Stuck in Vegas

by Gray Cargill on December 29, 2010

For those of you who don’t read my other blog, I’ve been in Las Vegas for the past week for the Christmas holiday.  I had a blast.  At this very moment, I was supposed to be home in Burlington, but my flight home last night was canceled, and now I’m stuck in Vegas for a few more days.  I know what you’re thinking:  “Poor baby. Stuck in Vegas. What a hardship.”  That might be true if I hadn’t been here a week already and done everything I wanted to do, and if I were only stuck here for one more day.  But I was more than ready to go home yesterday, and now I’m stuck here until Saturday. Meaning I have to be here for New Year’s Eve. AUGH!  THE CROWDS!!!

Here’s what happened:  I was out having cocktails with Diana Edelman and Abby Tegnelia last night when I received the robocall from Jetblue about my flight cancellation. I immediately tried calling to rebook, but kept getting the message that basically said “We have an extremely high call volume, please try again later or go to our website.”  Abby tried helping me rebook on the website via her Blackberry, but there was no obvious link for rebooking the canceled flight.  I was able to book another night at Treasure Island at a casino rate (thank you, TI marketing!) so I re-checked in there and got on my computer in the room.  Still, no obiovus link to rebook my canceled flight. In desperation, I tried booking a new flight. The first available flight it showed was MONDAY, six days after my canceled flight.

I texted my friend Chiro, who was also in Vegas with his wife Melinda during the holidays. Their flight had been canceled the previous night, so they were still in Vegas, but had rebooked on a flight out today (on Continental).  They were driving up the Strip, and he offered to take me to the airport so I could talk to a live person to see if they could get me on a flight earlier than Monday.  Thank God he suggested this, because there was no line at the Jetblue counter at 11pm and  the agent there was able to get me on a flight Saturday.  Still not great, but better than Monday.

I’m very disappointed with the way Jetblue has handled the aftermath of this storm.  I think everyone would agree that Jetblue is not responsible for the weather. How it handles the aftermath of a storm–including rescheduling canceled flights and customer service–is another matter.  The first place where it fell down on the job is with the inability for people to reach a live human being by phone to reschedule a flight.  “We have an extremely high call volume, please call back later” is unacceptable. People should be allowed to join a queue on hold until they get through to a live human being.  By forcing people to keep calling back, there’s no order and it’s a complete crapshoot as to whether someone will get through or not–EVER.

Step two:  If your flight is canceled, there should be a link to click to easily rebook a flight at the website, but “easily” wasn’t an option either. In desperation, I booked an entirely new flight (for $600+ one way!).  At the Jetblue website, they have issued a notice telling people NOT to go to the airport to rebook a flight.  In reality, though, that was the only way I got any kind of customer service (and a flight earlier than Monday).

Meanwhile, I’m stuck in Las Vegas through New Year’s Eve, when hotel prices are outrageously high.  The cheapest thing I could find (that I’d be willing to stay at) was Imperial Palace for $332 for 3 nights (a screaming deal by Vegas Strip standards, when you consider it includes New Year’s Eve). Is Jetblue going to reimburse me for the next 3 days of food and hotel expenses I incur here?  I doubt it.  I’m just glad I had this week off from work, so I don’t have to explain to an employer why I’m missing an additional few days.  Imagine all the people who are missing work–or who are trying to book tickets for more than one person on a future flight.

You’d think an airline would have a better plan in place for how to deal with this sort of thing. My situation could have been worse, certainly. I could have been Jason Cochran, who was stuck at JFK for 32 hours, thanks to Virgin Atlantic.`

Abby January 4, 2011 at 5:32 am

Oh, and my friend who was coming in from JFK for New Year’s Eve did make it — she arrived at 2:30 am, but she made it!

Abby January 4, 2011 at 5:27 am

I still can’t believe this happened! If it hadn’t been the crazy Cosmopolitan opening, I would’ve loved to hang out more. I want to hear how you liked Human Nature — and everything else you ended up doing! It was soo good to meet you!!

SoloFriendly January 4, 2011 at 11:46 am

No worries, Abby. It was great meeting you too–thanks for trying to help me rebook my flight. I’m glad your friend made it in. I’ll be posting all about my experiences over at The Vegas Solo, probably for months to come. 🙂

CamelsAndChocolate January 3, 2011 at 11:20 pm

I had a similar experience with American last week. They weren’t even going to call my husband and me to let us know our flight was canceled–luckily, we looked on the website six hours in advance and started figuring things out on our own! Still, it cost us a lot of extra $$$ and we didn’t get home until 24 hours after we were scheduled to. And get this, it was 69 degrees in Memphis so it wasn’t even weather related!

On a side note: Abby and I randomly worked together at a magazine in NYC in 2005 and reconnected over blogs/Twitter in 2008. I saw her a few weeks ago for the first time in five years. And I’ve been dying to meet Diana–I love her blog!

SoloFriendly January 4, 2011 at 12:02 am

Abby and Diana are both terrific ladies. It’s neat that they’ve both landed in Vegas at the same time. Why was your flight canceled if not for weather? Sometimes weather in one region has a domino effect on others.

