Friday, September 25, 2009

Trip in vain

posted Tue, 17 Aug 2004

Oh man. I am such an idiot! My travails had me so discombobulated yesterday that I didn’t think to go directly to the airline for the ticket. That is my usual strategy – to search for prices via or (they are no good) and then go to the airline site, but the airline sites didn’t want to do the codeshares necessary for me to get to Catania. By the time I resigned myself to flying only to Rome and then getting the Rome-Catania ticket elsewhere, I forgot my strategy.

So now Harpo reminds me that the airlines can’t do much with a ticket purchased from an agent – and it’s not that easy to get the agent when you are abroad, especially if the agent is an internet site. My whole flight is on Northwest, so I could have bought it from them. Man oh man. I sure hope everything goes smoothly. But I don’t know. The last big trip I tried to take on NW was to Kathmandu. There were a series of disasters, including Bangkok-Kathmandu tickets sent to me from Kathmandu via a 72-hour courier service that actually took six weeks and arrived two weeks after I was supposed to have returned.

Kathamandu. One of the many places I did not get to visit Steve and Megan.

But those disasters turned out to be irrelevant as my plane from M’town to Bangkok couldn’t take off because it had a – flat tire.

When is the last time you heard of a plane getting a flat?

It’s not an easy thing to fix. The passengers had already boarded the plane when they announced the delay. Two twentysomethings were sitting next to me, both of them impossibly blonde and beautiful, speaking with strong Minnesota accents and reading a Harvard alumni magazine. At the announcement, the guy whipped out his cellphone and called his travel agent. Or someone. When he finished the call, he turned to me and said, “I’ve got good news! I just saved a bundle on my car insurance!”

I smiled back at him as one does with crazy people who might turn on you without provocation. I thought it a very odd thing to tell a total stranger in a situation like that. It would be an odd thing to tell a total stranger under any circumstance, actually.

You are smiling because you know what he was talking about. But I, I do not have a television. I did not know that he was referring to a Geico ad. So he worried me.

When they announced we needed to deplane, I started to worry. I had only a two-hour layover in Minneapolis, where I was supposed to meet the bodacious pediatrician Ilene and give her the special salad dressing she craved that can be gotten only at Easy Way in M’town.

We got off the plane. After half an hour, I found a gate agent and began to explore my options.

I really had none. No matter what, I was now going to miss my connection in Tokyo to Bangkok. This might not have been such an issue except that meant I would also miss my connection in Bangkok to Kathmandu. That flight was a different airline – I was supposed to pick up the replacement tickets at a hotel in Bangkok that the Peace Corps uses.

I had no confidence that my tickets would be honored except on the date for which they were issued. Some colleagues traveling in China once didn’t get out on their scheduled flight because the airline canceled the flight. When they told the agent just to put them on the next flight, the agent said they needed tickets for that flight. My colleagues pointed out that the airline had canceled the flight for which they had tickets. Agent said so what? In his mind, the ticket was a contract for that flight and that flight only, not an agreement between the passenger and the airline for the airline to get said passenger from point A to point B, ideally at the time on the ticket but subject to change at the whims of the airline.

My colleagues surrendered, having tired of eating authentic Chinese food, and agreed to buy new tickets. No, no American Express. Cash.

I have my suspicions about the gate agent, but sometimes you are just stuck.

I had the same worried about Bangkok. What if the Bangkok-Kathmandu airline said I had to buy a new ticket? By now, I was so frustrated by the whole process of trying to travel to Nepal that I asked the gate agent to refund my money. I just wouldn’t go. She did, classifying the refund as for a “trip in vain,” which I thought was the perfect way to describe my experience.

I am hoping that someone checks the air in the tires before I leave for Rome, because I don’t think anyone at Northwest will be able to help me with an ticket.

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