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Will Not Rise Like A Phoenix

, , , , | Right | July 23, 2019

It was the mid-1990s. The Internet was still emerging as a fad and airports did not have computerized check-in stations, meaning the only way to get boarding passes was to wait in incredibly long, slow-moving lines. Somehow, despite this, it wasn’t unusual for people to arrive at the airport only 30 minutes before their flight departed, mostly because staff chose to give these people priority due to the tight window. I was usually quite early, and got bumped a number of times during check-in by such stragglers, but there’s one time in particular that stands out.

It was roughly 6:50 as I got within four or five parties of the front of the line, and the staff started calling, “Anyone on the 7:20 to Phoenix? We are checking 7:20 to Phoenix!” As usual, a large number of people started heading to the open stations. Among them was a woman who appeared to be around 20 with three friends. The woman claimed there was a booking under her name, but the staff couldn’t find it. She went through all four of their names and double-checked the spelling, to no avail. At this point, she explained that she had missed a flight to Phoenix the previous week, and the staffers she talked to last week claimed to have reapplied her booking for today. Now, she wanted them to figure out if they had failed to follow through on that promise. And that seems to be what happened: the previous booking was found, but there was no reschedule on file.

A manager, a woman of about 40, was called in to sort this out. Due to the apparent error on their part and the existing booked tickets that weren’t picked up, she agreed to give the woman and her friends what normally would have been full-price tickets for the rate she would have gotten if the ticket had been purchased at the time of the booking. This wasn’t good enough. The younger woman claimed it was their computer having an error that made her miss the flight the first time, and she was promised complimentary tickets. The manager’s face instantly turned sour as she started searching their database. Trying to hide a grin, she revealed that records showed no such error last week, and informed her that this price was already a gift.

This haggling continued briefly until the manager told her someone else was looking to purchase those four tickets that were currently being held at this station, and the clock was almost up; if those tickets weren’t sold immediately, they’d be no good to anyone. Apparently thinking this was a bluff, in spite of the clock right behind the desk showing 7:10, the woman still demanded a discount, even as her friends pleaded with her to take this deal. Instead, the manager released the hold and allowed the tickets to be sold to the other party.

Once completed, she informed the younger woman that they were sold out of flights to Phoenix for the night and, unless she was willing to stick around and hope for a no-show, she’d have to come back at a later date, but could book the flight right now if she wanted. The woman began crying and screaming about how unfair it was since she was promised this flight.

In the time it took her to get this far, the staff ran out of passengers for the 7:20 to Phoenix, and resumed regular processes, including printing my boarding pass and checking my bag. As such, I can only recount this much of the story. I can only hope her friends had some choice words for her after that, and that at least they made it to Phoenix.

This story is part of our Hagglers roundup.

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