Friday, October 28, 2011

Air travel drama without leaving home

I don’t know what it is about me that attracts such horrible luck when it comes to air travel, but today I learned that my luck is so bad, I don't even need to get near an airport. Just booking a trip online is an enormous hassle in my cursed world.

I spent so much money today. I scheduled two upcoming trips – one to go home to see family for the holidays and another to visit friends in Minnesota. (Yes, Minnesota in the winter. That part is not bad luck, but bad timing. Brrr.) Christmas is two months from now, so I have reached the point where the airfare is going to steadily increase as the date comes closer. Even two months in advance, a round-trip ticket to the airport nearest my family is between $800-1200. (Well, technically there was another option that had me leaving around 4 in the afternoon, taking two layovers and finally arriving at my destination at 8am the next morning, but I do not consider spending the night in the airport to be a viable option only to save $75.) So, for the fourth year in a row my holiday trip will be split between an overpriced one-way ticket to my home airport and 22-hours on Amtrak. This trip still cost me $500 and an entire day of my life will be spent on a train or in a station, but I will probably get a lot of reading done. So that’s something. It’s very frustrating to spend that much money when I only have one vacation day plus the three day weekend to take off of work. But, what can you do? That’s what happens when you move 1,000 miles from home.

The trip home wasn’t the real problem, though. The bad luck became apparent when trying to schedule the trip to Minnesota. I began thinking about it when the airfare was around $200, but then I didn’t get all of the details worked out in time and when I booked the trip today, the price had gone up considerably. I think this is the first time ever that I have paid extra to take a non-stop flight, but it is Minnesota in winter and I need to be there by Friday evening so I didn’t want to risk a layover nightmare. I found a suitable flight on one of the travel sites and when I tried to book it, I received an error message that said that the flight availability had changed. I tried again and saw the same flight was still available, but now it was $35 more expensive than it was 30 seconds ago. So, I went for a similar non-stop flight, same thing – the error message came up with the change in flight availability. $35 more expensive. So, I went directly to the airline’s website to check availability and prices.

The airline’s website prices were the same, so I took a dreaded 6:30 a.m. flight to save some money. When I went to check out, I learned that if I apply for their credit card, I will receive $50 statement credit on this purchase. I look over the credit card terms and there’s no yearly fee for the first year, $95 each year after that. I shouldn’t apply for another card because I already have three hard inquiries on my credit report because I consolidated some debt onto some new interest-free cards, so I know it will lower my credit score, but $50 is $50. I applied for the card and received an approval message and the information I needed to use the card right away. Okay, it’s worth it to save fifty bucks.

I must have thought my luck had changed for a moment because of course I should have known I would not save $50 from an airline website. When I tried to use the new credit card for the purchase, I received an error message that I could not use it because the pre-approved credit limit was only $200 and the cost of the ticket exceeded that. Fantastic. Now I have a new credit card that will eventually have a yearly fee, I have a hard inquiry lowering my credit score, and I don’t even get the $50 credit. Great. What the hell was I thinking getting a credit card associated with an airline? With my luck, it is going to get lost in the mail and someone will steal my identity before I even get a chance to use the thing. Oh well. I hope whoever steals my identity doesn’t have their heart set on anything that costs more than $200. And God help them if they try to use it to buy plane tickets with it.

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