Blizzard Gamble is part of my ongoing adventures in NYC.
Last Friday, I was in NYC staying at the Four Points Times Square, a great value at $97 a night. I was transitioning from TPOL the vacationer (see TPOL Down Under) to TPOL the Lawyer (visit BachuwaLaw) with Puerto Rico, TPOL’s new home as the final destination.
My flight to San Juan was scheduled to depart on Saturday night. Because of Winter Storm Harper, JetBlue proactively cancelled my flight and rebooked me on a flight departing Sunday night and arriving Monday morning. That presented a few problems: 1) I would have to pay for another night in NY. 2) I had been on the road since December 29th and didn’t want to prolong this trip any further. 3) There was a chance that my Sunday night flight could also be cancelled.
JetBlue’s website said that changes made to existing reservations would not incur a change fee and would not result in a difference in fare charge. I checked for any flight from any airport in NY but all were sold out. When one would appear, I couldn’t book it in time because 1) my original reservations was a points booking, which cannot be changed online. (JetBlue has to get rid of this policy.) 2) The hold time was so long, nobody would answer the phone. During that time on hold, the available flight would sell out.
After hitting refresh one thousand times, I saw a flight that would depart Saturday at 5:40 AM for the bargain value of $600 per passenger. It was 3AM, meaning I had to make the reservation if I was going to get to JFK on time. I tried to call JetBlue and the automated machine said that the hold time was “greater than 25 minutes.” Looking not to get stranded for another minute, I made the executive decision to $1200 for two tickets and deal with it later.
When I arrived in sunny Puerto Rico, I learned that JetBlue had cancelled many more flights out of NY, validating my reason for leaving. The next step was to call JetBlue and request a refund for the revenue tickets. The agent put me on hold while she tried to reach the award department. After 45 minutes, she came back on the line and said that she had reached someone but the phone had disconnected. I explained to her that this was the exact reason I could not afford to wait for an agent to process my change the night before. She put me back on hold and 25 minutes later returned with good news. As a one time courtesy, JetBlue would refund me the revenue tickets and honor my original award booking. She advised that I don’t try this strategy again.
On one hand, I’m fortunate that this was resolved without headache. On the other, I don’t think this should be a one time courtesy. If JetBlue’s systems won’t allow for changes online for award tickets when there’s an impending storm on the horizon, why should I have to pay to stay stranded? In the literal sense, that means paying for an extra room. In the figurative, it means wasting my time.
Here is JetBlue’s weather policy. Technically, my revenue flight was not covered because it was booked after the 17th.
Here is the disaster of a website that night and the night after:
What do you think?