Week commencing 7th April and I was in the UK office. I had also arranged to be there for the week commencing 14th April. The hotel near the office is/was booked Monday 7th to depart Friday 11th and Monday 14th to depart Thursday 17th. That left me homeless for Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I had ideas to visit friends and/or family, but none of these really firmed up. As the week went on, I decided it would be worth going back home to Prague, even if it was just a few days.
I looked at BA and Wizz Air flights – all were too expensive. Then I started looking for BA Avios points flights. I could see a PRG-London Heathrow (LHR) on Monday evening but no LHR-PRG for Friday evening. I was pretty busy all week and so just did a quick search twice a day. Suddenly I could see availability for a Friday flight and a Monday flight and jumped in and booked it.
On Friday 11th I clicked the link to check in, printed my boarding pass and headed for Heathrow by taxi. The M25 London orbital motorway was heavy traffic and it took 1 hour 20 minutes to complete a journey that normally takes 35 minutes. So I was already later than usual. I headed to the Fast (always slow) Track security. The girl on the desk said “This isn’t the right boarding pass”. I had a look at it (for the first time) and boom – it was for Prague-LHR that evening. I checked my phone for the Monday flight and that was LHR-Prague. I’d booked the entire journey the wrong way around and also checked in to seat 1D on a flight leaving Prague that evening.
I went to the BA ticket desk. The lady was sympathetic and advised that I’d most likely be able to get my Avios points back, but she wasn’t able to do that. I asked about point availability for that weekend and she (I later found out, wrongly) advised that there was none. Perhaps at that point I should have given up and stayed in the UK. But I didn’t have any clean clothes (all in the dry cleaners near my office), nor anywhere to stay. “How much is an economy return?” “A lot” – about three times too much. “How much is a business return?” “A bit more” – about 1.5 times too much. So on the basis that I was going to lose around money anyway, I surrendered my credit card for a business return. It took the BA lady about 20 minutes to process my ticket, having to ask advice from her colleague at every step, so by the time I had the ticket, cleared security and arrived in the business lounge it was 18:00.
I then had to call BA Executive Club to try to cancel the PRG-LHR-PRG and recover the points. After being on hold for 10 minutes, I finally had those refunded for a £25 fee.
A friend of mine was in the BA First Lounge and so invited me there. Now 18:30 and was finally sitting down to some food and a glass of champagne. Flight is scheduled to depart at 7:30pm but has been consistently late by 30 minutes or more for as long as I can remember. The Prague flight is from Terminal 3 and that means a bus to the aircraft. Arrive too early at the gate and there’s no bus and you have to sit around for ages. Arrive just after the bus arrives and you’ll never get on the first bus, maybe not even the second. And so we left the lounge quite late and arrived at the gate about two minutes after the official closing time. Today was the day when the flight was on time, the last bus had gone and the BA staff weren’t interested – in fact they seemed rather smug that two business passengers had missed their flight. Back to an airside ticketing desk. It was the same slow lady from the landside ticket desk. I asked what my options were. She said “Well none really as it’s a non-changeable ticket”. Me – “you mean I paid that much for a ticket that isn’t even flexible?” Luckily the colleague who was helping her sell me the ticket a few hours earlier was also there. He said that as I’d purchased the ticket within the last 24 hours, I could refund it. So I took that as even if I decided to fly the next day, it wouldn’t cost more that before.
My friend wasn’t so lucky. His ticket was non-changeable. Worse still they advised that as he wasn’t on the outbound flight, he wouldn’t be able to take the inbound flight. Some argument ensued and it was agreed that he could purchase a ticket for the 07:20 LHR-PRG the following day and still be able to use the return portion of the other ticket.
Fate obviously didn’t want me to fly that day – I’m not sure why as it wasn’t like the Final Destination movie and my missed flight landed safely and early for once.
We were able to return to the First Class lounge (still airside and still with old boarding passes). I started to think about my options; try and fly the next day or hire a car and go and stay with family for the weekend. I realised that the car idea was now not an option due to the several glasses of champagne I’d drunk. I started looking for LHR-PRG flights and found Avios award availability for the 07:20 next day (economy) and the 20:15 on Monday (business) – 13500 Avios + £ 42.50. Now had I known about that award space, when I was at the landside ticket desk earlier, I’m guessing I would have booked that and stayed in an hotel rather than spend a fortune on a ticket. Amazingly, I was better off missing my flight – well except that I would have to get up at 05:00 and find an hotel.
I like the Hilton at Terminal 4 – easy to get to without using those horrible hotel hoppa buses. Some Hilton Honors points later and I was booked. Some more food and champagne, back through passport control and I was at the Hilton for about 22:30. They were nice enough to upgrade me (Hilton Gold card). My friend did a similar thing at the Marriott with his Marriott Gold.
05:00 was a horrible time to get up. I was back in the First Class Lounge by 06:00 having eggs, black pudding and more champagne. We were early at the gate this time. The flight was full and I was in a non-survivable 19F – a window seat, in a full row and nowhere near any of the exits. But we landed safely and hopefully my return flight will be uneventful.
So I’m not sure if I should consider myself lucky or not? I was unlucky (or just stupid) to have booked the flight in the reverse – but then I may have missed the flight anyway and still had to stay in an hotel. But then I was lucky that after buying an over-priced ticket, I missed the flight, refunded the ticket and was able to use Avios. One thing I do know – I’ll be checking my tickets and arriving at the gate early in future.
15th April update: Thanks to my friend Mike, who remarked that the title of this article should have been ‘When two wrongs do make a right!’