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Saturday, November 1, 2008

Traveling...or not

Here in Europe we love to boast about our low-cost flyers...airlines that allow you to somehow fly from place to place for ridiculously low fares. Yes, there are restrictions and head-aches, but once you figure it out, you really can spend quite a bit less on your airfare, hence leaving more money in your pocket for the destination.
I am going to Rome, Italy on Monday. One of my best friends from college is going to be there and she asked me awhile back if I would like to meet her. The timing was perfect so I began to search for good fares. Two airlines fly to Rome for reasonably good rates: Sterling, a Danish outfit, and Ryan Air, an Irish company. Ryan Air offers silly low deals on flights but you often have to fly at silly times and land in out of the way airports that often take up to 2 hours by bus to get you to your final destination. Their flight to Rome left at 6.40 a.m. which meant that I would have to leave the house at 3.30 and I wasn't all that crazy about getting to the bus station in downtown Stockholm at 3.30 by myself. Sterling was offering a pretty good deal from the closer airport so I jumped on it. I decided to take the Ryan Air flight home as it was a much better option. I have had my tickets settled for a few weeks now and was starting to get pretty excited about the trip. That's when the fun began...
Saturday evening I dragged the ironing board out and casually mentioned to my husband, who was, by the way, making a delicious chili supper at the time, "I think I'll figure out what I'm taking to Italy." In an even more casual manner, he replies, "Oh, by the way. What airline are you flying?" "Sterling." Silence. "I hate to break the news to you honey, but they went bankrupt last Thursday." Explosions, disruptions and disbelief ensued. Incredulous, I cried, "Why didn't you say anything?" His very male reply, "I had no idea that you were flying on Sterling." (Female editorial comment...and you would never think to initiate conversation by simply asking after hearing about a bankrupt airline that he knows flies out of Stockholm, often with good deals with the backdrop of having a wife who is always super obsessed with getting the best deal on flights, what airline are you flying next week honey?) I know...terrible run on, but you get the gist.
I dashed to my computer and sure enough on the Sterling website there were no flights to books, no good deals flashing in my face, no fancy graphics. Instead, there was a letter that started, Dear customer. (It actually started in Danish Kære kunder, and ten words later said, keep scrolling, you'll find the English you cheap suckers who used our website to book your tickets.) Their basic position is we lose, you lose. We won't refund your ticket going, and if you've already gone, good luck getting home.
How did I miss this? Oh yeah, I was in bed Thursday afternoon through Saturday morning with a sore throat/sinus congestion/felt like crap bug.
So, after the initial shock of knowing that I had no ride to Rome, I began to think about my options since my return flight home was secure. Now, having no other option I jumped on the Ryan Air website and luckily, was still able to purchase a ticket for about 1100 sek! ($150.00) Not bad for two days before I was scheduled to depart. I told Doug his penance for not telling me sooner was driving me to central station at 3.30 on Monday a.m. He muttered something about a taxi and then realized that it would be his pleasure to accompany me down to the bus early on Monday! He's off that day anyway. I'm not so opposed to taking a cab, I just feel creeped out being out there alone at that time of day. Too bad it's not Wednesday a.m. The city would be crawling with Americans drunk with joy or just drunk depending on what happens in the election Tuesday night in the United States!
So at least I'm still getting to go, actually quite a few hours earlier than I had thought! With luck, my credit card will refund my Sterling ticket. I'm pretty sure we have travel insurance on the card I used. At any rate, the irony is how much time I spent searching out the very best deal, skipping Ryan air because of the time of the flight, buying on Sterling, then watching the Sterling price drop way down after I had purchased (which really kills me) and then ending up with Ryan after all for a higher price! It's amazing how good that higher price looked to me last night! But at least I'm still going, I'm still going, I'm still going! And I am very happy to not leave my friend stranded in Rome alone.
So, if any of you have a trip on Sterling, say bye bye to it. They are officially, bankrupt.
I'll let you know how the trip goes after I return on November 7.