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The Great White North – Tips 3, Part 1

January 2, 2008

This is another one with just one tip – from me to you. If you have a travel agent, make that agent work for his supper…

My trip to the Great White North began well enough. I booked my reservations through our corporate travel agent, had my e-ticket information on my person, passport in order, the whole deal. When I showed up to the airport, I was not just two hours early, I was two and a HALF hours early, thankyouverymuch.

I am overly cautious (my husband calls it anal retentive, but whatever) about getting to the airport in enough time to jump through all of the hoops necessary to get on my plane without there being sprinting, yelling, stressing, sweating or cursing of any nature involved.

As I’ve mentioned before, I used to travel extensively and there was a time when sliding into the airport parking lot on two wheels, tossing my keys to an attendant, snatching my rolling suitcase out of the trunk in an instant, and rushing for the airplane… in heels… was no big deal.

That was pre-kids… pre-9/11… and about 50 pounds ago. Now, these kinds of little challenges just don’t really do it for me. I don’t end up in my seat smelling like Chanel No. 5 and glowing from the exercise. I end up in my seat looking like I’ve been beaten with a stick, smelling like I’ve just run the Boston Marathon, and digging madly for an inhaler. It’s not pretty.

But I digress.

I got to the airport in plenty of time to avoid the above mentioned issues. I kissed my husband for a little too long in the dropoff lane and got reprimanded by the Dropoff Lane Nazi, grabbed my suitcase, slung my laptop backpack over my shoulder, and headed for the Air Canada ticket counter to check in.

There were at least 500 other excited, rosy-cheeked folks in the Air Canada line with me and we passed the time laughing at the gaggle of high school girls trying to board Lufthansa with more luggage than Madonna and her entire entourage brought for her latest tour. After about 45 minutes of this amusement, I got to the front of the line. I stepped up, set down my laptop backpack and my purse, handed the agent my passport and e-ticket information, and set my luggage onto the scale.

“This is a United flight,” the agent said. “It goes to Chicago.”

“Seriously?” I questioned. I wondered why my ticket didn’t say anything about United and why I had just stood in that line for 45 minutes if I was actually supposed to be on a United plane.

“Yes. We are Air Canada. We only handle flights directly from here into Canada. All domestic flights are handled by our partner, United. You’ll have to go to their counter to check in.”

“OK,” I said, and rounded up my belongings. I made the trek to the United line and saw that, much to my dismay, there were another 500 excited, rosy-cheeked people in THAT line. I sighed with resignation and got in line. I waited another 30 minutes and actually made it to the front. I fumbled my way through the self check-in and was rewarded with some luggage tags. Just then a United agent stopped to help me attach my tags.

“Going to Chicago?” he asked as he peeled off the paper and affixed one tag with a deftness born of years of experience.

“Um, yeah. I’m actually going to Montreal,” I replied.

“This just says you’re going to Chicago,” he answered.

“Right,” I said. “But I’m actually going to Montreal. Can you check my bags all the way through? I don’t want to pick them up in Chicago.”

He stepped behind the counter and punched some keys.

“Passport,” he requested with an outstretched hand.

I handed over my passport and my e-ticket information and waited while he punched some more keys. Finally he came up with an answer.

“Your second flight isn’t scheduled until tomorrow,” he said.

“What!?!” I sputtered. “Tomorrow?!? No, no, no. See on my e-ticket…. right here… it shows both flights today.”

“Well, all I can tell you is what I see here,” he said. “Do you want your bags checked to Chicago or not?”

“NO! I don’t want my bags checked to Chicago! I need you to straighten this out.”

“I can’t do that,” he said. “For that you’ll have to go to the Specials line. See the sign above it over there? That’s where they handle re-ticketing and such.”

I snatched my passport and e-ticket back from the counter, grabbed my luggage off of the scale for the second time, slung my heavier-by-the-second backpack on my shoulder again, and went to the Specials line, which was longer than the two previous lines had been. I waited another hour before I got to the counter.

When I finally got to the front, all of the other Specials Agents had evidently gone to lunch, out to smoke, or to get coffee, and there was only one poor soul left. She reached for my passport and e-ticket. I handed it to her.

