A Horror Tale in the Making

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Posted by Ken Kurtis on June 16, 2007 at 19:21:15:

(This is going to be long-than-normal, but I promise you a worthwhile read of a harrowing tale.)

I had hoped to title this "Live from Palau." We carried out our end of the bargain, showing up at LAX at 7AM for our 9:30AM flight to Honolulu, then continuing on to Guam and then into Palau. Everything was going well . . . until Continental, with the plane sitting at the gate and an announcement already made that we'd started boarding momentarily, cancelled our flight.

So our trip to Palau had started with some complications, to say the least. It turns out that there was really nothing wrong with our plane but that it simply didn't have some FAA inspection paperwork signed off on. Sort of like not having a VIP on your tank - it may be perfectly good to use, but until the inspection is done, it's not getting filled.

Most frustrating was that they could have let us know this at 9:30AM when they still had time to book us (there were 80 people trying to make the Guam flight) on another carrier's flight to Honolulu as we had a 2-hour window to make the flight to Guam. But they dilly-dallied and didn't decide until 11:15AM to officially cancel the flight, instead scheduling us all for a 7PM flight to HNL.

Interesting, 14 of the 18 people scheduled to be on the Palau Aggressor were in LA. There's our group of 6, a father and two sons from the Bay Area, three women from Chicago, and a couple from New York. The good news is that we've been on the phone off and on with the Aggressor office all day and they're prepared to extend the trip for us if we get to Palau a day late. The problem is with Continental.

We should have been on the Friday Honolulu-Guam flight, which left at 2PM and is the only daily non-stop. But the flight on Saturday is not only sold out, but now has a waiting list of 30 people. They can get people on the Sunday flight but, with crossing the dateline, it means arriving in Palau Monday night, losing the first day of diving.

You'd think the obvious thing, with 80 displaced people, would be to order up a second plane to fly to Guam. Instead, Continental's got us scattered all over the place.

So I'm now writing this at 36,000 feet over the Pacific, not knowing what tomorrow will bring. The plan right now is that we'll land in Honolulu around 9:30PM (Friday) and overnight in a hotel, courtesy of Continental. We're booked out on a Saturday flight to Guam . . . BUT . . . it's not the non-stop. Instead we're flying from Honolulu-Majuro-Guam, leaving at 12:55PM and arriving in Guam at 6:30PM.

The tricky part is that the is that the flight from Guam to Palau leaves at 6:50PM, giving us just 20 minutes to make the connection. However, Continental says they're generally willing to hold a flight 1 minute for each passenger who will miss the flight. We've got 12 of the 14 booked on this flight (the other 2 will arrive Monday evening since we couldn't clear them for this flight) so we're hoping that buys us some extra time, at least an extra 12 minutes giving us 32 minutes to make the connection. That may be doable.

On top of that, the Aggressor folks are on the horn to Continental begging them to hold the flight for us. If all goes well, we'll end up in Palau Sunday night around 8PM and will start diving Monday morning as planned, just with a little less time to get gear and camera set up. And if we don't make the connection, then Continental will have to put us up in Guam and we'll all arrive Monday night.

And they said vacations are supposed to be relaxing . . .

Actually, our experience is a testament to the value of group travel (let alone the reason you should be doing your trips with Reef Seekers). As soon as we knew what was going on, I was on the phone to Continental's reservations department to see what they could do for us. Everyone else stood in a rebooking line that moved painfully slowly. I was able to deploy our troops to various other lines so that we could increase our chances for quickly getting to the front of a line. That allowed me to go down to the main ticket counter (armed with my cell phone to be recalled upstairs at a moment’s notice). Since that was uncrowded, I could get all of our options, as well as get a read on the passenger load for each flight.

Armed with the information, I was able to go back upstairs and we were now at the front of the line. The agents at our gate were just looking at the non-stop to Guam and telling people they couldn’t get them in until Monday. They didn't even know about the circuitous HNL-MAJ-GUM flight I'd found. So we were able to snag the last 12 seats.

And we were able to stick others in a line to get meal vouchers, as well as able to quickly get our hotel vouchers for Honolulu, avoiding waiting in a line once we arrive and giving us the ability to go straight to the hotel. And, given the early afternoon departure, we'll actually be able to get a good night's sleep and start the day recharged. We'll keep you posted.

Well, we always said diving was an adventure, right? It’s just sometimes more adventurous we’d than planned.

- Honolulu-bound Ken

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