Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Adventure Begins

Emphasis, it turns out, on the word Adventure.

I'm to go Ketchikan today.  The cruise leaves tomorrow.  I have a 10:30 a.m. flight out of LAX to Seattle, where I catch a connection to Ketchikan around 3.

I plan to wake up at 7:00, leave for the airport at 8:00, get to the airport at 9:00.

I oversleep.  I hit the snooze once at 7:00, and the next thing I know, it's 7:49.  Not good.  I shift myself into top speed -- fast shower, fast brush teeth, fast get dressed,  fast feed cat, fast grab luggage.  By the time my car is loaded up, it's 8:30.

I fly down the freeway, until I hit traffic.  I curse mightily.  Rush hour.  I am not going to make it.

I finally reach the point where I can get off the freeway and get around the worst of the traffic on surface roads.  I do this.  Except there's some bizarre street fair thing slowing traffic on the road I've chosen.  I curse more.  I get back to the freeway and traffic is flowing freely.

Yay!  I'm going to make it!

I just have to switch to this other freeway where there's never traffi-

Damn.  Traffic on the other freeway.  I'm not going to make it.

I curse more.  Traffic loosens up and I get off the freeway at about 9:20.  I still have to park and take the shuttle to the airport.  The shuttle waits for another couple.  It's now 9:30.  Conveniently, the other couple is going to the same airline I am, so the shuttle can make a single stop.

We get to the Alaska Airlines terminal at abou 9:45. 

I am flying First Class -- I'm using all sortsa miles to do this.

The line for First Class check-in is not long, but there's only one dude working it and it doesn't look to be moving.  There are those self check-in kiosks.  I get out of the First Class line to try a kiosk.  It is now 9:47.

The kiosk has a sign on it saying that check-in for domestic flights closes 40 minutes before departure.  My flight to Seattle leaves at 10:30.  I have three minutes.  I frantically type my name and flight number into the machine as the clock turns to 9:48. 

It does not recognize me.  Says I need to speak to an agent. 

I try it again with my confirmation number.  It's 9:49.  I'm freaking out.  Clicks to 9:50.  Again says I need to speak to an agent.

That's it.  I'm screwed.  My bag won't get on this flight and I won't either.  Expletive.  Expletive.  Expletive.  I look for the "Customer Service" line.  It's about a hundred passengers long.  I return to the First Class line.  The passengers who were at the front of the line when I first arrived are still there -- but now the line has gotten longer so I'm behind about six more people.  Lovely.

I am so screwed.

An agent comes by looking for people on the flight to Cabo, trying to check them in before the cut-off.  I say "what about the 10:30 to Seattle?"  She looks at my itinerary print-out and says....

Wait for it....

"That flight's been cancelled.  You'll have to talk to an agent and see what flight you've been rebooked on."

Ooookay.  I get back in the line.  Time passes.  Lots more time passes.  The line still does not move.

Another agent comes by the line.  I tell her my story and she tries to log me in via the kiosk again.  This time, when the kiosk says, "Do you know your flight number?" she types "no" -- hoping that the machine will now TELL US my new flight number.  The machine still does not recognize me.  But it does point out the existence of an 11:30 flight to Seattle.  I can make that and still make the connection to Ketchikan.  No problem.  I breathe again.

The line moves.  It moves more.  Then it stops.  I am the next person in line, and there's a group of six people at the desk.  The desk agent has run away.  Everyone waits.

I stare at my watch.  By now, I'm about 10 minutes away from missing the check-in cut-off for the 11:30 flght..

It seems like hours pass, but the agent finally returns with the boarding cards for the group of 6 in front of me.  I'm next.  I tell the agent that my flight was cancelled and I need to get on the next flight to Seattle.  Agent takes my passport, types me in and says, "You were going to miss your flight anyway."

I tell him that, no, I've been standing in this line since 9:45 and the machine wouldn't recognize me.  And then he says....

Wait for it....

"You were rerouted on the 10:20 out of Long Beach."

That would be a different airport.  Nobody informed me of this rerouting.  Let me be perfectly clear on this.  No phone call, no email, no nothing.  A few months back, when my departure time had changed from 11:00 to 10:30, I got two phone calls and an email.  But when my airport changed -- nada.

