Coming Out of Left Field

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Adventures in air travel

The wife and I found it surprisingly tricky to get back home from South Carolina Sunday night. Our first sign of things to come was when our ride got lost on the way to the airport in Charlotte; the couple giving us a lift missed the exit, so we lost some time doubling back. (I knew we were in trouble when the husband swore in English.)

Then our 3:55 p.m. flight was delayed until 4:15 p.m. When we asked the desk clerk if we would make our connection, she told us, "You're going to have to go straight to the gate ... you can't go to the bathroom or anything." Hmmmm, not promising.

Shortly thereafter, the desk clerk announced that she was looking for volunteers to give up their seats. My wife had a brilliant idea -- if we were going to miss our connection anyway, why not profit by it? So we came up to the counter to get our vouchers, thinking it would be a quick process.

Two hours later, we and another volunteer were still standing there, waiting to get rebooked and receive our vouchers. It wasn't the poor desk clerk's fault, as the computers went on the fritz. So the poor woman had to call and call and call for tech support, as well as deal with late flights, unhelpful supervisors and impatient customers. At one point, she nearly lost a passenger too; an elderly woman booked on the 5:30 p.m. to Philadelphia had gotten on the 3:55 p.m. flight, and only realized her mistake when the flight attendant made an announcement.

Finally, the computers were back, and the printer (freshly loaded with paper) spat out our boarding passes for the 5:30 Philly flight.

Five minutes later, the desk clerk got on the mike again, and announced that the 5:30 flight had been cancelled. The elderly woman who'd gotten on the wrong plane earlier came up behind us. "Do you want to hear someone scream really loudly?" she asked.

The wife and I, fortunately, had long since decided that the whole affair was hilarious, so this latest development just made us crack up. Since the three of us were still waiting for our vouchers, the desk clerk rebooked us herself instead of sending us all the way back to the ticket counter. Around 7:00 p.m., we finally left the airport with our vouchers, a hotel voucher for the nearby Holiday Inn, and reservations for the next morning.

Monday's flight, naturally, went absolutely fine, though the taxi back from Logan was extremely poky. At least we have a couple of round-trip vouchers for all our trouble. Sometime in the next year, when we have time and aren't feeling quite so poor, we'll take advantage of them ... and we won't go through Charlotte!

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