(Mis)Adventures in International Travel: Delta and El Al Stand Off

In my last post I was on my way to the airport.

We had reservations for the 5:30 shuttle to Washington, and it looked like we might even catch the 4:30. But when I presented our e-tickets, the Delta agent said our new reservations didn’t show up on her computer. “You don’t have a reservation for this flight.”

She poked some more into the computer and found us still listed on the original flight. And darn it, there wasn’t anything she could do. She could make the change herself, but we would be charged another change fee and full-price shuttle fare, adding up to over $440 per ticket. She doesn’t know what El Al did, but they didn’t do what they were supposed to when they changed the ticket. She gave the unmistakable impression that this wasn’t her problem.

Traveling internationally these days requires nerves of steel, I tell you.

I asked the agent for El Al’s number. I managed to reach the agent who had changed the reservation. Why, I am sure you are asking, didn’t the Delta agent offer to do this? I leave that to your imagination. The El Al agent asked to speak to the Delta agent. The Delta agent was not convinced, as she still could not find our new reservations. She handed me back the phone. The El Al agent put me on hold. “Round one to Delta,” I reported to my daughter. The El Al agent came back on and asked to speak to Delta again. The Delta agent punched a bunch of numbers into her computer and managed to pull up my reservation.

Round two to El Al. We would go on the plane. The 6:30 plane, that is, because the 5:30 was cancelled. The shuttle ain’t what it used to be.

The agent printed up our boarding passes, and then two other agents pored over the screen. (There were about four agents who seemed to have nothing to do. Contrast this to the single agent I would find at National, which admittedly handles fewer flights.) “I see the problem,” one said. “You’re not hooked in.” She punched in more numbers and “hooked in” each of the new reservations. “There, you shouldn’t have any more problem.” “This won’t happen again on our return flight?” “No,” she assured me.

The departure lounge was comfortable enough. It’s a good thing I ignored my brother-in-law who made fun of me for for taking food for the 45-minute flight. We had left my sister’s home at around 3:30 and got to my brother’s after 8:00. (Actually, the terminal seemed to stock quite a selection of kosher food.)

There was one bright spot: Despite our flight having originated in the Middle East, we passed under the radar, so to speak, and avoided going through “special security.” Miracles do happen.