Carolina: Cruising Past 70: How Saving US$200 on Airfare Turned Out to Be a Major Mistake

Friday, May 19, 2017

How Saving US$200 on Airfare Turned Out to Be a Major Mistake

the flight I took: China Southern Airlines
Bill seeing me off at Phoenix Sky Harbor
“The Agony and the Ecstasy” is a cliché well appreciated among travelers. After all, we go through the agony of packing and the ecstasy of arriving, of spending hard-earned dollars and enjoying the thrills, of enduring stressful flights and reaching exciting destinations. But this time I really had THE agony. For savings of about US$200, I chose a multi-stop flight combination that appeared as the cheapest in Skyscanner searches. Boy, what a major mistake that turned out to be!

I wanted to go first to Melbourne, Australia to babysit my youngest grandchild and, second, to Manila to visit friends and family, in particular, a BFF dealing with cancer. The cheapest flight included layovers in Guangzhou, China in all segments. I hadn’t been there, and that became a tempting bonus instead of a deal breaker. Unfortunately, I signed up without looking closely at the devilish details. What should have been a 20-hour trip to Melbourne with one stop (LAX)  became a 38-hour ordeal on the first segment alone.

Skytrain at Phoenix Sky Harbor
Right at the outset, the one-hour flight from the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport to LAX became all of three hours and a half. The weather in LA was reported as unstable, and Air Traffic Control required that the plane refuels for a potential extended circling over the airport. So, when we finally landed at LAX, I had to rush from Terminal 3 to the Tom Bradley International Airport. I could not find any golf
carts and had to run a circuitous 2 miles because of ongoing extensive construction. I did not want to miss my connecting flight to Guangzhou.  I barely made it in time for boarding. Sadly, the beautiful red and black scarf from Italy, the first gift ever given to me by Bill during courtship, was lost in the mad dash.

I was able to sleep for five hours on the 14-hour flight from LAX to Guangzhou. The other hours
were spent downing two Chinese meals and watching three good movies: Patriot Days, Miss Sloane, and The Founder. But when we landed at the Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport, the simple transfer to another plane involved long queues just like strict immigration lines. Then, as I sat in the waiting lounge, I came to the painful realization that Facebook is indeed banned in China and that internet speeds are extremely slow. I was not able to connect with anybody except for Bill via regular cellular call rates. I was glad I had a portable charger because I was afraid to use the airport’s strange-looking charging stations. 

our plane at Gameco
On the way out of Guangzhou, after all of us were boarded onto the plane, we encountered another two and a half hours of delay, ostensibly because of weather and air traffic control, whatever those meant. But I could not help notice that we were bussed from the waiting lounge way out somewhere beyond the airport terminals to the hangar of Gameco, Guangzhou’s aircraft maintenance engineering section, where our plane was ominously parked. I wondered what they weren’t telling us!  No wonder there was a flurry of activities that delayed our getting bussed by about an hour.

Fortunately, the flight was smooth and uneventful, and I finally arrived in Melbourne. There was minor ecstasy when I found my luggage. She, like myself, had made it through all the running around! It was 50 degrees Fahrenheit at 11:00 pm when Clint, my son-in-law, and I got out to get a cab. Oh, how I missed the scarf that would have kept me warmer. In another 15 minutes, we were at their apartment and Kyrie, my 19-month-old youngest grandchild, was still wide awake. We played until 1 AM with the Play-doh I had brought with me. But it was his pouty lips ready to kiss an old, tired grandma that was the reason why I traveled so far. This was THE ecstasy that came with THE agony!

The US $200 savings is not worth all the hassle. I dread the two other segments, from Melbourne to Manila and from Manila back to Phoenix. They both pass through Guangzhou, and I know I will again suffer the symptoms from Facebook withdrawal. Sigh. From now on, I will limit the flight stops to just one or none and choose the cheapest among those. It is but logical that the hassles will grow exponentially as you increase the number of stops and the end-to-end flight hours. As Murphy’s Law dictates, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.” The more stops you make and the more hours you fly, the more things can go wrong! Ergo, simplify!

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