirmation number and that I wasn’t checking bags.
Whew! Time to relax.
Or not. It turns out that Eileen called one of her colleagues downstairs.
“Great, thanks, he’ll be there,” she said and hung up. “Mr. Carley, gate A70. We found a seat. They’re waiting for you. The flight leaves at four o’clock.” I learned I’d be going to Atlanta and then on to LAX. I’d end up getting home an hour earlier than my Detroit flight.
I had five minutes to get to the gate and made it.
I had enough time in ATL to wolf down some barbecue chicken and (excellent) mac & cheese in a Sky Club. The middle seat was open on both of my flights. The service was fantastic on both legs.
I was early for work the following day — and the job turned out to be busier than expected. It would not have been good had someone not made it that day.
How Does a Travel Credit Card Come Into Play Here?
I hold three cards that come with complimentary Delta Sky Club admission when flying a same-day Delta-marketed or -operated flight:
- The Platinum Card® from American Express ($695 annual fee. See Rates and Fees.)
- The Business Platinum Card® from American Express ($695 annual fee. See Rates and Fees.)
- Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card ($650 annual fee. See Rates and Fees.)
Without the immediate access to the Sky Club help desk, I probably wouldn’t arrived home that night. That means I wouldn’t have made it to work on Friday. Given the weather situation, who knows if I could’ve made it back on time for Saturday‘s job?
That could’ve led to fewer bookings with this client.
Let me put it this way: the $695 annual fee for, say, my Business Platinum card paid for itself that day. How? First, no work on Friday means I don’t get paid. My date rate equals a chunk of that card’s annual fee. If I don’t return for Saturday’s gig, I lose even more money. Not to mention that the relationship with my client is potentially harmed.
Yes, without lounge access I could’ve tried a help desk downstairs on the concourse. Or rolled the dice with a phone rep or Delta’s chat service (which sometimes gives out wrong information). But who knows how long that would’ve taken? I likely would’ve missed that Atlanta flight.
But the quick access to fantastic help was vital. The Sky Club reps teamed up, called the gate, and sent me on my way. They saved my proverbial bacon. And that is worth the money.
A high annual fee card gets me access to Delta Sky Clubs. A team of helpful Delta reps working the LaGuardia lounge’s help desk got me home in time for work when my original itinerary was delayed. I would’ve lost at least a day’s pay had I not made it home.
In this instance, the airport lounge access meant much more than just food and drinks.
Have airport lounge reps ever saved you? Please share your story in the below Comments section!
For rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, please visit this link.
For rates and fees of The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, please visit this link.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card, please visit this link.
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