Tango Diva : Travel Stories for Women, by Women

August 6th, 2007
A Few Lessons From a Stranded Passenger

My day was sailing along smoothly. The segment I filmed at FOX went splendidly and I had a lovely meeting with the fabulous femmes at American Airlines. My flight out of Dallas Love Field was scheduled to depart to Albuquerque at 6:15 pm. I would then catch a flight to Oakland 30 minutes after I landed in New Mexico. It all seemed so easy… but then came the thunder.

Because I used an award ticket on Southwest, I was told that I was unable to change my ticket to a non-stop flight to Oakland that was leaving at 5:30 pm. I could buy a full-price ticket. My thought was, “So what’s the use of a free ticket if I have to pay for it?” The woman who checked me in was not very friendly, and when I shared my concern about my delayed departure to Albuquerque, she said, “You will be fine.”
    “Yeah, but there are available seats on the non-stop flight to Oakland, why can’t I get on that flight?”
    “You can, just buy a full-price ticket.”

I got through security, and I looked at my flight, it was now an hour late. I then went back out to the ticket counter to try to get on another non-stop flight to Oakland. A lovely gentleman helped me out, and said, “Honey, if you were here a few minutes ago, I could have gotten you on that flight to Oakland, but now your luggage is gone and I can’t change your flight.”

My thoughts included: “What the hell are the rules when it comes to empty seats? Why couldn’t I get on that flight to Oakland if there were seats? Is there a place that I can get a copy of the rules?”

With no hope of changing flights, I retreated to the bar and hung out with a few other stranded passengers. The first hour went by nicely, the second hour was filled with laughs and new friendships as the gin and tonics took effect, but by the third hour, I was not looking forward to my flight to Albuquerque. I was getting a bit fidgety. No one was available to answer questions about the connecting flight to Oakland. We were all told different things, “Yes, you will make the flight.” “No, you need to get a hotel room at Comfort Inn, they have $50 a night distressed passenger rates.”

By the time we arrived in Albuquerque, our Oakland connection was descending into the San Francisco airspace – long gone. We all shuffled out of the airplane and collected our luggage. There was 15 of us stranded in Albuquerque and Southwest did not have a solution to our hotel dilemma. Unfortunately Comfort Inn had no idea about us 15 stranded passengers, and even though they had 4 rooms available, they were not going to give them to us at the promised rate of $50 for the night. None of us knew what to do because the airport was closed for the night, so we just waited until hotel shuttles came by and we would ask if they had any available rooms for  us “distressed passengers.” While we were looking for rooms, one of the passengers went back to Southwest and got us an “official” form letting the hotels know that we were “shit out of luck.” No hotel tried to accommodate us, then the Wyndham shuttle bus came by. They had rooms for us – they were all smoking (people still smoke in hotel rooms!??!!). Adrien, our lovely shuttle driver was kind and very helpful. He loaded us all in his van and off to the Wyndham Hotel we went. Thank Goodness.

It was about two hours from the time we landed in Albuquerque to the time we all found hotels rooms, it was past midnight and I was exhausted.

I shared a hotel room with a lovely lady and we made the best out of the evening by enjoying dinner at Wyndham. The smoking was harsh on my lungs and I felt like hell in the morning.

I got to Oakland by 10 am the next day, only to be told that the highway to my home was shut down. I then had to drive 30 miles out of my way to get home. What a trip. So, here are the lessons I learned and I hope you find them helpful.

1.    There is a different between a DIRECT FLIGHT and a NON-STOP FLIGHT. Do all that you can do avoid stopovers. The more stopovers you have, the more chances you have to miss your flight. Even if it costs a bit more – GO NON-STOP!

2.    If your flight is delayed, find out WHY. If it is for mechanical reasons, then the airlines have to pay for your meals and hotel. If it is weather or other acts of God, then you are responsible. ASK, many times they will not disclose this information.

3.    CHECK to make sure that NONE of your connections are delayed, if any of them are delayed, be proactive and make sure that you will make your flight. If not, talk to the ticket agent and be assertive (not an ass) and see if there are any other options for you to get to your final destination. You do the research; do not expect them to help you out, because they won’t.

4.    BE NICE, travel is a pain when there are delays and problems. So, don’t be the pain that makes a stink at the counter. Be kind, be assertive, and know what your options are.

5.    Don’t give up. Even if you have a really bad travel experience, don’t let your sour apple stop you from flying. The past does not equal the future.

So get out there a fly girl, fly!

(written during a 4-hour delay at Dallas, on my way to Cancun)

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