Scene: August. My lovely partner is a planner. If ever she tired of her career in advocacy research she could get a gig planning vacations for people. It’s the middle of August and she’s researching hotels, things to do, restaurants and notably booking flights for our March trip to Georgia. Every hour is accounted for.
Scene: Ottawa. 8pm yesterday. I am in front of the computer trying to do web check in for the three of us. We booked via Air Canada but it’s United that operates the plane. No dice.
I call Air Canada. Hold times of over two hours. Mercifully they have a call back feature. I avail myself of it and try the United site.
Our Air Canada booking reference doesn’t work. However the itinerary does include a ticket number. That works.
Only the time is wrong. We have been psyching ourselves up for a 5am departure for days. And Irene never makes mistakes on this stuff.
Nonetheless United tells us that our flight is at 9:48am. “Uhm… Irene?”
Happily where Air Canada was offering to call me back between 11pm and midnight, the wait for United was 15 minutes.
And the agent was very kind. But she did tell me that our flight had been cancelled and there was no way we were getting our afternoon in Savannah.
“Maybe you might have notified us,” I offered (I thought helpfully). She apologized and offered to transfer me to some other office, or I could take it up with the gate agent.
I chose the latter and changed the time on the alarm.
Scene: 7:30am YOW.
“Yeah this is a total mess. Your tickets have been changed 18 times,” the gate agent said, his fingers flying across an unseen keyboard.
He explained a lot of flights through Chicago and Washington had been rerouted due to inclement weather and it was having a ripple effect.
So why no notice? “We probably notified Air Canada and the email (Air quotes) got lost.”
Does this happen a lot? “One in three flights gets bumped or rescheduled,” he reckoned.
Would it be any less wacky if we had booked directly with United? “No, just more expensive. It’s worse if you are flying on points.”
Mercifully Irene asked to check on our return flights.
“So,” he began cheerily, “Leaving Savannah at 6am and arriving in Ottawa at 11:43pm?”
I thought Irene was remarkably restrained but people were beginning to stare.
The gate agent was kind, cooperative and courteous. And candid.
“I have no idea why they saddled you with this,” he said. “I’m seeing all kinds of empty seats on earlier flights.”
Again the fingers flew across the keyboard, eyes focused on the unseen screen. He got us back more or less to our original schedule: noon departure, 6pm arrival.
He reached for a sheet atop a stack of hastily photocopied papers explaining how to get refunds discounts and vouchers.
We’ll be making that call oh yes.