Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Flight to Albany

My friend Becky had a wonderful travel experience. Since it was fun to read, thought I'd post it here.

Subject: My Friday adventure to Albany thanks to Northwest Airlines

There’s something about Albany and weekend trips for me. I had a travel adventure on a biz trip from Albany to Columbus, Ohio when I lived in Lake Placid, but that was weather related.

This is the story of two Northwest Airlines female employees who turned my travel day from what was suppose to be a 1 connection approximate 9 ½ hour total trip time from my door to my hotel room in Albany----which would have allowed me to be in hotel room at about 3 p.m. central time, with time to relax, check work e-mail and have a good dinner with our presenter at this conference, and then have a nice evening with my friend Lorraine who was coming down from Lake Placid to visit me around 9 p.m.-----into the adventure described below.

Dear Diary,
Beginning Friday, March 28, 6 a.m. CT

Yeh, I’m so excited. It’s early, but I am actually packed and have some time before I get ready and leave for my 8:22 flight on Northwest to Detroit and then on another Northwest flight to Albany. I’m looking forward to this trip and meeting our presenter Dr. Toya Wyatt in person and checking out this conference. I am especially excited about going back to Albany because my friend Lorraine is going to come down from Lake Placid for the weekend and I haven’t seen her for nearly four years. Last night I went on Northwest’s website to check in. I changed my seats online, but I don’t have a printer at home so I couldn’t print out my boarding passes so I just closed out the website.

It is 7a.m.ish and I’m headed to the airport 15 minutes from my apartment. Darn construction I think as I get turned around with the barriers by the airport and have to exit the airport and turn back around. No problem it’s only 7:20 something. Well I park and get to the terminal and go to the self service kiosk to print out my boarding passes. Kiosk tells me I must see an agent. So I get in line behind the two people who were ahead of me----no worries. I approach incompetent NWA female #1. I hand her my itinerary and state the kiosk said I needed to see an agent. Incompetent female employee #2, who later claims she is the supervisor, is doing something else. These are the only two NWA employees around and no one is behind me in line to see either incompetent. It is after all the San Antonio airport hardly if ever a hotbed of activities or lines.

7:40ish (Not quite verbatim, but pretty darn close)

#1 “My records show you already checked in last night on the web so you can just check your bag.”

Me “I need my boarding passes though.”

#1 “You checked in already and changed your seats.”

Me “Yes, I did change my seats but I don’t have a printer at home so I couldn’t print my boarding passes so I just closed out of the web site after changing my seats.”

#1 “I am showing you seated in 8A from San Antonio to Detroit.”

Me “Yes, I believe that is correct. I think that is what I changed my seat to.”

#1 “Well, will just check your bag and then you can go.”

Me “I still need my boarding passes.”

#1 “It says you already checked in.”

Me (Still not quite angry) “Ma’am, like I said I checked in at home, but I couldn’t print my boarding passes because I don’t have a printer at home.”

#1 leaves and gets #2. I go through the same thing with #2 while #1 stands next to her.

But when #2 says “It shows you are seated in 8A and checked in online.” (I got a bit sarcastic)

Me “I would like to be seated in seat 8A, but I am not currently seated in Seat 8A, I am standing in front of you asking for boarding passes so I can be seated in seat 8A.”

#2 “But you already checked in.”

Me “But I need my boarding passes. Can’t you just print them?”

#2 “I can’t.”

Me “Why?”

#2 “It’s 7:54 now.”

Me “And?”

#2 “Well it closes 30 minutes before flight time and now it’s only 28 minutes til flight time.”

At this point I start looking for Candid Camera.

Me “But I have been here.”

#2 “You have a bag to check and it has to be checked 30 minutes prior.”

Me “As you can see it’s not that big it’s just a duffel. Can I carry it on?”

#2 “Does it have liquids in it”

Me “Yes, but I will take them out and just buy new stuff in Albany if you will please give me boarding passes and let me on the plane.”

