Dublin Part I

Packing always seems like a monumental task. The lighter you try and pack, the greater the fear of overlooking something major. As I prepared to leave, I set to the task of packing Friday evening. With a 12:15PM departure time, I knew I had a small emergency buffer if I overlooked something, but that things would no doubt be rushed.

As I set to laying everything out in the living room, it quickly turned into what looked like a war zone. Bags scattered around, clothing piled up, random electronics covering the floor.

By 11:00PM it was time to record a few quick videos. As I laid everything out, I couldn’t help but feel as though something was missing. Something important…and then it dawned on me. I’d forgotten to pick up a replacement day pack. Slightly panicked, I realized much to my relief that the Super Walmart down the street was open 24 hours. Dad in tow we struck out at 11:30 in search of a suitable daypack.

20 Minutes later I had an Outdoor Products daypack in hand for $15. The outdoor products bags have been fantastic. I use their $30 backpack as my main travel bag, and so far the $15 daypack is great. Durable, well designed and amazingly priced.

On the way back to the house, Dad and I realized that we’d left my Capital One credit card in the car with Mom, who was off celebrating one of her girlfriends birthdays down the road. Slightly stressed, we tried calling several times, only to find that her phone was off.

By the time we got back to the house and finished packing, the total weight of both of my bags came to 25 pounds. I’d missed the 15 pound mark I was aiming for. I was slightly dissappointed with myself but still well under the 20kilo ceiling I’d set for myself. I had plenty of extra room. My daypack weighed just under 10 pounds, while my main pack weighed about 15 pounds.

Videos recorded, bags packed, I turned in. I had a big day full of extended travel ahead of me.

The following morning we rose early, got hold of Mom, and had a quick breakfast after picking up the all important credit card. We ate, conversed, enjoyed each other’s company and then set off to the airport.

I arrived, made it through security without issue, and before long found myself on a flight bound for Atlanta. The first leg was tight, packed in next to a very strange 6’9″ gentleman with a 6’3″ Israeli in between us…it was a long, sandwiched flight.

My layover in Atlanta went by quickly and luckily the gate associate was able to change my seat from 43G to 15B – giving me a bulkhead seat at the front of the aircraft. Relieved that I wouldn’t be sandwiched for the flight to Ireland I settled in and waited.

The flight itself was good. Only 7 hours due to the jetstream, I wasn’t able to sleep, but did manage to watch a movie on my netbook, in between chats with the woman I ended up sitting next to. Originally from Ireland, she was on her way back to visit family with her two children and husband, after moving to the US 7 years previous. The netbook was a lifesaver and a fun social tool. At various points I shared a video with her and another Chilean gentleman while waiting in Phoenix.

I arrived in Dublin at 10:30AM after a long sleepless night, hopped on a bus and made the 40 minute bus ride into Dublin proper.

More to come soon…for now, I’m off to relax and explore Trinity College.

Delta Airlines Pre-flight Turbulence

Call me old fashioned if you want, but when I enter into an agreement and make a commitment I take that commitment seriously.  Once you’ve placed your trust in me and I’ve committed to something, you know I’ll get it done. I guess it’s too much to ask, but that’s the level of commitment I’ve always expected from companies I’ve paid for a service. When you sell me a product or service, and I pay good money – i expect that service to be delivered as agreed upon. Want to go above and beyond? By all means feel free, but you do not – I repeat – do not deliver something inferior to what you contracted with me for.

If I go to buy a Silver Cadillac XLR with 500 miles on it and you’ve agreed to sell me a Silver Cadillac XLR with 500 miles on it, you don’t try and swap it out for a Pink Cadillac XLR with 15,000 miles on it and several scratches when I show up at the dealership.  Especially if I’ve already paid you for the vehicle.

Unless of course, you’re Delta Airlines and it’s an international ticket paid for months in advance.  I booked Saturday’s airfare between Phoenix and Dublin through Delta on March 19th.  At $623 I got a decent deal, but could have waited and purchased a ticket on special through another airline/vendor for $200 less. In fact, I booked with Delta – and paid extra – in part because I thought they’d be better than US Airways. I paid more and booked directly through Delta.com.

Months later, on July 11th at 6:00AM I was scheduled to be at the Phoenix Airport for a flight from Phoenix -> JFK -> Dublin.  I live 45 minutes away from Phoenix Sky Harbor, which meant I had to recruit someone to drive me to the airport at 3:30AM Saturday morning – that’s a pretty big favor to ask.

I’m not a small guy, at 6’4″ and 200 pounds I’m thin but tall.  Airplanes aren’t made for people my size. Leg and knee space is an issue and I’m too tall for the molded and shaped seat backs on most aircraft. So, it’s worth added energy, time and in some cases money to get an early reservation and to secure an emergency row seat.  Especially on long duration flights. So, shortly after placing my reservation in March I called in to reserve seating.  I secured isle rows for several of the legs of my trip and assumed everything was taken care of.  As far as I knew I had adequate seating, one layover in JFK and everything was squared away.

In late May I called in once again to confirm that nothing had changed with my seating. The agent seamed helpful enough, went through the seating assignments for Phoenix -> JFK, JFK -> Dublin and the return legs. Then mentioned something quickly about a stop in Salt Lake City. At the time, I thought it strange but when I asked about it, he said everything was in order on the ticket and made no mention of the changes that had been made to my booking. It threw me off slightly, but without a visual itinerary in front of me, and since I had not received any type of notification that my reservation had been changed it sounded like a quick stop and go included in the original ticket.

