On one of my first real business trips, I was headed from Kansas City to Denver for evening focus groups. To save money, they’d booked me on Northwest, flying through Minneapolis.

We boarded the plane late morning, pulled away from the gate, and stopped for a weather hold in Minneapolis. After two hours on the runway, we amazingly returned to the gate with the announcement that anyone who wanted to make alternative arrangements could leave the plane to do so.

Realizing it might be tight getting to Denver, I still sat there planning to wait it out. That was until the guy next to me, who knew my situation, told me to get off the plane and find another way to Denver or I’d never make it in time. So I took his advice, went to the counter, and was rebooked on another airline’s direct flight, getting to Denver at the original time.

The great lesson was to always go on the offensive when its comes to travel problems - don’t delay or wait and pursue multiple channels (in-person customers service, phone, and now web) until you get your situation addressed. Carry on bags, charged communication devices, and being in good shape (for running) are great assets when traveling. Huge frequent flier status is too, but I’ve never flown enough to get that.

So thanks to a guy who I never saw again for the gift of instigating me to be a lot more aggressive traveler.

P.S. At the Denver airport the next morning, the return flight through Minneapolis had been cancelled. Northwest rebooked me through Memphis. Four Northwest flights in 2 days and never took one of them; thus began my long, festering dislike of Northwest.

P.P.S. As I write this, I’m in 33F (last seat, last row) soaking in sweat from running through the Atlanta airport twice trying to catch a flight home after weather delays and Delta screw-ups (including taking 15 minutes to move the jetway, delaying me enough to miss my original connection). Yes, Delta has now become Northwest. Argghhhhhhh!!!!!