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A tale of three vouchers

“You are all set,” she said, looking at me. Then she paused. “But the boys …

Well, it says here their tickets have been canceled.”

We three were in Vail awaiting a flight to Maryland. It was midsummer, and I had booked the tickets five months before, over the telephone, because I had a discount voucher and that requires phoning.



The reason I had this voucher was because of the last time I booked, which was also over the phone, which was also because of having a voucher.

Let me tell you about these golden money-saving vouchers: one, two and three. Last summer I planned an autumn trip to Asheville, N.C., to go rock climbing with my friend Tracy. With effort, the reservations agent, hailing from somewhere in India, and I booked flights at times reasonable for pickups. Then I mailed the voucher to the specified location.



Ten days or so later, my e-mail flashed with a confirmation. I don’t always check these right away. This time I did.

“Aaagh!” I yelled into the quiet, shared office air. “Not Nashville! Asheville!”

I was booked to Tennessee.

I was immediately back on the phone to India, to an agent and then a supervisor, and I was SOL because one leg of my flight was on another airline. I had to pay extra, and for execrable hours: arriving at 11:30 p.m., departing at 5 a.m. a week later.

That $150 voucher (#1) had been for an earlier airline mechanical problem. This voucher (#2), used toward our flights out of Vail, was recompense for Nashville-Asheville.

Now, in Vail, as our scheduled flight filled up and eventually closed its doors, the agent gave me the number for reservations. An airline agent and then a supervisor were involved, and I was told in clipped tones from South Asia that the problem must be solved locally, in Vail.

I had mailed the voucher as dictated and double-checked these reservations twice. The airline had no record of receiving the voucher, I learned. (Note: Xerox any voucher, ever.)

Our scheduled flight winged-off into the sunlight. Other open airplane seats vanished from the computer screen one by one.

I telephoned once more to my mother and unwell stepfather and said we might need to be picked up after midnight (as opposed to before dinner, which my mother was now cooking), and in D.C. instead of Baltimore.

Across the lobby, my sons slumped in chairs, scowling, now and then showing up at my side to complain.

“Look, it’s not their fault,” I told Roy, 11.

“Well, it sort of is,” he said meaningfully and clearly, face downturned.

“Not the fault of these people,” I said. “Go back over there.” He’d slink balefully back.

Teddy, 14, would march over in a more businesslike way, challenging, “We’ve been here over two hours!”

“Go back!”

Soon my worst fears materialized. The tickets today were up to $1,000 each.

At times like this, you need intervention. Our angel was calm, trim, reddish-blonde, a local supervisor named Amber. Amber listened in concern to my narration, assessed all the factors, and agreed the situation showed airline error. She logged information, reached a grand authority in Detroit, and convinced that deity to issue us tickets at the old price of $450 each.

By now we couldn’t fly until tomorrow, but we would get there.

Amber concluded by saying, “I’m giving you a voucher.” There was a tiny silence, and then we both laughed.

This voucher (#3) is for $400. In October, Tracy and I plan to go climbing in West Virginia, with me to fly into Charleston, W.Va. We both have work deadlines that month, but were able, laboriously, to arrange dates. All I have to do now is call reservations.

Alison Osius lives in Carbondale and can be reached at aosius@hotmail.com.


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