Tuesday, June 28, 2022

A European Trip With a Grandchild: Getting Organized

We finalized this one within the past few weeks, not knowing what Covid restrictions, quarantines, etc. might lie in store.

We're very fortunate to be on the verge to taking our seventh grandchild, Blane, on a trip to Europe. Previously we've taken Jake, Avery, Taegan, Lily, Peyton, and Riley (the latter three together) on voyages to the Old World. 

It's all coming together, amazingly, and our departure date of July 5 is getting close.

It's exhilarating to realize we're just as excited as we were on our very first grandkid trip.

Friday, June 24, 2022

Hertz Compensation You Never Want to Receive

Compensation is coming for some of the people victimized by the Hertz Corporation, and lawsuits are ongoing. It's an appalling story, one that's downright frightening to anybody (like us) who rents from Hertz.

There may have been 300 or more people around the country who were subjected to imprisonment on car theft charges after the rental car giant falsely accused them. Even worse, this went on and on over a significant period of time.

Here is a recent update, linked by View From The Wing.  

Hertz settles dozens of customer lawsuits after Action News investigation

Monday, June 20, 2022

If Your Flight Is Canceled...

 Is your airline obligated to get you to your destination?

That's a burning question with flight delays and cancellations occurring by the thousands on a daily basis.

According to travel-consumer expert Christopher Elliott, the disturbing answer is no.

If your flight is canceled, is your airline obligated to get you to your destination?

We were very fortunate that Alaska signed our SEA-LAX ticket over to Delta on our recent flights to Australia via Fiji. We benefited from two factors that Elliott mentions:

First, we are elite members of Alaska's mileage program.

Second (and probably more important), we were on s complex codeshare itinerary, booked through Alaska and using our Alaska miles. 

In addition, we had happened to visit an Alaska Lounge in Seattle and an agent there took pity on us when we told her the waits to talk to an agent were several hours by phone and an estimated one or two hours at the SEA Customer Service desk. She knew the right person to call and got us tickets. Otherwise, our trip would have been over before it started.

Many thousands of air travelers are not as fortunate.

Sunday, June 19, 2022

A Family Eighth Grade Promotion

Lucky us! Here we were attending a ceremony the second Friday in a row, this one granddaughter Riley’s middle school promotional ceremony in Stanwood, Wa.

Friday, June 17, 2022

Finding Room in the Overhead Bin

Gary Leff writes about the hunt for overhead bin space here

One of the sole advantages of boarding early is the opportunity it provides to stow our rollaboards in the bin before it's full.

He also points out that Alaska's new and larger bins are quite useful, in that it's possible for us to store our rollaboards on their sides, thus leaving more room for others.

If it weren't for the need to find overhead bin space, we'd be happy to be among the very last to board. 


Monday, June 13, 2022

Current Travel Challenges

As we make final preparations for a July 7 trip to Europe with grandchild number seven, we continue to realize that travel is simply more of a challenge than it was pre-Covid.

Tourist services appear at times to be stretched to the limits. One recent example is this news report:

More luggage was mishandled in 2021 due to staffing shortages: report

Saturday, June 11, 2022

A Family Graduation

Yes, we made it across the Canadian border, after waiting out a 130-car coal train that plugged up our Birch Bay train crossing for a time. We dealt with one-lane construction zone traffic just across the border, along with heavy traffic on the Trans-Canada Highway.

We made it all the way to granddaughterTaegan’s high school graduation ceremony, and it was well worth the trip.

Thursday, June 9, 2022

Reflections on a Long Day of Travel

The eventual Alaska flight LAX-SEA was excellent, marred only ny a variety of delays.

My chicken sandwich was tasty (how do they keep the ciabatta so crisp?).

Kathy is already parked at BLI and I’m in plenty of time to catch my flight,‘although that three-hour layover disappeared.

Fiji Airways #810 is a good way to get from Fiji to the U.S., not that I’m eager to return to Fiji anytime soon, after last night’s fiasco.

I’m still seriously annoyed at three entities. 

The DoubleTree assured me they knew the rules. They refused to sell me another RAT with a written report. The Fiji Airways agent described that as “Bullshit.”

Fiji Airways appears to be interpreting CDC rules and guidance to maximize their own protection, quite common and understandable among airlines. The CDC says “Do not travel for a full 10 days until after your symptoms started or the date you got tested if you had no symptoms.” I showed symptoms at least as early as May 29 (I have witnesses) well before my June 2 positive test, and can document the tests I took the morning after I arrived at the hotel. I took them because I had cold symptoms.

Besides, at worst the U.S. would not deny me entry and demand the airline fly me back. They might have fined na Fiji. Somehow I doubt  they would.

As far as the CDC, I’ll say no more.

It’ll be good to reunite with the better half of the Wandering Warners after our separate vacations.

Just after I snap the photo, a 10-15 minute boarding delay is announced while maintenance boards to “check a couple of things.”

It’s been an interesting travel day from beginning to end.

And the drama continues to develop as our flight departure is delayed until 11:40 PM, arriving in BLI at 12:20’AM.

