The first inkling that our journey to Auckland was going to be anything bu usual came when we tried to print a baggage tag at the airport. The computer refused to print one asking us to see a ticketing agent for help. The agent explained that the weather in San Fransisco had been cold and very windy resulting in several delays. She felt neither our delayed United flight nor their next scheduled one would reach SFO in sufficient time to make the Auckland connection.
After talking to someone at American Airlines and spending several minutes working on her computer, she printed us four passes to take to the AA ticketing counter in the next terminal. We took all our luggage, the newly printed passes, thanked her profusely and took the next bus connection to the AA terminal. Once there, we again stood in line waiting for an agent to issue us new boarding passes. We couldn’t help but feel grateful. Sure, we didn’t have the cushion of 4.5 hours like our original itinerary but we were still going to make it on the 6:30 flight, just about 1.5 hours behind schedule.
After dropping off our luggage and security, we headed to the Admirals Lounge, enjoying a good dinner of vegetarian soups, humus and pita, made to order guacamole with tortilla chips, fruits and brownies. A quick look at the monitors initially revealed that our flight had been changed to 7 pm. By the time we finished our dinner, the flight had been cancelled!!
Hastily, we made our way to the AA gate only to find a long line snaking to the agents’ desk. I immediately called the AA help desk and explained the situation. The agent could not find four tickets on the next AA flight so he contacted United to restore us to our original delayed flight but we were way too late to board that flight. After several more (anxious)minutes, he was able to locate 4 tickets on the 8 pm flight out of a different gate. We quickly made our way to the new gate and stood in line again for a third set of boarding passes. We were now nearly 3 hours behind, but if all went smoothly we could still make it with about an hour to spare, perhaps just enough time to catch the connection.
As luck would have it, a few minutes later as we prepared for boarding, it became apparent that something had gone wrong again. Boarding was stopped, all the initial passengers that got on were asked to come back and the flight was delayed by another hour. We knew then that our chances of getting on the 10:15 pm SFO-AKL flight were slim to none. Our only hope was that since all the other flights had been delayed, this one would be too. My United app glowingly reported it to be on time for departure. I tried calling United several times during that agonising hour but to no avail. I could not get a single human to talk to me.
We landed in SFO at roughly the same time the AKL flight was readying to taxi. We had missed our very first flight in over 5 years of traveling! I was in disbelief!! Our already short vacation of 13 days would be cut down to 12 days! That is, if we ever made it to Auckland.
Rallying ourselves, we made our way to the only United counters that were open at 10:45 pm at SFO. There were about 4-5 others in line ahead of us but only two agents to help us. We were tired, but the children were in good spirits, calmly listening to songs, playing on their phones and dozing.
I continued to call United for another hour off and on while we waited for the agents to help us. Eventually, just past midnight, it was our turn. The agent was pleasant and tried all ways to help us. After researching all options, she came up with two. Three tickets to AKL that Friday evening at 10:15 pm. Or we stay in SFO for two days and leave on the Saturday night flight. Obviously, neither were acceptable options.
With great difficulty, I kept my cool and asked her to either route us back to Dallas or check for availability via Houston on the Air New Zealand flights. Any possible way we could get to Auckland on Friday, we were going to try it!
After tapping some more on her computer, she was able to locate four tickets on the Houston-Auckland flight. She then pieced together a connecting trip from SFO to IAH (Houston) that would reach Houston about 80 mins prior to the Auckland flight. Admittedly, we were nervous about such a close connection but with no other available options, it was our best bet. She also assured us that our checked in baggage would be automatically moved from AA to United for its onward journey.
Armed with tickets for the flights, we turned our attention to booking our hotel, choosing a room at the closest Holiday Inn and then waited patiently for our Uber driver to show up. The poor chap came about 20 mins later, delayed by a traffic accident along his route. Ten minutes later, we were safely ensconced in our room at the hotel. We managed to email the Queenstown hotel with an explanation for cancelling our reservation and asking for at least a partial refund. Beyond that, we were too tired to worry about the cold, windy weather or the luggage or any of the multiple other tasks that needed doing. Sleep cradled us in her arms, a warm refuge from all the troubles of that day.