As many of you know, I now live in Uruguay, in a beach town about an hour from its capital, Montevideo. One of the issues in being an immigrant to a new country, or being an expat from somewhere else, if that’s how you consider yourself, is the cost of getting back “home”. Even if you don’t consider your country of origin your actual home anymore, you likely have family, friends, and other reasons to visit it. For many Uruguay expats, the USA is their home. Fares to and from the US to anywhere in the Southern Cone of South America are often awful. Uruguay one of the worst for finding deals, due in part to losing our national airline Pluna and limited options with other airlines. Darn rare to find under $1000 USD for a round-trip (“return” in non-USA English) flight. Often much more.
How does $627 sound? Continue reading
In today’s episode of “Mark Versus The Volcano”, American Airlines can ____ __ ___ ___ ___k.
After not getting arrested by the sensible Miami cop whom the nonsensical AA rebooking gate agent called when I simply asked for a “distressed rate discount voucher” that airlines routinely give out when they refuse to pay for hotels due to acts of [$DEITY], and being told I had to wait until tomorrow 11/23 to get out, I stumbled into the street punch drunk from 2 nights of no sleep, with my heavy bags full of kitchen stuff for Uruguay. Which then fell all over the airport roadway when I tried to cross to the hotel shuttle bus lane.
A very nice elderly (meaning 10 years older than me) Uruguayo in a very cool hat and beard told me which agent to speak to in order to actually get help. This nice AAgent person gave me a voucher and apologized for her asshat colleague, but could not rebook me on tonight’s (Tues 11/22) flight, as the gentle Sr. El-beardo had gotten the last seat. Thus I still need somewhere to stay, and the voucher was for a $70 rate at the fleabag HoJos. I wasn’t going to have bedbugs at Hojos for $70 when I could have a nice hot cookie, soft bedding, and 1000 LAN Airlines kilometers towards my next Lima-Montevideo 32K ticket, for $101 at the DoubleTree. So I was stumbling towards the cookies of bliss at 8am when I yard-saled in front of the oncoming traffic.
Which did make me certain of my decision not to purchase the $720 3pm TACA (Peru, Costa Rica, El Salvadorian airlines) ticket for that afternoon, as I would have been guava jelly attempting to bring cascades of Calphalon to check-in. Thankfully but not at all unexpectedly, the lovely ladies at the DoubleTree by Hilton on Blue Lagoon Parkway, though wearing more than Brook Shields did on that same-named Lagoon, allowed me an early check-in. Perhaps knocking myself over by collapsing the luggage onto my knee helped them offer that amenity.
Upon waking from a long afternoon’s sleep, I called American Airlines and was told that even though I could refund the miles for my canceled-by-them flight at no charge if I didn’t like the 11/23 rebooking, I could not use those same miles for the New Year’s Eve flight I have to take as the new date for the pets-move (I need their flight as the only USA-Uruguay nonstop for las mascotas, el perro Whistler y el gato Blackcomb). That would be “high season” where a one-way is 30,000 miles if you can get it, rather than the 20,000 miles. Despite the chicken-anity of el Capitan del Vuelo yesterday, while other airlines diverted to Buenos Aires (EZE) or waited out the wind change of the Chilean volcanic ash plume getting into Montevideo, and thus the delay and my costs being AA’s fault, they would not do a waiver/rebooking. They even were going to charge me the $25 phone fee to rebook it at the higher mileage, even though they had to help me for free on the same call if I wanted to redeposit it.
So adios a Aerolinas Americanas, muchachos y muchachas. I canceled my re-booked Nov 23 Miami to Montevideo, canceled my Nov 30 Montevideo to Miami, canceled an open reservation of miles that Lisa had to fly to Montevideo, and will NOT fly them there at all. Other than the New Year’s Eve flight with the pets in order to avoid pet layovers in foreign airports, which can be dicey. Used 30K of the miles to book that NYE trip without the service fee, and will use the other 10K miles I have, supplemented by throwing a few hotel stays at them, to book a 1-way on their partner Alaska Airlines. Will use the 20,000 that Lisa now has back to book the same, or if she wants to tough it out (she’s been a big AA fan for decades, I’ve never understood that), she can use it for a 1-way back to the States for a visit from Uruguay and fly a good airline back home to South America for the return.
I have a $920 roundtrip on Brasil’s very friendly TAM Airlines booked for USA Thanksgiving Day 24 November and a slightly-extended stay in our new apartmento through 07 December while Lisa Marie Mercer makes a short trip back to the USA to reunite with las mascotas and do paperwork for our Uruguayan residency application. I have a very affordable $700 flight for her on TACA back to Uruguay in mid-Diciembre. And I have several choice words and an upcoming DOT complaint for American Airlines.
Oh, and one more day of “healthy” DoubleTree complimentary chocolate chip cookies (hey, they’ve got oatmeal in them.)