Finally! I board at 11:35. We won’t get to Bellingham until 12:30 or later, as Kathy insists on waiting patiently in the BLI parking lot.

Afterthoughts Friday morning: The plane landed at BLI at 12:34 AM and Kathy was faithfully there to meet me. Alaska certainly had a bad day yesterday, at least in regard to both of my flights. After a good night's sleep, I awaken to a welcome but ironic headline in today's news:

A Lingering LAX Layover

Fiji 810 NAN-LAX worked for me. I slept about five hours after that solitary pre-flight glass of Champagne.

I enjoyed an early continental breakfast.

Eventually Los Angeles in all its majestically sprawling ugliness came into view.

Then we landed.

I was among the first off and walked and walked and walked to get to Immigration.

They’ve even stolen the ethereal psychedelic music and lighting from that underground connector at ORD.

Once at the Global Entry kiosks, a friendly agent reminded me I no longer need a passport. Just stare at the camera. Big Brother knows me. “Okay, Brian,” says the agent from 10 feet away, and I scurry out.

I enjoy the walk from Tom Bradley International Terminal over to Terminal 6, Alaska’s home. TSA PreCheck is quiet and I’m sitting in the grubby Alaska Lounge (courtesy of my paid on points First Class ticket).

As the afternoon progresses the lounge fills up. One of my seat mates could be mistaken for a space cadet - this is La-La land after all.

She explains to a bemused employee that her outfit has filters and she’s surprised more people aren’t wearing them.

Eventually she leaves, probably for a galaxy far far away.

In the meantime, my flight is now delayed n more than two hours, and my long layover at SEA has shrunk to 90 minutes.

Kathy has leapfrogged me into better seats for both flights. The day is still young, and further travel adventure awaits me as I fly the 6,567.9 miles NAN-LAX-SEA-BLI.

Fiji Airways #810 NAN- LAX: All Aboard

One for each hand…

I’ve mixed my orange juice and my sparkling wine. By Jove, I think I’ve discovered something.

And the door has closed… next stop LAX.

Denied Boarding Disaster Averted in Fiji

My life flashed before my eyes. 

Maybe my wife flashed before my eyes, since Kathy had been dubious about the arrangement from the get-go.

The DoubleTree Resort’s Wellness Ambassador had told me they wouldn’t provide me with a written Covid test result, even if I tested negative. The so-called letter of recovery would do the trick. Except…

When I tried to check in at the Fiji Airways Business Class counter, a young rep, Mr. Sharma, disappeared with my passport and documents for one of the longer 10 minutes of my life.

He returned to tell me I could not be checked in, as it had not been 10 days since I was tested. I politely protested (10 days from the onset of symptoms?) to no avail.

The only option was a negative RAT, the test refused me by the DoubleTree (Mr. Sharma: “That’s bull shit!”). 

They directed me not to the other side of the airport as I’d thought, but to the taxi rank. There I was introduced to Tony Mann, an honest driver.

Tony drove me to an ATM, where I withdrew a chunk of Fujian currency. Tony then found the testing place, VanMed  Labs, where I met the lovely young Arveen Chandra. She promptly tested me and declared me negative for $40 Fijian. She sent a confirming email to me and to the airport, although Fiji Airways appeared to have no record of it

Back to the airport where I paid Tony beyond his wildest dreams (he’d suggested Fiji $10 each way).

No, Tony was loyal and I rewarded him accordingly. In the words of Kathy’s late brother Bentley, “We can buy our way out of this.”

 Tony Mann taxi ph. 9757381
I’m all checked in and back in the Fiji Airways Lounge, where I’ve just enjoyed a couple of stiff drinks and some decent Moroccan-style food.

Things appear to be back on track. I will have a discussion with the DoubleTree manager at some point, but not now.

Fiji needs to get its act together, and the current US “protocol”‘is creating big problems for travelers and for businesses.

I was the jam in the sandwich tonight, and I blame them all.

Relaxing finally in the Fiji Lounge..

Boarding soon…

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Diary of a Fiji Quarantine: Day 7

As the sun rises on Sonaisali Island Thursday morning, June 9, I realize I’ve now stayed here at the DoubleTree Resort 10 consecutive nights. It’s been a very pleasant stay, despite being quarantined for the past week.

Today is not just another day in paradise. It’s the day I hope to make my legal escape to fly home.

I’ll need the fit-to-fly certificate that the hotel’s Wellness Ambassador has promised me. I’ll want to arrive st NAN, the Nadi International Airport, by 5:30 PM, and ready to fly the following itinerary all in one calendar day, by golly.

Dep. NAN QF3839 (FJ 810) 9:40 PM - Arr. LAX 12:55 PM

Dep. LAX AS 132 4:30 PM - Arr. SEA 7:23 PM

Dep. SEA AS 2532 11:17 PM - Arr. BLI 11:59 PM

Translation? I fly a Qantas codeshare ticket on a Fiji plane (Fiji “metal”) from Nadi, Fiji to LAX, leaving at 9:40 PM and landing at 12:55 PM the same day.

