On the road again, Again



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    edited May 2022

    Alan. Having been in the airline business for twenty-seven or so years, it interests me to see how things get this balled up. In my years I found the airplanes to be very reliable, and I rarely took a long maintenance delay, and had very few cancellations. I rarely found an airplane that could not be flown using deferred maintenance protocols. It appears that your ‘feeder’ might not have been “RD” (real Delta), but possibly an Endeavor Air regional jet. It occurred to me that this might be a problem area right now. I know American’s problems this weekend started with bad weather in Miami, but airlines rarely have spare airplanes. It happened to me once that my airplane was taken out of service (rare) and they had just received delivery of a new 737-800 from Boeing that had never been flown in scheduled service. They dragged it out of the hanger and we went flying … it was like driving a brand new Corvette. But, right now the regionals are losing pilots to the major airlines like mad and are offering huge bonuses to get them to stay. Just a thought, but this may be a time to avoid flying the regionals without substantial connect times. I know on the holiday weekends all the planes are full … so perhaps going to the ‘hub’ a day early is appropriate. I only have 45 minutes to the airport on a normal day … across the Golden Gate Bridge … I normally go to the airport hotel a day early.

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    British, I thought that's what he was recounting in the post above. Everything from "two weeks ago" and further down.

    A small part of me is envious of those going on tours soon and the rest of me is so glad we don't fly anywhere til Oct.

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    It’s not a vacation, it’s an adventure!

    Just booked my old standby the Grosvner in South San Francisco for the night before departure. Now I’ll look for better deals. I’m not going to wait three years for this trip and get stuck on “GG”.

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    Alan these are wonderful photos and you're a great storyteller so thank you. We'll be there in September, though now that I've seen it all through your lens maybe we should book something else? Haha. Appreciate your good tips, as always! And do tell how it took you three days to arrive?

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    He actually just did, British. Read his most recent post…what a frustrating experience. Then to bookend it with the fiasco after your great tour! One has to really want to travel to go through all it takes these days!

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    edited May 2022

    My post at this link covers our return- another exciting(?) experience (adventure?)

    My post at this link discussed outbound flight problems. Below is the full story of that fiasco.

    Tour began Thursday, 19 May.
    Delta flights booked at the start of the 330 window on 1 July 2021.
    Routing RDU - JFK - ATH
    Dep RDU: Monday, 16 May @ 2:11 pm, Arr JFK @ 4:00 pm
    Dep JFK @ 5:21 pm Arr ATH Tuesday, 17 May @ 10:00 am

    Day 1:

    We arrived at RDU 2 hrs prior to outbound feeder, checked bags, hit the lounge, then went to the gate- Yahoo, finally going to Greece after our 2021 trip was cancelled due to COVID! :D

    Not so fast . . . . I was on the Delta app just a few min before boarding and thought I saw something that said our flight was cancelled- hmmm, was I looking at the wrong flight or something? A moment later the gate agent made the official announcement- flight cancelled! The reason weather at JFK. Earlier, weather radar showed a narrow line of storms blow through fairly quickly, so to me it looked like it should have been a delay not a cancellation. There was a later flight to JFK but it wouldn't get us there in time for the flight to Athens so we would have had to spend the night there. Also, the later flight was questionable. We learned later it did go. Before I had a chance to call Delta to explore options and re-book, the app showed we had been re-booked for the next day on an earlier (1030 am) flight to JFK. Our Athens leg was also re-booked for the same time/flight # on Tuesday that we had on Monday. Since we have a 2 hr drive from home to RDU, we retrieved our bags and headed to a nearby Hampton Inn.

