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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Doing My Head In and Where My Short Fuse Still Lurks

Journey's End
Mother and Brother
On 2 February I went to my favourite travel website, Expedia, to purchase my tickets to go to America in April. It's my mother's birthday on the 13th of April and every year I try to be with her on that day. This year she will be 93. The one criteria for my ticket is that I want to contend with only one stop before reaching my final destination. My favourite and most convenient combination is to fly from Manchester to Philadephia and from Philadelphia to Hartford, Connecticut. However, on this occasion that flight was far more expensive than others and price is always a big part of my decision-making process.

So I opted for another combination, which I have also used before: Manchester to Newark and then Newark to Hartford. Another criteria in my decision-making this time around was that I arrive with a reasonable amount of daylight. This is the first time I will be hiring my car from the airport. This way I can have a car for three weeks for the cost of around $600/400 pounds, including insurance. Previously, I have spent an exorbitant $1000/600 pounds for 10 days including insurance from a dealer close to my mother, who comes and picks me up and at the end when I return the car takes me back to my mother's. -- I have done this because I am not clear about the way from the airport to my mother's home -- many back roads and tricky turnings before I am in familiar territory. The deal this time is that my darling brother will meet me at the airport and then will lead me through the maze of getting to my destination! And it makes Mom happy because she gets to see two of her darlings!

The Newark flight would have got me into Hartford at 5.30 pm. That was until 17 February when I received an e-mail from Expedia saying my flights had been changed, please call them! The flight from Newark to Hartford was to be no longer ... The alternative suggestion was to fly me from Newark to Chicago and from Chicago to Hartford! That would have got me into Hartford between 9 and 10 p.m. -- hours hours flying in completely the wrong direction!! So after I groaned and complained about that they came up with a whole new ticket scenario: Manchester to Frankfurt! Frankfurt to Washington, D.C.; Washington, D.C. to Hartford... I hate to admit using the 'I'm getting old' blah blah blah schtick , but use it I did!

My luggage would probably have made it ok and better than going in the wrong direction to Chicago -- ok, I agreed. I did have the option of cancelling the whole flight. The carriers were United and Lufthansa. I would arrive in Hartford at 6.30 pm -- it would still be light! O.K. I went with going to Frankfurt and Washington. Kind of worried about having enough time between changes, but ready to deal with the challenge.

On Monday March 19 Expedia sent me another e-mail:
Dear Expedia.co.uk Traveller, 
We have received notice from Continental Airlines that they have:
 *Changed the carrier for 3 of your flights. 
It is important that we speak to you as soon as possible to review changes from the carrier so that we can discuss alternatives. Please contact us at ... 
I took a deep breath ... and then another. I called Expedia. The girl I talked to had an accent, but fortunately I was able to understand her. After discussing more alternatives. I agreed to Flying to Newark then flying to Washington, then flying to Hartford. Another flight in the wrong direction. After all that I was still on the same Washington-Hartford flight which arrived at 6.30. I did have the option to cancel altogether. It was frustrating though, considering Newark is only about 100 miles from my mother's place. However, I did not want to do the limousine thing -- explaining what I mean about that is another long post, which I will try to avoid ever writing ...

It then occurred to me that it might be interesting to see how much flights were going for if I were to start looking now. Do you know what??????? I could have booked my favourite flight -- U.S. Air to Philadelphia, Philadelphia to Hartford -- which gets in to Hartford at 4.40 p.m. and it was available for 100 pounds less than the more inconvenient flights I had chosen!

Tuesday morning (yesterday) I was discussing this with The Man -- we were due at a lunch in about an hour -- and thought it was worth calling Expedia and seeing if I could change my mind! I didn't  hold high hopes for this -- but I did have the argument that I had originally wanted a flight with only one stop and a flight with one stop was what I had originally booked. I had nothing to lose and 100 pounds to gain.

I talked to Expedia. A very nice woman with an accent I could understand talked to me and said she would call the airline and see if they would agree to the cancellation -- even though the airline had already sent me a e-mail confirmation (which I received while talking to her). Since I was going out to lunch and needed to leave, she said not to worry she would leave me a message. And sure enough when I got home there was a message and the airline had agreed!!!! I needed to call Expedia with what I wanted to do. I'd already saved my preferred flight to my Expedia itineraries and was ready to 'book'.

I called Expedia back... This time it was a man and he had an accent difficult to understand. Of course I had to go through the whole thing all over again. I had explained that I'd received a message and that the airline had agreed. He looked up my file -- there were no notes to that effect. He then asked me if I was sure I wanted to cancel. After all, he explained, I was still arriving at my destination at the same time. And the Airlines don't often agree to cancel a booking. Several times I had to ask him to repeat because I couldn't understand him. He said he would have to call the Airline. I said -- but it has already been authorized! He said there was no record in my file of this. I told him that this was ridiculous, that I was not very happy and  just was not good enough. He said he would call back. I hung up. I think he was still talking! (At least I did not SLAM the phone down!)

About an hour later he called back to say the Airline had agreed. I cancelled my flights! I apologised for being rude. Then I went online and  booked the new flights and car. (Please U.S. Air, don't let me down...)

It is worth noting that while the car hire cancellation will be refunded within 7 to 10 days, the airline refund will take 2 to 12 weeks. Needless to say, it's The Man's credit card and he did not look to happy about that '12' week scenario possibility.

I was exhausted -- just not up to 'doing battle' anymore! But it goes to show that it doesn't always pay to book flights early.


HAPPY VERNAL EQUINOX, EVERBODY! 

 

28 comments:

  1. Hello Katherine:
    Golly gosh, what a complicated affair but we do so hope that this is now the end of it!!

    We have a problem just flying between Budapest and London, so goodness knows what state we should be in if we had your flights to contend with. Still, your mother and brother at the end of that long journey will surely make it all worthwhile. 93...how splendid!!!

