Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Holiday Airplane Ticket Rant

(Photo from the Flickr Commons)

I bought my plane ticket home for Christmas back in June in an attempt to save money. Sounds like a good idea, right? I had originally wanted to use frequent flyer miles from Southwest and had been checking almost daily waiting for them to start selling tickets for December. Unfortunately I missed it by a few days. By then all the frequent flyer and cheap seats were gone.

So I resorted to Hotwire and got a reasonably good deal. A similar ticket purchased at a more reasonable time would have run me at least $200 more. At the time, before the brunt of the financial crisis had hit, oil was over $100 a barrel and the airline industry looked doomed. My flight, through Hotwire, has me flying out on United and back on USAir. Of course immediately it looked like USAir wouldn’t survive the year. I wasn’t quite sure what would happen to my ticket if they went under, but thanks to crash and the accompanied decrease in commodities prices, oil ain’t what it used to be and the airlines are scraping along.

Unfortunately, I would still caution against purchasing your holiday tickets so early. Since buying my ticket 2 important things have changed for me.

1: My company announced it was shutting down the building from Christmas to New Year’s. Why is that bad? Well, I bought my ticket to be gone Monday 12/22 to Monday 12/29, which exactly does not match up with the holiday shutdown. This causes several problems.

Because I had apportioned my PTO perfectly with the time I had planned to take off, I now have to borrow several days from next year’s PTO in order to get paid for the entire 2 weeks I’m out of the office. I know… boo hoo, I get two weeks off. Yeah, well, I’d rather have those PTO days to take this summer.

It’s also too expensive to change my plane ticket to take advantage of those extra days and spend the time in the Midwest visiting my family.

And finally, now that my family’s holiday schedules have taken shape, I now arrive at precisely the most inconvenient time, and leave too soon after Christmas to allow a proper visit to my sister in Iowa.

2: I now live in Berkeley. I fly in and out of SFO. Aside from being really far away from where I live now, I arrive back in the Bay Area at 11:29pm. The last BART train to the East Bay leaves SFO at 11:53pm. There’s really no way in hell I’ll be able to catch that train, leaving me completely screwed.

If only USAir would go under.

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