Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas travel

For the last few years, I've been meeting up with my family in Taipei for Christmas. My brother flies in from Baltimore, my sister from New York, and my parents and myself from the Bay Area. It's nice because everyone has Christmas off, so we don't have to worry about lining up schedules, and we get to visit Taiwan while the weather is pleasant (usually in the 60s). The downside is that plane tickets to Asia are really expensive during the winter holidays, and we've had several travel mishaps over the years.

Last year I wrote about the nine hours I spent waiting at LAX after our connection from SFO to LAX was delayed, but I didn't mention that that same day, my brother's luggage was lost while he was connecting in Seattle, and when he finally got his suitcase back, his Playstation and all his games had been stolen, not to mention a bottle of expensive cologne.

This year, my brother was originally supposed to fly United from Baltimore to San Francisco, connecting in Denver, and then he was going to have dinner (with my uncle's family and me) in San Francisco before getting on another flight to Taipei. My parents were in Taipei already and didn't realize how bad things were at Denver International, and I didn't realize he had a one-stop flight, so it was my uncle, whose daughter's classmate had been stranded in Denver for two days already, who realized that we needed a contingency plan.

I spent an hour on hold with United before getting ahold of a reservations agent, who told me there were no flights from the East Coast to San Francisco, and no other rerouting possibilities, so our only option was a full refund. I asked her sarcastically if she was going to refund the international leg of the flight, and of course she said no.

My parents then scoured the internet and found a one-way, $700 flight on US Air, connecting through Philadelphia, and arriving at 7:40pm, which was only half an hour later than the cancelled United flight, so they quickly booked it. (A cheaper JetBlue flight from Dulles to Oakland sold out before they were able to buy it.) At that point we thought everything would be fine.

Well, my sister made it to Taipei, with only a two-hour delay. My brother made it to San Francisco with a half-hour delay, arriving at 8:10pm. Unfortunately, that made him too late to join us for our sushi dinner, but we bought him takeout and brought it to the airport. Then, the bombshell. US Air had lost his luggage in Philly. They said it might come on the 10:00pm flight, it might come on the 10:45pm flight, or it might come the next morning.

The Taipei flight on EVA Air departed at 12:05pm, and boarded at 11:20pm, with check-in closing at 11:05pm, so he waited for the 10:00pm, didn't see his bag, decided it was cutting it too close to wait for the 10:45pm as well, and tried to file a lost baggage claim. US Air told him that if he filed the claim, they would be unable to release the baggage to EVA Air once it arrived. So, he went to the EVA counter and got checked in, but in a classic travel moment, was told that EVA would be unable to get his luggage unless they had a lost baggage claim from US Air. He went back to the US Air baggage claim area, and while he was waiting in line with the other 50-odd people to file his claim, he found his bag, which had come on the 10:45pm flight. He quickly grabbed the bag, hauled ass back to the EVA counter, got his bag checked in, and made it to the gate about 10 minutes before boarding.

Ironically, my brother would never have gone back to check the 10:45pm flight if he hadn't been given wrong information by US Air about whether to file a claim. But in the end, everything worked out perfectly (except that my parents spent $700 on a one-way domestic flight), with everyone (and their clothes) arriving in time for Christmas dinner.


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