Writer's Block

The USA is the place I was born. Canada is the place I was raised. Taiwan is the place in my heart.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

I Have Arrived!

In the good ol' U. S. of A.- Seattle to be exact. Just got back via my regular route from Taiwan (Kaohsiung-Taipei-Seattle-Newark-Toronto-Ottawa)- making a stop in Seattle this time for a short visit with my sister and her husband before we head over to Vancouver for a cousin's wedding this weekend.

It was a pretty anti-climatic and uneventful trip/flight for all of the headache that had been anticipated. First allow me to explain the premise of the situation...

As it turns out, my cousin's June 26 Vancouver wedding has served to be the impetus for somewhat of a mini family reunion. Many of the cousins I grew up will be flying/traveling over to Vancouver from Ottawa, Toronto, and Calgary to attend. These occasions are far and few between with all of us so spread apart- my sister lives in Seattle and I'm now usually Taiwan. I've often thought that someone should step up to the plate to organize annual family reunions at different locals.

My sister and I have twelve maternal cousins (my Mother has four siblings, two older brothers and two older sisters- each has three children, my Mother was the exception- having only two children). All of us grew up in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada for some part of our childhood. My two uncles and their families moved away from Ottawa before their children completed high school; my sister and I and the remaining six cousins spent our entire childhoods (up until high school) there. We all lived within a 10-15 minute drive from each other and many of us even went to the same high school. Growing up, we were instant playmates, painfully, awkwardly close like brothers and sisters, bonded by relentless family ties, childhood memories, and the "group think" of our mothers.

Initially, I was uncertain about attending the wedding because of my flight arrangements and the timing being so close to the end of the semester. With my relatives the snowball effect often applies, i.e.- "I'll go if 'so and so' goes", and so on. Pretty soon, before I knew it, there were group emails flying back an forth between the eight of us with daily updates of who was planning to attend and thus began the discussion of flight arrival times, accomodations, and other weekend events being planned. It was like old times again... there were some lively exchanges between us that made me feel rather nostalgic. I wanted to be a part of the action, and didn't want to miss out on this opportunity, but I had run into some snags with my flight arrangements.

Below is an email written by yours truly, which encapsulates the "dilemma" I faced.

Afterwards, I include some of the concerned responses I received from my dear cousins- which shed light on the possible challenges I thought I'd face on this flight back. If you're not interested in this "diatribe" that documents the so-called "travel woes" I was anticipating on this trip back, just scroll down to the bottom to get to the punchline:


On May 10, 2004, at 12:36 PM, F-- wrote:

Ok, I'll cut to the chase- I'll be there, but probably not due to any cosmic forces working in my favor, but due to deliberate planning and arrangements that need to be made. The question now is only HOW? If you'd like to know more about my airline dilema, read on and give me your two cents worth on this...

I will be flying back on the return portion of a round trip ticket (which has to be used by August of this year) from Kaohsiung back to Ottawa and the route is: Kaohsiung-Taipei-Seattle-Newark-Toronto-Ottawa, BUT my actual ticket only has Kaohsiung-Taipei-Newark-Toronto-Ottawa printed on it.

Because Seattle is not printed on it I can't make a stop over there; I offered to pay any applicable additional fees, but EVA Airlines was adamant- No they said, although the plane stops in Seattle, I'm not entitled to stopover there and then continue on to Newark since Seattle not printed on the ticket (unlike Newark which IS printed on the ticket and where I usually make a stopover to visit friends in New York City). That was plan A and where I was stopped in my tracks.

But knowing I'd be missing out on a golden opportunity for a
mini-reunion, I started conspiring...

So here are my options:

1) Get off in Seattle and give up the rest of my flight. EVA Airlines has expressly told me that I supposedly can't do that either, but I'm a US citizen so there are no immigration issues and if I don't have any checked luggage, I don't see how I can be stopped from disembarking in Seattle. Are they really going to force me to get back on the plane after we've stopped in Seattle and I've gone though customs? I'd be staying with P & J in Seattle and would drive with them to Vancouver. Then I'd just purchase a one way from Vancouver back to Ottawa.

