Wednesday, June 27, 2007

LIVE Blogging - Stuck in Greece edition

Yeah, about that 7:00 a.m. flight this morning? Didn't exist. Hasn't, in fact, existed since June 4...Olympic cut that flight from their regular itinerary on the very day our trip began.

We didn't find out about it from CheapTickets.com either. When pressed (by Dad) they claimed to have E-mailed me on the 15th, but I've been checking both mail & spam regularly and they did no such thing.

Olympic had transferred our reservation to a later flight the same day, but that would have made us miss our connection with a US Airways flight in London. Since CheapTickets.com managed to book our trip without informing either airline about the other leg of the trip, neither Olympic nor US Airways felt particularly compelled to resolve the situation. In fact, Dad was told on the phone that if we missed the flight in London, US Airways wouldn't even put us on a later flight, but would be glad to sell us a new ticket at walk-up prices.

By the time we realized how bad it was, we were in Delphi with Simon the taxi driver (Famous George was busy, but Simon was a worthy substitute). We cut our tour short and drove back to Athens, Simon busily plying the hands-free and instructing his wife to make phone calls and yell at people on our behalf - she was the one who found out that Olympic had dropped the flight three weeks ago.

Mom's idea, which we all approved, was to go straight to the hotel, throw everything into our bags and get to the airport prepared to travel on anything they could give us that night, in hopes of getting to London in time for the US Airways flight.

Olympic was happy enough to let us stand by for their last flight to London, but the flight was overbooked and they were actually denying boarding to ticketed passengers, so we obviously didn't get on either.

We, along with all the other standbys, were sent over to the Olympic ticket counter, where their first response was to explain to us that the problem was "not our responsibility" (if you can read that to yourself in a Greek accent it's really worth doing) since they had put us on their next flight out. Fortunately, after much conferring in Greek between the three people behind the counter and a lot of frowny faces looking at computers, and not a single bit of explanation or even a glance to us as we stood there wondering about our fate, she finally looked up and said she had put us on a US Airways flight to Philadelphia the next morning (that's today). She filled out a Flight Interruption Manifest that would serve as our new ticket and we thanked her profusely and offered to come around the counter and give them each a kiss. Lisa in fact blew a kiss to the nearest of the three who had been helping us.

So we put our luggage in storage at the airport and got the metro back to our hotel. We had already paid for the room of course, and had just abandoned it in our hope of getting the flight situation resolved. They had already cleaned it and charged us 20 Euros to get it back again, but whatever.

We got the metro back to the airport in the morning and arrived right on time for the US Airways flight, only to find that it was also denying ticketed passengers, not because of overbooking, but because Greece is in the middle of a heat wave (which I haven't even gotten around to mentioning yet, but it's insanely hot. Upwards of 110 degrees walking through the ruins at Delphi yesterday) and for some reason the aircraft are subject to much lower weight limits due to the heat, and were actually having to fly with empty seats.

So the whole batch of standbys for that flight headed over to the US Airways ticket counter, (where we met another couple who was supposed to have been on that nonexistant flight at 7:00 this morning) and were eventually escorted back to Olympic to be dealt with. Somehow that other couple got onto a Continental flight going somewhere (Newark I think) but by the time they dealt with us it was too late to put us on the same one.

They finally put us on a flight leaving for JFK, instructed us to hurry and pointed down the concourse to one of the long lines in front of one of the interminable banks of identical check-in desks...neglecting, unfortunately, to either say or clearly write which airline we were supposed to be checking in for.

Turned out it wasn't the Delta flight to JFK they had put us on, but an Olympic flight to JFK with a similarly long line in a slightly different place, and none of the airport or security personnel who dealt with us while we were in that line actually recongnized the problem until we waited all the way through the line and got up to check in...for the wrong flight. By that time, the gate for the one we were supposed to be on was closed.

The good news is that when we went back to the Olympic ticket desk THAT time and discovered that there were no more possibilities for today, it didn't seem to occur to the lady behind the counter to blame us for missing the flight.

She put us on that same flight for tomorrow (Olympic Airlines, Athens to JFK) connecting with a US Airways flight from LaGuardia to Charlotte.

We had already decided that if we didn't get out today, we would just spend the night at the airport - just the baggage storage and metro to town and back would cost 50 Euros, plus whatever hotel we might end up finding.

But then it occurred to me that the airport might actually close - some do at night. I asked the ticket agent if it did and she didn't actually answer, but instead told us to go to the next window for a hotel voucher. Much better response, really. We also got vouchers for three meals, and the Olympic van came and drove us to the hotel, where we are now.

I don't even know what town we're in, but here's where we are.

So we don't really know what tomorrow holds (although we have at least been told that our intended flight is not overbooked) but we are in a nicer-that-we've-been-staying-at hotel on the beach, with Internet access and a pool (although it's actually too hot to even go swimming. It's some of the hottest weather I can remember experiencing, ever). We've had a big buffet lunch with fresh salads and fruit and coffee and everything, and we're trying to digest that in time for our free dinner tonight.

So it hasn't been a particularly enjoyable morning, but at least we're done with standby for a few hours. In case you lost count, over an 18-hour period we missed or were denied boarding on a total of five different flights out of Athens, and that's if you don't count the three different London flights we considered just buying tickets for last night, or the Continental one that they didn't manage to process us onto after our first standby experience this morning.

Maybe it's not too hot to go swimming after all.

6 comments:

Charlotte June 27, 2007 8:27 AM  

Hi Jen, I have been following your holiday with interest and have been mightily impressed with your commitment to blogging throughout! I think that deserves some kind of medal. Though perhaps a flight out of Greece would be medal enough! Good luck and I'm sure you'll get home safely.

Poppy Fields June 27, 2007 1:07 PM  

OMG! Just that story beats all of my previous known flight hassles!
I have been reading about the heat wave in greece and thinking of you. yesterday the news said it was about 50°C (120°F) in some parts of greece. Stay cool and I hope you catch your next flight :)

theotherbear June 27, 2007 8:01 PM  

Yikes. Definitely not too hot for swimming after all that. Gee I've been enjoy8ing your travel tales, but wow this one would have been frustrating!!!

Robin June 28, 2007 10:32 AM  

Greece can't keep you! Hope the new flight leaves on time and with no hassles.

paper napkin June 28, 2007 11:00 AM  

Oh man, stupid CheapTickets. I hope the rest of your trip home is hassle free!

lisa June 29, 2007 9:41 AM  

So, what happened next? I'm ready to read all about it.

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