Post from October, 2007

Atlanta

Friday, 5. October 2007 14:25

So this is our trip to Atlanta.  It started horribly.

Our flight on AirTran was scheduled to depart at 6:40am on Friday morning.  This was the first time Megan or I have flown on this airline, so we weren’t quite sure what to expect.  Nonetheless, we decided that we should try to get to the airport about an hour ahead of time.  We were close – we got there about 50 minutes before takeoff.  Not wanting to mess anything up, I dropped off Megan at the ticket counter so she could check our bag, and then I drove off to the long term parking.  All seemed to go well – Megan checked her bag, went through security, and started waiting for the flight to board.  Meanwhile, I parked the car, took the shuttle to the airport, and checked into my flight.  That’s where the problems began.  I got to the ticket agent about 30 minutes prior to the flight, which is normally plenty of time on Southwest.  The ticket counter was set up with a series of kiosks where you could check yourself in.  Apparently, they turn off that service a half hour before the flight because a got a “flight departed” error message.  I tried to flag down an agent, which took several unnecessary minutes.  Finally, some guy comes up and is able to check me in from behind the desk.  We are now about 25 minutes before departure.  I went over to the security line, which was much longer and slower than I anticipated.  Usually, in the Southwest security line, if I am running late, TSA will let me cut ahead.  This time, they told me that I needed a representative from my airline.  So, it was back to the ticket counter for me, and it took several more minutes to flag down someone else.  And this person did not care at all about my situation.  She just said, “Your flight takes off in 20 minutes.  There is no way you will make it.”  So, she slowly shuffled around looking for someone to escort me to the security line.  This was another precious few minutes wasted, but I did get to cut to the front of the security line.  However, TSA must have seen something strange in my bag because they had to run it a couple times.  Once I was finally though, I had about 12 minutes left.  I ran as hard as I could to the gate, and as I approached, I saw another AirTran agent starting to close the doors to the jetway.  I ran up to her and showed her my boarding pass, and she said “Nope, the flight is closed.”  It was 6:31 – still 9 minutes before takeoff, but she would not let me on board.  When I mentioned that my wife was on board, she said “now that is funny – and ironic.”  I was not pleased.  So, all I could do for the next 15 minutes was stare at the plane – with Megan on board – just sitting there.  And I wasn’t allowed to board.  It was one of the most depressing feelings I’ve ever had.  It was right there!  Around 6:47, the plane finally started its push back, and all I could do was watch.

I went over to the counter to see what I could do, and the staff was of no help.  They just told me that all of their flights to Atlanta for the next two days have been overbooked by at least 4 people.  Nonetheless, I got myself listed on standby for the next flight (10:30), along with 16 other people.

While I waited for Megan to land, I did as much research as possible on my options.  Do I drive the 11+ hours down and pay $160 in gas (round-trip) and lose any possibility of sleep on Tuesday night?  Do I rent a car for $170 and drive to Atlanta, arriving late at night and spending $80 in gas?  Do I fly or drive into Charlotte and have Megan pick me up?  Do I sit at AirTran’s gate all day and just hope for the best?  Do I use one of my free Southwest flights and fly into Jacksonville and have Megan pick me up there.  That would be only about $75 in gas, but I would arrive late at night (well after midnight).  Or do I find another airline that has a flight to Atlanta?  Lots of choices here, and none of them were great.  After very lengthy discussions with Megan, we decided that I should pay out of pocket for a $311 Delta flight, departing at 11:07.  I would be able to use the $108 AirTran funds on a future flight.  So, I purchased the flight online, but when I confirmed my payment, the web site automatically switched me to the next (1:21) flight.  I didn’t realize this until I was halfway through security (which took extra long since I was deemed a threat by purchasing a same-day one-way ticket from the counter).  When I got to the gate, I was offered the very last seat on the 11:07 flight – for a $50 fee.  I didn’t have time to argue about Delta’s 24-hour change policy, so I just sulked and waited.  Finally, 1:21 came and I was able to board and get down to Atlanta around 3:30pm – a full 7 hours and $300 later.  What a waste.  But what ever happened to the 10:30 flight that I was a standby on?  Well, that departed about 9 minutes early, indicating that the flight was completely full and boarded, so I would have had no chance.  So, at least the right call was made there.  In all the flights I have made on Southwest, I have never experienced such rude and unhelpful customer service in the airline industry.  The worst part is that I now have a $108 dollar credit with AirTran that I need to use in the next year – well, assuming that my company doesn’t take the funds back for themselves.

