For Fun

Tips for Flight Changes

3-19-2014 7-17-49 PM

Sorry for the lag in posting last week and this week. I bailed out of blogging to head out of town to visit the fam. Had a great time at our annual family reunion, but now it’s back to writing. I previously wrote a post poking fun at air travel. This one is a bit more serious with some tips on dealing with airlines when you need to make a flight change. Often the airlines have exorbitant change fees, and here is some info on how you might be able to avoid or at least reduce a clubbing by an airline change fee. No guarantees (yep, there’s the disclaimer), but I do cover some things that have worked for me in the past.

Hang onto your confirmation number after booking a flight, you’ll need it if you need to call the airline later to make a change. Sure, everything is in the computer and they can look it up, but it will save you some headache if you have it on hand.

Call within 24 hrs of departure time to change your flight and you can usually avoid change fees.

If you can’t get the person to waive fees, hang up and call back to talk to someone else and try again.

If that still isn’t working, ask to speak to a supervisor. Odds are you will NOT get a supervisor, but instead be put on hold while the person you are speaking to “goes to speak with a supervisor.”  I use these quotes because I’m not convinced this representative-supervisor conversation always happens. I have my doubts because the person comes back on the line and says, “No, sorry, the supervisor said no waiver.”  I had this happen and asked to speak with a different supervisor. I still never got to speak to that mythical supervisor, but after much stalling, I was finally rewarded with a change fee waiver to the tune of a $200 savings.

I have called and had the airline representative offer to speak to a supervisor for me (this was a nice surprise when it happened!) to ask about a change fee waiver or reduction, and I got a significant change fee reduction ($150 savings). I couldn’t make the decision to pay the fee right then since I had to run it by my manager, but I asked them to put a note on the record about the reduced fee so it would already be there when I called back to confirm the change …and the airline did exactly this. Even better, when I called back to make the change official, the representative (different one than before), waived the rest of the change fee (another $50 saved) and only charged me for the difference in airfare which I knew I would have to pay regardless. And that difference in airfare, sorry, you’re not weaseling out of that, but you might be able to squirm out of the additional change fee.

So it’s a little hit or miss on this if you’re calling ahead to make a change. If you can wait to make a change the day before or day of, showing up in person at the airport sure seems to help. I’ve been able to change flight times on the day of travel with no mention of fees or fuss from the airline rep.

Here’s a big key…stay polite. You can be frustrated and annoyed, but don’t show it and don’t get too vocal about it. I know sometimes flights get botched and your vacation is at risk, but don’t freak out on the airline rep. That ticketing person is not responsible for the hurricane, snow storm, mechanical failure, or delayed crew.

Getting angry and verbally abusive with the airline gets you nowhere, so don’t lose your temper no matter how stressed you are or how annoying your airline rep may be. Most of the time they are polite, especially if you are being nice and someone else in line is being an ass …and believe me there are plenty of asses with air travel. You will look like a gem if you stay polite, and often you will get rewarded for this. And when you’re annoyed but keeping your cool, still remember to say thank you!

If you have ever worked as a public servant, waitress/waiter, store clerk, cab driver, gas station attendant, nurse, anything that puts you working directly with the public, remember how it felt to be in that role. Remember how you treated your good customers vs your butthead customers. Big difference. Airline reps are working with the public too. Don’t be that butthead customer …unless you’re in line with me, and then by all means, be a butthead so I can look fantastic when I whip out the uber polite and friendly card.

Feel free to comment and share any other tips/tricks you have on making flight changes to avoid fees.


For Fun

Travel Glamour – Not So Much


2-5-2014 7-15-45 PM

Many weeks out of the year, I fly twice a week to/from my client site where I do consulting work. When I tell people what I do for work, where I work, and how I get there, many people strike the “oooooh … aaaaaaah” look of wonderment. And then this is followed by a statement along the lines of:  “Oh, you’re quite the jet setter!”

