Thursday, December 03, 2009

A Trip to the Airport

Dear reader, please do bear with me over the next few hundred words as I grapple with a lexicon ill-equipped for describing positive experiences.

Whilst booking my quarterly visit to the ladyfriend (if only this was an exaggeration), I hastily selected the flight on Expedia that offered a bargain-basement fare, and presented little hassle on the outward journey. Being the half-witted twit that I am, I didn’t realise the queasiness-inducing heinousness of the return journey until a few weeks before departure:

My flight was scheduled to leave Milwaukee at 6.20am, which meant arriving at the airport at 4.20am, which knackered not only a night’s sleep but also the prospect of enjoying my last evening of the trip without worrying about getting up in the morning.

When I called Continental Airlines to try and reschedule the flight, they told me it’d cost $250 – I decided that mine and the ladyfriend’s sleep wasn’t worth that much, and decided to suck it up. I then began retrofitting a silver lining onto the dark cloud by proclaiming that I would chip away at the 10 hour layover in Newark by venturing into New York for the day. What fun I was going to have!

As I had lost the debate to eschew guidelines and arrive a mere hour before takeoff, I awoke some time around 3.30am to the prods and gentle nagging from my stalwart ladyfriend, who was going to evict me from her home by any means necessary. We got to the airport at 4.30am, and upon checking in, the self-service kiosk popped up a message indicating that the flight was overbooked, and asked if I’d be interested in volunteer to reschedule and receive a travel voucher.

Go back to bed for two hours? Spend less time thumb-twiddling in New Jersey? Get $200 off my next flight (which has to be Continental anyway since nobody else flies out of Shannon to where I want to go anymore)? Spend a few more precious hours with my woman? You bet I’m interested!

Shortly thereafter, a flesh & blood Continental rep had me booked in for a 10 o’clock flight on the exit row (those damn kiosks never pick up on my needs as a tall man!), given me a $200 voucher, and checked my baggage through.

Bizarrely enough, what started as a situation that I nearly paid $250 to get out of turned into a situation that gave me what I wanted and put me $200 in credit. Granted, my sleep was still interrupted, but it’s a funny reflection on how these airlines operate. Even though the flight was “severely overbooked” (the rep’s words), they still attempted to extract $250 over the phone to reschedule me a week before the flight.

Later, (after an enjoyable nap) when my rescheduled flight was boarding, I noticed a woman at the departure gate being told that the flight was overbooked and she wouldn’t be able to board the plane. I stroked my chin for a moment, wondering how much more I could get for volunteering to stay longer still, and how much of the layover in Newark I could safely eat into. She didn’t seem too stressed at the thought of sticking around a few hours, so I decided to just get on the plane – the prospect of sitting in an airport lobby 20 minutes from my girlfriend’s house wasn’t exactly tantalizing.

Besides – I had to go to New York and find something to blog about on my trip! More on that later...

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