Be careful what you wish for…

So, let me get this straight.  If I take another flight on another airlines to New York and DON’T take the flight that I am scheduled to take that will arrive there too late to make my connection to Istanbul, you will cancel the entire remainder of my ticket?

That is correct.   We can book you a new ticket at no charge, but we cannot change the ticket that you have since the price was based upon your taking the entire itinerary.

Suffice it to say that this really didn’t make a lot of sense to me since, if anything, the price of the ticket without the third leg would have been less than what it was.   But perhaps this is not always the case so the no-show-automatic-cancellation policy was created to keep people from not being where they were supposed to be for the price that they paid.  I had no idea.

The afternoon had begun innocently enough:    I had arrived in Tampa early for my trek back to Dushanbe after delivering cats and dogs to the U.S. two weeks prior.   The signage showed that my flight to New York was delayed, and the ticketing agent had informed me that 60 minutes would not be enough time to make the connection.    Having now been through the airport in NY, I am not sure that this would have been true.  But I will never know, I could only work with the facts at hand.

Does Delta have an earlier flight?

I don’t know.

Can you check for me?

I only have information about Jet Blue flights.

Where is the Delta counter?

Over there, across the hall and into the next building.

Of course, it had to be at the point furthest from the JetBlue counter as possible.  I could not leave my luggage with Jet Blue and so I dragged it, and myself across the terminal to the Delta counter.   I was in luck, there was a flight at 5:30 PM and it would get me into New York with plenty of time to make my connection to Istanbul in order to get there for the only flight to Dushanbe for the next three days.   I really really wanted to make my flight because I had paid extra fees for cherished bulkhead window seating, almost as roomy as first class, for a third of the price.  I was triumphant.

Can I book with miles?

Well, you will have to go online to do this.

Unlike the Jet Blue counter, there was no line of impatient travelers behind me.  I got out my computer, accessed airport WiFi, bought my ticket and received my boarding pass.

You know, I don’t know how your ticket works but with Delta, if you do not show for any segment of a trip with multiple flights, all subsequent flights are cancelled.

Finding this difficult to believe, and aware that the Jet Blue agent had not informed me of this when she said she would let me come straight to the counter if I wanted to go to the Delta counter to check and discovered that there were no other flights.

I could ask why she neglected to mention this if it were true but, of course, it couldn’t be.

So, still at the Delta counter, I called Turkish Airlines on my Skype account using my computer.

But I am taking another airline so that I can MAKE my connection in New York?  If I take the other flight, I will miss it.

I am sorry, the rest of your trip will be cancelled unless Jet Air reissues it for you, I cannot do this for you now on the telephone.

I head back to Jet Blue, luggage in tow.  The Delta woman assured me that, if I did not come back, she would cancel my new booking; Delta had a 24-hour no fee for a cancellation policy.  Now I knew why they did this.  I had always wondered who would change their mind in 24 hours.  Now I know — someone who was trying to get the best deal possible without losing their place on at least one flight to their destination.

At JetBlue, the lines had lengthened exponentially, with everyone on flights to weather-related delays on flights to both Boston and New York who needed to make international connections jockeying for a turn at the ticket counter.  There were only two agents on duty.   I returned to the woman who told me to come back to her.

I can help you after I finish with these people, she informed me, while people in line glared at me.

I waited.  There were three people, and their situation was apparently not much different from mine with respect to the time that it was going to take to resolve.  I watched the clock.  Minutes passed, the time it would take to check my luggage with Delta and make it to the gate was rapidly disappearing and still the group in front of me would not budge.   I explained my dilemma to another Jet Blue agent, standing and waiting for anyone who might want to drop off baggage.  As the line of exasperated customers continue to lengthen, I wondered why she didn’t help someone, in this case, me.

Oh, you will have to wait to see this woman, she is almost finished.  An outright lie.

After more than 20 minutes, she finally took pity on me but, by then it was 5:05, it was obvious that, even if she could do what I needed her to do, and as it turned out, she could not, I would not make the Delta flight anyway.