I don’t even know what a jet setter looks like, but I’m certain I’m not one. Dragging my carcass out of bed at oh-dark thirty to stagger my way through airport security, desperately hoping I have packed everything I need for the week and hoping I’m am fully clothed, I don’t think I strike an image of glamour to any other passenger in the airport. Maybe it’s the shoestring-like bit of drool hanging from my sleep deprived face that kills the perception, but I’m not sure.

There is nothing glamorous about flying twice a week. So let’s make sure that is clear.

The general public, which airports are infested with them, are virus and germ infested themselves. I affectionately call airplanes a Petri dish with wings. Remember in high school the disc shaped thingies where you poured a broth mix that later turned to a snot-like mixture that grew clumps of bacteria? That’s a Petri dish. Put wings on it and you now have an airplane. It’s like magic. Those clumps of bacteria, those are the passengers. There are days on the plane when I want to bathe in Purel after flying. When the person on the plane behind me is about to cough up a lung over my head and into my lap, I wish I’d worn a bio hazard suit instead of dressier work clothes. I carry a mask in my backpack and Purel in my pocket on every flight. Even then there are days I wish I could shower in Lysol.

Remember, these planes are cramped quarters. TV and movies love to show people sitting in spacious seats that look more like a Lazy Boy recliner. This is fiction unless you are in first class on a massive plane that has the fold out sleeper sofas. I have yet to see one of these sleeper sofa cabins, so I refuse to believe that they even exist. The Loch Ness Monster is real. Sleeper sofa seats on an airplane are not. Most of the planes are commuters, because, well, that’s what I am and that’s what I fly on. Commuters are small planes that may or may not have a wee first class section. Often I feel like I need a shoe horn to get into the seat and a crowbar to get out. If you have broad shoulders like me, you will sit twisted at an angle since it is impossible to get two broad shouldered people sitting next to each other on a plane.

The passengers, well that is certainly a grab bag of possibilities where I might get a great seat neighbor or I end up with the seat neighbor from hell. Keep in mind I have the neighbor beside me (God help me if I am stuck in a middle seat and have one on each side of me), the ones in front of me, the ones behind me, and the invariably noisy as hell pair somewhere else on the plane that is screaming their conversation to each other so loudly there isn’t a pair of noise cancellation headphones that can block them out. So my neighbor to the side might opt for a nap, but the one behind me incessantly kicks my seat. Or the one in front of me drops their seat so far back their head is in my lap. If I am dying for a nap, just when I close my eyes, the Chatty Cathies get going. Both men and women fall into the Cathies category too. Regardless of the gender of the chatterboxes, I can kiss my nap goodbye. My, yes, flying is some glamorous stuff.

As a frequent air traveler, if you are not already in a codependent relationship, you will develop one with your bags. If you are already in a codependent relationship, you will develop another one. Dragging my bags everywhere with me is a lovely bonding experience. They go with me on the plane, off the plane, to go find something to eat, to find a place to sit, and yep, they will even go with me to the toilet. As long as I drag them where I go, they remain more loyal than a dog. If I happen to leave my bags with a friend while I visit the toilet, I have to fight to keep the anxiety at bay of leaving them alone. Will they be OK without me? Will the person looking after them be nice to them while I’m gone? When I get home, I have to re-train my brain to understand, yes, I really can go potty by myself and not need to panic that I do not have my bags with me in the bathroom.

Jet setter? No. I sit for hours on planes and share a toilet with a hundred thousand other airport travelers during my connections, that is assuming that I have enough time to pee and not miss my next flight. Traveling so often, I have developed ninja-like balance. I travel with a backpack, and I have learned how to pee while wearing this pack. It becomes part of the balancing act. When darting from gate to gate, and I find I have a spare 30 seconds to pee, this is a glorious treat! Men have it easier, but for women, when the bathroom stall looks more like an overused outhouse, the balancing act begins. When there isn’t enough Lysol on the planet to cure what is probably living on the toilet seat, I am not about to let my skin touch the throne. But remember, I only have 30 seconds to spare and I have already lost 10 seconds recovering from the shock of the toilet’s condition. (Keep in mind when you first start traveling you lose the entire 30 seconds plus some extra trying to recover your senses. As you become more seasoned at traveling the shock is less overwhelming and you can bounce back to reality more quickly to still get your pee in)  The pack becomes instrumental in my balance as I drop trou and get my keester suspended in the air. I recite in my mind, “Wax on, wax off, sand the floor,” over and over, perfecting my balance and preventing dribble from going into my shoe. This is an art form. Other travelers suck at this balancing act. It’s easy to discern this information when there is urine covering every possible surface of the floor and toilet, yet somehow not a drop managed to land in the bowl.

