Chronicles from the other side (of the Atlantic) English The foreign life Travel

When did buying airline tickets become an odyssey?

I just spent two hours and a half on the phone in order to purchase our tickets to Spain for Christmas. I’m not kidding. I’m not exaggerating. I have pictures and all.

1:51 minutes is what the second call with Iberia lasted. Prior to that, I had spent at least another 20 minutes talking with the rude representative. And yes, I still have a landline.
1:51 minutes is what the second call with Iberia lasted. Prior to that, I had spent at least another 20 minutes talking with the rude representative. And yes, I still have a landline.

In the time of online shopping, Amazon Hour, and the demise of (to my dismay) the mortar and brick shop, I had no other choice than to purchase plane tickets on the phone. For someone who was buying tickets online 15 years ago, when that still required for you to receive a printed copy of them on the mail, this seems shocking and quite outrageous.

Do you want to know the culprit? My third kid.

Until he was born I didn’t have major problems to book our flights. Since I became a mom I have always had to use the phone, as my poor kids have a four word last name that doesn’t fit in any electronic system. But it was usually quite quick and painless, other than the bite to my bank account.

But last summer, as I organized our first trip back home with our very cute last addition, I already encountered some resistance on the part of my airline of choice, but I was still able to book it without too much trouble.

However, today I had a quite different experience. As I was informed by the first, very rude representative I talked to, Iberia doesn’t allow you to fly with three kids, even if one of them is 8 years old. My first issue with his statement was that it contradicts their own webpage, which, as you can see in the photo, says that you can travel alone only with no more than two kids younger than five. Fair enough. But that was not my case, as mine are 8, 4 and 1. And since these people don’t know them personally, there is nothing else that should make them think that I cannot handle them on a plane, even if that happens to be the only place in the world where I can actually handle them. After he tried to convince me several times to purchase the  service they offer for unaccompanied minors (don’t forget that my sons are flying with me), I requested to talk to a supervisor. Mysteriously and unexplainably, the call fell. How fitting for someone about to throw a fit.

Iberia's policy on flying with kids, taken from their website on October 16, 2015
Iberia’s policy on flying with kids, taken from their website on October 16, 2015

Already fuming, I placed another call and immediately asked to talk to a supervisor. The girl on the other side of the phone was nice enough for me to calm down, but she explained the same policy, which still makes no sense whatsoever to me. None of my younger kids would want anything to do with a stranger if I am present, and my 8 year old could accompany adults when flying, that is how helpful and travel savvy he is. But they still were trying to convince me to buy a service that would have little use for me.

At this point I informed her that I was flying with a friend and my niece, and asked if it would be possible to put one of my kids under their reservation. I had asked the same question to the rude guy, but he said it was impossible. Apparently it was a matter of will, because the second, much much nicer representative found a way to do that. It took two hours, but she was able to sell me the tickets I wanted. That said, I will need to obtain a notarized and stamped document stating that my son is allowed to fly with my friend… on the same plane I will board. Ridiculous doesn’t even start to describe it.

I appreciate the airline’s concern for my well being and that of my children, or fellow passengers, for that matter. But if they really want to help families, they could, for example, carry their own car seats so I don’t have to tote mine all around the airport, as I purchase a ticket for my baby on long hauls so he can fly comfortably seated. They could also make sure that parents and kids are seated together. This, that would sound as a given to anyone with a minimum of common sense, requires another 45 minutes on the phone and 80 dollars per person for a round trip. Otherwise, you run the risk of having your four year old seated five rows behind you. And yes, I talk from experience, and from experience I can tell you that many adults are not particularly happy to swap seats with your kid.

There are many reasons why I like to fly Iberia. It is a direct flight from Chicago to Madrid, which is easier with kids. Their cabin personnel have always been extremely nice and helpful, and although I am often told that I have been lucky by fellow Spanish citizens, I will stand by my statement. They have always been on time. It is the airline from my home country, and I like to support things from Spain. I like how I feel like I’m already home as soon as I board the plane. And they have better coffee than most other airlines.

So I will still recommend them, along with my favorite brand of whiskey to keep your nerves at bay while you book.

But their policies and booking process are just absolutely impractical, time consuming and irritating.

On the hindsight, I’m coming home for Christmas.

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