Friday, June 23, 2017

The Get-Out-of-Jail-Free Card

“Our flight leaves at nine. My son was vomiting all afternoon but stopped a few hours ago. Is it OK to go?”

If I came to the hotel and found nothing wrong, I couldn’t promise that the child wouldn’t resume vomiting. I’d be more confident after a day, but the family didn’t want to hear that.

“There’s six of us going to Australia. We can’t miss the flight.”

Long ago you went to the local airline office and exchanged your ticket. Today airline offices are a distant memory, and ticket exchange with its expensive penalties strikes fear into the heart of any traveler.

Some get on the plane and hope for the best. Others ask the airline for advice. No carrier wants a sick person on board, and every customer service agent knows what to say. 

“They want a doctor’s note,” explained the same caller later. “Can you come?”

Most “doctor’s note” visits are a snap because the guest has already recovered, so I’m simply handing over a piece of paper. This is never true while the illness hasn’t run its course. Guests yearn for me to clear them, but I almost never do. Failing that, they hope my note will persuade the airline to reschedule everyone gratis. This sometimes works, but the era when my note served as a get-out-of-jail-free card is long past.

In this case, they were lucky. The airline insisted that four proceed on to Australia, reticketed the mother and child for the next flight in four days with no penalty but also no reimbursement for the extra days in the hotel.

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