Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Another Trip to Israel

Tomorrow, we're flying off to Israel to visit my great-grandmother. I remember when I first met her years ago when I was just a few months old (see photo here).

This will be my fifth trip to the motherland (March 2012, January 2013, September 2013, June 2014 and now). That might not be a lot for some of you, but remember that I'm only 3.5 years old.

As this trip was relatively last minute (we came up with the idea 3 weeks ago), we were very much price conscious as direct flights were going for over $1900/person.

My father decided that having a layover in Europe was the best option to get there relatively easily and cost-effectively. Since we like to consolidate our frequent flyer miles with United, we were looking at itineraries with Star Alliance partners such as Lufthansa, Air Brussels, Swiss Air and others.

With a stop each way, our tickets were pricing just under 1,100 per person. Because the layover cities were ideally located, there would be minimal extra time or mileage required. The only challenge was flying back home, where we'd have to spend the night in Brussels and catch a Newark flight the next morning. Not a huge deal since there was a Starwood hotel in the BRU airport.

However, when we went to ticket the flight online, we ran into some issues. It all started out just fine. The website seemed to be working, and it was easy enough to find the flights we wanted to book. Then we just had to click "Purchase," and our stored United Visa credit card would be charged. Shortly afterwards, we'd get a confirmation email from United letting us know our booking was confirmed and ticketed.

But my anal thoughtful father wanted to bother check again with United to confirm the booking went through. And we were so lucky he did that, because he quickly found out that there was no Swiss Air ticket from Zurich to Tel Aviv for us. That segment was denied by Swiss Air, so we had a hole in our itinerary!

Swiss Air is one of the Star Alliance partners that will not automatically give United access to ticket their flights. Because of this dynamic, my father "purchased" the three tickets for us, but then Swiss Air came back and said those seats were no longer available - after our credit card was already charged.

Thankfully, the very helpful United phone agent was willing (and able) to help our family out. While he could not force us on the full Swiss Air flight, he was able to put us on the 10:40PM direct flight on United later that same day. Now, instead of having to wake up at 2AM NY time when we'd land in Zurich for a 2 hour layover, we could just sleep through the night on our way to Tel Aviv.

Of course, flying from Newark to Tel Aviv direct now meant that we'd have to deal with the Tribe on our outbound flight. Clearly I'm half Jewish, so I love my own people, but I am also learning concepts in my pre-school like "Waiting for your turn" and "Letting others go first." Let's just say that I'm not the only one who should be learning those things.

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