Making Lemonade (Sept 3-5)

The plan was to take an American Airlines flight from Austin to Chicago, arriving in Chicago around 3:45pm, providing us a full 6 hours before our international flight on Turkish Airlines to Vienna with a layover in Istanbul. We would meet Kate and Egg in Chicago. Egg was bringing a delicious dinner of roasted vegetables, ribs, and tofu. We figured 6 hours should be plenty sufficient. The travel gods had other plans.

Immediately after boarding our AA flight, scheduled to depart at 1:15pm, the pilots announce that Chicago has bad weather, our flight has been delayed 3 hours, and everyone needs to deplane. Ok, 3 hours, no cause for concern yet, that still gives us 3 hours in between flights in Chicago. At 4:25, we all board the plane again. Once on the plane, the pilots tell us (in I don’t remember which order) that there is a ground hold in Austin due to bad weather, and then there is a hold on any flights departing for Chicago again due to bad weather, and we will be sitting on the plane for an hour. That time passes, at which point the pilots announce we are ready to go, just waiting for the luggage to finish loading. Huh??!! The plane has been sitting at the gate for 5 hours at this point and the luggage isn’t all loaded?! Luggage gets loaded, at which point the pilots announce they have reached their end of day and all passengers must get off the plane again. Ryan and I have been hemming and hawing about whether we were going to make the Turkish Airlines flight, but now it is pretty obvious.

Off the plane. The airport is absolute chaos. Our flight is rescheduled for 9:25pm, awaiting the arrival of an air crew coming from JFK. We go to grab food, Schlotsky’s for me and Salt Lick for Ryan, cause we are getting a bit cranky and have a lot of details to sort out before getting on the Chicago flight. As an aside, a bunch of new restaurants have opened or are opening soon in ABIA, including a Mad Greens, which I’m excited about.

First up, I call the travel insurance provider to find out the process for using the travel insurance. Slight language barrier, but I understand that we need to go ahead and make the necessary arrangements and then submit claims to be reimbursed. Second, update Kate and Egg on the situation. Call Steve Exo and let him know Ryan and I will be crashing at Kate and Egg’s for the night, to please leave out a key. Now for the fun part, dealing with Turkish Airlines.

I call the toll free number and connect to ticketing and reservations. I explain the issue and that we need to reschedule our travel to Vienna for the next night. Unfortunately, they are unable to do anything because I already checked in for the original flights. (I checked in online earlier in the day). I ask who can help me. The agent tells me that I need to talk with the ticketing office in Chicago. I ask for the number. Sorry, she doesn’t have the number and cannot connect me to the ticketing office, but she can provide the physical address. What?? I ask who I talk to that can help. She connects me with customer service. Customer service tells me that I need to connect back with ticketing, who should be able to make my changes. I get connected back to ticketing. Again no luck. I google the ticketing office in Chicago and call the local Chicago number. The menu has 4 options. I choose one after another, until I’ve tried all 4. Two of them send me to voicemail, the other two just disconnect me after a number of rings.

We are on the phone with Kate and Egg who are talking with the ticketing agent in Chicago. The ticketing agent is no help at all and provides the toll free number to call. I call back the toll free number. Back to ticketing, still can’t help me, forwarded along to customer service, who tells me I need to be connected back with ticketing, tell them to offload us from the flight. Back to ticketing, they offload us but still can’t change our flight to the next night. Back to customer service, he says it looks like only Ryan was offloaded from the flight, he offloads me. If customer service could offload us, why did they keep sending me back to ticketing?? Ok, back to ticketing again. Now we are offloaded and they can reschedule our flight for $2000. Are you friggin’ kidding me? Kate and Egg are now talking with a different ticketing agent in Chicago who says that he can get us the flight for $1800. Still ridiculous. Now the agent I’m on the phone with says she has it for $1800. Why did the price drop? The first time she had the system automatically choose the cheapest option and it came to $2000. The second time she manually put in the flights and it came to $1800. For comparison, our original flights were < $1200. With no other choice, we pony up the $1800. Luckily, travel insurance should cover most of it. An hour and a half later, we have finally resolved our flight issues and are scheduled to depart one day later from Chicago.

The above description of rescheduling our flights is no exaggeration. Actually, I am probably leaving out a few times transferred back and forth between ticketing and customer service.

Our flight to Chicago did take off at 9:25pm and we finally made it to Kate and Egg’s apartment around 1:30am.

Lessons Learned:
1) Do NOT fly Turkish Airlines. This is the second PITA interaction with them. Egg had a huge hassle choosing seats a few months ago.
2) Make all arrangements on the same booking. If it had been on the same booking, then the airlines would have had to figure out the rescheduling and we would not have had to pay. Ryan is awarded a big ‘I told you so’ on this one. Booking separately always makes him nervous.
3) Travel insurance is totally worth it.

While having to rearrange plans and losing a day in Vienna was pretty crappy, there was an upside to the travel issues.

We got to spend a fun day in Chicago playing with Nathan! He looked a little confused when I came out of the bedroom in the morning, but quickly warmed up to us and soon had us playing trains. We built huge circle train tracks, went to the park, watched the ‘L’, and read lots of books.

Circle train!

Circle train!

At 4pm, Nate and Deb stood outside and watched us get in a Uber and head to the airport. Exactly the same as they had done the day previously when Kate and Egg left. At check-in, I negotiated the extra leg room seats. We had paid for them originally with the initial booking but did not pay again when we had to reschedule. Our seats wound up being pretty good, bulkhead, with ample legroom. The game of the day was musical chairs before off . . . Something about multiple babies in the same row needing bassinets, not enough oxygen masks, asking if the guy next to us or maybe we could move, but they seemed to work it all out. Three hours into the flight, one of the flight attendants approached us and asked if we wanted to move to business class, again, something about babies and oxygen masks. The business class seats were middle seats, one in front of the other. Ryan and I of course said sure!

The next part was clandestine. The flight attendant explained that Ryan and I would go up to business class one at a time, she would bring our bags, so no one knew we were moving up there. As we sort of understood/figured out, they had resolved the babies and oxygen mask thing by having a married couple move, perhaps out of better seats. This couple was doing nothing but complaining the entire flight, so the flight attendants were trying to move them to better seats. However, because the flight attendants were annoyed with this couple, rather than move them to business class, the flight attendants were going to move them to our seats with the bulkhead and extra legroom, and move us to business class. No complaining here! The business class seats were very comfortable and fully reclined, so we could actually lay down and sleep. It was amazing! Breakfast was delicious fresh fruit, croissant, and choice of fried eggs or omelette. I could get used to that!

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The rest of the trip to Vienna was uneventful. Layover in Istanbul wasn’t too bad. Airport was crowded but we didn’t find it as hot as Egg had warned us. Short flight to Vienna, gathered our bags, Uber to the Airbnb, where we met up with Egg and Kate only a day late. Ryan and Egg went out to get a doner kebab and we all hit the hay.