What's my lesson here?

Other than being more careful when selecting a flight package online, that is.

Back in January I reserved a flight package for a trip to Europe, through a 3rd party travel website. I didn’t notice at the time that there was a 45-minute turnaround between the first domestic leg of the outbound flight and the international leg. This was especially stupid because there was another first leg flight 2 hours earlier.

I tried fixing this, twice with the airline and three times with the travel website. The airline could/would not help me because I bought the tickets through a 3rd party. The travel website claimed that such a change was a)unnecessary because the airline was responsible for making this connection work or they shouldn’t have made it available, or b) would cost $4K more than I originally paid because they have to re-cost the whole package due to this one change. After the first call to the travel site, they sent me a survey in which I gave very negative responses.

Finally, the third call to the travel site got me someone who was willing to help. They put me on hold while they called the airline, and got a dispensation to make the change for free. The agent had to re-write all the tickets for the entire package for some reason, and this took over 30 minutes. The whole thing took 2 hours, but it was worth it. Was it my negative review that spurred them to action, or my persistence in making a third call, or was I just lucky this time?

The other lesson I think I am taking away from this is to search for flights on travel websites, but when I find a package I want, to buy it directly from the airline, even if it costs a little more (often it doesn’t cost more anyway).

What do you think?

It seems to me that the lesson is to carefully look at ALL of the flights, transfers and layovers before booking with anyone. You didn’t explicitly spell out why you didn’t like the package you first booked, but I’m guessing it was because it only had 45 minutes to transfer to an international flight. I agree with you that would be very tight.

It doesn’t matter how you book flights, it is always a hassle and stressful, as seats get sold and prices change by the minute. But doing it as a package seems to be less stressful, IMO.

Neither the airline nor the travel site should have made a 45-minute layover for an international flight an option.

I never pay much attention to the amount of time of the layover, and often end up kicking myself as a result. I’ve never had the problem with an international transfer, but it seems like some of the domestic transfer times that airlines allow are awfully short, and while I usually make it, it’s never worth the stress.

It’s not surprising it took 2 phone calls to get this changed. Travel agencies and sites make money when they sell something, not when they spend 2 hours changing something because of a customer’s preference. Not to sound snarky.
A lean call centre isn’t going to have the capacity to spend that much time on a request that results in $0 of sales.

The chances of someone connecting your poor review to your request are pretty much nil. Most companies aggregate the responses for each question into a single number. There’s no one sitting and reading each review and thinking about the individual customer. Again, no capacity for something like this that adds no value.

I’m not sure I agree that a 45-minute layover is any more of a problem for an outbound international flight than a domestic flight, unless the international terminal at that particular airport is a long way off from the domestic terminal. In my experience, passport checking occurs when you check in for your FIRST flight, and connections between flights are no more time-consuming than connections on a domestic trip.

On the inbound leg where you have to go through customs at your first airport, yeah, that would be a major problem!

I learned my lesson on that one.

The travel agent had booked a 45-minute layover at Boston, coming home to Philadelphia from the UK. It seemed a bit tight at the time, but I zipped right through customs and immigration with no fuss and was all ready to get on the Philly flight.

Then I found out that Logan airport has separate terminals for international and domestic flights. And they have a shuttle bus service that stops by every fifteen minutes.
I waited and waited. Watching as the minutes slipped by. The bus finally arrived, then I watched in agony as the bus driver stepped out and lit up a smoke…and puffed that cigarette for a good long relaxing time, while I was panicking inside.

By the time I got to the terminal they had stopped accepting baggage, so I ran to the gate just like those out-of-breath guys you see in the movies.
With no lines and everyone being very nice (thanks TSA lady!) I finally showed up as they were about to close the door. They escorted me to my seat and I finally could relax.

Never again.


Don’t shortchange yourself on international layovers.

Yeah, fair enough, I’d forgotten about that particular feature of Logan. (I’m used to Atlanta, where some of the domestic terminals are closer to the international terminal than they are to each other.)

When I called the airline they said 70 minutes is the minimum. They had no answer when they were asked about why this combination was sold. The travel site said, on the first call, that their offerings are automated based on what the airlines offer and if something went wrong with the layover it would be on the airline to make it good. This was cold comfort. I was less worried about us being able to make the flight than I was about our bags being able to make it from one plane to the next. I did not relish the idea of spending our first day in Europe without our luggage (I usually do very small carry-ons because that’s how I roll).

I got more anxious when I got notified that the first leg of the flight was re-scheduled to start 11 minutes later. That left a 34-minute turnaround.

And for the record it took 5 phone calls (and a useless email) to get this resolved. The travel site call center transferred me to a “specialist” who is the one who took the time to fix things. I guess that’s what he’s paid for, not for selling. He knew I had called twice before, I presume it went on my itinerary’s record of transactions.

Depending on which terminals, it’s often easier to just walk between them. It’s not bad if you’re not hauling a lot of luggage.

Yeah, they’re horseshoe-shaped. E to C isn’t very far, but you do go outside a bit. E to B is probably the longest. E to A seems like it would be a problem, but you can go up to the pedestrian bridge and then straight across through the parking garage.

I don’t remember if the signs are terribly clear, though. I’ve been to Logan enough times to know all those shortcuts, I even go out of my way for some of them, but I can see how it would be confusing for a newcomer.

I had figured that, but it was dark out, I had no idea where to walk, and I had already burned up all of my potential walking time waiting for that stupid shuttle bus and the driver’s smoke break. Lesson learned.

I just wanted to resurrect this thread, because I received a reply today from the airline to my last email to them, which was a plea for help. That plea was sent on February 19, or 5 weeks and 2 days ago. There was some glurge in the reply, followed by a statement that if this (short turnaround time) really bothered me they would make every effort to fix it. The last paragraph said “I see that we fixed this on March 5th, I’m so glad” (paraphrased).

My reply started:

“Thank you for writing back, although receiving your reply 5 weeks later rather mitigates my otherwise unalloyed pleasure at hearing from you.”

The rest of my reply note was polite but cool. End of story.

Lesson: When you don’t get anywhere with a CS agent, ask for a supervisor. Keep going up the ladder until you get someone who can authorize a reasonable request.


Once we were flying from St. Louis to Reno with a change of planes in Las Vegas. The connection was an hour’s wait but we were delayed a good 50 minutes while an air show was putting on a performance in St. Louis and lost some more time in the air. Luckily there were a lot of people making connections on that flight so the airline held the planes in Vegas. As we boiled off of the plane there was a representative shouting directions, “Los Angeles, gate 23 that way; San Diego, gate 30 that way!” and so on. We thundered around a corner, down the corridor and jetway where two attendants were waiting at the door. “There’s an old lady behind us!” we gasped as we swept by and were shown our seats. They practically clipped her heel closing the door behind her and started the pushback the instant she was in her seat. While we were dropping the tow one of the attendants came up and said, “You’ll be happy to know your luggage is on board.” “You’re kidding.” “No, the planes were right next to each other; it’s the people who have to travel 200 yards.”