    End of Day 1. The earliest we would arrive in Athens would be Wednesday, 18 May @ 10:00 am. Impact: No Athens at Night Segway tour on the 17th and no day trip to Delphi on the 18th (we arrive too late and Delphi is a 2.5 drive)

    After a night at the Hampton Inn we returned to the airport, but when we tried to check in for our earlier flight to JFK, we were told it was cancelled (crew issue, inability to reposition crew and/or aircraft??). We received no prior warning, no txt, no email, nada!!! The agent put us on the stand-by list for a sold out flight later afternoon (2:21 pm). We checked our bags but were apprehensive what would happen to them if we didn't get on the later flight. We were assured by 3 counter agents and the gate agent they would not be loaded unless we got seats on the flight. They even put a "special green tag" on our bags to alert the baggage handlers. We headed back to the lounge for four more hours. We didn't make the afternoon (standby) flight- you can read about my post at this link

    As to our bags, which we were guaranteed would not be loaded if we did not get on the flight, well they appear to have gone on the flight without us! We were re-booked for Wednesday, 18 May, but this time the non-stop from JFK to Athens was sold out so we were booked on another flight going to Paris and an Air France flight to Athens. We had already made the decision- if we didn't go tomorrow, we would cancel the trip and flights. Since we had no bags we decided to drive home. Delta online baggage tracking was at best, worthless. It finally showed that our bags were being loaded aboard a flight to Paris- same flight # but a day earlier than our actual flight. It never said they had arrived at CDG and was never updated. No one could tell us for sure where they were- were they in JFK, CDG or had they gone on to Athens?

    Did I mention our TD called and asked where we were because she couldn't find us. We said we were at home. She was surprised, because the hotel said we had checked in on Tuesday.

    We finally got out of Raleigh on Wednesday and made our connection in JFK for the new transatlantic flight, but this time, instead of a direct flight o Athens it now went to CDG with a follow-on Air France flight to Athens. Instead of non-stop, all in Delta One with layflat seats from JFK to Athens, we now had D1 seats to CDG, but Euro Business class (coach seats, with zippo recline, and coach spacing and an empty seat between us) from CDG to ATH. Upon reaching JFK we again attempted to discern the location of our bags, but to no avail. The previous day we were told they were in JFK, today most said they were in CDG, but had nothing to prove that and online tracking was worthless. At every juncture we had been given no information, bad information, or were just lied to! We were feeling a bit uneasy- if our bags were delayed and didn't catch up with us before we boarded Wind Star, they probably would never have caught up with us- if we were lucky we might be re-united with them in Athens before flying home?

    We had no time to check on the whereabouts of our bags at CDG- our plane arrived late and it took forever to get through security. It appears CDG manages the screening stations so the process never takes less than 30 - 45 min!!! It is not that there were a lot of people, the problem was only two stations were being used!! We just barely made our boarding time and the bus to the aircraft which was parked in the boonies. When we got onboard, I asked the flight attendant to check if our bags were on the aircraft. After taking care of more pressing duties, he finally checked his tablet and said, "You have no bags."

    I thought I saw one of our bags on the baggage cart but the cart had a cover which prevented a good view, so I wasn't sure. While discussing the problem with my wife, just by chance she glanced out of the window- guess what was sitting on the concrete with two other bags?!?! The luggage cart had departed and there were no baggage handlers in sight (all other bags had been loaded and they had just buttoned up the cargo doors!!! They were getting ready to close the main aircraft cabin door and push-back was imminent, so I leaped to my feet and headed straight to the flight attendant, pointing and yelling, Stop!, our bags are sitting right there!" There was chatter back and forth in French between the flight attendant and a ground crewman who had just delivered the final paperwork. Then the pilot came out of the cockpit, more chatter in French. I handed them the baggage claim tickets. More chatter. Then the pilot left the aircraft with our baggage stubs, and, after confirming they were indeed our bags, he found a ground crew to open the rear cargo door and stood there while our bags were loaded. When he came back aboard, he walked back and assured us our bags were now loaded on the aircraft. What a relief! If we hadn't seen them, who knows where they would have ended up, and, if it we didn't get them before the Wind Star left port, I doubt we would have seen them before the end of the tour.

