Scene: my apartment. It’s Saturday night, creeping past 9PM. I’m not really tired, but I have a 4:15 airport pickup scheduled, so I am making the last checklist check, and getting ready for bed, when…
beep beep beep
My blackberry tweets an incoming email. It’s Orbitz letting me know that Delta has canceled my morning flight.
Then my home phone rings. It’s an automated message from Delta. They’ve canceled my flight (uh huh) but they’ve rescheduled me… for the same time on Monday morning.
Um, no. My cruise ship leaves on Sunday EVENING. I have to be in Florida on Sunday, not Monday.
And so begins the drama.
For the next four hours, I was almost constantly on hold with “Jean” (almost certainly not her real name) at Orbitz. Jean would pop back and forth between me and a Delta rep named Ryan. (We were on the phone constantly except for the 2 times I got disconnected & she had to call me back.) There were no other available flights from my home airport to Ft. Lauderdale on Sunday. Would I fly from another airport (the nearest one is more than an hour farther from me). Yes, if that will get me there on time. Yes we think we have something… no sorry it’s full. Sorry sorry sorry, no flights. Find me something on another airline? Please hold, Delta has to get supervisor clearance to do that, wait wait wait, we think we have you on a direct flight from your home airport on the airline you usually travel… yes, yes, yes … wait, we got disconnected from Ryan, we’re trying to get another Delta rep… oh no that flight is full now too. Wait let us try, no that won’t work, how about this, what about that?
It’s after midnight and I still have no flight. I suggest they try Miami. Miami is a little more than an hour from Ft Lauderdale but if they can get me there early enough I can still make my cruise.
And all the while I am (of course) praying, and also trying really really hard not to think about the fact that if I had known that the boy was still going to be down in Miami at this point, I could have booked to be there days earlier, hung out with him, and not worried about any of this. Not helpful to think about, don’t think it, don’t think it, don’t think it.
Hold hold hold, wait wait wait: Ma’am? Great news, we found you a flight from (not your home airport) to Ft. Myers.
Wait, what? Fort Myers? Fort Myers is across the state from where I have to be. More than 3 hours drive, before you put in traffic delays. That will not work.
Click click click hold hold hold wait wait wait. Meanwhile I am searching sites to try to find alternate flights I can suggest to them. And as fast as I find a free seat, it’s full again.
Hold hold hold, wait wait wait.
Ma’am? Thank you for your patience on the line. We have a flight for you. I just got confirmation from Delta that they were able to get you on a 4/17 flight from (the horribly inconvenient airport) but it WILL get you there in time to make your cruise.
Fine, terrific, thank you… no, wait, hold up. I just got an email from Delta. They have me on a flight at that time from that airport, sure enough. But it’s for 4/18.
So, their solution to an inadequate 4/18 flight from my home airport is a 4/18 flight from the horribly inconvenient one. I am suspecting they do not understand my problems.
Jean, to her credit, has hung through this whole thing with me. Even she can’t believe this turn of events.
More waiting, more holding, and then: I am so sorry to tell you this but we can’t find you another flight. Everything is full. There’s nothing more we can do.
It’s 1AM, I have been riding an emotional rollercoaster for 4 hours, and I have no flight.
The very nice woman at Orbitz who’s been through this nightmare with me, then suggests that maybe the cruise line will postpone their sail date by a day for me.
(Ha ha ha. Whew, that’s a good one. Um, no, that’s not how it works. Um, I’m going to have to try to get hold of Princess though, to find out where I need to fly to instead of Ft Lauderdale, to meet the trip mid-cruise, because I’m clearly going to miss the sail date.)
All my paperwork from Princess shows their office hours starting at 6AM. All the online information shows 6AM. The recording says 6AM.
The travel company through which I found the cruise deal… opens at 8AM. And even if they were open, MY adviser is out on vacation until Tuesday.
Conclusion: I am screwed.
Next call: cancel my 4AM pickup for the airport.
And then I scramble through all my paperwork trying to locate the travel insurance info. Have the flight coverage right here, which is good. But I can’t find the one from the cruise itself. Oh. My. God, do I actually not have travel insurance if I have to cancel the cruise outright?!?
Nope. No cruise coverage. That NEVER happens. I ALWAYS take the coverage for a cruise, just in case of this kind of crap.
Well, it seems I’m all kinds of screwed.
But, the Princess travel protection information does have a phone number.
I try it.
I explain the issue.
I also explain that I am not finding any record that I have travel insurance with them. Because, you know, I’m not trying to scam anyone, I just want to find out what to do next.
They help me, with the most fantastically warm attitude about my apparent lack of coverage, and connect me with their Travel Assistance team.
And within a half hour (and $450 later, which I will have to take up with Orbitz/Delta/my flight insurance) I have a flight. A direct flight, from my home airport, to Ft. Lauderdale, leaving only 45 minutes before my original flight was scheduled for, and arriving hours before they’ll even let me on the ship.
Hours! Luxurious, boring hours! Direct flight! Thank you PRINCESS! (Thank you JetBlue, too!)
And thank you thank you thank you, Lord. This is nothing short of a miracle to me.
And then I scrambled to call BACK my car service and got my pickup reinstated. So I made the cruise. I enjoyed the cruise, from one end to the other. I tried Very Very hard not to worry that Delta would cancel my return flight on the assumption that I’d never gone at all.
I made it home again, smooth sailing all the way.
And was greeted with an email from Delta, wanting me to answer a survey about my satisfaction with my flight experience on 4/17.
Um, what flight? You canceled my flight!
Oh, right. The survey, it turns out, is all about how satisfied I am with the way they handled resolving my issue.
No, you didn’t, in fact, resolve my problem at all.
No, you did not offer me any kind of flight voucher or hotel stay. In fact, all you offered me were schedule options that went from bad to worse.
And ALL THAT is why I can’t say enough nice things about Princess Cruise Lines right now. The only nice things I can say about Delta at present are that: (1) they didn’t cancel my return flight on me and (2) the flight crew on my return flights were really wonderful.
They could still pull it together, though… If I have something nice to say after I take up the issue of getting reimbursed for the portion of the flight I didn’t use and had to pay for elsewhere, I’ll let you know.