Tango Diva : Travel Stories for Women, by Women

January 17th, 2010
5 Stupid (and Expensive) Mistakes I Made on My European Trip

A few weeks ago, I decided to go to Europe to visit my friends. I had enough miles for a free ticket, and I planned on staying with my friends across Europe, so I figured that the trip was going to be cheap and easy. These two words, I have now learned, don’t go together when trying to trek across the European Union on a budget. You see, I only booked my roundtrip ticket from San Francisco to Paris. I planned to stay in Paris for a few days, then jet up to Dublin, or perhaps down to Berlin, then pop over to Stockholm. I have friends sprinkled throughout Europe and I thought it would be easy as pie to get tickets across the E.U., so I kept my schedule optimistically wide open. I’d heard of great deal on EasyJet and Ryanair and for some crazy reason, I thought that the airlines in Europe would be much more friendly and easy to work with than those in the US. Plus, I assumed (ass-you-me, remember) that it would a breeze to book airline tickets within Europe online.

That was mistake number 1, assuming reliable Internet access.

Don’t assume that you are going to get the Internet access you need to book tickets while traveling. You are better off booking ALL your travel before departing. I was hoping that I would be able to keep my itinerary a bit flexible, but since I did not have access to the Internet when I wanted to book tickets, I became a slave to technology. During one very frustrating morning of trying to buy airline tickets, I was about to push “purchase” and I lost Internet access four times. I gave up and went shopping.

Mistake number 2 was not reading the small print.

I booked a ticket from what I thought was Paris, France to Dublin, Ireland on Ryanair. I was so happy to see that I got a one-way ticket for a mere 39 Euros ($56 USD). Well, Ryanair does not fly out of Paris, it flies out of some random airport called Beauvais Airport (BVA), which is about 50 miles outside Paris. It was going to take me around 3 hours by public transportation to get to the airport.

Mistake number 3 was not checking the departure time in military time.

By the time I figured out that my flight was leaving from an airport far far away, it was the morning of my flight, which I thought was at 9 pm. Wrong. I looked at my email confirmation again and it said 09:00. My flight had already departed.

I was able to find another ticket on Aer Lingus for $300 USD. No savings there, but I had a date with a friend to see Carmen at the Dublin Opera the next night. She planned a beautiful night for us, and I did not want to let her down.

After I booked the Aer Lingus ticket, I thought that I should book the rest of my tickets while I had a pretty reliable Internet connection at the American ice cream shop Haagen-Dazs in Saint Germaine. When I searched for flights from Dublin to Stockholm eDreams.com continuously popped up. I decided to check them out. I booked a ticket from Dublin to Stockholm on eDreams with Scandinavian Airlines for 175 Euros ($254 USD). I got a confirmation email, and everything looked legitimate, so I decided to book another ticket from Stockholm back to Paris. I found a great flight for 93 Euros ($134 USD) on Baltic Air from Stockholm to Paris, so I booked it. Once again, I got my confirmation email.

Mistake number 4 was not contacting my credit card company.

I have an iPhone, which costs a fortune to check voice messages and emails, so I kept it off for most of my trip. I even changed my voice message asking callers to send me an email or call me when I returned. But what I forgot to do before I departed was to contact my credit card companies and let them know that I was going to be traveling overseas. In the past it was never a problem, but since international credit card fraud in on the rise, contacting your credit card companies is a must. Without me answering my phone, I had no idea that CITI card was trying to reach me to confirm my numerous airline ticket purchases. Since they never heard back from me, they canceled my ticket from Stockholm to Paris. I did not find out this bit of important information until I was at the Stockholm airport ready to fly back to Paris.

Mistake number 5 was not confirming my ticket with the airlines directly.

I should have called Baltic Air when I was still in Stockholm to confirm my ticket to Paris, I should have let my credit card company know that I was traveling, but I did not do either. My mistakes created the perfect storm that brewed at Arlanda airport in Stockholm. My mistake cost me an additional $500 USD for a lousy ticket from Stockholm to Paris on a really crappy airline. When I was at the ticketing counter, I pulled out my laptop and showed the customer service representative my email from eDreams confirming my flight. What is so horrible to me is that I never received an email from eDreams informing me that my credit card company canceled my ticket. If I did, I could have done something about it. I never received anything from eDreams, so at that time I had no idea what could have gone wrong. EDreams had turned into a nightmare.

I scurried to all the different airlines and tried to book a ticket back to Paris for less than $500, they all just stared at me. In my perfect world, I envisioned a beautiful Frenchman helping me on an Air France flight for a mere $150 USD, but that was not reality. I am a very optimistic person and I really thought that the airlines would do all they could to help a stranded passenger get on a plane – but nope, no, not going to happen. Perhaps that’s why the industry is in the toilet, they do nothing to promote good karma. I even asked the rep at Baltic Air if I could buy a ticket to Paris for the same amount as I did through eDreams. No luck. I would have to pay the full price. So, an hour later, I boarded an empty flight to Paris via Latvia $500 poorer and very pissed off.

Lesson learned

I can’t look back now, if I called my credit card companies, did my research, booked my tickets before I departed and confirmed my flights, I’d be a bit richer and I wouldn’t need to write this article. So, I take full responsibility for my mistakes, but I feel that there were things that could have been avoided if eDreams took a more proactive role in their booking of my airline tickets. I have sent emails to both eDreams and Baltic Air, without any positive outcome (for example: a refund for the ticket price difference). I got a canned email back from Baltic Air basically saying, “Too bad for you.” Because of my utter confusion about my airline tickets (why did I get one ticket without any problems, but the other was cancelled without any notice when I booked them both within 20 minutes of each other?)

I will never use eDreams again. Their lack of customer service coupled with their inability to return my emails or calls leads me to believe that service is not a big priority for them. Plus, you might buy a ticket from them, it might be cancelled and you won’t know about it until you are at the airport. With all the other issues surrounding air travel right now, the one thing I want to be sure of is that my ticket is good and I can get on that plane departing to my final destination. Heck, you can keep your peanuts, I just want a flight confirmation.

2 thoughts on “5 Stupid (and Expensive) Mistakes I Made on My European Trip

  1. All really great lessons learned and tips to share – makes a wonderful check list prior to departures. Thanks for sharing the tough stuff – because it is real and we all can learn from it. KUDOS!

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: