Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Lazy Travel Tip: Beware!

It seems to be the wave of air travel's future:  you can't necessarily trust that ticket you have in your hands!

A few months ago I was enjoying a lovely dinner in Denver and took a moment after the plates were cleared to use my iPhone to check in for my flight departing the following evening.  To my horror, the flight had been moved up three hours, to be smack in the middle of my last appointment.  When I called American Airlines in horror, they said they had emailed the change to me.  I get a lot of email, and I check my spam regularly.  I did not get an email about this.  I very rarely fly American, but promised then to try to avoid them at all costs in the future, and I have so far.

Three weeks ago I flew Virgin America. I went to check in to that flight and discovered I no longer had a seat.  Impossible.  I had made the reservation weeks prior and always get an aisle seat -- without fail.  They told me I'd have to get my seat at the airport -- after everyone else boarded the plane!  Impossible.  Another airline down!

Tonight a Facebook friend posted that he just went to check in for his 10:40 a.m. flight and he was informed that the flight was moved up to 7 a.m.   Virgin America strikes again.  They claim they emailed him that change.  His point:  this change is worthy of an actual, honest to God phone call, people!  He is flying out for a funeral, and would have missed it had he not noticed during his online check-in. 

Last Tuesday, I was driving to LAX at 6 a.m.  I received a phone call.  An automatic recording informed me that my flight was being moved UP from 7:48 to 7:23 a.m.   I hung up, called Delta and asked if there was a later flight and when it would get me in because I didn't think there was any way I'd make this flight.  I would miss my first appointment.  The customer service agent at the other end of the line thought he had misheard me when I said I had just been informed my flight was moved up.  He said "Oh no, we don't move flights UP."  I said "Well you did on this one!"  He looked and was embarassed to admit the error of his words.

I sped to LAX, raced to my parking lot, and sprinted to the security line where I had to ask an enormous crowd of people if they would let me move up in the line, explaining that as odd as it sounded my flight had been moved up almost 1/2 an hour.  They all stared and then in one magical moment as if rehearsed said in unison "Yes, gooooooo!"  Except.  One.  Person. 

A Delta pilot stared at me with his curmugeonly face set in stalwart silence, clearly self-assured that I was a liar.  I showed him my boarding pass and I said "This says 7:48 but this flight is leaving at 7:23."  He shook his head, judging me from his head down to his toes.

I sprinted to the gate.  It looked empty.  I saw a flight attendant disappear through the door just as I arrived within eye shot?  Huffing and puffing I ran up to the agent and begged, barely able to speak, "Please can you get me on!?"   The agent said "Just breathe."  I contested, "You don't understand I have to get on this flight. You moved it up!"   He said "It's OK, just breathe...."  Then I realized I had time to breathe because he was just about to start boarding.   We both started laughing at my idiocy.  The flight did take off at 7:23. It was just a nearly empty flight so not a lot of boarding to do!

I turned around to find a place to catch my breath before boarding and saw the judging pilot walking to a gate across the way.  I ran over to him, and said "I know you didn't believe me, so you have to come see this and talk to the agent!" I grabbed him by the elbow and he said "I STILL don't believe you!" as I dragged him over to my gate.  The agent explained that I was, indeed, telling the truth. 

Shocked, the pilot replied: "Is that even LEGAL?"

The bottom line is that pulling the rug out of your magic carpet rides should not be legal.  But, it does seem to be the new norm.  So, beware oh ye who travels our lovely skies.

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