Friday, July 04, 2014

Plane, Trains, Buses and Fireworks

Part 1

It’s been a few months since I’ve travelled for work. I get that like anything else, you can be rusty at doing something you haven’t done for a while. Work travel is one of those things that might seem easy, but involves a lot of things that could easily go wrong. For me this week, it all went wrong.

It all started when I got to the airport at 7am, which meant getting up around 5am. I know a lot of people wake up at 5pm on a regular basis, but I am not one of those people and I believe that’s an unholy hour that we all need to avoid. Travelling to LaGuardia airport here in New York is not the easiest thing to do at the best of times, but for whatever reason, and it had better be a good reason other than it’s Monday, there was some serious traffic on the roads. I looked later to see if the Queen or the President was in town to cause such a traffic mess, but no, just Monday getting a head start on ruining your week. Combine that with a very aggressive cab driver that’s probably been up for 36 hours and hopped up on caffeine, this did not make for a fun ride.

I finally got there and I go straight to check in machines to get my ticket. The machine kept saying that it doesn’t have a reservation for me. Stupid machine. I have my confirmation right here, why can’t it find my reservation?! I was beginning to doubt my argument that it would be better to leave it to machines to run our political life rather than to entrust humans. That’s another whole different post though.

So I head over to an actual person to see if they can figure out what the machine can’t. After looking through their system by my name, flight number, confirmation and even booking agent, the airline lady told me calmly that the booking agent has cancelled my ticket. Awesome.

I’ll spare you all the yelling that went on for the next few hours. Being that it was still 7am, no normal people were up so there was no one to call. I tried to call the travel agent’s after hour line, and I get the lady that’s probably just finishing up her night shift. I asked what happened and she said I’ll have to wait till the day team comes in. I asked what they can do for me, and she said it’s not her fault that the ticket was cancelled (I did not in any way accuse or suggested it was her fault, only that we try to find a solution).

All flights were booked and the only tickets left are $1400 (my original ticket was only $300). As much as I’d love to explain this to my boss, I don’t think that would’ve gone over well. I was trying to think of all kinds of way to get to Madison, Wisconsin. I suggested a train. That did not work out as we’re not in the 1900s anymore. I suggested a mix of flying to Chicago and renting a car to drive there. Amazingly, the cost was equal to the expensive ticket plus I’d have to drive. By now I’d be pretty happy to just jump out of the airplane or maybe get shot out of a big cannon. The lady just said, I’ll put the $1400 ticket on hold and call back after 9am and the day team will handle it. Oh, and you need to call back if you’d like to cancel it. That’s some good customer service if I've ever seen it.

Once normal work hours started, quite a few people were trying to help me from the office. It went all the way up to the head of procurement who personally called the head of the travel agency to get this sorted out. They admitted that there was a bug in their system that randomly cancelled my flight and I got on another flight later that day which they will cover the difference in cost. Before this was all sorted out, I actually went home because I didn’t think anything was going to happen in terms of me getting on a flight. Of course, as soon as I walked into my apt., it was resolved and so straight back out to the airport I go. BTW, traffic has only gotten worst since 7am so the rides back and forth were really fun for everyone. I eventually got to Madison where my colleague picked me up and it was instantly relaxing. All the open fields and much slower pace of life was such a change coming from New York. I was pretty sure the worst parts of the trip was over, boy was I wrong.

To be continued..

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