Friday, September 25, 2009

Volare -- caminare -- ferrocarril

posted Mon, 16 Aug 2004

What is this bait and switch that Orbitz is practicing? My sister and I are going to a cooking school in Italy in September. (Check it out: Mami Camilla) Jenny has just completed a master’s degree in whatever you need a master’s degree in to be a nurse practitioner (almost a doctah, my sistah!) She has never taken the grand tour of Europe, preferring to toil away her youth by working in places like, oh, Alaska and Hawaii. So now she is going to quit her job as a neo-natal nurse, take the boards, then travel. Or travel and then take the boards. Get a new job (she has already had many offers – I so picked the wrong field) when she returns.

Not the view from our B&B.

So we are going to this cooking school in Sorrento. But we also want to spend a few days in Sicily. Our parents lived there for a very very short while when my dad was teaching math and science at the junior high school on Sigonella Naval Base. When he got sick and had to be in the hospital, they put him in one of the big corner rooms because they saw he was a retired captain. He wasn’t about to tell him he was an Air Force captain as opposed to a Navy Captain. (For those of you who don’t know the ranking system in the military, a captain in the Navy is much higher than a captain in the Air Force.)

We want to spend a few days in Sicily, go to Sorrento for the school, spend a day or so in Naples, and then fly out of Rome. She’ll go to Poland and I will return to M’town. She has the better deal if you ask me.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Fly from M’town to Catania, then from Rome back to M’town.

Well. Every time I priced that trip in Orbitz and actually selected one of the options – you know, when it says “book now!” – Orbitz would with great regret and sorrow inform me that because of rapidly-changing demand, that flight was no longer available. But one for $50 more was!

I went through many different combinations. What if I looked just out of Atlanta to Italy? I can get myself to Atlanta without Orbitz. Oh, no – that confused Orbitz. “An error has occurred while processing your request.”

I actually managed to get as far as paying for one trip, even agreeing to pay an extra $21.95 for the mandatory paper ticket. And they still wouldn’t let me have that ticket! “Please try again,” Orbitz implored. I did. To no avail. Why are you even showing these flights as options if they are not available? I refuse to believe that there are 50 other passengers in the US right now on Orbitz trying to get the exact same flights as I am.

After two hours of playing with Orbitz and talking to a customer service rep at Continental and calling my sister several times, I finally have a ticket to Rome. We decided we would fly from Rome to Catania on Volare Air, a local carrier that does not show on Orbitz. Advantage: the Volare tickets are much cheaper than Alitalia. We have found the Italian equivalent of Southwest Airlines.

Ha. Another bait and switch. Rome-Catania is 29.99 euros. Without taxes. The taxes are another 24.99 euros. Total price 54.98. Just in case you’re curious, 45% of that total is TAX! If salaries are taxed at that same rate, no wonder no one bothers to start businesses and get rich in Europe. What’s the point of earning anything if you are going to have to give it all up in taxes?

But as Jen pointed out, if we get stuck in Rome for a few days, so what?

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