Imagine the thrill of a family getaway to Mexico City from the bustling heart of Fresno County. Our adventure unfolded on a crisp Thursday morning, October 26, 2023. What was supposed to be a smooth journey turned into an epic tale of mishaps, quick thinking, and unexpected twists.
Dreams of Mexico City
Our journey began with dreams of Mexico City as we eagerly counted down to our 8:40 AM Delta flight from the iconic Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). While Fresno beckoned from our doorstep, we couldn’t resist the lure of budget-friendly flights departing from the City of Angels, even if it meant a three-and-a-half-hour drive.
A Pre-Dawn Odyssey
With hearts filled with excitement, we embarked on our quest at the ungodly hour of 2:45 AM. We believed a three-and-a-half-hour drive, padded by an additional three hours – a six-and-a-half-hour journey would suffice for a smooth takeoff. Little did we know, this day had more surprises in store.
Lesson 1: Expect the Unexpected
As the clock struck 3:30 AM, we were entangled in a frustrating traffic jam in the Tejon Pass on Interstate 5 with the early morning sun barely gracing the horizon. Interstate 405 added to our woes. It was a traffic maze we hadn’t anticipated.
Lesson 2: Add a Dash of Extra Time
A valuable lesson emerged from the snarl of brake lights: leave some extra time for unforeseen delays when your journey begins in the wee hours. Trust us; it can be a game-changer.
From Traffic to Terminal
After navigating through the labyrinth of vehicles, the next challenge was to secure a parking spot at LAX’s economy parking lot. Afterward, we hopped on the airport shuttle to the terminal with each minute ticking by. Our arrival at the Delta Airlines ticket counter at 8:02 AM left us breathless, and our departure gate seemed like a distant dream. With less than 45 minutes of departure, we were advised that we wouldn’t make our flight.
A friendly Delta Airlines representative came to our rescue, but the news wasn’t promising. Zero availability for flights to Mexico City on Thursday and Friday shattered our travel dreams.
Friends to the Rescue
In our hour of need, we contacted friends, hoping they might have ideas. They came through with an ingenious idea: Tijuana Mexico Airport and a Viva Aerobus flight leaving at a serendipitous 8:40 PM. Coincidence, isn’t it?
The Dash to Tijuana
With a new plan in place, we raced to Viva Aerobus LAX ticket desk at 10:30 AM. There was a catch; the desk wouldn’t open until 11:30 AM. Our adventure was turning into a whirlwind.
Lesson 3: Research and Flexibility
Our quest required meticulous planning. We pieced together a puzzle: a bus from LAX to the Amtrak rail station at Union Station in Los Angeles, followed by Amtrak to San Diego, and, finally, the CBX Express Shuttle from downtown San Diego to Tijuana.
Friends Who Make Magic Happen
Realizing the complexity of our undertaking, our friends jumped into action. They took on the mission to reserve and book our Viva Aerobus flights. Their unwavering support was our lifeline.
Racing Against Time
Union Station welcomed us with just eight minutes to secure tickets and board our train. In San Diego, we found ourselves with a mere five minutes to reserve and board the shuttle. Missing it would have been a flightless adventure.
Lesson 4: Keep Calm in the Storm
Amid the chaos, we clung to our composure. Remaining level-headed under pressure was our greatest asset.
Arriving at Tijuana Airport, we charged toward the Viva Aerobus ticket counter, passports in hand, ready to embark on our long-awaited adventure.
An Unforeseen Challenge
But fate had other plans. The airline reservation agent bore the unwelcoming news, and informed us that our tickets weren’t paid for with a pending payment, and a balance of $1228 USD looming over us.
So, what went wrong?
The Viva Aerobus tickets were purchased by a third-party member (our friends) on our behalf. In the airlines mind, this was a fraudulent purchase because someone in the united states purchased last minute tickets for flights outside of the United States. We could not convince the airline that it wasn’t a fraudulent purchase – even though we had the purchaser on the phone communicating with the airline.
Lesson 5: Triple-Check the Details
In our enthusiasm, we missed a crucial detail. Always ensure that payments are verified and confirmed to prevent misunderstandings.
The Thorn of Third-Party Booking
The root of our woes lay in our friends booking Viva Aerobus tickets on our behalf, a practice the airline might deem as fraudulent thus flagging the reservation as a security risk. This was the case In our situation. And, for two and a half hours, we battled with the airlines about the payment which was secured and approved by the bank. In the process, we missed out flights.
Lesson 6: Caution with Third-Party Booking
A word of caution: booking through or with a third party can sometimes lead to unforeseen complications, especially for last-minute international flights.
Lesson 7: Always Choose a reliable airline
choosing a reliable airline is beneficial because it can enhance your travel experience by ensuring punctuality, safety, quality service, and peace of mind. It also opens up opportunities for earning rewards and enjoying a network of destinations. When planning your next journey, consider the reputation and track record of the airline to make the most of your travel adventure. Viva Aerobus certainly was not a reliable one.
The Journey Home
In the end, we purchased tickets for a shuttle bus returning to Los Angeles. Once we arrived in Los Angeles (Huntington Park, by the way! An area we were totally unfamiliar with) we caught an Uber to the LAX Economy parking lot, and endure a three-and-a-half-hour journey back to Clovis, California. We finally arrived home at 4:25 AM on Friday morning, extremely tired but much wiser. Our day may not have gone as planned, but it gave us an unforgettable story and valuable lessons on how to turn travel mishaps into memorable adventures.
From a Travel Agent’s Perspective:
Missing two flights in one day can be extremely frustrating and disappointing. To avoid such situations in the future, here are some tips and suggestions:
Plan for Traffic and Delays
When traveling a long distance to catch a flight, especially during early morning hours, it’s essential to account for potential traffic and other delays. Leaving a buffer of at least an extra hour or two can help.
Try to arrive at the airport well in advance, as airport procedures, such as security checks, can take longer than expected.
If you’re concerned about traffic or other factors, consider alternative airports closer to your home. In cases such as the above, Fresno Yosemite International Airport (FAT) might have flights to their destination.
Check Flight Schedules
Make sure to check the schedules of all flights involved in your journey, including connecting flights, if any. This can help you better plan your travel.
Communication with Airlines
If you’re running late, it’s a good idea to contact the airline as soon as possible. They might be able to assist with rebooking or offer guidance.
Whenever possible, check-in online before arriving at the airport. This can save you time and reduce the risk of missing your flight.
Consider purchasing travel insurance, which can cover unexpected situations that might cause you to miss your flights.
Booking through Third Parties
When booking flights through third-party agents or friends, ensure the process is transparent and clear. Ensure all payments are made in advance to avoid misunderstandings.
Carry Sufficient Documentation
When traveling internationally, ensure that you have all the necessary documents, such as passports and visas, and that they are in order.
Be Prepared for Challenges
In situations like the one mentioned above where things don’t go as planned, it’s essential to stay calm and think through alternative options. Having a backup plan can be very helpful.
When dealing with airlines, try to escalate the issue to higher-level customer service representatives if the first point of contact is unable to resolve your problem.
If someone else is booking flights on your behalf, ensure that all payments and transactions are thoroughly verified and confirmed by the airline. This can help prevent misunderstandings like the one we experienced.
Remember that traveling can sometimes be unpredictable, and while you can take steps to minimize the risk of missing flights, unexpected circumstances can still occur. Being well-prepared and proactive in dealing with issues can make a significant difference in such situations.