Notes on Travel (Pitfalls of Orbitz Dept.), Xmas in the Dark, and an Uncertain Number of Septic Tanks

Assuming the existence of some future point when I have more energy, I will explain further why our bedroom is now in a different part of the house, and why my desk is in that room too. The story involves architects, a contractor, vast sums of money, permits, the acquisition and filling of a 10×15 climatically controlled storage space, the expectation of permits, an as-yet-undetermined number of real and proposed septic tanks, vast sums of money, the partial destruction of our kitchen, the Sisyphean expectation of the final permits, and of course random and unpredictable delay.

Meanwhile, however, as we appear to have hit a period of delay until the waveform number of future septic tanks collapses to an integer and either produces a permit or a lawsuit, I have cancelled my plans to cancel my plans to go to England for two weeks of Xmas revel with the in-laws. Rather than stay here and grade exams, I will use my ticket. [Much more than you probably want to know about the dangers of buying air tix online in the extended entry.]

I am not the only person I know who abandons Miami when the weather is at its coolest (ie just warm), driest (ie just a little damp) and most perfect in order to go spend a fortnight in the exciting outskirts of Didsbury, a suburb in the outskirts of Manchester, England, which is a somewhat dark and wet and cold and dark and wet and cold place at this time of year. After all, my wife and children do it too. But they are 50 to 100% British, so they may be genetically predisposed to enjoy four daily hours of what is euphemistically called “sunlight”. (Lest I be suspected of Manchester-bashing, it's a great town, and often very nice in the summer time.)

I intend to keep adding to the blog while in Didsbury, but as my internet access will be POTS rather than broadband, and metered POTS at that, I may have fewer posts, and they are likely to have much more about England and the rest of the UK than is the normal fare here.

Adventures With Orbitz

At one point in the pre-festivities, at a moment when permits seemed belatedly attainable, I attempted to call British Airways to see if I could delay my departure for a few days, with the rest of the family going on ahead of me. I knew it was a cut-rate ticket [Albeit, not cut-rate enough!], from Orbitz, so I expected some penalty. What I got was much weirder. The man from the BA call center said that his computer didn't show enough about the ticket for him to even tell me if changes were possible. The travel agent had not released sufficient fare details for them to know the conditions. I would have to call the travel agent direct.

OK. I found a phone number for Orbitz. They passed me around to various desks, and eventually I was told that

  1. There is a $200 'separation' charge for making changes to just one ticket booked as part of a group of tickets
  2. There's also a $30 processing fee
  3. And you pay the difference between your fare and the fare for the flight you take
  4. But never mind all that. Even though my ticket is changeable, there's another snag. I have a paper ticket (BA requires these apparently, it certainly wasn't my choice) and the only way Ortbitz can change it is if I mail it in. And they need it at least 14 days before flight time. And as I'm requesting this less than 14 days in advance, they can't do anything.
  5. So why don't I call BA and see what they can do?
  6. And, I could always try to change it at the airport. (Gee, thanks.)

When I protested that the airline lacked the info it needed to see the ticket rules, the nice lady at Orbitz said she'd “unlock” or “release” the record to BA so they could do something.

So I called back BA. No dice. They can't see the record, and even if they could they wouldn't look at it. If you buy from a travel agent, they won't change the outbound under any circumstances, just the return. Policy. No debate. End of story.

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