Home > Family, Travel > Bonus Day with Joel

Bonus Day with Joel

December 1, 2008 Leave a comment Go to comments

That’s the good news — an extra day with Joel. The bad news is that his flight to Boston last night, due out at 11:25 PM, was cancelled after midnight. Maybe the details are not worth recording, but what’s a blog for if I can’t complain? Here goes:

I’m a compulsive on-line flight status checker. I went to the JetBlue site early yesterday afternoon to print Joel’s boarding pass and check the status for last night’s flight. JetBlue has an evening flight from Boston to Seattle and then an overnight flight back. So I didn’t just check his flight back; I also checked the flight in, since I imagined it would be the same airplane he’d be on flying back. And the flight in was listed as boarding in Boston, two hours after its planned departure. That’s when I figured things weren’t looking good. Plus, there was a red alert message at the top of the JetBlue webpage saying that with weather problems around the country some flights were eligible for re-booking without a fee.

Joel’s flight was listed as on time, and when I checked about re-booking it, I saw that it wasn’t eligible, not that I wanted to re-book prematurely. There’s nothing we could do but wait, and keep checking the status on line.

Over the next few hours, nothing changed. The flight in from Boston got off the ground and was listed as due into Seattle around 11:30. If it was the plane Joel would go out on, he would be late out, but maybe not crazily late.

By 10:00 last night, there was still no change. Joel was due out on time at 11:25, the late arrival of the flight in from Boston notwithstanding. We headed to the airport. There was another issue though: fog. And it sure was foggy. All I could figure was, the reason JetBlue wasn’t listing Joel’s flight out as delayed was that they had another plane on the ground here, and if they did, it should be able to take off in the fog. Landing is the problem, not taking off. That’s my understanding anyway.

At 10:30, we pulled up to the terminal and I took one last look at the flight status using the browser on my iPhone. (Did I say we bought iPhones on Friday?) Still on time. We said goodbye to Joel and drove home.

I called him from home a little after 11:00 and he said everything looked fine. A plane was at the gate. People were at the gate. The board indicated everything was on time. So Gail and I settled in to watch The Unit, which was on at 10:00 last night but which we had recorded. Around 11:25, I checked the status of the flight one more time on my iPhone. CANCELLED!! I immediately called Joel. No, not cancelled. Everything still looked fine. I ran to my computer to check again. Still cancelled. That seemed like pretty compelling evidence that the flight was cancelled. But if it was, that was apparently news to everyone at the gate. I decided to keep watching The Unit and hope for the best.

The Unit, as you may know, has a high level of tension built into the plots, with Army Special Forces types on missions each week, and boy was I tense. I had to keep reminding myself that it was just a tv show, then I’d relax, then I’d remember that that wasn’t the problem. I wasn’t tense because of the show. I was tense because of real life. And then around 11:40 Joel texted me. Cancelled. It really was. I called him and he said a mad rush had just begun to get to the counter at the gate, a counter with just one person handling everything. I did my own rush, to the computer.

The JetBlue site no longer had a message about re-booking flights without fee. In fact, it wouldn’t even show Joel’s flight record. It was out of the system. I had to start from scratch. I figured, well, if I book him anew, then in due course we can resolve getting reimbursed for a new charge. Gail got on the phone and had a recording indicating a half hour wait time, so while she waited, I tried to book him on tonight’s flight. It showed 3 seats left. I filled out the screens, then clicked to get to the charging info, and suddenly I got a message that the servers were overloaded, I would have to try later. I tried again, same message. I realized the gate agent would fill those seats before I could get one. I tried other airlines, just to see what was available, knowing this was risky if I wanted reimbursement. Alaska’s non-stops for today were not listed, presumably being booked. They had some bizarre options, like flying down to LA and waiting 6 hours or flying to Portland late this afternoon and sitting there 13 hours. Gail was still on hold, using our landline. I called American Express on the iPhone, thinking maybe their travel agents could do something. I was frantic when I had to listen through option after option, but finally got someone. She said the first flight she could give me was American this afternoon, but first class only, for $1475. We both agreed that JetBlue might not see fit to reimburse that. I said what did she show for JetBlue. No seats on tonight’s non-stop to Boston, but seats on tonight’s non-stop to JFK, followed by a flight early tomorrow morning to Boston. She couldn’t guarantee reimbursement (of course), but could try to get a JetBlue agent on the line. She put me on hold. Meanwhile, I went online and saw the Seattle-JFK-Boston option at the JetBlue website. I figured I would just book it. I filled out all the screens, hit the final button, then was told that the price I paid was no longer available, someone grabbed it before me, start over. Not that I cared about price. I figured JetBlue would reverse the charge. So I did it again, was offered a price about $70 higher, took it, the reservation went through, and at least Joel had a seat. It was clear that I was still racing the gate agent, and if I waited any longer, there would be no options that would get Joel out of here today.

Meanwhile, the American Express agent was on hold with JetBlue, and asked me if I wanted to wait for them 16 minutes. I said okay and we said goodbye. Gail had hung up with JetBlue along the way, so I was just picking up where she left off, but this time with a seat booked tonight and with reimbursement as the only issue, not getting a seat.

Oh, and another problem was that we had paid $35 extra on the cancelled flight for the extra legroom option, but I couldn’t get that for tonight’s flight. It wouldn’t show me seats, said they would be assigned automatically.

In due course, the JetBlue agent came on. I explained the situation, and she said something about talking to a supervisor to reimburse me for the cancelled flight, which isn’t what I wanted, since the cancelled flight was cheaper than the new one. But one thing at a time. After about 15 minutes, she came back to me, and I knew already what they had done, because I tried to log onto Joel’s flight with the new reservation code and the JetBlue computer replaced it with the code for the cancelled flight. Clearly while I was on hold, they had dumped the new reservation and revised the old record, which was great. The agent confirmed that. My new charge was reversed and we had the new reservation under the old record for the original price. I then explained that that old price included extra legroom, and she was even able to help me with that. She couldn’t get a window or aisle, but could give me 2B. And Joel had been assigned 16B, so he wasn’t destined to get window or aisle anyway. I took it. Things had worked out

Except that Joel was still at SeaTac, and he reported that there was still a huge line at the gate counter. I told him to get a taxi. Actually, some of this took place while I was still on the phone with JetBlue, but I had the booking for tonight, so there was no reason to stay there. And at around 1:00 this morning, the taxi pulled up. I had gotten dressed again in preparation, and I went out to the street to pay the driver. Great guy. He told me how sorry he was for what happened. I paid him. I insisted I take a receipt because maybe the airline would reimburse me. And then Joel and I headed up the walkway to our front door, only to see Emma (the cat) take off along the side of the house, behind the shrubs. She hadn’t been out this late at night in years, and wasn’t going to miss the opportunity.

We finished watching The Unit and finally induced Emma to come in. Time for bed. 1:35 AM. Except there’s no way I could just fall asleep. I was wide awake, adrenaline flowing.

Oh, I left out some crucial details. Like how my mouse batteries died as I was booking Joel’s flight. I took Gail’s wired mouse, leaving her mouseless. I handed her mine and told her to get batteries. I was on the phone at this point, couldn’t talk. It was just like The Unit. A precision operation, Gail giving me her mouse while she re-loaded mine, then switching again. We were our own Special Forces team. It was great. And tonight we may get to do it again.

Categories: Family, Travel
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