I say, surprisingly calmly.  "OK.  How can I get to Ketchikan from here today."

He types something.  He types something again.  He walks away with my passport.

Eons pass.  Civilizations are born and die out.  The agent at the next desk pretty much takes everyone else in line while I'm still waiting there with no agent.  If he hadn't just done this same disappearing thing with the previous customers, I would've thought he ran off to sell my passport on the black market.

He returns and says...

Wait for it....

"I can't get you to Ketchikan until Saturday."

This I was not expecting.  He said he's asked all of his supervisors and managers and there's no way to do it.  He can get me to Seattle, but all the Seattle to Ketchikan flights are way overbooked.  "But what about the one I'm already on?" I asked.  That's fine, but he can't get me to Seattle in time to meet it.  The 11:30 is way oversold and his supervisors won't let him put me on it.  I ask about other airlines.  He claims he's checked there too.  Apparently, the cancellation of the 10:30 flight made the 11:30 a pretty hot property.

I mentally switch gears into the "I am not leaving this spot until you get me booked to Ketchikan today" mentality.  I politely point out that I'm on a cruise that leaves Ketchikan tomorrow and I have to be on it.  Agent goes back to the clicking away at the keyboard.

He can get me to Ketchikan via Anchorage -- that'll get me in at 12:20 tomorrow afternoon.  I am not happy with that but I'm about to book it when I point out -- just in case he missed it -- that, y'know, just because this ticket is First Class doesn't mean I won't fly coach.  Just get me to Ketchikan sooner.

He clicks more. 

A lot more.

Much time passes.

Then:  "I can get you to Ketchikan at 8:00 in the morning, through Juneau."  But, he goes on to say, it'll cost me a lot of money.  I have to pay the $50 change fee plus the full fare price for a First Class ticket from Seattle to Juneau.

That's gotta be, like, thousands of dollars.  I say, "That's gotta be, like, thousands of dollars." 

He says it's not that bad.  I say why can't I just fly coach.  He says coach is sold out.  He says I can just pay the full-fare upgrade fee because I've already got a ticket.  I ask why can't I just use my current First Class ticket?:  He says, "Oh.  Your current ticket is First Class?"  Yes.  Yes it is.  (You didn't notice that?)  He decides I can just use that.  More typing.  He says I'll have to pay the change fee and pay for a hotel in Juneau.  "Do it," I says.

He types more.  Glaciers melt.  Continents move.  Finally, I am handed a coach ticket from LAX to Seattle at 4:00; a first class Seattle to Juneau at 8:00, and a coach Juneau to Ketchikan at 7:00 tomorrow morning.  He exercises his almighty desk agent powers and waives the change fee.

I leave a cell phone message for my folks -- who had been expecting to meet me in Seattle for the connection to Ketchkian.  I call the cruise company and inform them of my change in plans.  I am assured that they'll pick me up at Ketchikan airport at 8:00.  I am also assured I'll totally make the cruise.  As for whether I'll make my pre-cruise Zip Line Adventure in Ketchikan, cruise guy says "It'll be close.  Really close.  I can't say for sure."

So, that's about it.  I cleared security, found me a vaguely quiet wireless hotspot, and Travelocity'd my way into a reservation at an airport hotel in Juneau.

The adventure began and I haven't even left LAX yet.


grodygeek said...

Gosh, NZ, you needed this like a hole in the head.

Yikes. I think I would have been ripping heads off of agents by then. I'm proud of you for keeping your cool. I so hope you make it. I hope its a blast. I can't wait to read more.

Don't forget to smile. Its vacation!

Amazing how a world traveler can have things happen even.


hewasolddog299 said...

Sounds like the same sort of stuff I go through when I try to travel. Best wishes for a successful embarkation at Ketchikan aboard your cruise tomorrow. May the weather gods smile upon you and only allow it to rain every other day. May they have really effective mosquito repellent that doesn't cause a skin rash or melt clothing on board.

Above all, hope you have a fun trip. I am SO envious.

lanurseprn said...

My GOD...and this is supposed to be a VACATION??