I dare to brave the foul bathroom stall because having to pee on the plane is enough of a traumatizing event to cause many hours of needed therapy. Airplane bathrooms are designed for twig people. They are the only people that can effectively stand, turn, sit, etc in the twig bathroom. I am cringing when I turn as my body parts touch the sides of the twig bathroom walls that is incomprehensibly smaller than a port-o-potty. An elbow touching the twig bathroom wall invariably causes a shiver which makes the other elbow touch the other side. By the time I get done with my business in the twig bathroom, I’m a shivering mess. To flush one of these toilets mid-flight, I instinctively hold onto something before doing so because I just know some little valve in that crap system is bound to fail and suck me into the toilet and out of the plane at thirty thousand feet.

Being a frequent flyer, you start to gain the almighty “status” with the airline you fly. If you have to bounce between airlines, your status is basically useless unless you are able to gain the super sparkly uber platinum status by flying every day you take a breath. Airlines have status ranks that delineate their passengers into groups for culling. You feel like you are in a herd because, well, you are in one. The bottom rank is zero status at all which means the only reason you do not qualify with the likes of luggage is because you are human. Yes, I know the line that separates human from luggage can be thin in certain instances, but for the sake of this writing, I will be generous and classify all people as human. The next rank up is tarnished silver which means by title you have status but in reality you still suck. Your chances are better that you will win the lottery rather than get a first class upgrade as a lowly silver.

Gold is the next rank up, but don’t get too frisky. The color is actually brown, but the airlines call it gold to make you think it’s better than it is. This rank is still crap. Sure, it’s better crap than silver, but you still don’t get many bennies out of this rank. It’s quite depressing. You might land a first class upgrade, and certainly you’ll score one over a peon silver, but you can’t go counting your faux gold chickens yet, because you really don’t gain a whole lot with this status except a card to put on your bags that declares you are fancy dancy gold. What does this tag do? It means your bags get to be kicked down the conveyor belt before a silver’s bags. This is great because you get to have your brutalized luggage first instead of waiting like a silver and being dead last.

Super sparkly amazing platinum is where you really hit pay dirt with status and often score a first class upgrade and a free cookie. I mean who gives a rip about first class if you can’t get a cookie too? You get a free sip of water thrown in there too. Another bennie of reaching platinum is that you sparkle so much that you fart glitter. Or so I’m told. I’m not there yet. Heck I’m not even funky brown color that is called gold just to get your hopes up and make you think you’re important.

The next status after uber sparkly platinum is God. No really, that’s the name of that status category. God. With God status you always get a first class seat even if there isn’t a first class cabin on the plane. With the pilots looking more like 12 year olds than adults, often they will ask God status passengers about best flying practices. Since God status passengers have been on more planes than the total number of days the pilots have existed on this planet, God passengers know more about flying planes than the pilots do. If your flight cancels, with God status you call the owner of the airline to rebook you. And if there isn’t another available flight, the airline will build a new plane just for you to fly you home. I certainly don’t have God status, so I might be assuming a few things here, but I still think I’m close to accurate on how God status works.

So these are the realities of frequent air travel. Do I still sound like a jet setter, whatever that is?  Still sound like a glamorous life? One might counter with “Oh, but look at all of the frequent flyer miles you get with that?” Why, yes, I do get a truck load of frequent flyer miles, but believe me, the LAST thing I want to do when I have a vacation day is get on another bloody plane.


P.S. I know this post has nothing to do with the Burnt Mountain series, but based on a conversation the other day with a friend (thanks, Jen!), our chat turned into this post. I had such a great time with this topic, that I will do more. Hotels, taxis, shuttles, … tons of travel fodder to write about. 🙂


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