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    1. 93 and an angel as well! How lucky I am...

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  2. You must have the patience of a saint not to have slammed the phone down, Broad! Glad you got what you originally wanted and at a better price. I'm a very infrequent and inexperienced flyer, most of my flights having been holiday charter ones, so can only admire your willingness to wrestle with the intricacies of transatlantic bookings.

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  3. Needs must, Perpetua, needs must!!

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  4. Oh it sounds awful... and so frustrating. I know several transatlantic trips I have made have involved flying to Amsterdam, from Manchester,or Paris and then onto Chicago. It always seems so pointless, time consuming and fuel extravagant to be going the wrong way. I'm so glad it has worked out ok. J.

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    1. It's all about those 'hubs' -- wherever they are.

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  5. Mrs. C. and I are going to Turkey in May and the airfare shot up eight hundred dollars in two weeks. Pretty soon we'll be forced to stay home.

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    1. I hope you got your reservations in before the fares shot up. I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the lower fare! I expect it is because it's the period right after Easter. Next summer will be dreadful -- Olympics, Queen's Diamond Jubilee, etc.

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  6. Good grief, what a palaver !!
    The consumer has to do all the research and the legwork these days and it's such hard work. But it will be worth it to see your mum.
    I would travel to the ends of the earth to see my mum if only I could. She died when she was only 74 and I still miss her. It doesn't get any easier so it's good to make the most of your mum while you still have her.

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    1. I am very lucky to still have a Mom so it's worth whatever trouble it takes to see her and I try to do this at least once a year. She is still great company and we always have a good time together...

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  7. Oh Broad, how infuriating for you! I hate that 'flying in the wrong direction' just to eventually get where you want to go. Have you thought of sending your suitcase directly to your Mom's house via FedEx? It can be a bit pricey but at least you don't have to mess with luggage claim roundabouts, and you KNOW your bag will be waiting for you when you get there. Hope you have a wonderful visit with your Mom and family...these times are precious :)

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  8. Hubby travels for his work and regularly has to do battle over his flight itineries being changed at the last minute. Sometimes the changes are tight on timings and on more than one occasion he has missed his connection! This leads to more hanging around or being late for appointments.
    Hope your works out for you and you enjoy your time with your mother.
    Like Jean I lost my mother when she was 69, nine years ago, and would travel anywhere by any means to see her again.

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  9. What a mess. I would not be handling that well.
    Happy it worked out. AND I'm thrilled that I'm your choice to read on the flight. I do so want your opinion on the book, the story, the characters etc.
    Write when you return and let me know what you think!!!
    God bless and safe travels.

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  10. Dear Broad, . . . one question: are you still getting to do the car deal where you will have it for 3 weeks for 400 to 600 pounds? All this took so much time and patience, and I'm relieved for you that ultimately it worked out--but oh the stress of it all.

    I'll be in Minnesota when you are in Connecticut. I bet your mother is so eager to see you. Oh, a second question. Now will your brother be meeting you? Peace.

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    1. Yes, the car deal is the same -- the only difference is that now I'm renting from Hertz when before it was National.

      And Yes, my brother is still meeting me -- only an hour earlier than my original flights! Hopefully, there will be no delays along the way!

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  11. over the years i have flown back and forth across the pond and I learned this.

    Only God knows where you will end up. Try to enjoy the ride

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  12. WOW. Fingers crossed that your favorite flights will stay intact!

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  13. What a nightmare! I am glad that you seem to have got it sorted now, and that they were reasonable in the end. Someone told me Trailfinders are good for this kind of thing because they have sensible people in their office and are well organised. If I need to go on a long haul flight I will give them a try.

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    1. I'm not familiar with Trailfinders. Will make a note of them in my Travel File. It would be so helpful if you could just be assigned to a specific person when an issue comes up instead of always having to in effect start all over again with the details.

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  14. Ouf! What a battle royal to get the flights you wanted!!
    After all that hassle I hope that [when you go] your trip is a smooth as silk :-)

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    1. I am still amazed that at the end I was able to get what I wanted in the first place! At least I don't have to start out at large behemoth airports like Heathrow or JFK. Manchester and Hartford (Bradley International) are a dream compared to others.

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  15. Well, I'm glad to hear that things turned out well in the end, but what a nightmare! Did you ever consider just flying into Newark and renting your car there, driving to Hartford from Newark? It would take less time than the convoluted flights they tried to foist on you.

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    1. Ahhhh -- If I felt secure driving I would do just that. However, I learned to drive very late in life and am not happy in large cities with complicated road networks. New York or Newark scares me to death. When I say 'late in life' I mean my late 50's!!

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  16. What an infuriating business all this must have been for you.
    My fuse would have been lit fairly early on I fear.
    Let's hope your actual journey is trouble free after all that!

    I use a variety of websites to try to find a flight...as some seem to be tied to certain airlines so you miss bargains offered by others.

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    1. I often use a variety of websites and have found over the years that Expedia has suited me the best most of the time. My husband insists that if they had been doing their job properly then they would have found me a better flight from the first problem. However, I understand that when flights get cancelled they are dealing with the airline and that the choice of cancellation by the customer is always offered. These websites provide the information for you to find. But my husband does not agree and blames Expedia for not doing their job -- as he sees it!

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  17. G'day Broad. What a lot of mucking around for you. I would have been tearing my hair out halfway through it all. Glad everything is now ok. I hope you have a wonderful visit with your family. Take care. Liz...

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Receiving comments is a joy and I thank you all for taking the trouble and showing your interest. Makes me feel all gooey and stuff!