Third-Party Site Changes Flight

March 2, 2014

in Odds & Ends Stories

Over Labor Day weekend, my girlfriend and I decided to take a trip together to Seattle to sightsee and get away from work for a little bit. We had booked our flights separately, and I chose to book using Expedia to get a better deal on the hotel room as well as the flight. My girlfriend booked her flights directly through the airline.

Our outbound flights were on US Airways leaving early one Friday morning. We’d be flying out of Houston and connecting through Phoenix, so we had a decent day of travel ahead. Our first leg was scheduled to leave at 8:30 am, so being a little travel OCD I decided we should leave for the airport around 5:30 in the morning.

The night before our travel, I went on Expedia to print off my confirmations so I could have something physical to show in case there were any hiccups with reservations. I had already called the hotel to verify the reservation, and I merely checked my flight reservations to make sure they were the same. US Airways, departing 8:30 am.

Upon arriving at the terminal to check in, my girlfriend and I decide to use the US Airways self check-in kiosks. I let her check in first, which went smoothly. I then punched my confirmation number in, to which the kiosk informs me that my flight is on a different airline (United). I try again, and get the same response. Confused, I decide to go over to the mostly empty United check-in desk, and I ask the agent to see if I’m on one of her flights. I figure this may be some code-share business. The United clerk tells me she has “no records” of any reservations in my name. Interesting.

I wandered back over to the US Airways desk, and decide to give a new kiosk a try. Same results. I wait for a few minutes for an agent to become available, and a nice older lady takes me over to a regular check-in desk and starts doing a little research into the situation. A couple of minutes later, she prints out my itinerary, which shows that I had been booked on a flight on United at 5:30 am, flying through Chicago, and arriving in Seattle several hours AFTER I was scheduled to on US Airways. I show my travel confirmation to the agent, who proceeds to tell me that third-party sites are unreliable, and sometimes they re-book you according to flight demand. She shows me when the change had been made, but I had received no email, phone call or any sort of communication from Expedia on the matter.

As it stands now, my girlfriend is booked through Seattle. However, the hotel reservation is in my name in the city. Who knows how I’ll be getting there! The US Airways lady, Brenda, then spends the next 20 minutes rebooking me on my original flight to Seattle via Phoenix. The first leg was only partially full, so she was able to book me with ease. However, the second leg was full from Phoenix to Seattle. After a quick phone call to the agents in Phoenix, she was able to get me a seat on that flight as well. Crisis averted! I was very appreciative of her help, and made sure to send an email to US Airways after the fact to pass along my thanks and praise her work.

The flights themselves were uneventful to Seattle, and we arrived safely. After two days in town, we were booked to leave Monday morning on Alaska Airlines direct to Houston. Our flight was scheduled for 9 am, so we got up around 6:00 am to get ready and head to the airport.

Upon arriving at SeaTac, we found the Alaska Airlines lobby packed with people. People were sitting on suitcases, the floor and whatever they could find. Obviously, something was wrong. After talking with a couple of bystanders, we discovered that the entire Alaska Airlines reservation system had gone down. Apparently some cable in Kansas had been cut that provided their network service, so their computer system was completely offline.

Agents had to manually handwrite signs and tape them to the nonfunctional TV screens over the check-in desks with flight numbers and destinations. Flights of course had been delayed as they were trying to sort out the chaos. To try to find your flight check-in, you had to basically circle the check-in desks and read all of the handwritten signs to determine where you needed to go. It was a few hours before we even saw our flight to Houston make it to a desk.

Finally, we check in our luggage, to which the attendant hands us a handwritten claim check. We also get handwritten boarding passes, which I got a kick out of. It was closer to 1 pm at this point, and we knew our flight would be delayed for even longer. Alaska Airlines was still struggling to get some of the red-eye flights out of Seattle at this point.

We went through security with our handwritten boarding passes, and made it to the terminal. Things were still such a mess that we had no idea what gate our flight would be at, when we’d be boarding or where to go. We went to customer service to see if they had any direction, but they were as in the dark as we were. Luckily, they were doing a good job of using the PA system to announce gates and flight numbers.

We sat down at a restaurant and got a bite to eat, and at around 4 pm a long list of cancellations were issued over the PA. I thought for sure our flight would be on there, but instead a gate number and departure time of 4:45 was announced. We finished up, headed over to the gate and were able to board without much of an issue.

The flight again was fine, except that the older lady sitting next to me decided to de-shoe about halfway through the flight. Her feet smelt like she had been rubbing sweaty old vegetables on them. The smell was pretty rough to deal with, but after a while she put her shoes back on without prompting. Maybe she was offended by the smell too.

Lessons learned from this trip… it never hurts to show up early to the airport! Ya never know when you’ll need the extra time. Also, if you use a third-party travel site like Expedia or Priceline, call to confirm your travel information. Finally, whenever someone goes well out of their way to help you out, make sure to give them the proper recognition! I only hope our US Airways gate agent Brenda was able to receive some accolades for her help.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

James March 3, 2014 at 9:18 am

More to the point, if you travel together, book together.


paul March 3, 2014 at 4:28 pm

Yeah sounds like it was the trip frorm hell.
I travelled Dec 2014 and most of January 2014 through the rough weather and ran into a number of instances that would qualify for this website
As of todays date I'm still to traumatized to talk, let alone write about it.
Maybe soon…. stay tuned!


Gregg - admin March 3, 2014 at 10:26 pm

We're looking forward to your story Paul!


stupidemailreply March 5, 2014 at 7:40 pm

Reminds me of a little story that is posted on the stupidemailreply site. Glad to hear you got through it and kudos to Brenda!


Bob March 6, 2014 at 3:49 pm

I should have known when the OCD acronym showed up ….
You millenials seem to think the world revolves around you ….

Wake up and deal with it.


Guy June 23, 2014 at 2:23 am


You are obviously an idiot. It would make sense if the story actually had a complaint or whined about some injustice…but I imagine if you showed up at an airport and they had magically changed your flight (and you had already missed it), you'd be a little confused and distraught.


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