When a Stop in Sub-Zero Minneapolis Seems Like a Great Idea (Tales From The Field)

We all know how terrible the weather was to start the year, and of course, that meant an incredibly busy time for Cranky Concierge. We were able to help a lot of people get home earlier than they could have done on their own, and that made for some great stories. I could share them all, but then you’d get bored. Instead, I’ll focus on one that I thought went particularly well.

On Monday the 6th, we received a call in the morning from the assistant to a guy who was stuck with his wife and three kids in Liberia, Costa Rica thanks to JetBlue canceling their flight back to New York. A quick check show no seats on JetBlue for 5 days. They needed help.

JetBlue From the Field

This sounded like a tall task. After all, Liberia is a tiny little airport that only got its first jet bridge in the last year or so. It has one runway with no taxiways. Until recently, when resorts started popping up here in the northwest part of Costa Rica, there really wasn’t much going on. Even today, there simply aren’t a lot of flights – maybe a couple dozen total on a good day.

My initial thought was that chances were so slim of finding 5 seats that we should tell this person not to sign up. But I did a quick scan to see if it seemed like it might be possible anyway. Shockingly, I saw some potential. We got them signed up and then began the in-depth search.

The natural starting point was JetBlue itself, but as mentioned, there weren’t 5 seats until Saturday and it was impossible to get them on the phone anyway. Forget it. So I asked how much the original tickets were on JetBlue and told him that since his flight was canceled, he’d get a refund. Then he could keep that in mind as we looked for new flights to just purchase outright.

With so few flights in Liberia, my goal was just to get him back to the US where we could find more options. There was only one option with any seats for the next couple of days, and it wasn’t a bad one. Sun Country had a lot of open seats on its flight that afternoon up to Minneapolis. Minneapolis was frigid but clear, so we didn’t expect weather delays. And with the airplane already on its way, we were feeling pretty confident that this was the way to go. It was also less than half the price he had paid with JetBlue. A good start to getting him home.

We put those seats on hold but we weren’t about to purchase them until we knew we could get them home to New York from Minneapolis. That night was impossible since they wouldn’t arrive until 10p, but the next morning had surprisingly good availability on both Delta and American. The only problem is that last minute prices in that market are pretty brutal, approaching $700 one way. When you multiply that by 5, it can add up quickly.

That’s when I had an idea. Realizing that the flights on both American and Delta had a ton of availability, I gambled on possibly finding award space. No, I didn’t bother with Delta. Why would anyone bother with SkyPesos? Even if you found award availability at a decent level (ha), you still have to buy a roundtrip anyway. That would have required a ton of miles. But I looked on American and sure enough they had 7 award seats on the flight the next morning. Perfect… if they had miles.

My first thought was to see if they had Amex Membership Rewards points. Why? Because those can transfer into British Airways and BA has super cheap redemptions on short flights. Even better, they had some BA points (er, Avios) already in their account. For only 7,500 miles a person plus a couple bucks in taxes, they were all confirmed on that flight.

The flight from Liberia took off about an hour late, but it didn’t matter since they were spending the night. The most interesting thing about that flight is that the temperature change from takeoff to landing was over 100 degrees. Incredible.

We found them an Embassy Suites for the night in Minneapolis for $159 and their American Eagle flight went right on time in the morning, getting them home 4 days before JetBlue and with less than a 24 hour delay. Though it was a lot less convenient than their original flight, I’d say it worked out pretty well for them.

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