A couple of weeks ago I was trying to get out of town on standby. You know how sometimes there will be a perfect storm of glitches? This was one of those days.
One advantage or working for an airline, on-airport, is airport transportation. Instead of leaving from home and either taking light rail or a cab, or paying to park my car, I bring my luggage to work and ask a coworker to drive me across the tarmac to the terminal.
On the morning in question I was released from work a little early, ducked into the locker room to change into my travel togs (fortunately it had not been a sweaty night of work so I didn’t have to deal with the barely dampening trickle of the locker room shower), organized my suitcase, and got dropped off at the terminal.
First glitch. I reached for my phone and realized I didn’t have it. I knew exactly where it was – in my locker, in the pocket of my safety vest. By the time I realized it, my ride’s taillights were pinpricks in the distance. I quickly reviewed my options – call the lead desk and ask someone to bring it over? Hard to do without a phone. Scrounge around the airport until I found a public phone, or someone willing to let me use a business phone, then call the leads desk? This was an option, but I realized it would take me as much time to find a phone as it would take to walk back along the front of the airport to the hangar. Once there I could get my phone and then try my luck at getting another ride back over, or burn another 15 minutes walking if I had to.
So, I set out walking and 15 minutes later arrived in the parking lot. Fortunately one of the leads was just leaving, saw me scuttling across the still-dark parking lot with my rolly suitcase, and after hearing my plight, waited while I grabbed my phone and then took me back up to the terminal.
Good thing I retrieved that phone, as you will soon see.
I had been hoping to use our interline travel benefit to get on another carrier’s flight, because they go nonstop to my destination. Interline allows us to pay a small fee (usually around $50, refunded if I don’t get on the flight) to go on standby with another airline. There’s a website that lists the available airlines and flights and shows either a smiley face, straight-line face, or sad face to indicate one’s likelihood of getting on a particular flight. The flight in question was sad face. Very sad face. But, I checked in anyway, and got a standby pass so I could get through security, figuring I would work something out once I was on the other side.
I visited the gate for the sad face flight and was told that virtually zero chance I was getting on. No problem – I whipped out my groovy new tablet computer and tried to get on our corporate travel site to see what my own airline’s options were at this point. And … could not get on the site. I could get on every other website on earth, and from home had had no problem getting on the corporate travel site with my tablet, but for some reason (winsock error ftw) I couldn’t get to it through airport wifi.
Okaaay, I’ll use my phone. So, I used my phone to learn that the two options that would get me where I was going, albeit via a stopover, were booked about 15 in the hole already (meaning that there were already 15 more employees on standby than they had seats for). I have learned that once the list goes into the double negative digits, it’s better to look for something else, so I moved on.
My next step was to look at interline again. Oh look, the airline that had been hopelessly booked on the non-stop had smiley faces all down the line for a Portland routing. OK, I thought – I can deal with Portland. The next connection was leaving in about 20 minutes. I went to the gate and they said as long as I purchased my standby fare within 10 minutes they would put me on, and if that didn’t work, they could put me on the next connector, which would still get me to Portland in time to catch the main flight. Cool! Sign me up!
This was all going to work out so well. Never mind that I didn’t get my first choice flight, there were plenty more. I love my travel benefits. I love everybody! Life is good!
So, I sat down to purchase my new interline fare, again on my phone, because I couldn’t get to the travel portal on my tablet. No problem! The tiny screen is annoying, but I can work with it! It’s all good! Yay for humanity!
As I worked through the screens, sluggish cellular connection chugging away, I realized I wasn’t going to make the first connector, so I selected the one an hour later. All good, smiley faces all down the line, there’s plenty of time, this is going to work.
And then … screeeeeech! The process came to an abrupt halt. I was on the screen where I was to type in my credit card number and … there was no field! On a tablet or laptop it worked fine, but on my phone, there were fields for all the other information, but no way to enter my credit card. Arrrrrrgggghhhh! And I couldn’t get to the site on my tablet because of my friend winsock.
Reader, I tried everything. I tried to go directly to the interline site, but it didn’t recognize me without my passed-through employer credentials. I tried to set up a username on the direct site, but I couldn’t figure out what my identity was supposed to be. (My name? My employee number? Some combination of my employer’s name and my name? Some completely unrelated cyber-generated token?) On my phone I analyzed the URL, looking for clues to my identity. I copied the interline site URL off my phone and emailed it to myself, then tried to use that URL on my tablet. No joy.
Thinking that maybe it was a browser problem, I downloaded a new browser (Opera) onto my phone and tried to do the transaction through it. It was even worse than the default browser in that it didn’t support dropdowns which I needed in order to get from my corporate travel site to the interline site.
ALL I WANTED TO DO WAS GIVE THEM SOME MONEY AND I COULDN’T!
Meanwhile, the clock was ticking inexorably towards the next departure time. As the window narrowed, then finally closed (along with the jetway door) I realized I needed to step away because I was making myself crazy. So, after taking a quick look through Kayak to assess my later options (I use Kayak to plan standby travel because I can quickly see who goes where I want to go, and when) I realized that the next wave of flights was going to be midday. I went to get something to eat, resolving to tackle the issue once I had addressed my plummeting blood sugar.
Carbed and proteined up, I aspirationally planted myself at the gate of my preferred midday (nonstop) flight and reviewed my options. First I spent some time troubleshooting Mr. Winsock, but to no avail. Deciding that was a rathole, I opened my tablet’s network connections screen and thought to myself, “why does that phone hotspot keep stalking me all over the airport?”
Sometimes I’m smart, but sometimes it takes me a while. This was one the times that took a while. Slowly it dawned … the phone that was stalking me was … MY PHONE! My phone can be a hotspot!
For whatever reason, when connected to my phone, my tablet was willing to connect to the corporate travel site. Oh happy day! I booked myself on the midday nonstop (straight-line face) then called to ask how long the standby list. The agent said I was the first in line and encouraged me to go for it. I got on, and even got a decent seat. And, before I attempt standby again, I’m going to take my tablet over to the airport and figure out how to make it work for me on airport wifi. Standby is great, but it is a constant learning process.
glitches? This was one of those days.