I tried to check-in for my flight online the day before my return flight but received an error message saying the system was unable to process my login and to call US Air. If you’ve ever called US Air customer service, you know this is not a pleasant experience. Their customer service is outsourced to locations outside the US. When I finally reached a representative, she explained that the number of people allowed to check in online had been reached, thus requiring me to check in at the airport. The agent said this was due to a T.S.A. regulation. I believe you save time at the airport, if you check-in online. Although I had not heard this maximum number of people reached rule before, I could only believe what she suggested and planned to check in at the self-service kiosks in the morning.
I arrived at Miami International Airport around 6:30 AM and walked directly to a kiosk. Using my reservation confirmation code, the computer could not find my reservation. I tried to pull it up with my flight numbers and last name–still nothing! I grabbed my bags and headed for the short line to speak to a human. Well, wouldn’t you know it, they were having computer problems. Although there were only three people in line, it took almost 25 minutes before I reached an agent. It’s now 7:20 AM and I’m leaving at 8:15 AM. The rather frazzled-looking agent looked for my name in the computer. Within seconds she found me and said my flight had been canceled. She told me there were still seats available and that she could get me on the flight, but wanted to find out why my seat was canceled.
She started talking about change fees of $150 and paying the full fare for the flight, which was hundreds more on top of the change fee. The US Air agent then told me my flight was canceled because the computer reported it was on the 16th, not the 17th. Now, I may be blond, but I do check details, especially when spending hundreds of dollars on a flight. I knew there was a glitch in their system.
I pulled out my Macbook and looked in my email for the US Air receipt, but realized it was on my home iMac. Since the airport doesn’t offer free WiFi, I couldn’t use the ‘Go to my Mac’ feature on Leopard OS X. I was starting to sweat, thinking she was going to charge me over $1000 to fly home. I asked her to waive the charges, because I was certain the computer was wrong and I was correct. She promptly told me that was not possible, as there was no way for her to override the system.
Racking my brain, I finally realized I had my new 3-G iPhone in my pocket. I pulled it out, went to the US Air web site using the Safari web browser that comes on the phone. I was able to log in, pull up my travel schedule and prove to her that yes, I was right–my travel was on the 17th! So, the iPhone saved me over $1000.00. It was amazing how she was able to suddenly override those charges when she learned I was right.
Because this process took an hour from my arrival, I lost my original seat and the flight was full. I firmly yet politely insisted she put me on the flight, because I purchased my ticket long ago and it was their system error. I ended up in the back of the plane, sandwiched in a middle seat between two very large men. One guy joked how he “should either fly first class or loose 100 lbs.” I thought he should give me $100 because he was sitting in at least that much of my seat.
So, lesson learned. Do print out those confirmation emails (just recycle them when you’re home) and have an iPhone so you can have instant internet access to save your ass from US Air’s faulty reservation system. Having the iPhone paid for itself that day, three or four times over.