Whenever I travel I have always bought tickets together and it all seemed to flow so nicely. If there was a screw up or a delay, no problem the airline gave you a hotel or meal voucher.
But during my attempt to fly to Venice to start my next contract on the cruise ship I experience the horror that comes when tickets are purchased separately and for airlines that are not partners.
And it Begins…
Checking in was a breeze, although some sweet talk was required as my bag was overweight but, hey, I am on a seaman’s ticket. They checked my bags all the way to Venice, even though the tickets were separate. However, they couldn’t give me my boarding passes but all I had to do was pick them up at the kiosk, no problem. She also casually informed me that, due to San Francisco’s infamous fog, flights were delayed but again, no problem, I should make my flight.
Waiting in the lounge the emails from United Air went something like this:
Your 10.30am flight is delayed to 11.30am
Now your 10.30am flight is delayed to 1.19pm
oh wait we mean 12.30pm
Ultimately we left at 1.30pm, but with the absolute assurance from all involved that making my 3.30pm flight would be a snap. When we landed I had just over an hour and all I had to do was jog over to Air France, grab my boarding passes and head to the gate. No Problem!!!
Let’s rephrase shall we: I RAN down through the domestic terminal to the international terminal that was “right next door” and tried to find the Air France counter. I finally got directions and sprinted dragging my carry on behind me. Rounding the corner to the Air France counter I discovered nothing… no-one….nada…. the counter was closed, with still an hour till the flight. I tried the kiosk but kept getting a “Do not recognise flyer” message. By now panic was rising, the tears were forming, the sweat was poring, I HAD TO MAKE THIS FLIGHT!
I saw a young man and asked if he worked at the counter, he said yes listened to my desperation and went to find the supervisor. Both of these guys had been on their way to lunch…. not anymore. The supervisor told me gate closed, no go, have to rebook. As I was waiting for them to get me a phone number a French couple rounded the corner with the same look of desperation. Turns out they had the same problem flying in from a different airport. The Air France guys gave us the number, said sorry and disappeared as fast as their little feet could take them. Although the young guy did really want to help more.
The french couple asked me to help with the phone call so we dialed and hoped for the best. After a few transfers we were finally connected to United… I think… not sure why…
For both of us the answer was that we had booked on separate airlines so that means there was nothing they could do, they couldn’t rebook us, they couldn’t give us information… nada!!
Customer Service at its best!!
Then we headed off to United to see if there was anything the counter could do. Once again it was a dead end, they could proved us a note claiming we missed our next flight due to a delay and a coupon for a hotel discount, but nothing else. Also they weren’t sure where my bags were, but we relatively certain they were somewhere in the airport… fantastic!
A good friend suggested we go see Delta, as they are partners with Air France…. it couldn’t hurt really, we had hit a wall at every possible attempt. The staff at the Delta Air counter in San Francisco were not only kind and friendly they were downright incredible, phenomenal and pretty damn awesome. We spent 5 hours at the counter but they would not give up. The first lady could not help me but she was able too sort out the couple’s tickets with just a small change fee. Then just as I was about to give up, after trying to call any number I had to reach someone in Italy… an amazing member of the Delta team put his foot down and was determined to discover a way to get my ticket sorted. He would not give up, and eventually against all odds, possibly with a little magic involved he handed me my tickets for the next flight and even had me do online check in and choose my seats. I wanted to kiss him, all the stress and strain dissipated.
Luggage in transit
During this miracle of reticketing, I went to United to find my luggage. They had no record of it other than when it was scanned to go onto the airplane in…wait for it…. Eugene, OR. So either my bag was still on the Eugene flight, or it had been transferred and was flying to venice or it was backstage somewhere in the airport. At that point it just didn’t seem like a big deal… am was sure I would find it the next day.
The Round Up
The 3 musketeers left the airport and headed for our hotel feeling utterly exhausted, bordering on starvation but not defeated now that Delta had saved the day. After a shower and rest we celebrated the insanity of the day over dinner and drinks and then planned to meet the next day at the airport.
In the end I made it to Venice, the Air France flight was great, I had a whole row, great movies and good food. But the stress to get there just proved the fact that buying tickets all within the same partnership can significantly diminish stress when delays occur.
As for making it to the ship…. I did, barely, but that’s a story for another time.