By: John Ricco, CAE
I swear I didn’t mean for this to happen, but it did. I was in Las Vegas on business and needed to overhaul my entire travel plan home. O.K. so that’s not exactly the Hangover-esque tale of debauchery you were hoping for, but it got you reading, right?
Until recently, I thought I’d experienced all the airlines and travel world had to offer: mechanical delays, ice delays, hours on hold rebooking flights, sleeping in airports and even an emergency landing where the flight crew said, don’t worry because, ”we’ve been practicing this in the simulator!” I thought I was prepared for most anything travel related – not so in this case, but there are two interesting and very valuable travel lessons I learned during this trip.
1) Buy Direct. I admit it. I got sucked in. I was searching for hotel rooms and I bit on the pop-up ad up for a website to bundle my hotel and airfare and save some money. HUGE MISTAKE. Since I needed to change my travel plans after I had already checked in, when I tried to adjust my departure date to leave earlier with the front desk I was told that they could not do anything because the room was booked through a third party. The “third party” said sorry, you have to pay for the entire stay … after 25 minutes of wrangling through a phone bureaucracy they ultimately allowed me to shorten my stay and refunded most of the balance.
Similarly, when I tried to switch to an earlier flight home, since my ticket was not bought directly from the airline I had to talk to no less than three people, got passed on to the “override desk”, and was going to have to pay a $200 processing fee plus the change in airfare. Fifty minutes later a very helpful woman got me on a red eye flight home for a very reasonable fee. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my time at 3:30 a.m. while my body was still on east coast time.
2) “Same day” is literally – same day. The “same day” change allowance that most airlines allow is not a rolling 24 hour window but literally “same day”. I had assumed (bad idea) that since I was leaving earlier, 11:30 p.m. Friday instead of 6:00 a.m. Saturday, that I could just pay $50 change fee and change my flight. Nope. Even though the flights had a difference of only six and half hours, Friday is Friday and Saturday is Saturday. If the flight had left 30 minutes later, like 12:01 Saturday, I would have been fine.
I hope that my mini-nightmare will prevent you from having similar experiences in your business or personal travel. Book direct, read the fine print and always bet on the Hard Ways.