Dear friends and readers,
I hesitated in telling of this but I’ve been told by a close friend “I don’t know if you’ll be surprised when I say that your Towering Rage episode was nothing uncommon? Dealings with the airline industry, organizing your own itinerary, can be extremely frustrating, and almost everyone I know has had like experiences,” and that what I am about to tell has happened to her several times. Lost hundreds of dollars (and more) several times, been treated ruthlessly abominably with lies. Another close friend tells me she has had a similar experience with Orbitz. I don’t have that many friends and few people confide in this sort of thing. If it was so easy to discover other victims, there must be uncountable many. So I’ll tell my experience to make visible what is perhaps rarely said in public but ought to be SIGNED somewhere in letter twelve feet tall.
I could have called this, How I have wasted endless hours this past two weeks after we either made a mistake and purchased tickets, which had a 1 day and 3 hour layover. Is it probable we would not notice such a thing? or they were silently changed on us, twice?
I have rarely in my life felt this kind of emotion. This Saturday afternoon I had to take a walk in the supreme heat to calm down. I didn’t trust myself to drive anywhere. I found I could not settle to my work, could not read, could not cope with my cats who sensed something different. The last time I experienced this must’ve been years ago as then too I had to go for a walk to calm down. (Maybe in my younger years I did experience this kind of anger and explode — vague memories of a couple of occasions –, but I managed to stop before it got so bad I didn’t know what to do with this intensity of anger.) I probably remember this incident so well since when I returned Jim came to the door concerned and reproachfully: did I realize I had upset Isobel by suddenly departing? It was like Mr Knightley reproaching Emma for insulting Miss Bates. I felt terrible. I had slammed the door. My anger may have been started or continued by quarrel with him, but as I recall there was far more to it than that. I no longer remember the cause, only that I needed to calm down, it took time and then felt I had behaved unforgivably as a mother. She had not understood nor could I make her understand. Well I have not felt such a need again (or controlled it way earlier) until this Saturday afternoon. This time I told Izzy now well over 30 I could not calm down and needed to walk and she understood all right. She had heard it all from her room.
As I wrote about in my last entry, last week on Tuesday, I noticed the tickets for my trip to London included an 18 hour layover in Iceland, and to change it would cost me as much as the round trip ticket had done and all I would gain would be one-hour less going, nothing coming home. Now this week, Thursday (so 9 days later), I noticed that her and my round trip ticket included a day and 2 hour layover coming home. Either we didn’t notice such stretches (is it likely) or they changed our layovers to ridiculous amounts of hours in Reykjavit. ( Last September it was a sudden change made by Aer Lingus and would have meant I would not be in time to give my paper at the conference I was going to. I had printed out the previous document and was able after a couple of hours to get our tickets changed back.) This time it had taken 5 hours to discover this: at one point the person at the other end of the phone either hung up or we were disconnected, and I had had to start the process (which seemed to necessitate this person going to three different people to discover information or “get permission”) all over again. I was shaking when it was over. I decided to endure an 18 hour layover going home and a 10 hour one going there.
But I knew how intolerable these flights are. No food worthy the name on the plane, squeezed in a tight seat, no amenities at all; the airport hangar a horror of crowds, and unless I was in a European hangar cheap inedible over-sugared, sauced, salted stuff out of machines or be fleeced in a super-expensive restaurant. Airline travel in economy class is now a form of abuse. The people directly in contact with customers rely on shaming people; they stay just this side on the edge of neglect. And how people are afraid the plane will fall out of the sky so are willing to put up with a lot. The airplane companies have discovered it costs them less to have teams of people finding and delivering lost baggage than to be sure the person never loses his or her baggage. Izzy was without her case for two days during our time in Devonshire last summer.
By Saturday I had decided to swallow the money the two tickets cost and buy anew. And I would go no stop. Less chance to lose baggage too. I would pay what was necessary. But what if I ended up having something similar happen. Either I not notice (or more likely) the airplane or Expedia change the layover. Business class takes a ticket into say $1800 and first class is astronomical. A friend suggested I call British Airway direct and buy from them. She went to her computer, spent more than a half hour away (in another room) (over half an hour at least) and came back relieved. She had found such a phone number.
