So I participated in one of the car companies' "Bantaan death march" events last week. It was an Audi event to Colorado. We flew in on morning No. 1 and flew out the next afternoon. For us Eastcoasters, it meant a dark O'thirty run to the airport on the first day and a late-nite run from the airport home on the second night.
I must admit, it wasn't as bad as one of the California "Bantam death marches" that some of the car companies host, but it was still a very long two days.
On the plus side, however, was that Audi puts on quite the event. Everything from the Ritz Carlton Hotel to the obscenely stocked hospitality suite was top shelf.
This was the first Audi event I've been invited to in years. I wasn't in the minority on this trip. Nearly everyone I spoke with at the program hadn't been on an Audi event in years. I'm not sure what put us back into good favor with Audi, but I'm not taking issue with Audi's decision.
The star of the show was the rebirth of its Allroad. It's the replacement for Audi's A4 Avant wagon. It's all-wheel drive with a 211-horsepower 2-liter four-cylinder engine. As you might expect, it looks great inside and out.
We landed at the Denver airport and drove to the Ritz Carlton just west of Vail. The next morning we drove back.
As I was driving on the return leg, my cell kept ringing. I really don't like to talk on my cell when driving, so I pretty much ignored it. Finally about the third time in 15 minutes that it rang, I pulled it out of my pocket and looked at the caller ID. It said "Delta."
I typically fly Delta, and was doing so on this trip. I figured the news couldn't be good, but waited until we got to the out-lying hanger at the airport where Audi was staging the event to check the actual message.
Delta had been attempting to reach me to alert me that my connecting flight from Atlanta to Greenville -- some 10 hours in the future -- was delayed by 2 hours. Instead of putting me into Greenville at 9:30 p.m., it would land nearer to midnight. Nuts!
The second message repeated the alert, but the third message was Delta calling to say that my flight from Denver to Atlanta was oversold and would I be willing to change flights to the Denver-to-Cincy flight that was scheduled to leave Denver 15 minutes earlier.
I called the Delta number back and chatted with one of its agents. She told me that if I rebooked I could get into Greenville at 9 p.m. I himmed and hawed for a few seconds to which she said that Delta would issue me a voucher good for $200 on any Delta flight. Hmmm, I said, I'm not sure if I want to do it.
Well, we can upgrade you to first class from Denver to Cincy. I replied, "Let me think about it for a couple of minutes...sign me up!"
We got it all rebooked. As I was being shuttled from Audi's hangar to the regular Denver terminals, I got yet another robotic message from Delta telling me my flight from Denver to Cincy would be delayed 45 min.
I called Delta back to make sure that if I missed my connection in Cincy (I only had 30 minutes factoring for the delay.) that Delta would put me up in Cincy since my scheduled flight from Cincy to Greenville was the last one of the night. Yes, I was told.
Some how it all worked out and I walked in my backdoor about 9:30 that night. Sometimes it's really good to have some clout with an airline.