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Friday, June 14, 2024

The Worst Airline Experience Ever? One Traveler’s Tale of Woe

According to the visitcostarica.com website, there are presently 25 different airlines that fly into Juan Santamaria airport. From the following account, try to guess which of those airlines I used to fly back into the country last week:

My return flight to Costa Rica was scheduled for 6:40am. Planned to rise at 4am and catch an uber to the airport about 20 minutes away. Checked my emails at 11pm before catching a few hours sleep. Woke up at four and minutes before my uber was due, saw a thread of emails from the airline. The flight had been delayed until 7:45am, then 8:45am and finally 1230pm.

My connecting flight to Costa Rica was at 110pm, and unfortunately the airline did not offer the Star Trek transporter to get me to the other airport in time– so I had to settle for the next available flight, which left at 11 in the evening. I slept in a bit longer before heading to the airport. At the airport I saw that the same email thread included a $21 food voucher for use there. It did not quite cover breakfast and coffee which came to about 24 dollars.

While eating, I saw that the airline had included two 50-dollar travel vouchers, one for each delayed flight. These vouchers would need to be redeemed within three months for flights within the coming year. I didn’t want the vouchers. I could not imagine using them. It was an airline I had long ago sworn off using due to a previous overcharge that was never repaid. But my trip to the US was a Father’s Day gift from my son and daughter born in CR and living in the US. So, I temporarily ended my boycott.

The two flights were both under 3 hours, so I did not go hungry while in the air. Which was a good thing because this no-frills airline, with its unadjustable seats, tiny serving trays and laid-back stewards didn’t offer so much as a bag of peanuts during the flights. Air travel was once a luxury and included gourmet food and drink and impeccable service.

First class passengers can still receive similar treatment on some airlines. Not this one though– there was no first class section. We were all equals on this airplane which was more like a Costa Rican bus with wings.

There was once a time when airlines like Lacsa (previously the national airline of Costa Rica) and Mexicana were a pleasure to fly, with good food, free drinks, and a welcoming atmosphere. Those days are long gone– as are those airlines. The new bottom line is that air travel is no longer a luxury or a privilege, rather simply a faster way to get from point a to point b.

We got into Costa Rica around midnight, almost 12 hours later than originally scheduled. Two other flights arrived around the same time. There was only one person working customs. The line snaked around the luggage conveyors. An hour later I reached the inspector. She stared into her screen with fried eyes. It was after 1am. I had the feeling that unless someone was trying to smuggle a live human being in their luggage that everything would go through the xray machine unquestioned.

I finally arrived home about 15 hours later than originally scheduled. I sent a long email to the airline’s customer service email, explaining the tremendous inconvenience, the late arrival, the fact that the meal voucher did not even cover breakfast, and the literal pain in my butt from sitting on hard airport seats for so long.

My request for better compensation was rejected.

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