#2 “It’s too late now anyway.”

Me “I need to speak to the supervisor.”

#2 “I am the supervisor, if you’re not content you can call Northwest’s 800 Customer Service number.”

Me “I need to get to Albany today, can you just put me on the next flight.”

#2 “We have nothing available.”

Me “You didn’t even check. You just know that?”

#2 types on her computer for maybe 30 seconds and then says---“Nothing today or tomorrow.” Then she looks at my itinerary and says well your ticket was booked through our partner Continental so you need to go see them.

I’m just dumbfounded and ticked at this point, but know that #1 and #2 obviously aren’t going to help me with squat. And now it is 8:05 and still no one had been in line to see #1 or #2 behind me.

So I gather my “check” bag and my two carry-on bags and walk over to Continental in Terminal 2. There’s no line there---at least when I got there---so I walk up to Kevin Continental. I tell him what happened with NWA #1 and 2 and he asks “Why didn’t they just print you new boarding passes?”

I said I have no idea. They just kept telling me I was already checked in, yada, yada, yada. So bless his heart, Kevin was great and shared in my frustrations because when he called NWA people to take control of my ticket it took to the fourth person to get someone to release me from Seat 8A.

I just started laughing because Kevin said almost the same thing I said to NWA #2 when he was talking to his NWA #3 representative.

Kevin “She is not in Seat 8A on the flight to Detroit, she is right here in front of me.”

So I was with Kevin for 50 minutes before NWA finally let go and let him take control of my ticket out of San Antonio. Meanwhile, a long line actually formed at Continental because one of their earlier flights was delayed so self-service check-in was not available. So finally, Kevin is able to give me an itinerary to get me to Albany on Friday, but not til 9:15 p.m., but oh by the way, even though he tried hard, 151.00 more added to the fare I already purchased because I will have to go through Houston and have three flights to get there instead of two. He told me to make sure that I included that information in my complaint letter to NWA, which I assured him I would do.

So finally, it’s 9 something in the morning and I have three boarding passes. SA to Houston, about a two hour layover and then Houston to Newark and another two hour layover before my short flight from Newark to Albany takes off at 8:05 ET and arrives in Albany at 9:14.

SA to Houston, no problem, get some lunch---hop on the flight to Newark. I’m calmed down by then. I had already talked to my friend Lorraine and told her the morning’s event’s but would still be getting to Albany about the same time as she was. Flight to Newark was fine. Big plane with the little TV Screens in the chairs so you can watch movies, TV episodes, or play games.

Get off the plane at Newark and look at the Departures screen and see my 8:05 to Albany is delayed until 10:30. Mood swing. Go outside and have a couple of smokes (cold, but somewhat refreshing as a long day wake up). Nancy calls me to let me know that she has contacted Toya to let her know that I won’t be able to take her out to dinner tonight.

Go back inside to the Continental Elite access agents. I’m not in that program, but they weren’t busy so I walked up to one of the ladies and just said----“I’m not elite, but it has been a day, can I just ask you a question”----gave her my Albany boarding pass and asked if she could check whether the delay to 10:30 was weather or mechanical. She came back it is delayed until 11:40 and pending cancellation due to high winds and some snow.

Then I found out there wasn’t an early morning flight out of Newark to Albany on Continental anyway to get me there in time for the conference and Toya’s presentation. Plus, I was already locked into the hotel in Albany so couldn’t cancel that. So off on the airport train (TRAM) to the rental cars. While I was on the train, it hit me that I had told the hotel that I would check-in with my CC in person before Jeremy who was taping Toya’s presentation on Saturday, so knowing now that I would arrive after him and he’s checking in on my Corporate Card called the hotel to make sure they would let him check-in ahead of me arriving. Yeh, no problems there.