2) Fly to Newark, New Jersey where I am entitled to make a stop over. Then fly on a round trip ticket from Newark back across country to Seattle. After the wedding I'd head back to Seattle, where I'll fly back on the other half of the return ticket to Newark and then eventually on to Toronto and Ottawa. It's a safer bet, going by the airline's rules but very time consuming and a little annoying to have to go back and forth across country. Is it really worth all that effort?

So what's your vote? Should I jump ship in Seattle or fly across country to Newark, New Jersey, then turn around and take another 5 hour+ flight back across country to Seattle?

F
========================================================

Here are some of the concerned responses I received from my dear cousins:

Flee - just a quick question - can you just cancel your existing ticket and re-book another one that includes your usual stopover in Seattle? it may cost you something to do so but the fee may be cheaper (and less headachey) than trying to do (2) and less "risky" than (1) - i think (1) sounds the simplest but with all the terrorism stuff that's going on with airports, etc. in the states, how much trouble could it cause you if you got "caught"? i have no idea what sort of thing could happen but it's food for thought ... anyway, that's our (my colleague actually came up with the cancel/rebook idea) two cents ... lemme know how it all works out - glad you're making it to the wedding!

s:)
-------------------------------------

Hi Flee,

In the case where you are able to disembark in Seattle, then the logical choice is to get off the plane in Seattle (since you have no checked baggage). However, if this stop only allows passengers to join the flight and you cannot get off the plane, then you are stuck. I believe that I have been on flights where this has been the case. I think this is the next thing you have to investigate (albeit and obviously delicately).

Then again, if you're in the gambling mood, get to Seattle and see what happens. If you can get off, then do so and then hitch a bus or train to the wedding then deal with the flight to Ottawa when you arrive in Vancouver (big risk is the price). If you cannot get off, then get off in Newark and take the gamble there (but this is a double gamble - finding a flight to Vancouver and to Ottawa) or just chalk it to fate and proceed to Ottawa and miss the wedding.

-P---
-------------------------------------

> So here are my options: 1) Get off in Seattle 2) Fly to Newark,

simple!! just log into cbs.com, and cast your vote for Rupert. No wait ... this isn't survivor!!

which is cheaper? I would assume a one way flight from vancouver to ottawa would be cheaper than a return flight from newark to vancouver. and if you can't get into trouble with option 1, then go for it.

but I would definately make sure, since 9/11, the airlines tends to be a littleanal with the validity of the passenger manifest. and if you were to screw itup once, what would happen the next time you fly? what about informing the airline that you will be getting off in seattle?

cheers,
e---
-----------------------------------

I second E-'s suggestions. If you wouldn't get in trouble by getting off in Seattle, then go for it. I have my doubts though. The airlines are really cracking down on unaccounted for passengers. You'll have to go through immigration when you get to the State-side and they will know that passengers aren't supposed to de-plane in Seattle. This may cause a great deal of hassle. I also know that the Seattle airport security is very tough, generally speaking. On a recent trip to DC, I found that they (Seattle) are even more thorough than the nation's capital.

Either way, I think you're subjecting yourself to a great deal of hassle to attend this wedding.
------------------------------------

Flee: It all seems kind of ridiculous. Heck, just go and don't even bother telling them. What are they going to do. Not take off with the rest of the passengers?! Eeek!? Probably better to tell them and run!

I think this is the best way to go. Its likely cheaper than a Newark-Seattle flight return like E- suggested, but you never know. The only other thing I can think of is based on how much you need to visit New York. By doing this, you've sort of eliminated that stop over for the wedding, which is great, but if you still want to go to New York, do you have time to leave earlier, go to Newark on the previous flight, have you visit and then to the Vancouver leg to Newark and then onto Ottawa. This breaks it up in manageable chunks. It really depends on if there is a big difference between:

1: Cost of flight between Vancouver and Ottawa (1 way) & a flight between Ottawa and Newark (2 way),

VS.

2. Cost of a flight between Newark and Vancouver (2 way)

If its pretty close then there really is no sense in hopping around and screw EVA!? Who's Eva, Have we met her! OK, bad joke!?