I phoned and in no time was talking to a polite young man who was marvelously empowered to sell me decent tickets. He said different tickets from those available at Expedia or Orbitz. I was able to buy a ticket for myself going and coming with a 6-8 hour travel time, arriving in London in mid-morning so it would be comfortable and simple for me to get to Paddington and take a train to Devonshire where I was going to meet a friend. Ditto for Izzy and I going in October; I cut short our time in London, leaving us just one day to be there in order to make it easy for us to get to the plane the next morning as we had to come to London from elsewhere first. Yes I paid much more, but not out of sight (not the cost of Business or First class.) Izzy had said the time in London was inconvenient to her; she didn’t care if we left, and I knew I would find the extra effort such individual times take hard. I did buy something called Economy Premium, which meant we had bigger seats, more leg room and some promised amenities. I could change it at $275 charge; cancel before a certain date and get my money back. It took less than half an hour for me to be printing out confirmations with times and plane numbers. Sanity.
But then I made my second mistake. I tried to cancel the tickets we had had. I could have left it. After all, that would allow Expedia to take our money and then put others in these seats, but Izzy (ethical) said that would probably be wrong, worse we might be bothered about these tickets at some point. So I foolishly, gullibly went back to that fucking Expedia site. I tried to cancel the present tickets, knowing I was told they were non-refundable, and guess what? the only way to cancel a flight was to call one phone number which all FAQs led to. I found myself being subjected to the same rigmarole. I told the woman I didn’t expect my money back, and she left the phone before I could say anything else — for 40 minutes. Back she came with the same absurdity: now she had to call Icelandic air to discover their terms. I know from my 5 hour wait last time that Icelandic told me these are tickets they did not issue, have nothing to do with and as far as they are concerned should be refundable or changeable. So this is a lie. I became so angry I could scarce control my voice. Why cannot I not just cancel these tickets with you. She can’t do that. She doesn’t know numbers, doesn’t have permission. I began to scream on that phone. I demanded that she write a complaint to her supervisor about what had happened. It seems that she was permitted to do. She kept talking ever so polite and reasonable. I wonder how they train people to behave this way. I hung up. I went online and put complaints in the two places provided.
I am calm now and am not conveying the rage I felt at being so treated. I think my rage was the accumulation of several wretched plane trips, my experience of hours in an airplane hanger, and my reactions to the Expedia and other websites like it.
I thought is this what these crazed people we (US and colonialists) have so immiserated feel 100 fold because every day of their existence. then arrested, tortured, imprisoned for years by one of the tyrants our billions have put in place. Imagine such a young man coming out and how he feels. Mine was nothing to this.
I have now cancelled the extra days at the hotel in rapid time. We save some money this way, but it’s more than that as I indicated above.
I truly loathe what happens at airports. I am photographed incessantly; I was subjected to a “random [thorough body and baggage] check on the trip home from Belgium. Only because the people doing it were not Americans, was Izzy allowed to come in with me, and they behaved apologetically throughout. No humiliation. I was not the only person so singled out. I saw a long line and wait caused by this outside in that hangar. Again in most European places last September once I got past American security I was not subjected to this “security theater” as it’s called. It’s largely a pretense, supposedly wanted by Americans. Really? this paranoid atmosphere?
I seem to waive the reality that planes fall out of the sky and the death is horrible. But I don’t forget it. And that in this ever-on-going war planes are shot down.
So now I have some rules for the future for myself.
AVOID Expedia, Orbitz and all such websites. Find a phone number for the airline itself and buy direct. If you cannot phone the airline going to where you want to go, think again. Go somewhere you can buy tickets for. One can use package tours where this is done for you, but make sure you are going to get good treatment.
The above will not be so hard if I NEVER ever take a plane unless I am going across an ocean or a trip of say 1000 miles. Be sure I want that trip, that I know I’ll have a good time. Buy at least Economy Premium. Again phone the airline direct.
On shorter trips, go for a train. If there is no decent schedule and I’ve now discovered that Amtrac is so underfunded (as is most public transportation across the US) this is common, look at the buses. If the buses are similar, drive. If none of these work, stay home.
In other areas of my life I and Jim when he was alive did not compromise. We did without whatever it was in order to avoid such egregious abuse and exploitation — and here I include getting into debt which we have only gone into voluntarily for one car once and for this house. Our children did not go to undergraduate college out of state. I must get back to that principle Jim and I lived by for 45 years. It was very rare that we couldn’t do without whatever it was.