Wednesday, January 4, 2017

When Cheap Isn't So

I was excited to try the new discounted airline I'd heard so much about. They offered $60 flights to cities all over California, and finally they introduced service to San Diego.  Normally, flights on other airlines were at least $250.

My first disappointment came with learning I could only fly on certain days. Well, that won't work...but...I could fly the regular airline to San Diego and fly the discounted one home. It would create only a slight conundrum: different airports in different cities. Usually we take a car and park it at the airport for short trips, but we could take the train, and hopefully my daughter would pick us up at the discounted-airline airport on our return; it is only 15 minutes away from home.

I chose the discounted flight for our return, then proceeded through the purchase process. The first assignment was to choose seats. I clicked on an empty row. Each seat had a price? I clicked through several finding a variation in price from $9 to $16. I chose two $9 seats.

Next stop: baggage. I find that not only is the weight limit 10 pounds less, but I have to pay for luggage. There is even a charge for a carry on?

The day before the flight we also learn there is a charge for credit card use. And a charge to print up a boarding pass, and possibly a charge for the air mask if cabin pressure requires its use.

The day before our trip, we check the train schedule. Since it is the day after Christmas, it won't be running. Tony calls the airport shuttle services and finds everyone is booked. Even our reliable daughter will be snow boarding.

The cheap flight has become an expensive endeavor in inconvenience.

Not used to paying for bags, I only check one. Certainly Tony and I can share.

On the day of a return flight, we take a shuttle to the airport, to try out the new airline. Our suitcase is 40 and 1/2 pounds and we worry we'll be charged--but we're not! We get cozy in the waiting area. Too cozy. I run into a friend on the same flight and learn our flight is delayed for three hours.

The three hours pass quickly. We board and learn it's a different plane than previously scheduled. Those seats I purchased didn't make a difference-it's open seating.

Almost an hour later and only 20 minutes from our destination, the pilot has an announcement. "The airport is socked in with fog. We can't land elsewhere, so we're heading back to San Diego."

The larger airport in a different city, home to the more more expensive flight, wasn't affected by fog.

Another $25 cab ride back to the condo, and another unexpected ride in the morning. We're just grateful we had a place to return to. We wonder and worry about the people who might not have had a place to say. "I wonder if they give out hotel vouchers."

Not a chance.

The next morning we awake and return to the airport where we are greeted with news that we are once again delayed, but only by an hour and a half. Not too big of a deal until the agent mentions the pilot is "off in some hotel..." in a derogatory tone. It is New Year's morning and we do wonder if he just stayed up late. When the flight departure moves up a half hour, we wonder if he got up earlier than expected. Fifteen minutes after the supposed departure, we are again delayed.

I'm tempted to cut our losses and try to catch a flight on a more trusted airline. Of course it will be expensive but in the long run the lesson may be worth it: that cheap just isn't always so.