So it is 7 something eastern time when I get to National to rent a vehicle to get to Albany. They give me a Chevy SUV at a regular car rate (but still expensive) because they need to get it back up North anyway. So the girl gives me the keys and just tells me to go outside and hit the unlock button to find it. Well, I’m not finding it. Large airport, lots of rental vehicles. So finally find a worker outside to find it for me. He brings it up. Just says here you go. And of course he’s about 6’4”, so I spend a couple of minutes trying to figure out how to move the seat closer. Got the recline positions down all well before I finally found the button that moved my feet to the pedals.

Got a phone call from Lorraine she was about 1 ½ hours away from Albany but driving thru some pretty heavy snow. I had about a three hour drive. Insisted on a map and directions from National to get me headed the right way from the airport up North.

They didn’t tell me at National that the reason they wanted to get the SUV back closer up North was that it was from Ontario. So after I got my seat adjusted I get on the Parkway and I look down and it says I’m doing 80 plus. OOPs Canadian vehicle, those are kilometers. I figured that out pretty quickly. Did the New Jersey thing just fine with the tolls and all. Was so happy when I hit the NY state line.

I was thinking from my memory of living in upstate NY that Interstate 87 was just that an Interstate, but it is a toll way too, and especially a funky little transition from NJ to NY. In NJ, most lanes are EZPass but I managed to find the usually wide right lane changes to find the cash booths. I didn’t mean to, but I went past a toll in NY in their EZPass lanes, but it was all confusing. Thought I was in the right place. At the time, however, I was convinced as I passed the very visible “Violators will be Prosecuted” sign that I would have lights flashing behind me on a .70 cent toll. Lorraine told me later though, that I will get a ticket in the mail for that.

So then I’m driving in NY for a while and stop at one of the travel rest stops because I know I won’t get my checked bag to Albany until sometime Saturday at the earliest and get some hygiene necessities that were in my checked bag. Get back on the road and by this time traffic is pretty light. I never figured out how to control the passenger side mirror, but I am cruising a long and the rear view mirror was like on the night vision tint but I wanted to set it on regular vision. Didn’t know how to do that, but there were buttons under the mirror so I hit one.

Beeps went off---and then suddenly---“OnStar what’s your emergency?”

“I’m sorry. Nothing. I’m driving a rental car and thought this button would change my rear view mirror.”

Okay Beck. Don’t touch stuff. Just keep driving. 40 miles or so from Albany. Thinking I’ll be at the hotel by 10:30----making good time in KMs and MPHs. Prior to OnStar emergency, I thought I was turning on the overhead light and instead opened the sun roof. Cold.

25 miles from Albany, hello wind and snow. Not too bad on snow but I haven’t driven it in years. Wind gusts yes. But I manage, and I am getting closer to Albany and there’s no traffic so I turn on the overhead light instead of opening the sunroof to take a look at my hotel address. Doesn’t help me much with which exit to take. Put the itinerary down and suddenly some sort of feline species is in front of me on the road. I swerve and brake and the damn thing runs right back in front of my path. I think it was a feral cat. It was big. Certainly wasn’t pleasant. It upset me. Whatever it was it could have made it across two lanes when I braked and swerved if it wouldn’t have froze and then turned around and ran back right in front of me.

At the same time though, I was grateful that they needed a 4 x4 SUV taken back up north over a compact car. I wonder if the swerve and braking attempts I made in the SUV in the slight snow would have landed me in a ditch in a compact.

So I drive about another 10 miles, much slower as the snow has picked up, and I call regular “OnStar” on the rear view mirror to get directions. The nice lady told me what road I needed to get on to get to the hotel, but she couldn’t tell me which exit number.

So I am directionally challenged and end up missing the right exit----but it is confusing around there. So I am on some road in Albany and call regular “OnStar” again and they tell me I would have to upgrade for more directions. I finally find a nice man at a gas station to give me good directions. So my adventure that began at 6 a.m. CT finally ended at 11:15 ET when I got to the hotel and checked in.

I love Northwest Airlines! Thankfully, I was booked on American for my trip home on Sunday and got into Chicago early and then to San Antonio early too.

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