Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Other Side of Paradise

This is a reprint of my commentary first published in the PV News back in September 1998.

Well, the big day finally came and went.

On Aug. 15, I married the love of my life, Jason.  We danced the night away and didn’t retire to our honeymoon suite until 1 a.m., but we did indeed make our 8 a.m. flight to Maui on Sunday morning.

This is somewhat amazing because we were flying on companion passes. Jason’s mother, who had worked for a particular airline for nearly 40 years, gave us the passes that would allow us to basically fly free.

On the morning after our wedding, God must have been on our side because we were ushered on board the plane like we were royalty even receiving a bottle of Dom Perignon Champagne as a gift.

We arrived on Maui and spent six whole days having the grandest time of our new married lives.  But suddenly it was over. Luckily, Jason had the foresight to book our return flight on Saturday morning just in case we got “bumped” and had to take an evening flight.

Little did we know…

For those who have never been to Maui, the first thing you realize is that the airport is definitely not LAX.  There are only three airlines that fly to the mainland and only one that has three daily flights to Los Angeles.

On what was to be our last day, we were bumped off all three flights of the day.  I was discouraged but Jason, who is always optimistic, found us a hotel room.

When we returned to the airport the next day, which was Sunday, we learned that a flight on another airline had been canceled and all of its 200 and some odd passengers were vying for our seats – with cash in hand.

After several hours of waiting, the ticket agent told Jason we had no chance of getting on a flight.  We went back to our hotel and spent the day at the movies.

We tried to stay optimistic, but on day three, we arrived at the airport with grim faces.  The ticket agent told us not to get our hopes up, and we didn’t.  By then it was Monday and we were both missing work and anxious to get home.

With no conviction, we signed up for the first flight and – lo and behold – seven minutes before takeoff our names were called.  Our elation was short-lived because we were asked to leave the plane four minutes before its departure.  It was just too much for me and, once we left the plane and were on the jet way, I began to cry.  My new husband, in my defense, asked the airline employee who removed us from the plane, “How can you psyche us out like this? We’ve been waiting patiently for three days. It’s not fair.”

With more venom than any King Cobra I’ve ever seen, she responded: “Fair?  I’ll rip up your passes.”

Jason tried to explain that we weren’t trying to give her a hard time, we were just frustrated because we had been waiting for three days and wanted to go home.

The ice queen responded, “I’ll rip up your passes and you can buy a full-fare ticket home.”
I was shocked! Never had I heard an employee, in customer service, mind you, speak so harshly to customers.

Jason and I both remained quiet while we registered for the next flight because we were afraid she would rip up our passes.

However, the reporter in me decided to get this employee’s name so that once I returned to L.A., I could write a letter of complaint.  Big mistake.

Once I asked for the rude woman’s name, all hell broke loose.  She locked herself in the jet way so I couldn’t see her name badge and her partner at the ticket counter banned us from flying out of Maui “unless we bought full-fare tickets.”

We were told by a supervisor -- who ended up NOT really being a supervisor but whose name I did get -- that because we were standby we had no right to ask anyone’s name or complain “unless we bought a full-fare ticket.” And, since the ticket agent banned us from flying “unless we bought a full-fare ticket” out of Maui, we would have to make other arrangements.

Yeah, sure!  Like we had the cash to buy two full-fare tickets to L.A. – at the drop of a dime – after the expenses of our wedding.  So we did the next best thing, we bought tickets on an inter-island flight to Oahu for $69 each.

Once we arrived at Honolulu Airport, we registered for the next flight to L.A., which was scheduled to leave eight hours later, and told the ticket agent there what had happened.
She immediately sympathized with us, gave us the names of all those involved, and filed a report for us.  She was horrified that we were treated that way because: A) We are human beings and no one deserves to be treated so poorly; and B) Jason’s mother had been an employee of the airline for almost half a century.

So, although the last leg of our journey had been negative, the Honolulu ticket agent’s kind demeanor had lifted our spirits. We both decided not to let it spoil the memories of our honeymoon in paradise, and the prospect that a letter of complaint would be sent definitely helped us remain positive while we explored Waikiki that day.

But it’s funny how every time I tell people that we got stuck in Hawaii, they usually respond with a grin on their faces: “Must have been rough being stranding on Maui during your honeymoon, huh?”

I just say, “As a matter of fact, it was.”

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