Tuesday, October 03, 2023

A tale of too many cities

| July 10, 2022 12:00 AM

We recently returned from our niece’s wedding in Florida and, though the events were over-the-top beautiful and the fun factor off the charts, getting there and home again was a tad harrowing.

Our flight out of Kalispell departed more than two hours late, causing us to miss our connection; however, upon landing, Airline A (aka our original airline) attendant saw we could probably still catch it since … it also was delayed. We hurried to board Skylink, which connects DFW’s five terminals, only to see the next flight leaving our gate was headed for Guadalajara, Mexico. Too late!

Airline A rescheduled us on the next flight to Jacksonville, also delayed, but it did give us time to sit down to a decent (if ridiculously expensive) dinner.

At 12:30 a.m. our flight was the last of the night to arrive in Jacksonville. We were told we needed to hurry to pick up our car rental because the garage would be closing in 15 minutes. Of its scant inventory the agency offered us a Mustang, a Camaro, a Charger or a pickup; we were picking up our daughter and son-in-law (and luggage) the next morning to drive to St. Augustine. We ultimately chose a Chrysler 300 — the sole possibility on the lot — leaving minutes before the garage locked up for the night — finally arriving at our hotel near the Jacksonville airport at 1:30 a.m.

The next morning we picked up the kids and made the drive to St. Augustine’s Historic District for the rehearsal dinner and wedding. The event was also a family reunion with the party starting Friday at the rehearsal dinner, and continuing into the wee hours poolside at the hotel. The Marino family is a large and lively group so there was no shortage of laughter or libations.

The wedding ceremony was held outside — ambitious, in June, in St. Augustine — but wisely short and sweet. The reception was lovely, food exceptional, and dancing non-stop … with the party continuing later into the wee hours poolside at the hotel.

After Sunday brunch, the family headed to Jacksonville where two Airbnbs awaited — all 22 of us. Shortly after settling in, four of us joined forces and stormed the Publix market, a loosely pre-arranged grocery list in hand. Within an hour we were unpacking a large SUV loaded with food. Being the Marinos, our Italian-American family was kept well fed and watered. With two pools, the beach just a mile away and a boisterous housefull, the days and food were absolutely delicious!

And then the fun stopped.

Upon arriving at 6 a.m. at the Jacksonville airport, two hours before our scheduled return flight, Airline A informed us it was delayed six hours for mechanical reasons. The attendant then tried to find connecting flights on multiple airlines into the next day to get us home and, after more than an hour, finally gave us receipts for connecting flights on Airline B.

Our Airline A flight to DFW was then delayed four more times throughout the day. We’d been waiting 12 hours at the airport, while we watched with frustration another Airline A flight leave for DFW (no available seats). We noticed another flight was to leave at 8:45 p.m. and approached the desk, explaining we’d been at the airport since 6 a.m. The attendant miraculously spit out two tickets for what were apparently the last two seats available on that flight, (even though we’d been told at 6 a.m. there were no other seats on any of their flights.)

In the meantime, an announcement was made that all passengers scheduled for our original flight — now delayed until 11 p.m. — should, and I quote, “Just go home and start over tomorrow.” Ironic, since that’s precisely what everyone was trying to do.

We arrived at the budget hotel we’d been granted a voucher for about 11 p.m. only to rise by 3 a.m. to catch an Uber (no airport shuttles until 5 a.m.) which my husband had the foresight to reserve before we went to sleep.

Upon arriving at 3:48 a.m. at DFW for the Airline B flight, which Airline A had booked, we were told by B that A hadn’t actually reserved us seats on either of the flights. It had only paid B for tickets. The B attendant scribbled the words “No reservation. No seats.” on the back of a luggage tag and told us to call A’s customer service, who subsequently booked us on a rat’s nest of jumbled reservations to different cities on different airlines.

Airline C was drawn into the fray. The attendant, shaking her head, clarified to Airline A’s customer service over Jim’s speaker phone that she was unable to print us boarding passes because A hadn’t cleaned up the itinerary. C’s attendant finally was able to do it herself, booked us a flight to San Francisco, then on to Kalispell, and handed us our boarding passes. I wanted to kiss her.

A mere 36 hours after leaving the Airbnb we were home at last. We washed our clothes, mowed the lawn, weeded the garden, and counted our belated blessings.

Community editor Carol Marino may be reached at 406-758-4440 or community@dailyinterlake.com.

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