Last week Crewed Talk focused on a recent flight I took from Spain to London. I was a “real” passenger, and this gist is that we missed our flight by 12 hours because…(are you ready for this?!)…I misread the flight information. It left at 1:30am. Not pm. Doh! Not my proudest moment.
(Scroll to bottom for update.)
While admitting that, the actual flight profile was (in my personal experience) unheard of. A short-haul, 3am, international arrival operated by a traditional carrier? Doesn’t happen, I would’ve said. And I thought I had enough experience to know. (16 years? Anyone?) At that hour of arrival, the transport limitations alone means a plane ticket-sized taxi bill.
But of course it did happen! And, although many travel industry people have shared my surprise, my readers did not at all. Fair enough. But there is a bit more to our story.
For what it’s worth (anything?), the missed departure was kind of just the headlining event. After the info desk correctly predicted why we were asking for BA because (he said) he sees it so often, we were told that Iberia was BA’s representation.
Trying to Answer, “What Are Our Options?”
Except! Turns out, the Iberia ladies couldn’t actually tell us anything but we’d have to buy new tickets. And they seemed to be guessing more or less. Their powerlessness gave our problem a new dimension.
Before we could make any decisions, we needed some info. (Was there any salvageable value on our existing tickets? What other flight options were available? Etc.) They were very nice and sympathetic, but could only point-and-shrug to a single podium with two public computers (well occupied) where we could search new tickets. Or, we could go around to each airline individually and ask what they had to offer. (Seriously?) Even if we did that, we understandably wanted to confirm that our old tickets were trash before we plonked down on totally new ones. But that was proving ridiculously hard.
With no help to be found at the airport, we figured the day was shot for travel. We re-rented a car and drove back to where we had stayed. Once I looked up some phone numbers and sorted credit to call, I had two different BA lines say they were having “system” problems over a period of about 15-20 minutes of fruitless dialing. When I finally got a hold of them, the first guy only lectured me on the 24 hour clock. Super helpful!
On the advice of an airline management friend, I asked to speak to a supervisor. The super was “busy” and though I waited patiently through three returns of “Um, he’s still ‘busy’…” I finally agreed to his “promise” to call me back “almost certainly within 10 minutes”. An hour and a half later…that had gone exactly as you’d expect.
Meanwhile, I went to an internet cafe and researched flights. (I also tweeted and Facebooked BA…no answer.) The best deal going was RyanAir for £225 each – whom I’d paid more not to fly with in the first place! Curses! – and that went up with each passing minute and every time I switched the language to English. It just got worse and worse over a period of an hour until I was nearing meltdown levels of frustration.
Back at the house, I passed the computer search off to Mr. T while I called BA again. This time I got a man who was empathetic and was happy to give me his supervisor. After a short conversation I did manage to get a flight change and the fee waived. It was still pricey but that was expected. I appreciated the gesture, and that’s how we got home.
I am grateful to those second call handlers. Very. But it can’t undo how hard it was to obtain answers about our tickets or and what our options might be. The distance between this flight and the mere inquiry of passengers salvaging any value from their tickets…well, somewhere along the way I seem to have become cynical.
Even if I had not misread this infamously missed flight, I would be shocked at the flight profile. (Less emotionally so, but nonetheless.) Furthermore, even if the answer to our ticket questions were negative, if BA had at least had proper representation at the airport we would have had 20 minutes of tough decisions instead of 4 hours of nuclear frustration. Heck, even if the first phone conversation had been met with a bit of empathy – instead of rudeness and flat-out avoidance – I might feel a lot different about all this today.
These added details may have no bearing on your opinion of the situation, but hopefully they satisfy some questions I’ve received. Thanks for reading.
Update: It’s worth noting that when I returned to Spain three weeks later, the 1am flight couldn’t be found when searching for flights, but an afternoon flight of the same timing did appear. Perhaps they just operate on different days? I don’t know. Whatever the reason – and this may be nothing, but – airline people in my circle found that to be “conveniently” extra-confusing.