I’m aware that the name of this blog is “Island Obsessions”. I am also aware of the fact that the only island I’ve written anything of substance about, so far, is Anguilla. Don’t get me wrong – I absolutely love Anguilla, but I’ve always intended to visit other islands to experience them as well.
So, in an attempt to explore someplace new, I’ve been trying to book a trip to the Out Islands of the Bahamas for a little over a month now, but I have been spectacularly unsuccessful. I initially wanted to go at the end of February, but the day that that finally decided to book my flight, air fares went up several hundred dollars over just the day before, blowing the budget that I had planned for that short trip. I chalked that up to having just waited too long and decided to keep an eye on fares for a while to see if they would go down. They didn’t.
I finally decided that I wanted to go badly enough that I was willing to pay the higher fares. Plus, I had found the perfect time at the end of April where my schedule was open enough for me to travel. (Yes, I know I would probably have better luck if I planned trips a bit more in advance, but unfortunately, that isn’t always possible for me.) So, I went online again to book a flight.
I did a search on Travelocity, and at least 10 different American Airlines flights appeared from the DC area to and from my intended Bahamian destination, the best including only one stop in Miami both ways. Perfect! I chose the most convenient departing and return flights, and clicked the button at the bottom of the page to continue the process of purchasing the tickets. However, I was then presented with a message on the following page saying that these flights were “no longer available”. Hmm. Interesting. I tried the search again and the same flight options appeared. Why would they be showing me flights if they weren’t actually available? Was it just a glitch in the system? I selected the same flights again and upon clicking the “Continue” button, I was once again informed that these flights were no longer available. I went back and chose different flights. Same result. I tried the search on Expedia. Similar results: I could choose the flights but I couldn’t actually purchase the tickets.
So I decided to go to the American Airlines website to try the search there. The same flights showed up but no matter what combination of departing and return options I chose, I got a “This feature is not available now.” message when trying to go forward and purchase the tickets.
Perplexed, I called American Airlines customer support to see if they could help me figure out what the problem was. I gave the customer service representative the exact parameters that I used and she executed the same search on her computer. When her search completed, she said “I’m not showing any return flights from that location for those dates.”. Whaaat? I saw them right there on my screen! What was she talking about? I started over at AA.com’s home page and repeated the search again… and she was right. All of the return flights were suddenly gone! She then put me on hold to go “check with the international desk”, and while she was away, I did the search one more time and this time, the departing flights had disappeared too!
I was completely bewildered. I understand that flights are cancelled all the time, but it was still unbelievable for it to happen kind of real-time in front of my eyes for 20 flight options to/from my specific destination and, as I found out when the AA rep came back on the line, this was a problem only for my selected dates of travel! She told me that AA had likely cancelled those flights due to the fact that they didn’t look like they’d be “profitable” and that flights were available should I decide to travel one week before or after the dates I had initially selected! The flights hadn’t just sold out either (All 20 of them… at the same time…). As far as she could see, the flights did not exist.
What are the odds of all of this happening? I guess it’s possible that the changes had been made a while before but just hadn’t filtered all the way through to Travelocty or Expedia yet. But what about the changes appearing on AA’s website at exactly the same time I was trying to buy the tickets? I accepted that that was still possible even if it was extremely unlikely. (In case you’re wondering, the flights are nowhere to be found now on any of the sites, so it doesn’t seem to have been a temporary computer problem. And for you fellow geeks out there – my cache clears every time I close my browser, so I was not looking at old search results.)
After I hung up with the American Airlines rep (who was very kind during our entire conversation, by the way) I tried searches to neighboring airports and islands which would have required me taking 4+ hour ferry rides or something similarly inconvenient. With those, I got as far as entering my credit card number (three times!) before being told that my request could not be processed at that time. (I bet you’re not even believing that all of this could possibly have happened, are you? I promise you that it did…and it was aggravating.) There were other convoluted itineraries that would have gotten me to my destination, but they all required things like three stops in both directions or paying over $600 for the round-trip airfare. No thanks.
So what would you take away from this kind of experience? That this trip just wasn’t meant to be? Eventually, that’s the conclusion that I came to, but I still didn’t understand why. Defeated, I gave up and shook my fist at the sky asking why, why, whyyyyyyyyy was this happening?
You might understand why I was disappointed and a little depressed after all of this, and in that state I decided that it would just be best for me to shut down the computer and go to sleep. Just after a quick check of my e-mail of course…
After I logged into my email account, I found that, within the last 15 minutes, I had received an e-mail from a super-fabulous woman that I met during my last visit to Anguilla. She lives there with her family and was kind and generous enough to invite me to hang out with them a couple of times on my last trip. In her email, she provided me with some information that I had asked her for a little while ago, but the truly magic words came at the very end of the message: She and her family would be traveling soon, and if I happened to be in Anguilla at that time, she was inviting me to stay at her house while they were away!!!
Unbelievable, right? As far as I’m concerned, my question as to why I had encountered all of those unlikely problems booking my Bahamas trip had been unequivocally answered. If I had succeeded in booking that other trip, I most likely wouldn’t have been able to take advantage of this generous offer. So this was my answer. This was why.
In an instant, what I had seen as unbelievable bad luck had transformed into the most fortunate series of completely unlikely events. I’m just not supposed to go anywhere else yet and maybe another trip to Anguilla is just more meant-to-be right now. Is there any other conclusion that can be taken from all of this? In my mind, no.
Now the plans for this next Anguilla trip aren’t 100% solidified yet, but I don’t really see any way for me to turn this offer down, do you? If all works out well, I’d like to buy my plane ticket within the next week. Please keep your fingers crossed that planning for this trip goes better than my last attempt.
So, it looks like another trip to AXA within the next few months is officially in the works! (I feel so lucky!) Stay tuned for updates.
Well, I hope that you can forgive me for not getting to any other islands just yet. I am absolutely not complaining about getting to go to Anguilla again, but at this rate, I may have to change the name of this site to “Anguilla Obsessions”!