Monday 14 November 2022

You Saved Us

I'm absolutely staggered. This morning I was hyperventilating in tears, stressed beyond belief, and at an absolute loss. I didn't know what to do. I hate asking for help but I was desperate. 

We (Mr Owl, Severine, and I) took a cab to Glasgow Airport at 3am, arriving before check-in opened to give us plenty of time before our 6am flight to New Zealand. I already wasn't looking forward to flying for 40 hours while 30 weeks pregnant, with a chest infection, with a 1 year old, and on no sleep that night. Our flight was to have a 1 hour layover in Frankfurt, then a 6 hour layover in Houston, flying with Lufthansa. I had booked through Expedia, with whom I've booked just about everything for years. 

At check-in, the operator asked if we had an ESTA visa for travel in the USA. I've had these before for visiting the country, it's a simple visa-waiver. Never in my life have I heard that one needs a visa to literally transit through an airport; generally they're only required for actually visiting a country. I've had layovers in the USA before and don't recall the need for the waiver. The operator then assured us that we did not need the ESTA visa due to our New Zealand passports. Then his colleague googled it and explained that we did need them. We were given until check-in closed, so about 35 minutes, to apply for the ESTA visas, and hope they got approved in that time. They said if that came through approved, that all was well and they could proceed with our check-in. 

That was bloody stressful itself. I sat down, got out my phone, filled out and paid for three applications. Freaking out, I wildly hit refresh on my email until the blessed moment of relief came - our ESTA visas were approved. Thank God. We returned to the check-in counter and showed staff the approved visas.

But. While checking us in on the computer, they said the computer system wouldn't process it and there was nothing they could do. The manager popped his head in and wouldn't assist with an override. The staff started giving me the feeling of disinterest, that they were more interested in finishing up their work, picking up their bags and heading off, than helping the desperate sobbing pregnant lady with the baby.  They just said sorry, the computer won't let me put it through, mutter mutter nothing I can do. You'll have to contact Expedia and re-book. I cried, saying that wasn't possible as the tickets had cost so much and couldn't just buy more. I literally begged them to help. I probably looked like a nutter at this point, crying so hard in public. It was like a nightmare, I couldn't believe it was happening, they actually weren't going to let us on the plane. Even though I had done everything they said and provided everything they asked for, in the time they gave. I begged to speak to someone else or if there was anything they could do. But they wouldn't even allow us on the first flight to Frankfurt. 

I'm sure they could have done something. I don't believe there was "nothing they could do". Mr Owl reckoned a friendlier airline or staff would have made an effort. I had the feeling they just wanted to finish up their work and head off. They said we weren't to have known about the ESTA requirement as Expedia wouldn't have mentioned it, so not our fault that we didn't know. But yeah, basically bye, nothing we can/will do, and no offer to find an alternative journey or anything.

I'm doubly annoyed because in the previous days, I had rung Lufthansa at Glasgow Airport 4 or 5 times and nobody ever answered the phone. I would hold for at least 30 minutes before the line would 'pick up' and go silent. I wanted to establish that the bassinet and wheelchair assistance I had requested in my booking was arranged. It looked like the bassinet at least hadn't been. So I'm left, I feel, with no other option than to go Full Karen™ and complain about Lufthansa at that airport, how they initially misinformed us, and their unwillingness to put in any effort or help. I will contact Expedia, though my hopes for a refund are not high. The price of refundable tickets was beyond our means, and even if you do get them and need a refund, you're lucky to get a percentage back. I speak from experience.

I can only assume that, due to the increased price of fuel, that airfares have also gone up. And by a fucking lot.  Flying between New Zealand and Europe isn't cheap to start with, but the price of tickets doubled. While searching for flights, I couldn't believe my eyes. I thought we had enough to get our tickets, with enough left over to comfortably sort our lives out after arriving (move house, etc.) and do a few nice things during our last weeks in the UK. But it ended up with us putting together everything we had just to get back to New Zealand, followed by a period of strict frugality. It was horrid paying that much just for airfares, but there was no choice.

So you can perhaps imagine my horror when being refused to board our flights, and losing the mega-expensive non-refundable non-transferrable tickets. I didn't know what to do, and again, I hate asking anyone for help. But we were utterly fucked, and I had no choice. I put a PayPal link online, explaining the situation, and that any help would be amazingly appreciated.

I knew our Belfry Bat family is kind. I see it every time I do a livestream, and it is often remarked upon what a friendly and supportive community we are. I always feel lucky to be surrounded online by so many genuinely good people, surely that's got to be pretty rare as far as internet communities go.

Within a few hours, thanks to the combined donations of so many wonderful people, there was enough to book new flights. I can't believe it, I'm fucking staggered at the outpouring of kindness and help. You have literally saved us. You came to our rescue when it was needed and I'm utterly blown away. I don't know what to say or how to aptly express my gratitude. Because of your swift kindness, Belfry Bat family, we were able to get new flights for the day after tomorrow. Because of you we are OK. I'm in tears again but this time it's from joy and relief. I can never thank you enough, whether you donated a little bit or a lot, you have my lifelong love and gratitude for your generosity. You saved us. Genuinely. 

The new flights are with Emirates, with no layover in the USA, so no need for the ESTA visa waiver anyway. I rang Emirates to ask about wheelchair assistance etc. They answered immediately and were extremely helpful. They set that up for me at each layover, confirmed a bassinet for Severine, and even a diabetic meal for my gestational diabetes. What a huge contrast from my dealings with Lufthansa. My head feels absolutely whammed, to have gone from such devastation, disappointment, and confusion in the morning, to relief, faith, and joy in the evening. My faith in humanity and kindness has been boosted. You are amazing. We were drowning at sea and you tossed us a line. We will be back in New Zealand now on the 18th. Just, thank you, so much.


  1. If you put the first tickets and the ESTA Visa on a credit card, call you CC company and contest the changes and explain why. They will deal with the airline etc and often you can get your money back.

  2. If surching for flights only ever do it on incognito browsing and close and reopen incognito browser for each new search

    The airlines use the tracking cookies to see how much demand for a flight there is and the price goes up the more people search for a particular flight.

    Incognito mode removes this and you get better prices on flights

  3. Emirates are my favourite airline, I have never been disappointed by them before. I'm sure you'll have a safe and enjoyable flight with them! Safe travels!