Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Oh the Joys of Travel

Well, it had to happen. But who would have expected a snow storm to mess up travel on April 11?

Today I was supposed to fly to Ottawa, Ontario Canada where I'm scheduled to do several presentations at the AUGI CAD Camp event. But I knew something was seriously wrong when I showed up at Bellingham Airport this morning at 8am and was told that my United flight from Chicago to Ottawa, which wasn't scheduled to depart until 6:30pm had already been cancelled. Evidently United already realized that things were going to be seriously bad in Chicago.

Alaska Airlines rebooked me onto an American flight scheduled to leave Chicago at 8:10pm. That was probably a good idea, because Alaska's flight from Seattle to Chicago was delayed 3 hours.

Alaska Air took wonderful care of me, as usual. They tried to reroute me through Washington, DC, New York, and Boston, but to no avail. Since I am on a tight schedule (I leave Ottawa at 6pm tomorrow to go on to Phoenix), I couldn't afford to get stranded anywhere other than Chicago.
And stranded I am. When my Alaska Air flight finally landed at O'Hare at 7:30pm, my American Air flight to Ottawa was cancelled. American Airlines doesn't even have the courtesy of having humans manning any sort of customer service counter at O'Hare any longer, relying instead on a bank of three telephones at a "Rebooking Counter." I guess there is no longer any such thing as "customer service" at American Airlines.

But the wonderful folks at the Alaska Airlines MVP desk took care of things for me over the phone and had me booked on an American flight the next morning bound for Ottawa. Of course, it remains to be seen if I actually get there or not. If I arrive on time at 12:10pm, I will have already missed one of my speaking times. With luck, I'll get there in time for my 1pm presentation. Then, after my 2:30pm presentation, I'll dash back to the airport to head off for Phoenix for COFES, connecting of course through Chicago O'Hare.

But now, stranded in Chicago, the question became "where would I stay." A quick look at the airport did not bode well. The people at O'Hare were well into the process of setting up cots for other stranded passengers.

Not wanting this fate, I quickly got on the phone to Hilton to try to book a room at the O'Hare Hilton across the street. Good luck. It had been filled for hours already. I finally found the last remaining room at a Double Tree hotel 12 miles from O'Hare out in Wooddale, IL.

Next, I went to United to try to retrieve my checked bag. It was in United's system because my original flight to Ottawa was a United flight so that's where Alaska sent my bag when my Seattle-Chicago flight landed. But United refused to release my bag. Unbelievable.

Next, 20 minutes standing in a taxi line. Finally in the taxi, the driver immediately informed me that whatever the fare to my hotel, he would charge me 50% more...take it or leave it. My cab ride ended up costing $50, not the $25 the hotel originally estimated nor the $35 on the meter. But I guess I should feel good about it. Another person who showed up at the hotel while I was checking in told me that his taxi driver charged him the metered rate PLUS $50.

Anyway, now I'll sign off and head up to my hotel room and try to get some sleep before getting up, taking a taxi back to O'Hare, and throwing myself back into the airline service.

Anyone for a Passenger's Bill of Rights?

1 comment:

  1. You poor thing! Well, all I can say is that you had a good attitude about it. Good luck tomorrow. I hope the weather clears up and you can make your conference.