09 June 2010

tsa, the state department, customs, and the Dutch embassy? Really?

It all started when I was chatting with Bonnie. And I remembered, oh that is right, my ticket and my passport are in different names.

Let me back up. My mom has been planning this trip to Europe for, well, ever. She and my Dad have been there a few weeks. My oldest sister is already there. And my other sisters and myself are leaving to join them tomorrow.

That is, if I can board the plane.

The trip is a trip of a lifetime, really, as my parents have planned it (and by my parents, I mean my Mom. She's the planner. It is great!) and they are paying for most of it. We are responsible for the plane fare. I kept waiting (we all kept waiting) for ticket prices to drop. But really, they just are high. At points I questioned whether or not we could even afford for me to go. My roommates are moving out. My house is not sold. My school loans are coming due. Did I mention two mortgages? :)

Sometime this spring I remembered my frequent flier miles (thank you Holy Spirit).
I had saved them for our honeymoon. But at honeymoon time, B was unemployed and we couldn't afford to drive anywhere, really, much less fly, so we did not use them.
Upon investigation my account revealed I almost had enough to book a trip to Amsterdam. So, through some amazing provision of God, through the years and presently, my $1300 ticket only cost me about $300. Hooray!!

That said, my frequent flier mile account exists in my maiden name. I contacted the airline and they told me how to communicate the change, provide proof, etc. etc. I fax over the change of name (three separate places, including the attached marriage license) and did not give it another thought.
Until I tried to book the ticket. And it would not allow my married name.
so I booked it anyway.
That was probably one of my first mistakes.

Flash forward now to the current conversation with my friend Bonnie. I recall that I was dreaming about not being able to board the plane. I also received an email confirmation that they had changed my name but nothing had changed in my account settings. And beyond that, I had an overall nagging intuition that something is not right.
So I called the airline.
And bless his heart, "John," the first attendant I spoke with said,
"Oh no. There is no way you can board the plane if your passport and ticket are in different names. And we cannot rebook this or change it for you. You are going to have to cancel the ticket and try to rebook it. But here, don't worry, let me put you through to our help desk..."
And so the transfers began.
The help desk person confirmed some of John's comments.
But it went deeper. She casually offered,
"oh, they did change your name. They changed it to Diana G Klungel."

People, I am holding back. I keep muttering in my spirit, "this is not her fault. She is not to blame. She did not do this..."
And I manage to blurt out,
"um, what did they change it FROM?"
"Diana Klungel. They added the G."

Not even sure I can adequately respond to that, I rummage through my paperwork to find the fax cover sheet where I had stated my name change THREE, did I mention this, three times, along with a marriage license which clearly defines a name change.

I ask her to please note in my file that I had previously requested the change from my maiden name to my married name and that I had been told repeatedly that they could not reissue my ticket or change my name.
She informed me that she does not handle that but she could note it in my file. I did also refax the original documents, including new notes in some rather "emotional looking" handwriting to highlight the ways I had communicated my name change when I had first sent the fax.

Then she suggested that although I could cancel my ticket, it would be a $150 cancellation fee, plus the rebooking fee, and that maybe I should call TSA first.

I call TSA. Who after transferring me around finally said, "no, we do not handle international flights, only domestic. You will have to call the state department about how to leave the country, and customs about how to return to the US."

The next call is placed to the state department and I wait to find the right person to help me there.
When operator #3 responds to my questions, she informs me that I need to call the Dutch embassy because they are the only ones who can tell me what is necessary to enter their country. (At this point I am still thinking, what does it matter if I can't even board my flight???)

I proceed to the Dutch embassy, who really, forgive my heritage, but they did not seem to want to give me the time of day. And although she suggested I could travel with my marriage license, she stressed even more strongly, "you need to call the airline. It is their problem."

Well, I agreed with her there but did not want to reiterate my whole life story so I ended the call wondering how I would communicate with my family that I would not be on vacation with them in the Netherlands.

Not even hoping, I did call the airline back. It was the same process of routing through the automated system until I reached the "general" operator this time named Erin. And within one minute of explaining, including the explanation of having resent my fax, my trip through the government and foreign agencies,and my overall somewhat crazy and nightmarish experience on the phone that very day, she asked me to hold. She returned briefly to say, "okay, I have re-booked your ticket. You should be all set."

Now, I am not ungrateful. I am really quite thrilled about this outcome because it is the VERY outcome I was hoping and praying for. But, adrenaline courses through my veins, and my blood pressure probably reached a tipping point, because I am thinking, why, or really why, did Erin not answer the call the FIRST time I called about this? Did I really have to call everyone and their brother to then return to the airline and have them take care of this? Really?

But I do not say any of this.
I gush, "Erin, you have made My LIFE. I am not kidding you. You have ended a nightmare and removed my fear completely. I now will have a great trip. I am so excited. You should take the rest of the day off because you have made MY LIFE!"

And so, I leave.
Lord willing.

Thank you, Papa.