This is the second part of a story sharing details of our flight from hell. Part 1 can be read here.
When I left you, we were finally in the air and on our way to San Francisco to meet a connecting United Airlines flight to Australia. Although it was not the Air New Zealand flight that I had dreamed of (and paid for), at least we finally en route and breathing a cautious sigh of relief.
When we boarded the plane I anxiously asked the flight attendant if we were safe to make our flight. We had a couple of hours up our sleeve, but I was being extra cautious due to the fact that we had to transport two small children to the international terminal. “Yes”, she said, “plenty of time”.
And she was right. We touched down at around 9:00pm and made it to the gate for our international flight by around 9:15.
On arrival, I immediately went up to the desk to make sure we were all checked in and see if there was any chance that we had a spare seat for Samuel in our row. I handed over our ticket confirmation and passports and the lady behind the desk proceeded to look us up on the computer. After spending a few minutes typing on the keyboard she said that there was a small problem. For some reason the computer wouldn’t allow her to add the infant ticket to the check in. Not a problem – she would have someone who had more experience come over and help her.
Soon there were three people all trying to fix this baffling problem. Why is the computer not allowing them to check in the infant? One of the customer service people looked at me and said “we’ll work this out soon and give you your boarding passes. Sorry about the delay but I don’t think we’ve had this problem before.” In the meantime she started getting our gate check ticket ready for the stroller.
At this point I wasn’t concerned. Why should I be? I had a ticket confirmation in my hands and three of the four boarding passes that we needed to board the plane. But then after about 30 minutes during which they pounded on the computer seemingly doing the same thing over and over again, they determined the source of the problem. Apparently Samuel – and infant who is not able to travel on his own – had been checked into the Air New Zealand flight and his ticket was therefore not available to be checked into the United flight. Huh?
Next step was to call Air New Zealand and have them transfer the ticket. Easy, right? Not really. They called the customer service number and, without sharing the time sensitivity, sat on hold for 10 minutes.
That’s when they started boarding the plane and I started to become very concerned.
Then they paged me to the desk. Now, keep in mind that I had been standing there for a full 45 minutes at this point, but the person checking visas seemed to be unaware that I was standing right next to him. And then they paged me AGAIN. It seems there were three bags standing beside the plane that they were unable to load because the passengers were not checked in. Well, at least our bags were ready to board.
It was at this time, after most of the passengers had boarded the plane, that the customer service director came over and tried to help. From the moment she opened her mouth I could tell that she had very little respect for anyone. She got on the phone with the Air New Zealand person – who had since taken them off hold and was trying to fix the problem – and spoke to them in such a condescending way that I immediately put her in that little box of people that I do not want to deal with. Let’s call her Nina (not her real name, although I wish I could remember it).
So the situation was this: Air New Zealand said they were not able to transfer the ticket because some error had been made when we were moved to the United flight (in Portland, by a United representative). They were not able to let us board the plane because Samuel would not be on the flight manifest without being checked in. They were not able to check us in because Air New Zealand could not transfer the ticket. And around it went.
By this time the gate lounge was empty and everyone had boarded the plane. My last hope was someone name Sher would would come down and make the call on what to do next. Well, Sher came down to the gate and stood around with the others, equally baffled and apparently unable to do anything.
And then one of the jetways pulled away from the plane. I looked at Sher and said “This flight is not leaving without us.” and he said “we have to close the doors at 10:30”. It was 10:20.
I’ll be back with part 3, the final chapter, tomorrow…