Monday, December 12, 2011

Expat curveball: Learning from mistakes

Last year, we made one big, huge $3,500 mistake at Christmas time...
here's how it happened:

Leaving Atyrau, Kazakhstan always tends to be nerve racking. You aren't sure if the planes are on time, and boy oh boy, were they ever late in December 2010!
The plane we were supposed to depart Atyrau on was scheduled to leave at 9:30 am. The connecting flight was at 1:30 to London...where we were going to take our children to a show, or maybe to ride the London Eye...or whatever fun, holiday event the evening would provide.
The next morning our flight to NY and the Pittsburgh was set.

Well, the night before our flight leaving Atyrau, a friend called and asked if I had seen the internet for Air Astana...the flight was already delayed by 2 hours...from the previous night!
So, I still hoped for the best, thinking oh, two hours is still plenty of time to make our flight.
Then the morning came, and the flight was delayed even longer...but it still, left us with an hour to make our flight.

Side note #1:
I am ok with running through airports. I do not care about the stares one receives while running...I most likely do not know who is laughing or gawking at me, nor will probably ever see them again.

As the morning wore on, it became quite obvious that we would not make our 1:30 connection. So, I call a popular US airline that had the rest of our connecting flights. Unfortunately, when I book online with the local airline, that's where the buck stops. So no one was responsible for the change fees and change of fare that I was charged except for me!

Side note #2:
This was only about $2,900.

So, I bit the bullet, what else could I do? I changed the connections to London to the 4:30 flight. Surely we would make that, right?
Well, one would think so, but one would be wrong when dealing with this airline!

The morning turned into past lunchtime. We were finally called to the airport for our flight to depart at 3:30, landing at local time with one hour to spare. Again, perfect...see side note #1. An hour is plenty of time to make a connection.

Well, there we sat on the runway...over an hour more...
we landed at 4:15. By the time we taxied and I ran to the connections desk, the flight to London was lost. So what does a travel weary yet determined expat do?
Spend quite a large sum of international roaming call money, to call once again, our airline....
change the tickets for only the cost of the change fee...a mere $600.


We arrived into London around midnight, found the hotel, slept a short, few hours, and got up the next morning to leave for the US. Now, at first, the next airline claimed we didn't have tickets, but you can imagine how there was no way I was letting them claim this....
let's just say me, a supervisor and a few choice words got us onto a flight. I'm not even sure it was the same flight I booked the prior evening, but on we flew.

But what lessons does one learn from these experiences?
Book a hotel room to stay overnight, and continue the journey the next day.
As I look outside my window right now, with my flight looming tomorrow morning, and the snowflakes falling, skies a cloudy, misty mix of snow and moisture...
yea, I feel good about the lessons I learned.
Hotel is booked and waiting for us, no matter what time we arrive!
(as long as we arrive tomorrow...there is another tale from Atyrau of a friend whose plane did not take off for over 36 hours!)


Fabiola said...

I am sending lots of prayers and good vibes from down here.

This flight will leave on time. Repeat.

mythopolis said...

Making connecting flights can be such a dicey thing at times. It's all so inter-connected and weather issues or other problems at very distant places can sometimes leave you stuck half-way between here and there. I hope you have a happy holiday season!

lailani said...

36 hours??? Yikes!

Wishing you fair weather and safe flights and NO frustrations :)

Merry Christmas!

Fabiola said...

Thinking of you today!!!

FancyHorse said...

I hope there will be no delays, and no unpleasant surprises this year!
Safe travels!

BLOGitse said...

Huh huh, hopefully everything goes smoothly this time. Happy holidays!