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The Great White North – Tips 3, Part 3

January 5, 2008

Continued from The Great White North – Tips 3, Part 2

At the United Specials line again, eight billion people in front of me again, toe tapping again, arms now crossed over my chest, cheeks no longer rosy, but flushed with anger, I waited… another 30 minutes. When I reached the front again, the agent was happy to release my flight, but had no clue what I needed a signed piece of paper for.

At this point, there was absolutely no way on earth I was going back to Air Canada without it, not if I had to wait for the rest of my natural life. She and I argued back and forth about whether it would be in the system or not, whether Air Canada would be able to tell if the flight had been released with their super-ESP, or whether she would just write something down saying she had released it.

I don’t know what her reluctance was. It would have taken her about 30 seconds to write something down and just sign her name, but she put up a heck of a fight. Finally, an actual Lufthansa employee stopped by on her way through and agreed to walk me down to the Air Canada counter.

She explained, as I completed mile number 7 in my airport tour, that Lufthansa actually covers the Air Canada counter in my fair city. I had used my amazing powers of deduction previously when I saw the Lufthansa uniforms on the agents at the Air Canada counter that had helped me all million of the previous times I had been at the counter that day, and knew that already, but at least she was a person that could actually do something for me… so I didn’t tell her so.

When we arrived back at the Air Canada counter, complete with a lone Lufthansa agent, she hurriedly explained the deal to the agent and I handed over my passport and e-ticket… again. The agent that had walked me down disappeared and I hoped against hope that this person would be able to straighten this mess out for me.

She tapped the keys of her keyboard and hemmed and hawed. I asked if she could get me into Toronto that night and maybe I could get an early flight to Montreal the next morning. She looked… and looked… and looked some more. She spent an inordinate amount of time looking at the screen and tapping on the keys, not so much telling me anything.

Finally, after several minutes, she said, “I can possibly get you on the last flight to Toronto tonight… or there is an early flight in the morning. Otherwise, you’re looking at an 11:10 flight tomorrow direct to Montreal.”

“What does the early flight look like?” I asked. “What time would it get me to Montreal?”

She looked some more… but no answer was forthcoming. “I really need to know what time I would get into Montreal in order to make a decision. If I can get there at the same time, but leave tomorrow, I would rather do that, now that I’m obviously not going to get into Montreal tonight. Do you know what I mean? If I have the choice of spending tonight here or in Toronto, and I can’t get to Montreal until 3 in the afternoon either way, I’d rather sleep in my own bed.”

She nodded. More tapping. More squinting at the screen. No answer. Another Lufthansa agent showed up, evidently fresh off of a smoke break, and peered over her shoulder.

“I can get you on the blah, blah, blah to Toronto tonight. It’s the only one that’s not full. I guess things are filling quickly because of the weather,” she said.

I nodded. “What time will that get me to Montreal?” I repeated.

She put up a finger. The agent standing behind her turned on her heel and said, over her shoulder, as she looked at her watch like it was no big deal, “Not anymore you can’t. Flight closed at 5.”

It was 5:01. I was NOT a happy camper. “Is that the last flight tonight?”

She nodded.

“And, just for future reference? We aren’t supposed to actually re-ticket you here. We are just ground support for Air Canada, nothing more.”

I knew that if I did not leave the counter that moment, I would do or say something I might regret for a long time. I did not say a word, just grabbed my passport, e-ticket and suitcase and headed for the seating area. I dug out my Blackberry and called my travel agent again.

As I explained that they could no longer get me on a flight that night, that Air Canada didn’t actually do ticketing in my fair city, just “ground support,” I got angrier.

“I just need to get rebooked. Can you find me another flight? I don’t care if I have to fly west to go east again. Whatever you can do. I just need to be in Montreal by 9am tomorrow. I HAVE to be there.”

“Hold on a second,” he replied. “I see a flight through Las Vegas, but I would have to put you in First Class. Let me check with my supervisor.”

Several abominable minutes of hold muzak later, he came back on. “We can’t upgrade you. My supervisor said no. Let me see what else I can find… It looks like there are no more flights available tonight. The whole east is having trouble. Lots of airports are closed.”

Though he was the same person I had spoken with earlier, he evidently had not waited to hear from Air Canada and had now lost his place in the queue.

“It’s still a 45-minute hold for Air Canada,” he told me. “I can get you on a new flight but I can’t upgrade or do anything else until they release the ticket.”

Then the coup de grace… the best part of the whole day… the words that made my now-fragile wall of sanity finally crack completely…

He said, “Why don’t you give Air Canada a call and get that ticket released?”

THAT. WAS. IT.

I lost it. “YOU KNOW WHAT? I WILL ABSOLUTELY NOT GIVE AIR CANADA A CALL!!!”

I sucked in a long, wild breath and continued.

“I have spent the last five hours in this airport getting the runaround from every single person that works here! I am tired of not getting any help and we are paying you to take care of issues like this! No, I will NOT call Air Canada! You will! And YOU will spend the 45 minutes on hold with them, get my ticket released, book me on a new flight for the soonest you can get me to Montreal, and YOU will call me back when that is all taken care of! Because that? IS THE ENTIRE REASON WE PAY YOU TO BE OUR CORPORATE TRAVEL AGENT!!!”

All I heard on the other end of the line was silence. And then? “Yes, Ma’am. Let me jot down your number.”

He did. I called my husband to come pick me up from the airport, e-mailed all interested parties that I would be absent from the meeting but would get there as soon as I could, and resigned myself to arriving in Montreal a day late.

That very nice agent did, indeed, work for his supper and by the time he called me back, just an hour later, all had been resolved… new ticket in place, old ticket released… like magic.

The next morning I was due out on an 11:15 flight. True to form, I arrived by 9am, just a little over the 2-hours-prior mark. After the previous day’s craziness, I was ready for a fight, adrenaline already pumping. No caffeine required.

It turned out to be completely anti-climactic. I checked in, set my luggage on the scales, and had my boarding pass in 3 minutes flat. I was through security and at my gate by 9:15.

Next time I won’t mess around with trying to get anything done myself. I’ll call the travel agent at the first sign of trouble. He can work it out with those yahoos and I won’t have to deal with the stress.

Maybe I’ll just get lucky and I won’t have to travel for awhile… At least after this next trip, to the same location.

Did I mention it’s next week?

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. tulips4me permalink
    January 5, 2008 6:47 am

    Holy Cow!!! I am glad that you were able to sleep in your own bed. Did you have an adult beverage? ‘Cause I would have needed several!

  2. Lynda permalink
    January 5, 2008 11:42 am

    I’m glad it worked out for you in the long run. I pray that this next trip will not begin as stressful and frustrating but will be completely anti-climactic and easy for you.

  3. January 6, 2008 11:48 am

    Good lord. What is it about working in customer service and having an attitude? At least the travel agent guy finally figured out his role in this little play.

  4. January 7, 2008 7:47 am

    At least your grand hubby could show up at a moment’s notice to whisk you away to back home….The rest? Insanity.

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