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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Flying the "friendly" skies

I've been obsessing over and stalking airfare for months waiting for a decent fare to Hawaii for our honeymoon. Yesterday, for the heck of it, I decided to log onto my favorite travel search engine, sidestep.com, and see what the latest fares were like. I always check them out of both Rochester and Buffalo.

To my surprise, there was a $600 (yes, $600--you read that right) fare out of Rochester. I was ecstatic and immediately began e-mailing a travel agent in Hawaii that I've been working with. Well, when I clicked through to actually try to purchase the $600 fare--surprise, surprise, it was no longer available. The next cheapest fare was $735. Not bad, but still not $600. Bummed, I decided to check the situation out of Buffalo.

Round-trip airfare from Buffalo to Maui--$615 each. Ummm, yeah. I wasn't about to let this one get away from us! So I e-mailed the travel agent again. She got back to me and expressed concern about the "short" layovers (for our trip out there--2 hour layover in Detroit; then 1 hour, 4 minutes in Phoenix). She told me to try to look for a flight schedule that allowed for more cushion in between. Well, I did that... and big shocker--flights like that were well over $1,000. And not only that, but the layovers weren't really that much longer.

So of course, being that I am who I am, I'm in a panicked "What do I do? What do I do?" state about whether or not we should book the flights. I had my hand ready to click "purchase" before I had that response from the travel agent. Her concern made me scared to book it. I looked into the other available flights from Detroit to Phoenix and from Phoenix to Maui to see what our options would be if we missed either of the flights--well, the outlook is truly not good. Maui is not exactly an airline hub, so daily flights there are limited. If we do miss one of the connections, chances are we'll either have to be completely re-routed in order to get to Maui, or we won't get there until the following day.

This was all happening in like the last 10 minutes at work, and I couldn't make a decision, so I shut down my computer without doing anything and headed home.

On my drive home, I started thinking about this whole layover business. I started reflecting back on my previous travel experiences. I've done a decent amount of personal traveling over the years, and with my first job, I used to travel somewhat frequently.

One of my worst traveling experiences EVER involved a flight from Rochester to Seattle for work. I was supposed to have a 2.5-hour layover in Chicago. Well, I got to the airport in the morning to find my flight from Rochester to Chicago was delayed 3+ hours. This was JUNE, and it was a beautiful summer day. Why was it delayed, you ask? Well, because they didn't have a crew. Yeah... they had the plane, they had the great weather, they just didn't have people to fly it. Gotta love the airline business. Seriously. Needless to say, this caused me to miss my connection in Chicago, so I had to be rescheduled on another flight from Chicago to Seattle.

Once I did get to Chicago, I STILL managed to have a 3-hour layover, and then we sat on the runway for an additional hour, in 90+ degree heat without air circulating through the plane. I ended up having a panic attack (not exaggerating). I was so tired, so frustrated, and so HOT... it was just too much for me to handle. Of course the panic attack occurred right as we were finally taking off. Once we were cruising at altitude and I was still breathing like I was having an asthma attack, one of my lovely row-mates ended up pressing the call button. It was shortly after that, as I remember it, when I heard "Do we have a doctor on board?" being broadcast over the intercom to the whole plane. Ummmm... yeah. I was that person.

Anyway, my whole point to this is... even when you have a long layover built in, it doesn't mean that things are going to go smoothly. So why on earth would Michael and I pay an extra $400+ per ticket for a slightly longer layover when nothing is ever guaranteed when it comes to airlines??

Michael and I discussed it, and then we called my mom to ask her opinion since she travels for business every single week. She said to book it, and then she called her work travel agent to ask his opinion. And he said to book it, too. So you know what we did?

We booked it.

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