Monday, April 23, 2007

Day 2: In which our heroes are beleaguered by airlines but persevere

The next day we get another lift to the airport and decide to check in via the skycaps to avoid more lines. You didn’t think this part was going to go smoothly, did you? It had been so noisy in the AirTran area that the USAirways agent did not hear our names correctly. The boarding passes are misspelled by one letter and thus do not match our identification. The SkyCaps cannot check us in and tell us we must face The Line. R and Z learn some new words from Mom and Dad that I hope they do not repeat in school. We go inside to The Line, and BH grabs a passing customer service person to explain our dilemma. He directs us to the front of a particular queue, where a clerk looks at us dubiously. “I’m not sure I can fix this in time.” he says, gravely. Z starts to cry. R looks like he’s close. I grovel – please, please, it’s my birthday and none of this was our fault. He cracks back “Sure, hon, it’s your birthday, you have to get to an important meeting, you have to rush to a sick relative, I’ve heard ‘em all.” Annoyed, I whip out my driver’s license and ask him to check the birthdate. He stiffens, says “Happy Birthday,” and starts typing into the computer. After about 20 minutes of computer timeouts and consultations with other customer service reps, we get our corrected boarding passes.

Of course, the fact that we made last minute changes to our ticketing means that we get the super special security screening, or at least that’s what I assume the SSSS on our boarding passes meant. So, not only shoes off and liquids confiscated, but every item in our carry on bags was removed and swabbed for explosives, including Z’s teddy bear Brady. Z and R were patted down (“Z, pretend you’re a bird and stretch our your wings” I said, coaxing her through the screening) and BH’s laptop, camera and lenses were examined thoroughly. Strangely, the TSA said nothing about my bright red double-pointed needles holding a sock in progress. Deciding we posed no imminent threat, we were allowed to board the plane. Our flight took off in the stormy weather and we made it to DC just as they were reopening runways after the storm passed down there. Our connection to West Palm was delayed by about an hour. I had a burger from Five Guys as my birthday meal inside National Airport. We got to Florida just before midnight, and drove across Alligator Alley in our rented minivan, arriving exhausted in Naples at 2:30 AM. I finished a pair of Cascade Fixation socks for Z in the car.

I’m happy to say the vacation portion of our program was delightful – beach time, pool time, veg on the couch time, knitting time (began a baby cable rib sock for me), shopping time with my sister, fine dining (Truluck’s is amazing) while grandparents babysat, etc. Saturday morning BH called AirTran to make sure our flight from Ft Lauderdale was leaving on time. No, they said – we rebooked you on a flight that leaves 3 hours earlier. BH freaks – it’s a 2.5 hour drive to get there, and the new flight leaves in less than 3 hours. AirTran claims that they called us on the 14th to inform us of this development. No, BH shouts, we were home on the 14th because you bumped us off our flight. I try calling the airline to see if they can put us back on our original flight or get us something out of Ft Myers. I am on hold, abruptly disconnected, then I call back and get a different agent. More time on hold (to dead silence, so I had to keep checking that the call hadn’t been dropped), and, mirabile dictu, the nice fellow from AirTran found us a flight to Atlanta that would connect to our originally scheduled flight home. As we figured that the airline had now overbooked this flight too and it was to be “survival of the earliest to arrive”, we took off for Ft Myers and checked in over two hours early. We had an uneventful layover in Atlanta and made it home on schedule. And what did we learn?

1. AirTran’s MO seems to be to overbook all flights. If you are flying with them, get your boarding pass ahead of time and show up as early as you can to check in. Also, realize that even if you have a boarding pass for a connecting flight but your incoming flight is late, they will not hold your seat (this happened to us last year). It is apparently less expensive for them to make alternate arrangements for bumped passengers than it is to take off with one or two empty seats. Working on an IT help desk would be a piece of cake compared to being an AirTran customer rep – their employer’s policy isn’t their fault.

2. Alamo Car Rental rocks! We rented via Costco and got a great rate, and they were incredibly nice about all our switches (Ft Lauderdale, no wait, West Palm! And we’ll return it to Ft Lauderdale, no, make that Ft Myers!). I think they charged us a whopping $8 for the dropoff change.

3. Always give your airline your cell phone and email. Granted, Orbitz had my email and still I never heard about the changed return flight, but they could’ve texted me had I given that info to them.

4. To hell with appointed school vacation week. Next year we’re either leaving early or staying later. Perfect attendance is for pinheads.

