Air Travel Frustrations

YOU WILL OVERCOME DIFFICULT TIMES” – Panda Express fortune cookie

I was to return home to Ottawa today. However, policies with the Air Canada check-in at Orlando mean that I am spending one more day here. I am heartbroken, as I was looking forward to seeing Rosa tonight.

I planned the day to arrive at the airport between 60 and 90 minutes before my flight, which was the recommended time on my boarding pass. I tried to plan for how long it would take me to drive from Cocoa Beach to the airport. I spent the morning with Janice and Richard and packing before leaving about 2.5 hours before my flight. It’s just over an hour to the airport.

On the way, I had to stop to fill the gas tank, because I did not pay for the rental agency to fill the tank. I kept looking for an exit with obvious gas stations, but none were visible. I did not want to chance leaving the highway and getting lost by randomly picking an exit.

The final exit before the airport had a sign for gas, so I pulled off. Sadly, it was a BP station. I would have preferred to go to another station, because of the on-going oil spill approaching the Florida coast. But I did not have a choice.

I swiped my Visa card and the fuel pump asked for my ZIP code. Of course, I don’t have a zip code; I have a postal code. I only know one US zip code, 90210, so I used that. The pump did not accept this as valid and said I had to see an attendant. Once the billing was straightened out with the attendant, I filled and ran back in to get my receipt (I did not want to leave my receipt in case of fraud). A simple task like filling the gas tank took much longer than I had expected.

Back up on the highway and I drove straight to the rental car drop off. I parked, emptied the trunk and took my receipt from the rental agent. It said it was 74 minutes before my flight. I walked about 40 meters to the elevator to go to the check-in counters. For some reason the elevator went up to the wrong floor (no one was there waiting) and then down to the correct floor. This used up some time, but I don’t believe it was more than 5 minutes to walk 40 meters and take an elevator up a floor and down two.

When I got to the Air Canada counter, there was a lineup. I assumed that there was many flights and that I still had enough time, as I was in the lineup with more than an hour to the flight. The line up was long, but many people had huge luggage – I am guessing they were returning from a sports competition with their equipment.

I was a little agitated by the time, but I was also alone and now buried in the lineup. I could not leave my luggage to ask if I should go to the head of the line. There was another couple who arrived after me.

The wife went up to the counter (thank you). She came back saying that she was told she was already late. My heart started sinking. While she stayed in line, her husband left to call the booking agent. I choose to stay and worked my way up to the front of the line. When I got to the counter, I was told that I was too late. I was told I had to be checked in an hour before the flight. I believe it was now 58 minutes to the departure time. I told the agent that I was here more than 60 minutes, and I had a receipt from the car rental, but this did not dissuade her from insisting that I was too late.

I didn’t know what to do. I was desperate to be on the flight home. I was missing Rosa terribly.

Suggested arrival time
Suggested arrival time

I left the line to call Air Canada booking. The husband who was also refused check-in was already on the phone and talking with an agent. I called and was placed on hold for 10 minutes. I overheard the husband talking (it did not sound like it was going well); he eventually told the agent that I was also in the same situation and handed me the phone. I took the phone from him and hung up my phone. I spoke with the agent who was very helpful. He told me to go back to the check-in and ask for a same-day change. I hung up and went back to the line.

When I made it back to the front of the line (it was quicker this time – the line was getting shorter), I was told “all the seats are sold”. The agent said that she could not help me. I asked if there was a stand-by option, and she repeated that all seats were sold.

I went back to the pay phones, which were only 50 feet from the counter. I called Air Canada and was placed on hold for 10 minutes. I watched the line shrink until there was no one left. I hung up without getting an answer and ran over to the counter and asked if there were any seats (as everyone had been checked in; the line was empty). I was told again by a second agent that all seats were sold.

I ran back to the pay phones again and called Air Canada. This time, after a 10 minute hold, I spoke with another very helpful agent. I told him what the check-in agent said and he expressed surprised that they would refuse me to be checked-in. He said he booked me on a seat on the plane (it turns out that the second flight was also the last of the day for Air Canada) and to run over the counter now. I thanked him and, hope in my heart, ran to the counter to get checked-in.

This time, the agent said it was too late to check-in; it was less than 60 minutes. I told her that I was already in the lineup three times (well, the last time the line was empty). I said that we had already spoken twice. She was stedfast in refusing to allow me to check-in.

I told her that I was not late the first time she refused me, and she disagreed. She said that another agent had yelled out for passengers for my flight before the 60-minute limit for my flight. I said that neither myself or the other (now stranded) couple had heard the call. I wondered to myself how loud she had called.

I was nearly in tears at this point. I could not believe this. I could not believe that there was such a massive difference in customer service between the agents at the Air Canada check-in at the Orlando airport compared to the helpful agents on the phone. I could not understand how the check-in agents could tell me that all seats were sold while the agent on the phone said he had booked me a seat.

I had to walk back to the phones. Another 10 minute wait on hold (thank goodness this was toll-free) before I could speak with another agent. I explained what had happened. I asked if there was another Air Canada flight to anywhere that I could get another connector flight. She said that there were no more Air Canada flights that day (it’s not 3pm yet). I asked, “What about the Star Alliance? Is there anyway to use Star Alliance to help me get back home?”

Apparently, the only way to check for a Star Alliance flight that could be used was to check at each airport. The booking agent was so helpful, and we checked for connecting flights in Washington, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Denver, New York, Newark, Miami and Fort Lauderdale. Only Fort Lauderdale had a flight, but she had no way to get me there. She said that if I could drive there, she could book me a flight that would leave in 5 hours. But she thought it was nearly 4 hours to drive there.

I was crushed. I was not getting home to Rosa today.

I thanked the agent for trying and she booked me for the first flight back to Canada the next morning.

I hung up and held back tears. I talked with the other couple, and found they were in worse shape than me. They did not book through Air Canada; they had used another booking. Their next available flight was 3 days later.

I called Janice and asked if I could stay another day. She said of course, and I said I would explain more when I arrived.

I was starving hungry, as I was planning to get something to eat after check-in. I went to the food court and ordered Chinese food from Panda Express. The fortune cookie was quoted at the top of this story.

I had to re-rent a car and I drove back to Cocoa Beach. Tomorrow, I will leave a minimum of 3 hours before my 8:00AM flight.

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