I fly pretty regularly, but in the past seven years I've never had a paper ticket.

I always just zip through the electronic check-in counter, passing mild looks of disdain at those other people milling around with their pieces of paper stuck in long winding queues. And they always seem to be anxious and worried and beholden to the service desk clerks.

Which made tonight's little adventure awfully embarrassing for me.

You see, about a year ago I volunteered to be bumped from a flight and in return I got one of those BONUS TRAVEL TICKETs for a free round-trip flight. Although I travel quite a bit, almost all of it is business travel so there was no need for me to use the BONUS TRAVEL TICKET. The couple of personal trips I did take seemed "cheap enough" so I always paid for them with real money.

And none of them used paper tickets.

But then the BONUS TRAVEL TICKET was about to expire, so I figured I should use it anyway. But of course you can't book normally over the web; you have to call them up on the phone. And then you don't actually get a ticket; you get a reservation and you have to turn up to the airport with your BONUS TRAVEL TICKET to get your real ticket.

Did I mention I haven't had a paper ticket since I moved to the USA?

So of course I go to the airport tonight ready to zip through the electronic check-in counter, only to receive a boarding pass that says I need to see a service representative.




I left it at work, because I've never had to worry about stupid dead tree products at the airport since, like, last century. After waiting in line for a while (not too long; being a frequent flier does have its occasional perks) I beg and plead with the service representative, but there's nothing they can do (clearly not perky enough). The flight is full, so I can't even buy a normal ticket to get on it (despite the fact that, uh, my other reservation is now cancelled). Even getting on the next available flight would have cost about 2.5x the normal ticket price due to the last-minute booking. So much for free travel.

So here I sit, back at home, not on an aeroplane and not getting a weekend away. Nevertheless, this cloud has a silver lining; you can extract some pearls of wisdom from my gross stupidity and ineptitude. Just remember these four simple steps and you can avoid following in my silly footsteps:

  1. Never volunteer to take the next flight; let some other poor soul take the fall and have their day ruined. It's just not worth it
  2. If you failed to heed the advice in Step #1, use the ticket at the first possible opportunity. Don't wait for that "big, expensive trip" to come up because it probably never will
  3. When you do book your ticket, forget everything the last decade of airline travel has taught you and remember to take the stupid coupons with you!
  4. When you go to the airport, get there an hour or two earlier to check in, because you'll be stuck in the other people's line... behind some fool desperately trying to re-book their flight... because they forgot their coupon...
  5. (The bonus step) Once you've successfully completed your travel, post a comment here gloating about how much smarter you are than me

Well, that's it. Have a good weekend!

Maybe I'll have some more HD DVD related stuff to write about next week…

Comments (4)

  1. jeffdav says:

    Ha! I never had that problem!  I’m so much smarter than you!

    Seriously though, I never have.  I only had the volunteer-for-the-next-flight experience with Contental, but when I called to redeem, they just sent me a paper ticket which I used like normal at the airport.

  2. Cat says:

    I have used an Alaska Airlines Bonus Travel ticket 3x.  My BF lives in Alaska, and buying the tickets off of ebay is WAY cheaper than purchasing over the web!  And I have volunteered off of a flight and got a free ticket also.

    Yes I do agree that not being able to book over the web, and use web check-in is ridiculous!  So much more time consuming to call and then go to customer service at the airport.  

    But I can say that in Canada the taxes and fees on a ticket are normally 100$ or more.  With the bonus travel ticket the taxes and fees are only 35$.  

    And you’re also right:

    1) make your reservations early with the bonus ticket, because there are rarely spaces available for last minutes travel.

    2) you NEED the paper bonus voucher, otherwise you’re gonna pay for the seat.

    3) Double check online that they have indeed reserved your seat.  AA has booked me 2x on oversold flights.    

  3. Guess says:

    Hey! How about the person on the other end of that flight?!  What about _that_ person who probably was looking forward to your visit – no silver lining there, buddy.  Seriously, this time, try to remember steps 3 and 4 above.

  4. I did a bit better this time 🙂

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