Pages of my life…

Charles De Gaulle and the Delta Blues

Posted on: April 19, 2010

  I sampled a taste of Brazil before boarding a cruise ship for eighteen glorious nights.  The sea portion of my magnificent vacation was nearly over when I learned that my youngest child had wrecked her car.  She was understandably pretty upset by the ordeal…so I said "Come to Paris".  Everything just seems to look better when you are sitting in the most amazing city in the world.  My child noted that a close friend would give anything to be able to see Paris again.  A very high fever had ruined her friend’s only trip five years ago and sadly…her vision of Paris was little more than a blur.   So…I bought two pairs of tickets instead of one.  Before the ship docked in Italy…my plans had changed from touring an additional twenty countries by train…to a few days on the beach in Italy followed by locating a new apartment in Paris.  Our normal haunt for our annual mother and daughter Paris trip was not available.  I placed an ad searching for a place to rent for a month.  I intended to run around Paris for a few weeks and be joined by the girls for a dream vacation together.  I am one of those Moms who would move heaven and earth for her kids…sparing no expense when it comes to making memories.  I leased an apartment along the canal and set about exploring the new neighborhood.  Everything was in place long before the girls were set to depart.  They had weeks to do the usual "shop till you drop" and spent a good part of every day making plans for their arrival.  Not a moment would be wasted.  They were to fly from Washington to Utah and then to Pennsylvania before the final flight to Paris.  When the girls got to the airport to board their first flight…the final flight from Philadelphia to Paris was being cancelled.  They asked the ticket agent for help but were only told to call the 1 800 number or get online at www.Delta.com.  The girls called me frantically not knowing what to do as the ticket agent would not help them at all.  I had been checking with the web site and it was "not available at this time"…and the 1 800 number had a recording that said they were not able to answer the phone and to try back later.  When the girls got to their gate I asked them to hand the phone to the gate agent…and the gentleman said a few airports may still be open for options to land…Shannon, Ireland or one of two airports in Scotland.  Their flight was called and off they flew.  As soon as they landed…the girls went straight to the Delta agent to ask for help.  The Delta agent in Salt Lake told them they had to use the international phone line in another terminal.  If they would have gone to the other terminal they would have missed their flight to Philiadelphia.  Missing any leg of a trip pretty well means your journey ends there.  And so off to Philly they went with no help from the airlines.  I assured them that I would have options lined up before their plane touched down.  I was able to get online in Paris and gathered some ideas.  I was unable to get any assistance from Delta either over the phone or online.  The girls could have gotten a room at the Westin Hotel which is connected by skybridge to a mall with seventy stores and restaurants.  They could have stayed at another nice hotel and been close to the Liberty Bell and Independence Square…or enjoyed a tour on the famed bus that would show them all the well known spots.  As the girls were now going to be stranded three thousand miles away from home…and had been refused any kind of help at all from the airline they were flying on…they were understandably concerned.  They were too young to rent a car…and too young to get a hotel room on their own.  They were not given any food or water or travelers assistance of any kind.  I made the decision to buy them four more tickets and flew them to Florida for three days to allow the volcano to settle down a bit.  There are relatives in Florida about two hours away from Orlando…so off they flew.  I spent the next eighteen hours on the phone and internet trying to make arrangements for them to fly into anywhere in Europe where I could retrieve them.  I considered Belgium, Switzerland, Spain, the south of France, Ireland, England, Scotland, Germany and more.  The few times I was able to connect with a Delta representative I found the agents rude and unhelpful.  Okay…I am an airline brat.  My Mom worked for an airline for many years…and I have nothing but respect and appreciation for the job reservation agents do…as I know every aspect of their often thankless position.  I had taken the time to write a commentary for a well known publication asking people to be kind to others in the volcano crisis…to dig deep and produce all the patience they could find.  I asked for people with means to consider buying a meal for a young family…to buy two water bottles and give one to a stranger…to share their cell phone and more as everyone is in the same boat but with different size wallets.  Something as simple as buying a coloring book and crayons for a young child could make a big difference in this stressful time.  As there was no other place in Paris to sit down and talk to Delta face to face…I opted for taking the metro and then the train to Charles de Gaulle airport.  The airport is about 45 minutes away from Paris…and the cheapest cost of making the trek (by train) is 17 Euro.  When I got to Charles de Gaulle I was not prepared for what greeted my eyes.  A veritable ghost town sprawled in front of me.  I walked outside from terminal to terminal without seeing a sole.  A Russian girl pounced on me in hopes that I might have change so she could use the internet.  A young family on the train discussed their options.  A British gentleman said his family had been put up in a hotel for three nights and he simply had to leave them behind to return to work in London.  When I arrived in Terminal 2…the Air France counter was alive with activity.  As the final flight that was cancelled for the girls was an Air France flight through Delta…I got in line at the Air France counter.  The Delta counter was closed that day.   An Air France representative stood at the end of the line asking questions to ensure no one would wait in line needlessly.  Another agent handed out bottles of water.  There were trays of sandwiches on the counter.  We all waited in line for more than an hour…but no one seemed to mind as they were clearly doing the best they could to help everyone.  When it was my turn I was given confirmed seating for the girls on a flight from JFK in New York to Toulouse in the south of France.  They would need to get from Orlando Florida to La Guardia and then take a shuttle to JFK but I did not mind.    UNEDITED AND NOT ANYWHERE NEAR COMPLETED YET…ARTICLE IN THE MAKING. 
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