    The baggage story continues- upon reaching Athens we went to the baggage carousel. Bags came out and were taken away, but our bags were nowhere in sight! The number of people waiting for bags dwindled to about 6 but additional bags were no longer being loaded on the carousel. I left my wife at the carousel and went to check lost baggage which was just a few carousels away. Sitting right there were our bags!!! I asked the attendant why and with a straight face she told me, "you were not on the flight!!!" Rather than argue I grabbed both bags and signaled to my wife. Luckily our Tauck transport was still waiting for us. Between the flight departing CDG late and the delay getting our bags, we were late getting to the hotel. It would have been close regardless, but we missed the reception and made a grand entrance to the Welcome Dinner right as they were making dinner selections. Better late than never?!?!?!

    Of course, we missed the private Walking Tour we had booked for that morning.

    Oh, did I mention, the hotel lost our Tauck info packet and tried to charge us for a pre-stay! They apologized with a bottle of wine and a free dinner.

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    AlanS - Your ordeal was about as bad as it could be without actually losing any luggage or missing the tour. I'm sure it'll be a while before you forget about this disaster. :D

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    Alan, you make a good case for packing at least one change of clothes in your carryon. We've been lucky. Have never lost a bag or even delayed but you never know when it can happen.

    And kudos to getting the AF crew to stop and load your bag. I'm impressed. B)

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    Claudia Sails
    . . . And kudos to getting the AF crew to stop and load your bag. I'm impressed. B)

    Visions of being dragged off the plane by a French Air Marshall were going through my brain! :o

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    Alan, after reading of all your ups & downs, my absolute favorite is being told you weren't on your flight! I smell movie rights.
    p.s. For my next Tauck outing thought I'd be forced into carry-on, but AA just changed a 40-minute dash at DFW to a full hour...is it possible someone's actually thinking things through?

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    Alan what an ordeal and what a miracle that your wife was able to see the bags because as you said they probably would not have been seen the rest of the trip if ever, I do not trust CDG they lost my luggage once and I did not get it for 4 days. I go out of my way not to change planes there. Congratulations in getting the pilot to pay attention and get your bags on board.

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    edited June 2022

    . . . . I go out of my way not to change planes there. . . .

    Same here! Our original routing was JFK direct to ATH but when things started to fall apart ,CDG was in play. Delta has only one non-stop flight to Greece per day from JFK and one from ATL. After the second cancellation the next day's non-stop flight was sold out :/ That sure makes it hard to connect and find open seats late in the game. Delta used to have a flight from our feeder, RDU, direct to CDG but that appears on an irregular basis.

    The increasingly severe impact of weather and aircraft maintenance delays on flights and the reductions in overall schedules scare the heck out of me for future trips!!

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    AlanS - The increasingly severe impact of weather and aircraft maintenance delays on flights and the reductions in overall schedules scare the heck out of me for future trips!!

    The airlines have always had to deal with weather and aircraft maintenance. Let's face it, it is Covid's impact on all aspects of the business that is messing everything up - from sickness to staff, retention of staff, supply chain issues, etc.

    Based on what I see right now with Covid, the airlines, etc. I think it may be 2024 before things get close to pre-pandemic. Hopefully things will be on a continual improvement until then, but who knows.

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    The pilot shortage is severe and it seems every few weeks Delta announces further cut-backs. So, only time will tell.

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    I think it was a Points Guy article this week that weighs booking very early, 330 days out flights against leaving it to the 90 day mark, which of country does not help with weather or pilot shortage. Just never know which to do.

    We only flew Delta once about thirty years ago with the family and in laws to Florida, it was from the UK to a US airport, forget which and then onto Orlando. The flight from there was severely overbooked and they would not let us board. Asking for people to give up seats etc. My mother in law had to be persuaded to come in the first place because dad wanted to take her to Canada to visit friends he had made after the war when he was stationed there. We suggested she come join us in Florida to get a taste of North America. She was a nervous Nelly, was frightened of going to America, guns etc. anything put her off food for days. That incident of being told we might not have seats set her into a downward spiral where she would barely eat or drink the whole week, became dehydrated etc etc I think I spent half the week crying because my dad had just passed away too. So that why we said we would never fly Delta again and fortunately here in Philly, it does not have much of a presence.

