Trip Report Summer 2012: Introduction

My first trip on points and miles. Man, was the booking process a disaster. I had been so focused on earning miles, I failed to educate myself on award programs/ routes/ redemptions. For an entire month, I would call American and sit on the phone for hours, burning through my roll-over minutes while speaking to different agents to get this trip booked. It seemed impossible and I started to reconsider whether this whole points/miles thing was a good idea. After all, what is the point if you can’t redeem your miles?

Super long story short, I did some last-minute research that really saved me. It turns out I made alot of false assumptions about how award redemptions worked, one of them being that the agents could route your itinerary for you. If that was the case, guys like Lucky would be out of a job.

I managed to get the entire trip booked on points, except for the round-trip between Afghanistan and Dubai on Safi Airways. We would fly to Dubai, connect to Kabul, return to Dubai for a few days, on to Istanbul, and then back home. My mom and sister would be traveling together, while I would meet them in Dubai. From then on, we’d all be traveling together. My brother would be off in London and Copenhagen on a separate trip.

With the tickets booked one day prior to departure, I had tons of things to finish up at work. My flight was leaving at 3:45 PM and I figured I would leave work at 11, hop on BART, and get to the airport in 40 minutes.

I ended up staying up all night to finish up a few things for work. I managed to pack just a carry-on, crashed, and woke up the next morning sleep deprived. At work I suddenly found myself with more to do than I had anticipated.  After I managed to get everything done, I had a debriefing with my boss and got the IT department to configure my laptop for me so I could work remotely while on my trip. Confronted with a heavy work laptop and my own (which I needed as well), I made a last second decision to ditch the work laptop and just take my own. I could still do some of my work and I’d have less baggage.

Just before I left, I took a moment to actually book my flight, which had been on hold until that point (don’t ask).

As I looked through my things one last time, I discovered my camera charger was missing. I called home and my mom couldn’t find it. With some time to spare, I decided to make a stop at the RadioShack on Market Street. Turns out they were out of extra batteries and the charger I needed. They told me the next Radio Shack was a mere 2 blocks away. Only, it was actually 13 blocks away.

Lugging a carry-on in the sweltering heat was torture and I thought my arms were going to fall off. On the way there, I stopped by an Office Max and another office supply store (if only I had an Ink Bold then…). None of them had extra batteries or the charger I needed! Finally I made it to the second RadioShack where they did carry a charger for the not-at-all-unreasonable price of $80.

Right then my sister called and told me she found my charger and they would hand that off to me at the airport. I turned back around to the BART station. There were a few delays and I was starting to worry I’d miss my flight. Luckily, I made it with 45 minutes to spare and got in line to check in.

I called my mom and found out since her flight was later than mine, she and my sister were in San Francisco, shopping. They would probably not be able to meet me at the airport since they were still in the city. At this point, I was more worried about missing my flight than my charger. The line wasn’t that long, it just wasn’t moving.

A surly, bald agent at the Air France check-in counter was threatening to have a French couple traveling with small children arrested if they didn’t “get out of [his] face.” The family was worried that they would miss their flight due to the line not moving. The agent was only checking in priority travelers and the woman was trying to explain that she had young children and needed to be assisted. At one point she asked for his name and he wouldn’t give it to her. When she threatened to take his photo and report him to a supervisor, he got angry and with his teeth practically clenched, told her “Ma’am. I will have you arrested!” Classy. Let’s have this tired, stressed-out mother traveling with young children spend the night in jail in a foreign country. For taking a photo. The woman and her husband stormed off, angry.

A friendly agent (can’t believe these two worked together) came over and asked if any of us were on the 3:45 flight. I told him I was and he immediately escorted me to another counter. He was very friendly and professional, emphasizing that he did not want me to miss my flight because of the lines. He picked up my bag, placed it on the scale, and waited until I was checked in to direct me towards security. Did I mention I was flying economy? In general, I find people working at SFO to be friendly – TSA agents included. This was just another example of the great service I always encounter at SFO. Of course I’d be singing a different tune if I was the French mother traveling with three children.

I finally made it past the security line and to the gate on time. When I boarded the plane, I felt a pang of anxiety – the seats were by far the tinniest, most crammed I’d ever seen on any plane. The cabin was really stuffy and though I’m not claustrophobic, I started to feel really anxious. On top of that, I was sitting in the middle section. My seat wouldn’t recline and I had to spend the next 10 hours sleeping upwards. Not fun when you’re sleep deprived, and definitely worse when you’re cramped between two people and have practically no leg room to stretch.

I don’t mean to be a master complainer, but the flight was definitely the worst I’ve ever been on. I’ve flown economy both domestically and internationally plenty of times. In fact, my flight on KLM the previous year was much more comfortable and I had no problems whatsoever with the seat, food, or service. I arrived at my destination well rested and energized. Wish I could say the same about this flight.

The flight attendants spoke mostly French, so when I got a breakfast plate consisting of ham, cheese, and a croissant, I had trouble conveying that I couldn’t eat ham and ask for another option. Instead, I had a bland breakfast of bread and cheese. If it’s good enough for the peasants, I guess its good enough for me. I can’t remember what the other meal consisted of, but I remember being hungry afterwards.

The service was terribly slow, so passengers sat for a good 20 minutes with trash on their trays before the flight attendants showed up to clean it. When I arrived at Charles De Gaulle, I was tired but extremely relieved. Navigating the airport, on the other hand, was another adventure in and of itself. Thankfully, I had the club lounge to look forward to after such a draining journey.

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