The Good, the Basic & the Bizarre: Airline Flights to and from Italy
In the fall of 2019, Orbitz offered a deal too good to pass up -- round trip tickets to Bologna, Italy for under five hundred dollars. Who wouldn’t want to play around in a city known world-wide for its cuisine; think Bolognese sauce and Mortadella (yes, the gourmet version of what we call bologna). Only after purchasing the non-refundable flights, did the reason for the low fare became obvious. The flights to Italy were on Thanksgiving Day and they were Basic Economy.
One might think there would be fewer people traveling on the actual day of Thanksgiving, but that wasn’t the case for us. Chicago’s O’Hare airport had more that its fair share of travelers. In fact, our flight to London was overbooked for Basic Economy and this is where it gets good, real good. To reduce the number of passengers in Basic, the gate agents changed seating assignments for a few lucky people, ourselves included.
With new boarding passes in hand, we entered the plane. The flight attendant directed us to Business class and pointed out our “pods.” After getting settled in with a glass of champagne and selecting our dinner order from a menu, we enjoyed every minute of our eight hour flight to London. The seats totally reclined and and with the addition of a foot stool, made for a comfortable bed. Plus, the blankets and pillows were the real deal. Damn!
After landing in Heathrow, we switched planes and experienced flying “Basic” on an Airbus. Our seats were at the back of the plane, conveniently close to the restroom and cozy (read — no leg room). Instead of being offered a glass of champagne (oh, how I lamented to be in my pod from the previous flight), Do you want to buy a cup of coffee? was called out. The flight was as basic as they come, but luckily, it was also only two hours till touch down in Bologna.
And Now, the Bizarre...
Bologna was a great city to explore, especially during the Christmas season, but, alas, all good things must end. After ten days of eating and sightseeing, it was back to the airport. With bags checked, security cleared, and boarding passes in hand, we waited for our flight to be announced. It was almost too easy and here is where it gets bizarre.
The gate agent wouldn’t let us on the plane. Apparently, at some point after the tickets were purchased, the airline changed the flight. Orbitz didn’t updated this information, and, even though we were issued boarding passes, the passes didn’t include the needed numbers for the flight.
There wasn’t enough time to get through to Orbitz before the plane took off, so it left and we didn’t. Stranded at the Bologna airport, like a walk of shame, we picked up our luggage, and finally caught a later (much, much later) flight back to the states.
Lessons Learned from this Trip
Riding in Business or First class is pretty damn fabulous (there’s a reason people pay top dollar for those seats), riding in Basic Economy is…well, rough. Basically, it's the equivalent of riding in steerage, and I learned that details matter. Check your boarding passes for ticket numbers as well as seat numbers.
At the end of the day though, any plane ride is a good one if it gets you to your destination safety. Looking forward to safe travels as the world slowly opens back up in 2021.