I’ll stroll to another terminal once through Immigration, and take an Alaska flight at 4:30 PM that lands in Seattle at 7:23 PM. I’ll take another Alaska flight from Seattle at 11:17 OM and land in Bellingham at 11:59 PM.

I’ll have lounge access at NAN, LAX, and SEA, but it will be a long day. I’ll trust my exhilaration to carry me through.

Dinner last night started with a contemplative Fiji Gold Beer drunk slowly out on the balcony. After all, I probably won’t be back here for awhile. 

It’s fun watching employees zip back and forth on their little electric carts, sometimes carrying guests or cargo.

Maybe even a bed…

It was a little cooler, a wee bit breezy, and very pleasant.

The nightly horse ride traipses along the beach, stopping right at my balcony for the obligatory photo opp. It’s a four-horse night.

The action never stops around here if you know where to look.

It was hard to believe the days are getting shorter here, but by 6:00 PM it was time to come in.

Dinner last night was a Chicken Schnitzel, lovingly described…

It was actually very tasty, although I can’t say I noticed the Mexican influence. Delivered on a covered plate too!

Kathy calls. She says she’s feeling much better, which is a relief. She still has doubts I’ll get out with a “fit-to-fly” letter. I may call the general manager to see what he knows.

In the meantime, I’ve ordered simply toast and coffee for breakfast. Room service didn’t even need to call me back to repeat the order. One way or the other, June 9 is going to be a very long day for me.

Breakfast proves to be eight slices of bread, not toast, and more than I need, but very generous. The coffee is hot.

There is good news around 10:30 AM. The hotel’s Wellness Ambassador calls to tell me she’s just sent me my Certificate of Recovery. I check my inbox and there it is, very official looking and signed by an official of the Fiji Ministry of Health and Medical Services. I’ll be amazed if Fiji Airways doesn’t accept it.

I call the front desk and secure an airport transfer for 5:00 PM. Things sre looking up.

At 3:30 I’ve worked out a couple of billing mistakes at the front desk they saved us about $150, I’ve compulsively shaved and showered in anticipation of the length of my upcoming travel day, and I’ve finished packing.

The TV on the wall still greets me, but that’s because the system has been down since a brief power outage.

We’ll see how the rest of the day goes. In the meantime, goodbye Room B31. 

I’ve left some unopened food and drink for your housekeepers, writing down every item so they may be taken home - hotel rules.

On the way out, I thank the new general manager and tell him how much I’ve appreciated the kindness of his employees.

And now I await the boat.

Diary of a Fiji Quarantine: Day 6

As I find myself getting up around 6 AM Wednesday, June 8, I take a moment to peer out my side window and front door to catch a glimpse of the sunrise. My sunset view is far superior.

Last night was pepperoni pizza night again. Kathy will raise her eyebrows when she reads this at home, but the “Walu effect” still lingers, and a doughy pizza crust without much topping filled the bill.

I did ask for chili flakes on the side, and a judicious sprinkling really jazzed up the flavor.

The chili flakes come in handy this morning when I order the three-egg omelette again for breakfast. As usual, I recite the menu in some detail, get called back to repeat the order, and am awarded with a bounteous feast. The omelette has shrunk compared to last time, but as to the rest of it…

From the top clockwise: omelette, grilled tomato, chorizo, potato wedges. I’d praised yesterday’s hot coffee when ordering, and I’m rewarded with another carafe of HOT coffee.

The charming and efficient Sula calls me from the front desk to check how I’m doing. She tells me I can stay in my room until I leave tomorrow, probably around 5:30 PM, The hotel can arrange a car to the airport. Things are looking up.

Kathy and I have a video chat or two. She’s feeling better, and our neighbors Bob and Carmen leave her a pile of good food as they set off on a short road trip. Kathy was exposed to me far longer than I was exposed to anyone, so her somewhat worse symptoms make sense, not to mention the fatigue of the long trip home.

After breakfast I test myself with a home test kit and test negative. Exciting news, but…

I call the hotel Wellness Ambassador to request to pay for a test to try to replicate the results. She tells me I’m welcome to pay for tests today and tomorrow but they’ll only give me verbal results - no written  results. That would be useless for my purposes.

She’s adamant. My only guess is that Fiji wants to maintain the credibility of their fit-to-fly certificates. Too many people deemed fit to fly but still showing positive results would undermine that. Maybe there are other reasons, but her vague explanation of different people testing negative at different times doesn’t do me any good. Oh well…

The drama will continue at least as far as NAN tomorrow night. Stay tuned.

Before I know it it’s after 3:00 PM. I’ll have very little to pack, but I take a preliminary look around. I’ll be leaving a bottle of wine and one or two bottles of beer, along with a few unopened packs of soup and cookies. The housekeepers should be happy. It was great to have the variety of snacks left for me, and I’m vaguely proud I didn’t wolf them all down.

Never  have I looked forward to a flight with such a combination of excitement and apprehension. Tomorrow will be… interesting..