Sadly, admitting defeat, and letting go of any hope for bulkhead seating, I agreed to let her re-book me.   It was at this point that I realized something — I would be forced to lay over in Istanbul again, this time at no extra charge for the flight for me.  And this had been something that I wanted very much to do, after being too wasted the first time around to take the time to see some of the interesting sites — Topkapi Palace and the Hagia Sophia museum that were close to the hotel where I had stayed in September.  I had been mentally experimenting with possible plans to go back at some point before returning to Asia in June.  I was to get my wish!!  Of course, I had to pay for housing during the layover.   I awoke out of my mental daze when I heard

There is another flight tomorrow.

Do you pay for the hotel for tonight?


Well then I do not want to stay in Tampa, the same thing could happen tomorrow.   I want to get as far as I can get as quickly as I can and then I will wait in Istanbul, if there is any waiting necessary.

She got on the phone and after much back-and-forth with whoever was on the other line, I had my delayed scheduled flight to New York that evening, another flight to Istanbul the next afternoon, and a flight to Dushanbe two days later, the only other flight after the flight that I was now going to miss.   I was partially triumphant:   I would get my layover in Istanbul instead of hanging about in Tampa or New York but, of course,  there were no bulkhead seats.

Since I had the time, I made my way back to Delta to make sure that my Delta ticket had been cancelled.  By this time, the original person with whom I spoke had gone on break, and the new one ascertained that my new ticket had, indeed, not been cancelled.  So she did this and sent me on my way.  As I walked away from the counter, I noticed that the 5:30 flight had, in fact, been delayed; it was now leaving at the time my original Jet Blue flight had been scheduled to go.  I could have made it after all…

I made my way to my departure gate, meandering as I walked  to see if I couldn’t find a charger to replace the one for my computer which I had apparently lost somewhere along the way.  Apparently, airports thrive on phone amenity sales, not computers.   I checked different shops to find the snacks I wanted and  purchased wraps and a veggie box.  All my running back and forth had given me an appetite.  I then began to meander my way to my departure gate. Given the delay, I figured I would have an hour at the gate to go online and book a hotel in New York and Istanbul.    As I sat at the gate munching contentedly on my chicken-pesto wrap, and watching people lining up to take a flight that, presumably, left from the same gate before mine did, I watched a couple come up to the counter, see the delay announcement and cry out in disappointment.  At which point, I heard another man say

Oh, the flight WAS delayed but now it is leaving on time!  I heard an announcement in the terminal and came straight over?

Were my ears deceiving me?  The flight was now leaving on time?  I  could have made my connection after all?  

I looked at the board, sure enough, the only flight leaving from the gate was the one on which I was scheduled and, although the board still showed a delay, the gal announcing pre-boarding definitely referenced my flight — 426 to New York.     For a moment or two, I speculated on whether I could get to NY, collect my luggage, which I could not check through once my trip spanned several days instead of one, get my ticket reissued, get my seats back, and make the flight which I was originally scheduled to take.   It didn’t take me long to figure out that this would be an impossibility.   I packed up the remainder of my sandwich just in time to join my boarding group, aware of how easily I could have missed the flight altogether had I had to wait in a line at Delta to cancel my ticket, or chosen to go to the bathroom, or eaten at a restaurant instead of at the gate.   The whole affair was a little too close for comfort and I had no hotel booked for New York or Istanbul.

I hope that there is an airport hotel.

We are sorry for the delay.   The tower had just informed us that we will need to wait 40 minutes to depart.

Apparently, we had lost our place in line when they delayed the flight.  I would  arrive in New York with one hour and 20 minutes to spare.

Could I have made my connection?   I will never know.

Did I inadvertently manifest this entire misadventure with my wish to return to Istanbul for a few days?   Of course, with this logic, one could ask why I haven’t been able to manifest myself a pet-friendly apartment in Dushanbe? 

The power — or lack thereof — of thought undoubtedly remains a great mystery to me.   In any event, not only do I get to play in Istanbul, I will arrive in Dushanbe much more refreshed than I would have, and I will obviously need my wits about me in order to continue to engage without expectation in what has become a very circuitous process, fraught with surprises at every turn not unlike a ride at Disneyland, to finding housing in that fair city.

I have decided not to fly Jet Blue ever again, or to buy a combined ticket that involves more than one airline…