Over the last four years I've done a lot of traveling. I've made the round trip from Minneapolis to New York City about two dozen times during that time, among many other trips, and I've had a few travel mishaps and lessons learned along the way. But today's travel adventures? They're in a whole new exciting category of travel fuckery that's so spectacular that I felt I just had to share the joy.
Here's the context that helps make the story really pop: A few months ago my parents booked me a round-trip flight from New York to Minneapolis for the Thanksgiving holidays. Then, on November 11, my romantic relationship hit a giant iceberg and went ass-up a la Titanic.
Since my now-former-boyfriend and I were still living together, and even though the breakup was mutual and relatively peaceable, everybody figured maybe it would be best to have a little time away before I moved to my new apartment. My parents generously offered to fly me home for the holidays several days early on a one-way ticket from Sun Country Airlines and I took them up on the offer.
So I flew home early, spent time with my family and even saw a few friends, did the big Turkey Day meal with la familia, and then it was time to pack things up and head home again.
Things today started out on the wrong foot. After sleeping fewer than three hours (last night I just couldn't drift off for some reason) I woke up at 4:30 a.m. in the suburbs to get out the door at 5:15 a.m. for my 7:15 a.m. flight. But that wasn't even the rough part.
First, at 5:50 a.m., when I got to Sun Country Airlines at the Humphrey Terminal in Minneapolis, they kindly reminded me that my flight home was on Northwest, not Sun Country, and was in fact at the other terminal. I ran full-out to catch the light rail connection to the Lindberg Terminal, and made it there in just enough time to feasibly catch my flight.
I told the ticket agent at Northwest/Delta that I was flying from Minneapolis to JFK, but when she punched in my information she said that wasn't happening. I was flying into La Guardia. Oh, well, okay, no big deal. Another fun random turn in the morning, but that was fine with me. Since I'm still living on the Upper East Side, La Guardia would be even quicker to get home. I was game.
But then: "Um, sir, you're going to have to go see a ticket agent down there at the end of the row. There's a problem with your ticket."
"Yes," she said. "Your ticket has been cancelled."
I went down to the other agent and, while clicking away at her computer, she delivered the big fun surprise that gave the morning that extra special, memorable touch:
"Sir, it seems that you did not fly out on the outbound leg of your flight from New York to Minneapolis, and when you did that it invalidated your flight itinerary. You can skip a return flight, but you can't skip an outbound flight on a round-trip ticket. So unfortunately your ticket has been cancelled." And then, in a more upbeat tone: "But you are certainly welcome to buy another ticket."
"Well," she explained, "when you don't take the outbound leg of the flight it violates the terms of your ticket and it invalidates the itinerary. So we can credit you the $300 you paid for the original ticket, but there is a $150 rebooking penalty, and then you need to purchase a new one-way ticket, which I can book for you for $560 on this morning's ten o'clock flight to La Guardia. So that will be $410, cash or credit. Or you can use 60,000 Sky Miles and pay a $150 fee to book the ticket. Whichever you like." (Sixty thousand Sky Miles, by the way, is well over the amount of miles you need to book a round-trip ticket to Maui.)
I was about to tell her what I would really like from her, but I held my tongue and started dialing my phone.
I mean, seriously? We paid $300 for a flight. And because I didn't take the outbound leg the whole thing is invalidated? And I'm then invited to purchase a one-way flight for the bargain price of $410 to get home?
Online we found a ticket home tomorrow for $216. We'll go ahead and do that instead of paying $410, thanks.
A little quick math: $300 for the original ticket, $110 for the one-way ticket home early after the ol' breakup, and now $216 to get me home tomorrow. That's $626 for a 10-day Thanksgiving visit.
Happy freaking holidays.
I headed downstairs to the deserted baggage claim area to wait for a ride home. I went directly to a vending machine and bought a Kit Kat and a Diet Coke. I polished both off before you could say, "Northwest Airlines and all its affiliated f**king affiliates can go to hell."
I plunked down in a corner, right on the concrete floor (it was near an outlet, where I could recharge my goodies) and watched the sunrise as I listened to the symphony of a creaky baggage conveyor belt, still limping along even though there were no bags to distribute, as it mixed with the drone of CNN and the click and shuffle of footsteps. Two baggage claim employees eyed me as I sat in my corner. I just focused on my chocolate.
At least I had the chocolate.
Finally, nearly six hours after arriving at the airport, and at about the time I should have been walking through the front door of my apartment in New York, I got a ride back to the Minneapolis suburbs.
Tomorrow I will be back here at 5:45 a.m. for a 6:30 a.m. flight home.
A flight home, that is, if Northwest Airlines doesn't decide to cancel my itinerary at its discretion.
Cross your fingers.