We had researched options, and found a much earlier American flight out of JFK that would have reduced the layover from 8 1/2 hours to 2. Additionally, I had found that the United flights from Frankfurt to Cairo that were 'full' in reality had 20+ open seats in Economy plus. Travel in State is authorized for only economy (as of 2008; previously business class was for trips over 14 hours), and the only benefit of economy plus is 5 more inches of legroom. So that should count as economy, right?
Brandon opened the encounter with asking about the AA flight. Nope, he was told, no airline switching mid-stream - that increases the price and the TA is only for a specific amount of money. What about those flights that have Economy Plus seats open? No, those flights show no available seats (What is so popular about Germany this time of year?).
"We're going to buy the Delta flight (with the 8 1/2 hour layover) at 3:30" the nice man finally told him. "But my wife is flying alone with three children under the age of four, and an 8 1/2 hour layover in New York isn't going to be the easiest thing," he replied. "And I am going to the US on a United flight. Does this means that she and the children will be returning to Cairo on a separate flight from me, but on the same day?" This finally gave the nice man pause. Yes, that makes no sense for the children and I to be on a different flight and Brandon spending it all alone all of the way back to Cairo. No sense at all. Brandon then finished with the kicker "What do you suggest I should do?"
Finally the nice man relented and got on the phone with United. He pointed out that I already had a reserved seat (how in the world did I have a reserved seat and the children not? I shall never understand the magical world of travel agents), and this was a family so the children really should get on the same flight. So after some wrangling and waiting and lots of tappity-tappity the tickets were purchased and our trip was saved.
And I am more firmly convinced that it is not the presidents, kings, potentates, or dictators that truly rule the world. They can make proclamations, declare wars, appoint men of influence, but in the end it's the men and women with the power of tappity-tappity that have the true power in this world. Hail the bureaucrats.