Oops! I Forgot To Follow My Own Advice About Positioning Flights

by joeheg

I’ve had several problems booking our positioning flight to Los Angeles before our Singapore Airlines Business Class trip to Vietnam. My first plan included an inexpensive non-stop flight on United. Unfortunately, a schedule change put us on an early morning flight, which wasn’t what we wanted.

Our alternate non-stop American Airlines first-class flight was also canceled. While still in first-class, this left us with an itinerary with a 43-minute connection in Dallas-Fort Worth on the way to Los Angeles.

Due to the change, I’d be able to get a refund of our American AAdvantage miles. That was, if I could find an acceptable alternative on a different airline. It turned out that Delta changed schedules and added a morning non-stop Orlando to Los Angeles flight. I checked prices using the Capital One travel portal.

a screenshot of a computer

The schedule was good, and the price was reasonable, but I already have seats in American’s first class on our flights through Dallas. Should I give up first class for non-stop in economy seats? It turns out that I’d already dealt with this question in my post about positioning flights.

My thoughts turned to the day of our trip to Los Angeles. No matter how comfortable the seats on American Airlines were, I’d still be uncomfortable if our flight to Dallas was delayed. I’d be sitting, looking at my phone, to see if we’d still catch our connecting flight. If not, how could we get to LA before our Singapore Airlines flight that evening?

I’d much rather be in a Delta economy seat on my way to Los Angeles, even after a delay, because I’d still have hours until our Singapore Airlines flight that evening. I might even have time to leave the airport for a while.

When it comes to positioning flights, my preference is to remove as many pain points as possible. Connecting flights are one place where things can go wrong, so why take one if it’s not necessary? While sitting in Delta’s Main Cabin for 5 & 1/2 hours while traveling to LAX, we can look forward to our 16-hour flight to Southeast Asia in business class on Singapore Airlines.

I know this is a YMMV issue as others would never give up a first-class seat. But for us, it’s the destination and not the trip that’s the most important thing about our travels. When it comes to getting to the city of our international flight, convenience beats comfort every time.

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary


derek January 10, 2023 - 12:58 pm

Domestic first class is not so great so I would always take the non-stop over a connection that has F. Even if both flights were non-stop, I would take the economy class seat of a preferred airline rather than an operationally poor airline. The exception might be a transcon red eye when comparing lie flat seats.

Christian January 10, 2023 - 5:38 pm

I’ve gotten chicken in my old age about positioning flights. At this point I’ll often fly to the big city the day before so I won’t fret if things go awry. You’re made of sterner stuff I see.

Warren January 11, 2023 - 4:26 am

I have a 24 hour buffer rule

John Ghang January 15, 2023 - 1:44 pm

What rich people problems huh. Oh no you might have to spend a few hours with us peasants back in economy, that’s going to ruin the whole trip! 90% of us always travel in economy and still have very enjoyable holidays, you should try it some time. You might find life a lot less stressful if you stop fretting about how you could’ve had an extra 2 inches of leg room and some free food if you’d only booked something else and focus on your trip instead…

Jason Lewis January 19, 2023 - 8:20 pm

I’m with Christian and Warren. If I need a positioning flight, I’m far more likely to arrive a day early. Yes, it’s a day in a city *not* my final destination, but it’s much more relaxing and far less hectic to — as we did on my last positioning flight — spend the night having a wonderful dinner in a city I rarely get to visit, get a good night’s sleep, have fun in the morning, and not feel rushed to make a connection that would require a change of terminals or a long run through the airport to get from gate-to-gate (or worse, retrieve the luggage and check in on another airline!).

Gayle January 19, 2023 - 11:40 pm

-I totally agree with what you said!

Barbara C January 20, 2023 - 9:04 am

The current state of the airline industry makes me nervous about calling it too close for positioning flights. I much prefer to arrive the day before and definitely not on the last flight of the day. I rarely fly 1st class on domestic flights and do look for nonstop flights because I want my luggage to arrive. During the worst of covid, I did take a nonstop Delta flight to LAX to arrive early afternoon. I had an 11 pm flight to Tahiti and none of the lounges I was eligible for were open. I had a free night certificate for a Marriott, so I booked it to have a place to relax and remove our masks. It worked perfectly, since LAX is huge and transferring from a domestic terminal to the International terminal with luggage is a total pain. The Marriott shuttle picked us up at our incoming terminal, took us to the hotel for a relaxing afternoon and dinner without masks, and then delivered us to the International terminal with all our luggage. Best travel decision ever!


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