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    edited June 2022

    Until now, for us they have been great, especially during COVID- refunds, re-bookings, etc. were no hassle. But now . . . .

    I guess it is not much different with the other carriers. Although I must say, despite communication issues, flying with Turkish Airlines to/from J&E was a very good experience. (we flew with them because Delta/AF had no flights to Jordan!)

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    Just today we got the last of our flight refunds for our cancelled Russian Glories, Baltic Treasures tour. Our airfare was booked through American Airlines, but we paid some additional seat reservation fees to Finnair, an American partner, for some legs of our flight.

    The American airfare refund we received within 8 calendar days from when it was requested. On the other hand the seat reservation fees we paid to Finnair took two months to receive. The Finnair portion was originally denied, but through persistence we finally received the refund.

    We requested refunds because our flights to/from Russia were cancelled due to the Russia/Ukraine debacle. I requested the American refund via a telephone call. The Finnair refund had to be initiated via their website. It stated that processing would take 4-5 weeks. At the end of the 4-5 weeks I received and email saying our claim was denied because we had booked through American. That was true but only for the airfare, our seat fees were booked directly with Finnair.

    I called Finnair requesting clarification (more specifically to complain). After waiting almost two hours on hold I got to speak with a person. The person, after looking up all of my information, didn't know why my claim had been denied. They spoke with their manager and said that I should see the refund in about two weeks.

    The two weeks expired with no refund. I called Finnair again, waiting the almost two hours to get a person, and asked what the problem was. They said that they had basically resubmitted my claim and it had then been put on the bottom of the queue, meaning there would be another 4-5 week time lag from when the second claim had been submitted. It had been two weeks, since it had submitted so I still had two to three more weeks to wait.

    Well today the refund process completed. We received the seat fee refunds from Finnair. I suspect that Finnair, being a smaller airline, with a large number of its flights within the Russia/Ukraine region, has been severely hard shipped by not just Covid, but the war.

    Morale of the story for me, which I employed on my upcoming Egypt trip, if at all possible do everything through one airline, no partner airlines. This is hard to do, but if things head south on the Egypt trip I'll only have to deal with one airline.

    We booked our Egypt tour, roundtrip, on Qatar Airlines, Seattle/Cairo.

    Fingers crossed, but there is no guarantee that Qatar won't become another Delta, impacted by Covid to the point that their service is almost non-existent.

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    Qatar and Emirates are pretty reliable.
    Enjoy your trip.

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    edited June 2022

    I’m hoping Qatar stays on top of things for us, we love their business class. Our next tour and the one after that are on Qatar

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    Smiling Sam: Fingers crossed, but there is no guarantee that Qatar won't become another Delta, impacted by Covid to the point that their service is almost non-existent.

    mil: Qatar and Emirates are pretty reliable

    British: I’m hoping Qatar stays on top of things for us, we love their business class. Our next tour and the one after that are on Qatar

    Qatar was Fantastic for my Jordan-Egypt Adventure...I'm looking forward to flying with them again...ENJOY

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    AlanS: Delta has only one non-stop flight to Greece per day from JFK and one from ATL.

    Delta also has a daily non-stop flight to Athens from Boston. One of my traveling companions to Athens is taking that flight. I was planning to travel to Boston to take that flight as well, as I live in New Orleans and I must take a connecting flight. However, since I'm an airplane and luxury snob, I chose to fly United from N'Awlins to Newark to Athens as I really enjoy United's Polaris Business Class and they are flying the 787-10 Dreamliner for the Newark to Athens leg of the trip. B)

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    I've flown with Delta for many years and never had a problem, so far the trip to Africa last year and to London and from Paris last month were uneventful, just feeling very lucky as I read of how flights are getting canceled. I have 2 more tours this year, Scandinavia in August and Singapore in September, using Delta for Scandinavia but for Singapore I have Delta outbound and Qatar inbound as Delta did not fly from Bali at the time I booked. Hopefully they will be uneventful. :#

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    edited June 2022

    It sure was much easier finding and booking the best flights just a short time ago when there was a greater number of available options. Now it seems we must bite the bullet one or more times and in some way or another, e.g. leave home for our feeder airport in the middle of the night, start out a day earlier, or accept an unusually long layover, just to make an overseas flight connection, accept a European connection and Euro business class instead of a direct flight, etc., etc. all of which get us to our destination a lot more tired than ever before! And of course, the prices keep going up.

