When flying somewhere via a connection, it’s never fun to see your first flight delayed, making it physically impossible for you to make the second. In many cases, your first reaction might be to just get really upset, think about having to spend the night in your connecting airport, etc. Instead of doing that, call the airline, tell them about the important event you will miss if you don’t get there in time, and let them know you would like to be re-booked on another airline. Actually, take that one step further. Go onto Kayak or any similar website, find the actual route you want them to put you on, call them up, and tell them to do it. This has worked for me with 100% success over the past few years, and I had a great example of it two weeks ago.
I had to fly from San Francisco to Madison the other day. My routing was SFO-DEN-MSN. I had a 40 minute connection in Denver. While I was waiting in the Red Carpet Club in SFO, I got a FlightTrack Pro notification that my SFO-DEN flight would be delayed by an hour. The connection would be missed. My SFO-DEN flight was supposed to depart at 5PM. I opened up Kayak and searched for alternative flights to Madison that night… nothing. Okay I needed to be there for my 10AM meeting so what about getting to ORD or MSP that night and flying in the morning? Both of UA’s later two flights to ORD were sold out. MSP? Bingo! Delta had a 6:45PM flight from SFO-MSP. Then they had a morning flight that got me into Madison by 8:30AM, just in time for my morning meeting. I called up the 1K line, told them the connection I would miss and that I needed to be rebooked. Without even giving them a chance to look, I gave them the flight numbers that would work for me. Within 30 minutes I was re-booked on that Delta routing, and I was walking over to Terminal 1.
Here’s where the deal gets even sweeter. As a courtesy, United (and I believe most other airlines) will grant you original routing credit if you are re-booked due to irregular operations. You’ll need to save your original receipt, original boarding passes, and new boarding passes. These need to be mailed into the airline with a letter asking for original routing credit. You can also get credit for your new itinerary on whichever carrier / alliance you like. So in my case, I got my original United miles, and I also credited the Delta miles to my Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan account. NICE!
Just a bit of advice for when it happens to you!