CamelsAndChocolate January 4, 2011 at 1:11 am

It was actually delayed for “mechanical reasons” (that vague term they use all too often), but so far delayed we wouldn’t make our connection. They weren’t going to tell us this, though, had we not called. And if we’d just gone to the airport as planned and not made our connection, the next connection they could book us on (because of the whole weather repercussions) was Monday or Tuesday–a solid five days later! Good thing we were proactive and rerouted ourselves. But when the same thing happened to me on United (mech issues, 36 hours delay), they put me up in a nice hotel, flew me first class, gave me a RT voucher AND $250…and American wouldn’t even upgrade us! And I’m oneWorld Gold, too! I was on the comp upgrade list because of my status, and the woman told me I’d have to pay $300 if I wanted to get upgraded (whereas in the policy it says if you’re Gold, have a Y-fare ticket and there’s space available, you and your companion get upgraded…NOT in our case). It took enough to get them to put us up in a totally ghetto, unsafe hotel at the airport in Memphis. The airlines have gone absolutely mental!

SoloFriendly January 4, 2011 at 1:32 am

I couldn’t agree more. The airlines have pretty much tossed aside all pretense of customer service. All they care about is making money, to hell with the consumer. Not being able to rebook a canceled flight for 4 or 5 days is insane. On my flight home on Saturday, 2 seats were double-booked (luckily, there were some no-shows/other empty seats, or that would have turned ugly fast). The airlines really have to get their shit together. They’re a mess right now.

CamelsAndChocolate January 4, 2011 at 1:37 am

Furthermore, we were flying with our puppy (had to book her “seat” three months out and pay $200 for her as a carry-on!), and on all three flights on the way back to SF, they put us in exit rows! Not that I’m complaining, but that’s completely against policy. We sat in them on the first two flights, but on the third we were in the bulkhead so we had nowhere to put her and had to say something to the FA, who was so befuddled: “You’re traveling with a pet. You’re not allowed to sit in the exit row!” “Duh! That’s what we’re telling you. We didn’t book our seats–the airline did!” And then there’s was this whole hokey-pokey bit where she tried to figure out what to do with us, and it honestly took 15 minutes to sort it all out. You’d think the FAs on that flight had never had to relocate passengers before!

Connie Hum December 31, 2010 at 5:50 am

Sorry to hear about your situation. I agree that airlines should have better ways of dealing with flight cancellations. Getting stuck in Vegas may not always be such a bad thing but when it’s the holidays and you just want to get home, it’s definitely not a good thing! Hope you survive NYE in Vegas and get home safe as soon as possible!

SoloFriendly December 31, 2010 at 7:02 am

Thanks, Connie! There are worse places to get stuck for a few days than Vegas, though I have definitely gone way over my budget for this trip. Oh well.

WDWPRINCE December 31, 2010 at 3:43 am

Have you read Danny Meyer’s book Setting the Table? I thought of you as I was reading through it at Borders. He mentions solo diners quite often and with great reverence. You should check it out.

SoloFriendly December 31, 2010 at 7:01 am

Ooh, I have not read it. Thanks for the suggestion!

lilmissdisney December 30, 2010 at 5:58 pm

That would annoy me to not even be put on hold! It is one thing to be on hold for hours, but to not even be given the choice. That is just wrong!
Hostelling International has a new hostel there, but I guess it would be booked full for New Years. Though, for a hotel on New Years Eve you got a pretty decent price.
I don’t think I would hold my breath on getting your hotel reimbursed. Most airlines don’t reimburse for acts of nature causing cancellations. But, I will have my fingers crossed!
Stay away from the strip if you don’t like crowds. It wasn’t pretty last time I went. Have fun!

SoloFriendly December 30, 2010 at 11:32 pm

Yeah, I’m not holding my breath on a reimbursement. I can’t very well avoid the Strip tomorrow night, since I’m staying here.

Anonymous December 29, 2010 at 7:07 pm

How awful! If I was in the city, you would be more than welcome to crash at our place. I feel horrible that you’re just stranded … and stuck paying Las Vegas prices for New Year’s Eve! I hope JetBlue comes through post-trip to help reimburse you.

SoloFriendly December 29, 2010 at 11:58 pm

Oh, it’s not that bad, JoAnna. I did get a hotel room for the next 3 nights, and the price wasn’t outrageous, so I’m okay. They better reimburse me for that $600 Monday flight I initially rebooked, that’s for sure, plus any price differential for the rebooked Saturday flight. I’m not holding my breath on the hotel reimbursement.

Aviewtoathrill December 29, 2010 at 5:04 pm

What an awful turn of events, Gray. I do believe that Jetblue owes you something but I share your resolve that probably nothing will happen. Glad that you at least have somewhere to stay and will be leaving on Saturday….if nothing else, you will have lots of material for the blog regarding your experience…yuck!

SoloFriendly December 29, 2010 at 11:59 pm

Thanks, Renee. Like I said, it could have been a lot worse.

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