My mother and I recently enjoyed a long-awaited tour of Ireland. All in all it was a delightful trip, as long as you don’t count the part where I was held hostage in the Shannon airport. I have no one to blame for this international incident but myself . . . well actually, I could blame my mother. She’s the one who put one name on my birth certificate then called me something entirely different for the rest of my life. As a result, I don’t think in terms of my given name, unless I’m applying for something official like a driver’s license.
This was my first mistake – putting my Christian name on my driver’s license. It seemed like the thing to do at the time but has caused me untold amounts of trouble over the years since the name on my license never matches anything else. My second mistake was in putting my nickname on my airline tickets.
I discovered this might be a problem after reading the fine print that came along with them. It stated unequivocally that the name on the ticket, had to match the ticket holders I.D. At first, I shrugged it off thinking no one would notice, but after considering the heightened security at today’s airports, I decided I’d better check and avoid any possible snags.
“It’s a good thing you called,” said the person on the other end of the phone. “This would have caused a huge problem at check-in and you might have missed your flight”. Feeling sufficiently humbled, I inquired as to whether my blunder was fixable. I was told that it was, but I would be on the phone for approximately 45 minutes – “was that O.K.?” Since I was at work and on a fifteen-minute break, it was not.
Another option was to send a daunting amount of personal information, (all of which I assumed would find its way to an identity theft ring), to the airline in hopes that I’d receive replacement tickets by my departure date. My third choice was to go to the airport and make the adjustments in person.
I raced to the airport after work, where the agent quickly produced a new and improved set of tickets. This took all of five minutes, which should have been a red flag, but she assured me that all was well. I believed her, and three weeks later my mother and I were on our way to Ireland.
Upon arriving there and checking into our hotel, we decided it would be a good idea to look over our travel documents and make sure everything was in proper order. On comparing notes, we discovered that I was missing one crucial element for the return trip – a return ticket.
We mentally retraced our steps. In the departure area of the Salt Lake airport, the ticket agent had cheerfully shredded several documents that she claimed were excess paperwork. Could one of those have been my ticket? Did it happen during the paper shuffle in Chicago when we requested a seat change so we could sit together and do crosswords over the Atlantic? Or . . . was I such an airhead that I had simply lost my ticket. Who knew? Well, actually I knew that my mother (having known me for many years), suspected the latter. Oh well, quite frankly so did I.
I consulted my airline and was informed that I would need to stay in touch by fax during the coming week. I was in the Irish countryside, staying in quaint bed and breakfast establishments. There were no fax machines. Needless to say, this had all the makings of a stressful situation, but I felt better after discussing the problem with our tour guide. He assured me that the people at Shannon Airport were so laid back this wouldn’t be a problem. “Don’t worry,” he said, “everything will be just fine”. I breathed a sigh of relief and set about enjoying the rest of the trip.
I love Ireland, but don’t really want to live here!
“You can’t leave Ireland without a ticket,” was the dour pronouncement when I arrived at Shannon airport ten days later. Now keep in mind, that I dearly love Ireland. I’ve always felt that I should have been born there, but that someone wasn’t paying attention when the assignments were made. At this point I was ready to just go with the flow and stay, but I suspected my husband might fret if I wasn’t there when he came to meet my plane.
My mother and I discussed the problem with a harried, but sympathetic employee. He placed a phone call which, due to the gravity of the conversation, might have been to the Oval Office. After a considerable length of time – luckily we’d arrived hours early – my fate was decided. I could go home if they made me a new ticket. They would make a new ticket if I paid the ransom / replacement fee of fifty euros (roughly $75.00). When I arrived back in the states, I could take the matter up with my airline, and discuss reimbursement.
I did just that. On a long layover in Chicago, I related the situation to the employees at the service desk. After some impressive detective work they discovered the root of the problem. When I was issued the second set of tickets, the agent did not include a return-trip voucher. It wasn’t my fault after all! Well, actually it was since I hadn’t been paying attention in the first place, but I learned four important things from this experience.
- Always make sure the name on your plane ticket matches the name on your I.D.
- Always look through your tickets when you receive them and make sure you have everything you need. All the codes can make for difficult reading, but a few minutes of deciphering now may save you hours of frustration later.
- Never assume the airport will make an exception for you or bend their rules. They aren’t allowed to do that anymore.
- The last and most important tip – always travel to places where you might want to live, just in case they won’t let you come home.