LAKE OSWEGO, Oregon (NEWS CENTER) —
Fleeing the snow and cold of New England seemed like an easy, simple idea last week.
In February, I booked a week-long trip to the West Coast to visit my extended family in Los Angeles and Oregon and was looking forward to some time off.
The trip was relaxing and going completely to plan, at least, until yesterday.
That’s when I got a push alert on my phone saying my flight back to Boston was cancelled. It wasn’t a surprise.
Before I left, Jess Conley had told me the weather models NEWS CENTER uses for forecasts were already suggesting a wallop of a storm sometime around the following weekend.
She and I were texting each other throughout the week as the forecasts grew more precise, the snow totals grew bigger and the probability I wasn’t making it home Tuesday went from “maybe” to “forget about it.”
All that was in the back of my mind most of the week, since I expected it would be a simple bump from a Tuesday flight to Wednesday and I’d be walking into the newsroom Thursday, greeted by the scowls of co-workers who’d just endured the worst March weather Maine can dish up.
This is where the plan falls apart.
After getting that push alert, I immediately called my airline and tried to rebook my ticket. I’m not helpless when it comes to travel and navigating the trip-ups and traps that make air travel a migraine waiting to happen or seemingly out of the budget is a challenge I relish.
Negotiating a good solution to the problem was a task felt ready for but in hindsight, I was over-confident.
Nevertheless, I dialed up Alaska Airlines’ automated customer service helpline, said I wanted help from a human being and waited 45 minutes.
To put this in more perspective, I was a passenger in a car at the time driving on rural mountain roads near Mount Hood with spotty cell service. My aunt was showing the best natural spectacles the Portland area can offer on a cloudy, rainy day. (I’m told it’s like that quite a bit here).
My call back resulted in a Friday return trip. I was told I’d be flying to San Francisco and from there back to Boston.
In my head, this didn’t seem like a great solution but I said yes just to have something and then the call dropped as we drove into a valley.
When we reached our destination, there was lunch and cell service. My phone dinged as the e-mail with my new itinerary arrived.
When I opened it, my appetite dissipated. Instead of a trip from Portland to Boston, my flight had been booked from L.A.
Knowing thousands of other people were trying to rebook tickets and I’d lost time, I called Alaska again, got in line again and waited another 45 minutes.
The second call came in the restaurant parking lot.
I explained my predicament, tried to make my situation sound as urgent as possible but was told the next flight with a seat to Boston was six days later, on Monday.
Now I was a little panicked.
How do I tell my boss this? Do I have to use up all my vacation days? Is there another way back? Should I just drive back since it would be faster?
The next logical solution was to be put on another airline and pull the “this is unacceptable” card. So that’s what I said and waited on hold while my customer service agent made a call.
No beans. Alaska wouldn’t book me on a partner airline and said my only other option was to get a refund,
“Well what if I drive to Seattle?”
“Nothing there either.”
I took the refund, which I was told was for my whole trip not just this leg.
“Whatever,” I thought to myself. This back and forth didn’t seem to be productive.
My aunt and I decided it would make the most sense to resume problem solving at the bottom of the mountain. We made a stop in the town of Sandy, which is right next to the hilariously-named town of Boring.
Like I said, I’m not a helpless traveler. The next sensible option was to call American Airlines. I have their credit card and a decent amount of miles with them.
The wait for their customer service was only 15 minutes I had the conversation in a grocery store where we made a pit stop to charge the electric car we’d been driving in. (#westcoastliving)
American had a flight to Boston on Thursday but I would have had to use 30,000 miles. That’s the equivalent of a one-way trip to Europe (if you book early enough.) I said thanks but no thanks.
I decided to postpone continuing the travel negotiations until after we returned to the house. But as we were driving through Boring (still laughing), my aunt’s phone rang.
My uncle was on the line. He’s a travel pro and found a United flight to Boston via Newark for Thursday that was a reasonable $311.80. Other flights had been priced north of $800.00.
We jumped on that reservation and I’ll be back in Boston Thursday evening.
In the future, my uncle suggested not giving up my Alaska seat and trying to push them harder to get me home. Curious what others think of that idea.
I’m also looking forward to spending extra time here in “the other Portland.” There are a lot of similarities, abundance of pine trees, nature, logging, funky businesses, expensive apartments.
The waterfalls, rather rainy climate and crazy number of espresso stands/shops and inland locale show the two cities are not copy cats of each other.
That’s another blog for another time.