    Sam have you adjusted your $3000 breakpoint upwards?

    I was looking at something on the web earlier today when I came across a piece about Etihad. Their suites look fabulous! I decided to check out the price of first class ticket (suite on long leg)- for a sample J&E itinerary for 2023. It looks like an overnight layover in Abu Dhabi is routine, OK. But the price for such luxury - a whopping $23K per ticket. Yikes!!! :o

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    AlanS - My personal threshold for business class is <$4000 per person, obviously seeking closer to $2k than $4k. Not sure with the price escalation if that will be possible. Our next overseas trip that we don’t have airfare for already isn’t until October 2023. Fingers crossed that things will be more stable by then and still within my threshold.

    For Egypt we got tickets for $3300 round trip. Qatar has four or five business class levels depending on what features you desire. We chose a level that allows reserving seats and use of lounges. The highest level will pick you up at home and take you to the airport.

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    Smiling Sam
    . . . For Egypt we got tickets for $3300 round trip. . . . .

    Did that include your domestic connection flights?

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    My airfare for Egypt was also a "bargain." Biz for $3006 flying thru Montreal going (United and Air Canada - avoiding Euro hubs, yay!) and Lufthansa/United thru FRA returning, later this year.

    Now starting to look for airfare to Japan for 4/23 and it's pretty pricey at the moment (~10K RT biz, except for Air Canada about 5K), so haven't booked yet. Also still discussing doing some extra days on both ends with my co-travelers.

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    BKMD Now starting to look for airfare to Japan for 4/23 and it's pretty pricey at the moment (~10K RT biz, except for Air Canada about 5K), so haven't booked yet.

    Prices are going up and quickly. I waited and booked my Greece airfare a month ago and I had a bit of sticker shock (but not enough to warrant not choosing a Biz class seat :D ). Today I checked and the same flights are $9700 --double the amount I paid for a fully refundable flight. There's even a side note indicating there are only 2 seats remaining at that price. :o

    You indeed did get a bargain on your Egypt flight. My Qatar ticket was $6K--but I was very satisfied and wouldn't change a thing. You may as well enjoy it because you can't take it with you B)

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    AlanS - We have lots of family in Seattle so we added a week on each end for a family vacation. We used miles to/from Seattle. It’s very easy to get to/from Seattle. It’s much easier to use miles domestically than internationally so we’ve found this approach to be a good use of our miles.

    We’ve used this approach for two previous Tauck tours where we found round trip fares from different North American cities for $1000/person cheaper than from any other North American city. Multiply that savings times two and it’s worth the extra work and some extra risk.

    We used it for our Israel/Jordan tour to get the $1000/person cheaper Turkish Airlines fare. To get times to synch we had to spend a night in Toronto on the way home. The times synched getting to Toronto. We used miles to/from Toronto. Still saved lots of money with the super Turkish fare.

    We did the same thing for our Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand tour. We saved $1000/person by flying to/from Vancouver to Asia via JAL. On this trip we had to spend a night in Vancouver on the way, but not on the way home. JAL was wonderful. So in our two cases we saved big $ on flew on great airlines - Turkish and JAL.

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    Smiling Sam
    AlanS - We have lots of family in Seattle so we added a week on each end for a family vacation. We used miles to/from Seattle.

    We did similar when flying Turkish to J&E in March. We didn't have many miles at the time so had to kick in about $161 p/p for the US feeder flights, but even when you include that cost with the r/t Turkish fare ($2877 p/p), it was still a good deal! Once we are done with XMAS Mkts, for which we already have Delta tickets, I'm sure the fare for wherever we decide to go in 2023 (if anywhere) will be a real shocker.

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