“What seems to be the problem?” she asked.

I explained that I had booked both flights today, but that the flight to Montreal seemed to have mysteriously been moved to tomorrow, that I was now going to miss my flight to Chicago because I had been standing in line for so long, at so many different counters. She nodded as she pecked at the keyboard and read over my information.

“Yes, that is the case. Your flight to Montreal is for tomorrow.”

“No, both flights were booked for today,” I said.

“I’m looking at the flights, and I’m telling you that the flight to Montreal is booked for tomorrow,” she replied, looking down her nose and imparting as much authority as she could to her words.

“I’m not arguing with what you see on the screen,” I responded. “I’m telling you that both flights were originally booked for today. Check my paperwork. Nowhere on any of this do I see tomorrow’s date. I have a business meeting tomorrow morning at 9am and I HAVE to be in Montreal. Whatever you need to do to fix this situation, let’s get it done.” I tried to impart as much authority to my words as I could, too. I was the customer, after all… AND I had an e-ticket showing exactly how I had booked things.

She thought about it for a second and seemed to come to an understanding of the situation. “Let me see what I can do,” she said.

She punched several more keys, and got interrupted by another passenger who thought his flight needs were much more pressing than mine. After she showed him the line and he grudgingly went to the back of it, she continued reviewing my little issue.

“I see that this was originally booked through Air Canada,” she told me. “And we are not authorized to rebook the entire flight, just domestic. You’ll have to take this to the Air Canada counter and have them handle the problem with your flight to Montreal.”

I gritted my teeth and practiced counting to ten in my head, just like my Mom taught me to do when I really felt like punching someone in the nose. “Are you kidding? I have to go BACK to the Air Canada counter? I have been there already today and they sent me here.”

“Yes, Ma’am. I understand. Because your Chicago flight was domestic, you had to check in here, but they actually booked the ticket. I can’t rebook it for you, except the part to Chicago.”

“Fine,” I replied. “Then rebook the Chicago flight because I’ve now missed it. Get me on the next flight to Chicago and hopefully by then I will have worked out something with Air Canada.”

“Will do,” she said. She punched a few more keys and produced a boarding pass for the next flight to Chicago.

“You have about 45 minutes to work it out with Air Canada before this flight boards,” the agent smiled as she handed me the boarding pass. “Good luck. Have a nice day!”

To be continued…

7 Comments leave one →
  1. January 2, 2008 8:05 pm

    I can’t wait to read part 2…but I have to say, there are times when I just feel it isn’t meant to be. If some weather impact had impeded your trip, instead of just the stupidity of others it would have been rescheduled. You have to wonder if the universe isn’t trying to tell you something.

    That being said, I’ve spent many a fruitless hour at airports, hotels, and at airline counters trying to get from point A to point B.

  2. January 3, 2008 8:47 am

    Holy. Cow. I have my own stories about late planes making the entire rest of the trip completely fubar (I won’t name any names – NW – just so that they don’t get a further bad rep from me – NW – and considering it’s happened more than a handful of times on this airline – NW – we refuse to even consider looking at their ticket prices online – NW), or fubar booking because of a flight landing at 12:02 a.m. on a different day that somebody didn’t catch so that we then didn’t have seats on the next flight because we were booked for the day before. But yours? Really good one. With chuckles, I apologize for your hulabaloo(s). Hope you come back soon to stay for a while.

  3. Lynda permalink
    January 3, 2008 10:16 am

    I think I’m glad I don’t travel for work. I cannot imagine your frustration about the time you went back to the Air Canada counter!

  4. January 3, 2008 11:50 am

    ohhh.the suspense is killing me!

  5. January 3, 2008 2:23 pm

    Oh, I hate flying, and that is definitely one of the reasons why! I used to travel a lot for work and have spent countless hours in airports, fuming! Thankfully those days are behind me. Hope your next trip is far less aggravating!

  6. January 3, 2008 3:16 pm

    Wow! I can only imagine…


  1. The Great White North - Tips 3, Part 2 « In this house, I’m the Mama…

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