Update (04/09/2010):  Even though $108 was unused from AirTran, it’s still not my money – it belongs to my company, who booked the flight.  And since it was booked through a third-party travel agent (and since I booked a different flight instead of rescheduling via the travel agent), none of that money was returned to anyone.  My company was nice enough to reimburse me for about $20 (I was expecting nothing), but I still ended up being almost $300 in the hole.  A life lesson, I suppose.
Note: I did end up flying AirTran again.  Twice.  Once was for a trip to Orlando via work (no choice) and the other was a non-stop to Seattle for under $100, which even Southwest couldn’t beat.  We ended up getting to the airport at least 2+ hours ahead of time for those flights…

Category:Travel | Comment (0) | Author: Ryan

Atlanta

Friday, 5. October 2007 10:32

If you’ve checked our travel page, then you know that we’re supposed to be in Atlanta, GA right now.  Yes, I said “supposed to be.”

We got up nice and early this morning and made it to BWI around 6am.  Ryan dropped me off so that I could check in the suitcase and he went to park the car.  This is something that we do if we’re running a little bit late, so that our bag makes the flight with us.  Our flight was scheduled to depart at 6:40am.  Forty minutes is plenty of time… when we fly Southwest Airlines.  However, Southwest doesn’t fly to Atlanta so we had to cheat on them and use AirTran.

First off, AirTran’s customer service is terrible compared to Southwest.  I waited for 10 minutes for someone to put the baggage claim sticker on my suitcase.  I asked three people and they all rudely told me to just wait.  It wasn’t even crowded!  I finally watched my bag get onto the conveyor belt and I headed over to the security checkpoint.  Ryan was waiting for the shuttle bus at this point.  We still had about 30 minutes.  The security line was a breeze for me – no line and no problems.  Our gate was really far away, so I casually walked to it.  When I got there at 6:15am, I was shocked to see that they were doing the “final call” boarding.  I asked the lady who took my ticket how much longer until they were going to close the door and she said 10 minutes.  I called Ryan, who was on the shuttle, and told him to be as fast as possible because he had 10 minutes.  I still figured it would be totally fine.

I boarded the plane and took my seat.  As it got to be about 6:30am with still no sign of Ryan, I was starting to get really nervous.  I was trying to call him, but his bluetooth headset was connected to his cell phone (and it wasn’t in his ear; it was in his backpack), so I was just getting a lot of shuffling noises.  I told a flight attendant that my husband was running through the airport and he would be here in another minute.  She told me “He’s too late. The doors just closed. He’ll have to go on Stand By.”  Great.  So now I was stuck on the airplane without him, with an old man in his seat who had been on Stand By and took his place.

I felt terrible.  I shouldn’t have gotten on the plane.  I should have waited by the door and not let them close.  I know that wouldn’t have done any good, because they wouldn’t have listened to me… but still.  So I had to be on the flight by myself, between two people that weren’t Ryan. :(   When we landed, Ryan called me and said that he had literally missed the flight by a minute.  As he was running up, they shut the door.  He told the AirTran employee that his wife was on board and she said “Wow. Now that’s funny.”  Can you believe that?  So he watched my plane take off and he couldn’t do anything about it.

Now I’m sitting in the airport waiting for him to figure out what he can do.  There aren’t many options.  AirTran’s next flight is oversold and he doesn’t think he’ll make it on any of their flights today.  They’re overbooked through tomorrow.  We were thinking about him driving all the way down, or me meeting him halfway, but it’s almost as expensive as another flight.

Okay, he just called me and said that he bought a flight with Delta.  BUT, he wanted the 10:30am flight and they accidentally booked him on the 1:30pm flight.  I guess things were too rushed and the Delta people didn’t realize that he meant he wanted to leave right now.  It’s probably better that it’s at 1:30pm though, because I don’t think he would be able to make it on a flight that leaves in a couple of minutes!  He would have been in the same situation again.

So I guess he’s getting here around 3:30pm and I need to figure out what to do with myself until then.  :-\

Category:Travel | Comment (0) | Author: Megan