Day 1: Our heroes leave for a vacation in Florida

Our friend C gave us – me, Better Half, R and Z - a lift to the airport on Saturday. We got there two hours before our flight was to arrive, and encountered the Longest Line I Have Ever Seen. Hmm, I think, we should be able to get through this line in an hour. It started out promisingly. R had his Gameboy, Z was happy to people-watch and try to read signs. A group of sorority girls in front of us ask me to take their photo – they are on our flight to Ft Lauderdale but then are heading to the Bahamas for spring break. An hour comes and goes, and we are only about halfway to the front of the line. A harried-looking AirTran rep calls anyone in line for Ft Lauderdale to come to “an expedited line”. About 20 of us comply…and find that AirTran has massively overbooked this flight and we will not make it on. They ask us to step aside and a customer service agent will try to help us make alternate arrangements. However, they warn, it’s school vacation week, a long weekend, and there’s a Nor’easter storm heading our way.

Better Half gets in the customer service line, while I herd the kids and bags off to the side and call my dad to let him know we may not be able to make it to Naples after all (we hadn’t been able to get a flight to Ft Myers, so were planning on driving from Ft Lauderdale). He says he’ll see what he can do and hangs up. I text back and forth with BH as he waits in line. I pray that neither kid has to go potty because there are no bathrooms in sight and I can’t carry the bags alone. I envision TSA about to perform a controlled explosion on our seemingly abandoned car seat bag, with me running in yelling “Wait, wait! Z had to poop!” I start doodling mean-spirited things about AirTran on one of their free luggage tags. Being bumped off a flight with my 2 small kids on the day before my birthday turns me childish. I tell myself it’s consumer-oriented civil disobedience.

My dad calls back and has tentative seats for us tomorrow on USAirways to West Palm Beach, for $1600. Is that each, or total? I ask. He isn’t sure and goes to check. I text this info to BH, who tells me to bring him the bags and head over to the USAirways counter to find out more. The kids and I set out, only then learning that USAirways is in a different building. We eventually get there and the clerk is pleasant but firm that because of the weather they have no way to get us to Florida in the next 24 hours. Dad calls again…the tickets are $1600 each and he thinks Air Tran should pay. BH tells me AirTran has been offering double the ticket price back to people, but this would be quadruple. He then says it’ll still be some time before the customer service agent gets to him (he’s still helping the beleaguered sorority gals) so we get snacks at Starbucks and chill for a while. I read books to Z, let her do the jigsaw puzzle I brought, then invent games for her (can you find a T on that sign? Go touch it and run back here! Now find an N! Let’s use this scrap of yarn in my purse to make shapes. Can you make a triangle?). R is electronically anaesthetized by his GameBoy and then by dad’s video iPod.

BH texts again – AirTran is going to pay for the $1600/pp tickets tomorrow and give us vouchers for roundtrip travel. Yay. However, the flight tomorrow is due to leave during the forecast Nor’easter. Boo. We rejoin BH over at AirTran while he fills out the paperwork. We decide that, since we’re here, we may as well get our USAirways boarding passes now to save time tomorrow. We head back to the other building, and Z “helps” by holding on to the luggage strap and occasionally pushing the rolling bag from the back. Ineffectual but highly cute. We got the boarding passes and C phones to say he’ll come get us. However, ten minutes later he calls again to tell us he got a flat tire. Great googly moogly. OK, we try our neighbor up the street, who picks us up, and we get back to the house about 6 hours after we’d left. BH runs out and gets us a pizza and me a chocolate birthday cannoli. We all collapse into bed.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Go Go Power Rangers!

Working my way through the unfinished projects pile...finished my Toe Socks, the Fair Isle pillow (need to get a pillow form, but the knitting is finished), and, ta da! R's Power Ranger socks, so named because the yarn (Trampoline) has all the colors of the Power Rangers. And the colors of Bionicles, too, which is good as over the past year R has become less interested in Power Rangers and more into Lego Bionicles. Kind of a slow sock knitter, me.

(Don't worry about the boo-boos - soccer practice has started again)

I've also made it to the decrease rows of my Clapotis, and it's coming out better than I dared hope in the nylon ribbon yarn. And, I finished the first Sitcom Chic sleeve and attached it to the body of the sweater.

Off now on vacation where I hope to get another Sitcom Chic sleeve and husband's second toe-up sock finished. I was working on the latter while watching 30 Rock and figured I must be close to making the heel, then got out the finished sock and realized I was only about halfway done with the foot.