I commute to Chicago on the big Greyhound in the sky. O’Hare Airport is like Hotel California: you can check in any time you like, but you can never leave. Choosing a plane back to the New York area is a bit like betting on the Kentucky Derby. Sudy the timetables, look at the odds of on-time arrival, make your best bet.
When you get to the Derby, I mean to ORD, you must carefully select which security line to pass through. Have status? Find the frequent flier line. No status? Bring a book. Once through security, the real race begins. You run from gate to gate to see which planes have left and which have the best chance of making it out before the coach turns into a pumpkin. Emotions run rapidly from exhilaration to dejection.
Work your frequent flier status. Even if no seats on earlier (delayed) flights are available yet, become an SBY (standby). When your final bet is in, booking in hand, you watch the Boards. Beyond that, a little shamelessness never hurt: eavesdrop and meet other travelers to see what they’ve heard, ask the gate agents for the low down every so often. A contact on the outside who can Google flight status and work the phones never hurt.
Don’t believe everything you hear about your flight. Sign up with the airline for flight status updates. Use your smart phone to see where your plane is coming from and how it is progressing. A plane on the ground is worth two in the air…