See ya soon!
Ciao
B--
------------------------------------

> At that point I'll have to decide if it's worth it to fly back over
to Seattle
> from Newark.

what you really mean is ... at that point, you're going to stick s----- with the hotel room all by her self, even after she's sacrificed herself, and her wallet, especially after her trip to taiwan and all that, and had agreed to share a room with you. sheesh. i've been getting used to the "it's all about L---" concept of thinking, so i can definately say that i'm now an expert at recognizing the "it's all about me" tone of voice. :-)

sorry flee, i simply couldn't resist!! in all seriousness, yes, it'll be great to have eveyone together, including flee!!

btw, I have updated the reservation. there are now 4 rooms reserved. perhaps i should have warned them that they're about to be decended upon by the riff-raff of the pan-clan.

e---
xoxo

========================================================

My response to the above:

May 12, 2004 12:34 PM
Subject: Re: And the decision is...

Yeah, well the whole problem is that I tried to play by the rules. That's what this whole debate has been about, I've been trying to check with the airline: EVA about stopping in Seattle, which has raised all these difficulties. I DID notify EVA Airlines that I would like to stop off in Seattle under the various circumstances (stopover and continue on to Newark and Ottawa in a few days, stopover and give up the remainder of my flight, I offered to pay a fee if applicable, asked if they could reissue my ticket to Seattle instead of Ottawa and they said that they could not do any of the above!) I have informed them of my intentions, but they just can't seem to accomodate, so I guess it'll all come down to the "showdown" in Seattle.

HA! I see you are up to your old tricks again E-...

Yes E-, my wording was unclear, I blundered, if I am forced to fly to Newark, I WILL find a way to fly back to Seattle- hopefully it won't cost me an arm and leg (if only then- could I find an internet connection to arrange a flight various online travel websites that offer deals on flights...). I am committed to being there one way or the other. In fact, I have already purchased a ticket back from Vancouver to Ottawa for July 1. So the "decision" was meant to be rhetorical.

Looking forward to seeing you all soon!

F-
========================================================

> "showdown" in Seattle

i can just picture it ... zoomed in on flee's face, a cold stare, eyes
squinting, unblinking, lips pouted, sweat running slowly down her brow
... slowly zoom back ... she's in her most intimidating cowboy outfit,
dusty leather trench coat, well trained hat, scarred boots ... as she
clench and release her fists, she runs her itchy fingers over the cold
ivory of her double six shooter ... more zoom ... mothers, herding their
screaming children away to hide, doors opening, only to slam shut,
curtains being drawn, ... more zoom ... and we see that she is about to
face off against her arch enemy, the evil eva airlines ticketing agent,
shivering, with a look of extreme terror, armed only with a computer
mouse ...

> HA! I see you are up to your old tricks again E-...

of course!! I have to remain consistent don't I? :-)

let me know if i can help in any way ...

e---
xoxo
========================================================

The Punchline

In the end it was all ridiculously uneventful. The route I fly back from Taiwan on makes its first stop in Seattle. Upon disembarking, passengers continuing on to Newark take reboarding cards which they must present to get back on the plane after clearing customs in Seattle. So I simply didn't take the reboarding card and went straight through customs. They didn't ask to see my boarding pass, I have a U.S. passport and had clearly stated that I'd be staying at my sister's on my declaraton form. I didn't have any checked baggage, which would have been the only problem because they would have been destined for Newark. Clearing customs was a breeze.

After all of this, just for good measure, I went back to the EVA Airlines check-in counter to notify them that I would not be reembarking the flight to continue on to Newark. I clearly explained my circumstances to an EVA rep over the phone and she simply asked for my name saying that it was no problem at all. In the end the roles were reversed- with me needing the assurance that everything was clear, that there were no misunderstandings or complications caused by my actions- that I wouldn't be causing any delays to the flight or inconvenience to other passengers. It made me wonder what all the fuss and inflexiblity on the part of EVA Airlines was all about. All this frustration and anxiety all for nothing- all due to the inflexibility of EVA Airlines customer service reps in Taiwan.

I will leaving for Vancouver on the 25th to attend my cousin's wedding on the 26th. Then it's off to Ottawa on July 1st. I will definitely be visiting New York the East Coast in July/August, though my travel dates are not firm yet.

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