My plan seemed so simple: Book my flights from Chicago to Dubai and, on the way back, spend a couple of days in Jordan and Israel, two countries I'm not likely to see for a long time. Royal Jordanian airlines, however, made this sufficiently difficult to encourage me to look elsewhere.
The parameters were simple:
- Fly only Oneworld carriers, because this trip bumps me to the next elite level.
- Arrive in Dubai in time for the October 31st start of classes having had enough rest to make it through the day without passing out.
- Take a side-trip after the residency ends on November 8th.
- Get home by November 11th, because I need to actually earn a living and pat my dog.
Last week, I called the Royal Jordanian reservation line, a New York phone number, with the simple request to book flights from Chicago to Dubai through Amman. The reservation agent—who happened to be in Amman—dutifully took my information, quoted the fare, and told me no problem, I'm leaving Chicago on October 28th, leaving Dubai on November 8th, and leaving Amman on November 11th. Perfect. And, because it's a 12-hour overnight trans-Atlantic flight, I booked that segment in discounted business class. He ended by telling me to expect an email with an attached form that I needed to fax to the local ticket office with my credit card information.
So far, so good. Except...why do I need to fax my credit card again?
OK, forget faxing, I had to go out to O'Hare anyway, so I stopped by the ticket office in person. This was just about 4pm on Friday. They were closed, with no hours or phone number posted anywhere. Back home, digging through the Royal Jordanian website also failed to produce their phone number or hours. Curious.
Flash forward to today. I still hadn't received a confirmation email from them (despite calling their reservations line again), nor did I have a phone number for the Chicago office, so I went out there. No traffic, got there in 20 minutes. Great. Talked to an actual person, in person. Great.
We discovered, in short order, a number of problems. First, there are no flights from the U.S. to Jordan on October 28th this year. My reservation had magically shifted forward to October 30th, arriving at 1am on November 1st. The previous flight from Chicago to Amman would leave on October 26th, giving me three extra days in either Amman or Dubai, right in the middle of the pre-reading period that is absolutely critical for the residency. Not to mention, if I want to take a day trip from Amman to, say, its neighbor to the west, I probably need to do that after visiting the United Arab Emirates.
Other options: Fly from Detroit or New York on the 29th, arriving in Dubai at 1:00am on the 31st. Or American to London, thence Amman and Dubai.
Then we got into some discussion about fares. If I'm showing up just a few hours before classes start, I'm flying business class, at least for the trans-Atlantic eastbound segment. The fares she found made me and the baby Jeebus both cry.
I went home to think about it. This thought process involved: an hour comparing fares on aa.com, British Airways, and (why not?) Emirates, which isn't a Oneworld carrier but does fly to Dubai, since they're based there.
I did consider going on Royal Jordanian through JFK, but then I thought about having to find a fax machine, send a copy of the credit card and my drivers license along with it, and then have to call my credit card company anyway because they always get twitchy when anything looks out-of-pattern. Bother.
After that exercise, it came down to: (a) booking a British Airways round-trip through aa.com; (b) realizing to my horror that the discount fare on the connection from Chicago had vanished while I was doing that; and finally (c) giving up and calling American directly.
In fifteen minutes, the American Airlines ticket agent had booked me through Boston to London on a deeply-discounted business fare, with a return non-stop from London back to Chicago, for about $2,000 less than the website suggested and $500 less than Royal Jordanian, all told.
So, I'll get to Dubai in reasonable shape before midnight on the 30th, and I'll get a night on the way back in the land of some of my ancestors. (This time I picked a hotel near the Earl's Court tube stop, because that one has elevators.)