plane ticket

I should be in the Netherlands today, but I’m not. I had a ticket for a flight to Europe last night, but I didn’t use it.

During the past 6 years, I always bought return tickets from the Netherlands to Montréal. In the beginning because I just went for several weeks to several months to visit Alison. And when I finally immigrated to Canada, 4 years ago exactly, I didn’t buy a single ticket. The reason is that a single ticket is actually more expensive than a return ticket. To give you an example, I can fly next week from Amsterdam to Montréal and back two weeks later for EUR 403. If I book a single ticket however, the cheapest flight will cost me EUR 1049. That’s more than twice the price for half of the product. Explain that to me. It’s like if you go to the grocery store and 1 loaf of bread is more expensive than two loaves of bread. It’s absurd and some economic watchdog should take measures to correct this, but that’s a whole different rant.

So I always, during the past years, bought return tickets. Usually with British Airways and those tickets were valid for a year and you had to pay a certain
fee (100 USD) if you wanted to change the return date. But, I discovered a loophole. Those tickets are valid for a year, but you can’t actually book your return a year ahead. The computer only “knows” about dates 10 months in the future. So I had my travel agent call BA and ask if I could change my return date for free because I couldn’t book it yet. That was very convenient, an open ticket for a low price. Later they closed that loophole and I could only change the date to a date after those initial 10 months but then I just paid the fee. Which I did a couple of times, when my mother was severely ill and I decided on short notice to visit her.

Last December, after such a surprise visit, all flights back to Montréal were fully booked and the remaining seats very expensive. So, suggested by my sister, I booked my flight from a city in Germany that is actually closer to my mother’s home that the airport of Amsterdam. There was room on that plane, I could just be on time here for Christmas evening and the price, although high was not unreasonable. As a return date I put 11 September 2007, because that was the last date the computer would let me, and easy to remember. I actually feared I would have to go back much earlier, because my mother’s health situation at the time was very precarious. (She seems to be doing much better now, thanks for asking.)

So a couple of weeks ago I foresaw that I couldn’t make it on 11 September because I was just too busy with all those projects here, that needed to be finished. So I called Air France to change the return date on my ticket and fell from one surprise into another. The first person told me I couldn’t change my ticket at all. I looked at the ticket and there it was clearly marked that I could change the date for a fee of EUR 150 (yes, those penalties did increase over the past years). Yes sir, but I see here that your ticket is only valid for 9 months. What? They now sell tickets for 9 months. And they don’t advertise that in any way when you book it. She then transferred me to another person who said that OK, even though I couldn’t officially change my ticket they would make an exception. My heart rated lowered instantly. Because the new ticket was more expensive I only had to pay a surcharge. A surcharge of 3400 EUR. Yes, you read that correctly, thirty! four! hundred! fucking Euros. That’s almost 5000 Canadian (or American) dollars. My hearth rate went up a couple of notches and I started laughing uncontrollably. “Vous faites un blague madame, n’est pas?”, but no, she wasn’t the type of person that made jokes, probably never had. The only thing I could do was hang up and stare at my computer screen in disbelief.

Just to put the absurdity of that amount in perspective: A return ticket Montréal-Dusseldorf with Air France on December 4th to December 24th would cost me EUR 3,245.64. Of course that would be a Business class ticket, since a normal economy ticket would only cost EUR 717. That is with Air France, I could have a direct flight with KLM to Amsterdam on the same dates for only EUR 578…

And these prices are for flights from Canada to Europe and those flights are always more expensive than if you fly from Europe to Canada. Don’t ask me why, I have no idea.

So now you know why there was an empty seat on flight AF 347 last night.

I had to restrain myself from going to the the airport yesterday, checking in an old suitcase, and then just leave the airport and let them have to remove the suitcase from the cargo bay after they found out I wasn’t showing up. That would have caused a nice delay. But with all the no-fly lists these days I figured out that was probably not a smart thing to do. Even though I actually was in the neighbourhood of the airport at the time.

Just hearing my name (that nobody can pronounce here, neither English nor French speakers) over the intercom would have been worth it.

“Last call for Mr. …. Rash-n-ders on flight Air France 347.
Mr. Rash-n-ders, please head to gate B34 immediately or your luggage will be offloaded.”