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.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Anna F. said...

Oh man, the glamor of travel. Just consider your birthday delayed. Hope it was happy. Your kids are troopers!

4:27 PM  
Blogger FemiKnitMafia said...

I'm amazed and terribly impressed that everyone made to FL and back in one piece. Clearly your family is a lot more functional than mine, and your kids -- clearly rock stars! Seriously. Happy Birthday. Glad to have you back.

9:22 PM  
Blogger Danielle said...

Wow. When I have kids, no air travel during school vacation week. Remind me of that in several years, ok?

12:07 PM  
Blogger Kathy said...

Holy crap. That is quite a story. I'm glad there was some fun in the middle there. I'd be full of air rage and then they wouldn't let me on the plane!

9:00 PM  
Anonymous diana said...

What an ordeal! But you made it and had a wonderful vacation. And happy bleated birthday!!

10:36 AM  

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