July 8th

Fast forward to July 8th, just days before I’m scheduled to leave I receive Delta’s automatic confirmation message, ” We’re Reconfirming – So You Don’t Have To!” – great! I glance at it, see I’m leaving at Phoenix at 6:05AM (5 minutes later than my original booking) and arriving in Dublin at 7:50 AM and assume everything in the middle is as booked. I’ve already re-confirmed the info several times so think nothing more of it.

July 9th

Fatefully, I read a Phoenix Business Journal article about Delta Airlines and United Airlines getting fined for more than $375,000 (Delta) and $80,000 (United) for shady flight cancellations and wrongfully bumping passengers on oversold flights.  Less than an hour later I set to the task of photo copying my passport and credit cards while printing out copies of my flight itinerary and the confirmation which arrived on the 8th.  As I’m doing so, I notice that I’m no longer scheduled on the flight from Phoenix -> JFK -> Dublin.  I’ve been switched to a Phoenix -> Salt Lake City -> JFK -> Dublin route.  Surprised and wondering how I accidentally booked a flight with 2 layovers, I pulled up my original confirmation (now made months previous) and confirm that I’d been switched to a completely different flight without ever receiving any form of notification.

Needless to say, I was livid.  The fact that they completely re-routed my flight without notifying me aside, I paid a premium for a ticket that had 1 layover. A layover isn’t a minor trivial detail.  It drastically increases the potential that baggage gets lost, that there are complications and flight delays and negates the whole point of reserving my ticket months in advance by scrapping my seating preferences. Not to mention it’s a complete pain in the ass.  It’s the worst type of bait and switch and in addition to being dishonest, is downright disrespectful.

Aggravated, I immediately called Delta to see just what the hell was going on.  After spending 5 minutes on hold and working my way through an obnoxious voice driven call interface I finally was put on with a Mrs. Huber.  In a frustrated but respectful fashion I asked what was going on and expressed my frustration with Delta over the change and my anger about not being notified.

The agent explained that Delta no longer flew into JFK but that she’d be happy to re-route my already re-routed flight through Atlanta Georgia instead of Salt Lake City.  No longer flew into JFK? I expressed my surprise and confusion as she quickly explained the Georgia re-route.

Something didn’t make sense.  How could 1) Delta “No longer fly into JFK” but 2) Still route both my return flight and the Salt Lake City->JFK->Dublin leg of my flight through JFK?  I inquired and was insistent. I wasn’t about to get stranded or have to try and fix my return flight details from Ireland. My confusion repeatedly earned more than one sarcastic, “What don’t you understand?”. What don’t I understand? Well, it turns out that Delta DOES still operate out of JFK and that by “We no longer fly into JFK” the agent meant – the Phoenix -> JFK leg had been canceled on July 11th. Never the less, apparently I’m the 24 year old Honors grad/idiot who didn’t get it.

Bitchy attitude, sarcasm and general rudeness aside – we move on. She checks the Phx -> ATL -> Dublin re-direct and with a terse “Do you want to go through Georgia or not?” gets my approval to update the booking.

Already severely annoyed with each other, Mrs. Huber and I press on as I try and identify how an Airline can change my booking completely without bothering to notify or clear it with me.  Turns out that according to Delta I was notified.  Confident that I didn’t miss a phone call and hadn’t missed any e-mails from Delta I was, as you might imagine, rather surprised.

Apparently that quick comment made as I re-confirmed my seating on May 20th over the phone?  The agent should have told me that my route had been hijacked and a extra layover added.  I remember the call clearly.  I was not notified beyond mention of the seat number that my reservation had essentially been thrown out the window and completely re-worked. Was it his fault or Delta’s?  I have no clue.  I can tell you it sure as hell wasn’t mine though. Was there ever an e-mail or phone call to confirm the change?  Nope. Any type of direct mention of the change? Nope.

Growing increasingly annoyed by Mrs. Huber’s tone I hung up and re-dialed. The 2nd agent I got was was pleasant, friendly and eager to help – to an extent. She confirmed my new (third) route through Atlanta, which now departs at 12:15PM and arrives at 10AM in Dublin.  Keep in mind my Dad is driving from Prescott and staying the night at my place to take me to the airport at 3:00AM and my brother who’s currently in Europe and difficult to contact is planning on meeting me at the Dublin Airport at 7:50AM. Both of which I need to now notify about the changes. The 2nd agent (who’s name I unfortunately didn’t write down) set to re-assigning my seats on the new flights and managed to secure 2 isle seats. The catch? I’m looking at 43G from Atlanta to Dublin. That’s not an isle seat and it’s anything but near the front of the Aircraft.

Delta’s response to the whole thing? An insincere apology and a shrug of the shoulders over not notifying me correctly. No effort to make things right until they got caught, completely unwilling to offer any sort of upgrade for the inconvenience and anything but apologetic about the whole affair.  Oh, did I mention that Mrs. Huber had the nerve to try and up sell me hotel and food add-ons at the end of the call? 180 degrees from what she should have been offering. Astounding.

Delta’s approach to customer service? Apparently it’s a – we’ll do whatever we want and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it.  It looks like I just ended up with that Pink Cadillac XLR with 15,000 miles and a dent.

So, to my readers and the travel community – add Delta to your do not travel list.  They’re just another group of dishonest crooks.  If the economy takes them out, the only tears I’ll be shedding are tears of joy.

If, on the off chance someone at Delta is embarrassed by this whole thing and does want to make things right I invite them to e-mail me via alex[at]virtualwayfarer.com. I’ll be waiting for a sincere apology.