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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

We have plane tickets (again)

This summer we're going back to the US to visit family.  If it seems like we just got to Baku - you're right, we did.  But that's life in the State Department - living from plane ride to plane ride.  As soon as you're done with one, it's time to plan for the next.  And since I grew up with a mother who likes to book tickets at least six months in advance, I was sweating bullets as soon as we recovered from jet lag.  Because I still remember what happened last time I tried to schedule an R&R flight

So I started bothering Brandon about dates in January.  Then he submitted them in February.  They got approved in March.  And in April I started talking to our travel lady, I.S.  In Cairo, they had a whole Carlson Wagonlit branch office in the chancery, but here things are a little more simple.  That's why I like it here.  

Theoretically, scheduling plane tickets is pretty straightforward.  You give I.S. the dates and places you're going to, or perhaps the flight numbers you'd like to take, and she gives you the options, you pick one, and she books the tickets after you give here some approval form (Brandon does that part).  She even completes the evil E2 for you.  The chain of approvals is much shorter - two people.  I.S. and somebody else.

However, my life exists to cause people trouble that costs them lots of money.

Brandon's family lives in Missouri.  My family goes to the beach in North Carolina.  Last time we flew The Triangle, post paid for tickets in to Missouri and out of NC.  We used miles to cover the flight between the two.  Pretty simple.  This time, however, I decided to be greedy and see if they could pay for the middle leg so that Brandon and I could save the miles to go somewhere fabulous instead - like horse trekking in Europe.

Begin complicated manoevers. 

I contact I.S., ask about four different itineraries.  She provides the itineraries and the prices.  I ask her if the one I like fits within the allowance.  She provides me with the allowance price.  My flight doesn't fit.  I ask her to tell me about nine other itineraries.  Five fit within the allowance.  I pick one, swap out a flight or two that works better, and ask her if this one fits within the allowance.  Repeat four or five times.  I finally work out a schedule that does not involve ten-hour layovers or five legs, and tell her to reserve the tickets.

She reserves the tickets, and then gives me the allowance price.  It is $500 less than the initial sum she had told me.  I go back to the list of nine itineraries.  I swap out a few more flights.  I agonize about paying money for schedules that are more liveable.  I finally work something out that is just barely out of our allowance.  I tell I.S. to book the !$@#$ flight.  She books the flight.  The price has jumped.  Instead of costing $150 extra, it costs $2500 extra.

I start looking for United award tickets between MO and NC.  The only ones available will cut our time with Brandon's family for several days, cost us several hundred dollars in extra rental car days, and make us crash for several days at my sister's house.  I tear my hair out.  Rant to Brandon.  Watch as the reward seats disappear.  Finally we decide to fly out of St. Louis, after visiting Brandon's sister.  While showering the next morning, I realize that we might be able to fit a flight from St. Louis into our allowance.

I email I.S. with four more itineraries.  Half fit in the allowance.  I tell her to book the one that leaves at 8:30 from Baku, instead of the one leaving at 3:55.  She books the tickets.  The price has jumped (over the one and a half hours it took to exchange emails).  I tell her to book the 3:55 flight.  She does.  It has jumped, too, but it's will only cost us $150 extra.  I tell her to book anyway.  She does, and then asks for our signed travel thingy.  Which needs to be signed by Brandon's boss.  Who is out of town.

Thankfully, Brandon's boss came back into town a few days later, and the travel form was delivered in time to buy the tickets at the same price.  

But I'm not complaining.  After all, we don't have to pay for the tickets.  So I'm not complaining, anyone who thinks that I whine too much about all of the wonderful perks the State department gives us.  It's very wonderful.  I'm marvelously grateful.  And I'm not whining.  I'm just telling a funny story, that's all.


Nisa said...

Crazy! Glad you finally got it worked out! Are you going to be in St Louis between June 30 and July 7th? Cause we'll be there then. It would be fun to grab lunch or something. :)

PaulaJean said...

And no trans-Atlantic flights without Brandon!

UnkaDave said...

OK, so I think I understand. You're flying first to Missouri, then to Raleigh, then you go by way of London to Cairo, then back to Jacksonville, right? Are you trying to lose someone following you? Can't you just leave a kid behind at each place as a decoy?