Wednesday, September 29, 2010

United We Fail . . .

So, it's official: I'm leaving on for California on January 7th. There's a sense of relief in this, that I know the exact date, that there is no backing out or turning back (not that I would). I know when, exactly, it's happening.

That being said, I'd like to relate, for your amusement, my experience booking this flight.

As my readers know, I have two adorable rabbits, Viola and Sebastian, who poop and pee and chew on my world. There are only two carriers that allow you to fly with rabbits: Delta and another carrier I shall refer to, henceforth, as Divided. I don't want to be accused of libel, given the story I'm about to tell.

Now, I really wanted to fly with Delta. I flew with them all through college and am a member of their Skymiles program, so they were my obvious first choice. They used to allow you to fly with rabbits in the cabin, but post September 11th they must have decided, along with every other airline, that rabbits can be used to conceal WMD's in a way that cats and dogs obviously cannot. (Weirdly, cats and dogs carry more diseases that are communicable to humans, and have more dander than rabbits, and make more noise. Go figure.) So, my rabbits would be boarding as checked baggage, but I was already resigned to this. Still, I was pretty disappointed when I got the Delta agent on the phone and she informed me that Delta has zero non-stop flights to LAX. Nada. Apparently, LA is not a hub city for Delta, so I'd be changing planes in Minneapolis. Time to call Divided, my only other choice.

At around 7:50 am, I called the Divided Ticketing Agent, and got Nelly. Let me start by saying, I have an ear for dialect, always have. As an actress, I have used seven or eight different dialects, and I tend to understand them better than some. But, I had a LOT of difficulty understanding hers. That was roadblock one.

Roadblock two: I ALWAYS spell my last name for people anytime I give it. It doesn't matter that it is only four letters and spelled exactly how it sounds, over the years I have had my name misspelled countless times.
So, the first thing I did was give her my name, and spell it out for her. I told her what I was looking for, that my dates were flexible, and I could fly anytime of day. The only thing I needed was a nonstop flight for the cheapest fare possible.

She did not understand this. It took me five minutes at least to explain, in detail, that my dates were flexible, from the 5th to the 9th. She also did not get that I wanted the cheapest fare. It was like pulling teeth to get her to check multiple days. Finally, we settled on a flight that met my obviously ridiculously exacting criteria, and it was time to make the reservation.

Lo and behold, an email showed up in my inbox with a confirmation! I opened it, impressed with Divided's efficiency . . . to find my name spelled wrong. I had been put on hold at this point, the first of many times, and when she came back, I told her of the mistake. "I need to have my name spelled correctly," I explained, patiently. "It has to match my ID, or they won't let me on the plane."

"Yes, yes, ma'am, thank you very much for that information," she trilled, nearly unintelligibly. I spelled my name again. Slowly. She put me on hold again. I have to say that if I never, ever hear "Rhapsody in Blue" again, I will die happy. What I did not know at this point was that she had to void the completed reservation and start from scratch, which was, I guess, why I was on hold for 20 minutes. I got another email. Name still spelled wrong.

"No, no, no. No," I told her, getting a little peeved. "My name is still incorrect. You need to correct this." She laughed this time. Like we were having a ball here. I spelled my name again, through gritted teeth. I gave her call signs for each letter. Seriously, IT'S FOUR LETTERS LONG. Needless to say, she put me on hold. Again.

After another 15 minutes, she came back on and informed me that if I wanted to check my two rabbits it would be $250 per animal. "No, no, no," I replied, patiently, gripping the edge of my desk, "your website states, clearly, that the charge is per carrier, and I will have both rabbits in the same carrier. According to your rules and regs, that's what I'm allowed." She laughed again, trying to hide it, and said that yes, indeed, it was per carrier. Then, she actually had the balls to give me a survey on how satisfied I was with her service. "Would you rate it as 'Very Satisfied'?" Through clenched teeth, I replied, "Sure. Why not?" I think the sarcasm was lost on her.

At this point, blessedly, my phone dropped the call. I had already gotten my confirmation number, this time with the correct name, so I figured my dealings with Divided were done for a while.


I decided then to check my bank account and discovered that I had been charged twice. It was now after 9am, which means I had just been on the phone with Divided for over a fucking hour. I was not in the mood to be patient or polite anymore.

I called back, and was informed that it would take 7 to 10 business days for the voided charge to be put back into my account. This is a debit account, which means they had just taken actual money from me, exactly as if they had stolen my wallet or swiped my purse. I immediately demanded to talk to a supervisor. "Rhapsody in Blue" again.

After around 15 minutes, the agent came back on and said that he had confirmed with his supervisor that the money would be back in my account in 24 hours. I thanked him and hung up.

As of now . . . you guessed it. Still not in there.

I've never had a lot of trouble with air travel in the past, and I've never really understood the "air rage" that some people get. But, after this, I'm really starting to dread actually flying with these people. If there was any other carrier that would allow my rabbits, believe me, I'd be flying with them instead.

What about you, dear readers? Any airline horror stories to share?


Kimba said...

I hate to say it, but there are other airlines that allow rabbits (in the cabin). If you'd booked your flight through your friend who just happens to be a travel agent, I could have helped you. (And gotten your name right!) ;-) Sorry about the hassle, I hope it all works out!

Ginger said...

I looked at everybody's pet policies before choosing! I didn't find anyone who allowed rabbits at all, savve those two carriers! Who allows rabbits in the cabin?

Ginger said...

Nope, just checked them all again. The ones that do allow rabbits all have a strict "one pet per carrier, one pet per person" policy for in-cabin pets. Since I have two rabbits travelling in the same carrier, I'm out of luck.

Therin said...

Congrats on booking the flight at least! Sorry to hear it was such as hassle...ugh!

Anonymous said...

Um.....don't you have a car you need to drive out there? My friend Marie just drove herself and two little yorkies out to Denver when she moved out there and it only entailed one overnight stay so you could probably do Cali with two stops and have the bunnies with you.

Ginger said...

Well, after actually driving the car, I had to seriously and completely change my plans. It would not survive the trip, period. So, it's being shipped out to Cali. According to people who have made the drive to California and back, it takes four days minimum, so a four hour flight ends up being the better option all around. I don't know how your friend made Denver in two days, but I'm pretty sure I couldn't!

Jessica said...

You need to go to and read all the fun horror stories there. he is also an advocate for travellers so if divided doesn't come through as promised, you might consider checking with him for help.

Blicious said...

ughhhhhh i havent experienced anything like that, knock on wood.