Thursday, June 07, 2007

Don't Ever Fly Northwestern

Blogger's Note: Since blogspot lists posts with the most recent ones on top, if you want to read about our Korean adventures in order, you need to scroll down to the first one, "Korea Report: We're Off." Sorry for the confusion.

It turns out 7 is not our lucky number. When we get on the ground, there is an announcement that all passengers going to Seoul on Northwestern Flight 007 should see a ticket agent, there is going to be a delay. We gather in front of the Northwestern counter and wait until everyone is off the plane. There are about 50 of us, anxiously huddled.

The agent is a very nice Japanese man, who has a little trouble expressing himself in English, but when he finally thinks of the word, pronounces it pretty well. The upshot of it is that he is very sorry, but there is a maintenance problem with the aircraft that was supposed to take us to Seoul and they don't know how long it will take to fix it and there is another plane coming and rather than inconvenience us by making us wait around, they have cancelled the flight. We are now booked on a Japan Airlines flight that leaves at 10:00 a.m. Friday morning. They will put us up in a hotel and provide us with dinner and breakfast. So solly. What the ........... ? They can't do that to us. We have people waiting for us in Seoul. We have to go to a wedding. We have other family members flying into Seoul, Son Number Two, and my sisters, Seester, and The Sensible One, who won't know what to do without us.

This is the second time Northwestern has done this to Son Number One. He met his Bride in Japan a week before Christmas, the only time he will have seen her since he left Korea last July and when we get there for the wedding. I dropped him off at the airport on a clear winter day and went to work, only to get a call from him an hour later telling me that Northwestern has cancelled his flight. The next flight would be out of O'Hare the next morning, and it was up to us to figure out how to get him to O'Hare. If we wanted to fly out of our local airport, the next available flight would be in four days. They said it was weather related, and therefore there was no compensation. What the .................... I raged. They can't do that to us. I called ticket agents; I called their supervisors; there was no way I was going to let them cheat NOS out of a day with his B. Nothing worked. I took him to Chicago the next day and we didn't get as much as an apology from Northwestern.

So, I already know that raging won't work. My sister-in-law, BS, grew up in Japan; speaks the language like a native and sidles over to the ticket agent to try some Japanese charm. It is fun to watch her as she is transformed into a Japanese woman, talking shyly, with her hand covering her mouth. She returns to tell us there is a chance for one or two of us to get on a flight Thursday evening. We wait around and wait around and finally are told the only remaining flight to Seoul on Thursday evening is already overbooked, so we might as well go to the hotel and relax.

I have been to the Neruda airport before for the connecting flight to Seoul, but I have never been out of the terminal. Japan, around the airport, looks pretty much like all other international airport terminals. Ugly buildings; garish signs; expressways and parking lots. The Wife thinks the trees look different. Maybe, if you know your trees, you can detect an Asian species, but trees are trees to me. They drive on the wrong side of the road in Japan, and that is an interesting experience.

I have been told by TW who was in Japan several weeks a year ago that Japanese hotels are superior to those in other countries. This one certainly is impressive. The staff is extremely friendly and helpful. TW said when she was here last year, whenever there group left a hotel, the entire staff would come out, line up and wave farewell to them. NOS needs to call The B to tell her the bad news about our trip delay. I figure out how to use the vending machine to buy an international calling card, but NOS and I are not successful in figuring out how to use it. A hotel employee comes over and also has trouble, but eventually makes the connection. The B is not happy, to say the least, but what can we do? When it's Northwestern, don't expect to get there on time.

The room is interesting. The front desk has given us the common-looking plastic card to use as a room key. After several tries, we get the door open and push the light switch but the lights don't go on. We try several times and nothing happens. Finally, I notice, beside the light switch what looks like a receptacle for the room key card. We insert the card and voila, the lights come on. What an interesting way to make sure room occupants don't leave their lights on when they're not in the room; plus keep track of the room key in the detritus of their luggage.

We have checked two bags, and are not given access to the checked luggage. That is being held at the airport for the flight tomorrow morning. Luckily, we had travelled enough to know to insert an extra pair of underwear in our carry on luggage. Unluckily, because of the hassle with getting liquids through security, we did not try to carry on any toothpaste, shampoo, etc. Not to worry, Japanese hotels have you covered. Besides the standard shampoo and conditioner in the room, they have a full set of toothbrushes, hairbrushes, and the tiniest tube of toothpaste I have ever seen. They even have an extra Q tip for you.

Asia uses 220v for its electrical equipment and we have packed several converters for TW's hair dryer, my computer, etc, but the converters are all in the checked luggage. But wonder of wonders, this room has 110v. power. I'm getting suspicious -- maybe this hotel does nothing but cater to travelers from North America who have been stranded by Northwestern. I'll bet they do very well.

It's 9:30 p.m. here; 7:30 a.m. in Illinois. I feel like I've been up all night, which I have and go to bed.

1 comment:

Lydia said...

Oooooh, that stinks! And yes, as a Detroiter I've had far too many bad experiences with NorthWest. None stranded me in Japan, though - yikes!