Shortly after I got to work this morning, I stumbled upon this lovely piece of news:
Normally, I wouldn't really care much. In the times we live in, seeing airlines shut down or file for bankruptcy has happened all too often. And ATA, well, in my life before wedding planning, I had never heard of them since they operate primarily on the west coast and I am an east coaster.
But this morning, this news sent my little wedding-planning world into a tailspin. You see, we booked our airfare to Hawaii back in December, and I knew all too well that ATA was supposed to get us through two legs of our trip. Northwest was taking us from home to Detroit to Phoenix, but ATA was getting us from Phoenix to Maui. And the same went for the itinerary on the way home.
I spent three hours trying to resolve this issue this morning.
At first, sure, I panicked a little, but I remained calm for a long time. I decided to begin by calling Northwest. We booked the tickets through Cheaptickets.com, but technically, the tickets were through Northwest. The ATA legs were also technically booked through them, since they are "partner" airlines. When I called Northwest, it was so early on in this crisis that they weren't even sure what they were doing yet.
After being on hold for a while, the woman came back and told me that they were only doing ticket exchanges and rebookings (without additional fees) for people who were traveling before April 30. She basically said I was out of luck, and if we wanted to rebook to get all the way to Maui on Northwest, we would have to pay the difference--the current airfare was over $1,300 per ticket. Considering we paid $615 each for our tickets, this was obviously an unacceptable solution. And I told her so. I was not too discouraged yet.
Next, I called an insurance company. When we booked through Cheaptickets, we were given the option to purchase "ticket insurance" for the trip. This insurance covers a variety of mishaps, from family emergencies to injury, etc. Well, I had checked it before I even called Northwest, and sure enough, there was a clause for "financial default of an airline." So I thought we were covered--we would get a refund because ATA had gone bankrupt.
Imagine my horror when the woman from the insurance company explained that ATA was not one of the airlines they cover against financial default. She said the airlines opt to pay the insurance company to cover that, and ATA had not done so. At this point, I began to break.
I called Cheaptickets.com just to see if they could do anything. It was a short conversation because they couldn't. They recommended that we call our credit card company to file a dispute to get a refund.
So next, I called Discover. In short, they told me that because the tickets were through Northwest, and Northwest wasn't the airline that went bankrupt, they weren't really obligated to give us our money back. They would probably give us the money back for the ATA legs of the trip, but maybe not the full amount. I asked how long it would take to find out what they were going to refund if we filed a dispute. She said there is no timeframe. Great.
Now, I started bawling. Looking back, it's a stupid thing to cry over, but I had already been making phone calls and stressing for 2.5 hours and I just couldn't take anymore bad news. I was updating Michael by instant message and I just couldn't believe how things went from bad to worse. It was looking like not only did we no longer have a flight to get to our honeymoon, but we were out the money we had paid, too. And because Northwest didn't have an obligation to give us a refund through the credit card company, our only real choice was to rebook through them and pay the extra $700 a ticket so we wouldn't lose our money completely.
Out of desperation, I called Northwest back, ready to demand a refund from them directly. The poor woman on the phone--when I called, I started crying again as soon as I started to tell the story. I apologized for being so emotional, but said I had been dealing with this for close to three hours now and was being given the runaround. She got the specifics about our flight numbers and things, and put me on hold. Fifteen minutes later, she came back. I had recovered from my crying and was just waiting.
And what did she say?
Well, her words were music to my ears.
She said that Northwest was now rebooking ALL of its passengers affected by the ATA shutdown, including those traveling after April 30. Which includes us. Ultimately, she put us on the Northwest flights that had been offered to me by the woman on the first phone call. Except this time, we were getting put on the new flights for no additional charge. I was so relieved, I started crying again.
Reflecting, I think it was almost a blessing that I was put through such hell this morning. That hell stalled me for three hours from making new reservations on a different airline. When I checked this morning, United had the cheapest fare, and we were ready to rebook new tickets through them. But that was when we thought we would be eligible for a refund for our original tickets.
If I had found out earlier in the morning that we were going to be eligible for a refund, I probably would have booked new flights for $930 each. We would have ended up paying $300 more for each ticket. At the time, that seemed like a good deal after the tickets Northwest was offering. But as it turns out, because I endured that three hours of stress, and had all of that BAD luck... I ended up calling Northwest back and getting the best case scenario. Our tickets rebooked for NO extra cost.
And so it all worked out in the end. We'll live happily ever after once again.
Especially after I go home and have a much needed drink.