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Failed Hero of the Week: LAN Airways

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A good friend of mine used to write weekly posts entitled "Designated Hero of the Week," in which she would thank someone who had helped her. I always wanted to be designated, but I can't remember ever making it. [1]

It was a great idea that I wouldn't mind shamelessly ripping off, especially because a number of people and organizations deserve to be thanked for invaluable help as we make our way across the globe. But I also think the blog would be well-served by a Failed Hero category, for those organizations that make life difficult, especially when they did not have to do so.

Designating a failed hero this week would be a tough call due to the crowded and competitive field of candidates. There's Air India, which caused us to miss an important appointment by delaying our flight from Tirupati to Hyderabad. That would be unfair, however, as I understand that the unexpected happens, and they did their best to help us out. Capital One has also been giving us a hard time, but the conflict there has been brewing since December (and nothing particularly silly happened this week), so they will have to wait.

Thus, LAN Airways takes the prize this week for being exceptionally unhelpful with our round-the-world ticket. We purchased our OneWorld Alliance tickets through LAN because we started in Ecuador, and so LAN is the only company that can modify the ticket. This week, their call center has suffered from ridiculous technical difficulties, resulting in a week's worth of repeating "Hello, can you hear me now?" to different operators, multiple dropped phone calls and half a dozen slowly-answered emails. The whole process culminated in us having to send our credit card number to LAN over email, an unsecure practice that I normally avoid.

I'm also more than a bit upset that they wouldn't waive the fees for changing flight plans from Cairo to Marrakesh. Technically they're within their rights, as the OneWorld Explorer ticket only allows us to freely change our dates [2], not our destinations. Nevertheless, I had hoped that they'd take the current political situation in Egypt into account and cut us a break, rather than insist on collecting $250. Now I have to see if our travel insurance will cover the costs.

Hidden within LAN's award-worthy lack of performance, however, is a travel lesson for long-term voyagers: put some slack into your budget to account for ticket changes. However well you may plan, the world is almost certain to throw a few obstacles into your path once you've set off. We've been lucky: so far, our problems have been relatively minor, and we gave ourselves more than a little wiggle room when we started out, so we can absorb this cost without having to cut much back.

[1] I would link, but I can't recall if she liked her blog to be publicized.

[2] Within certain restrictions, of course.

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Y'know, I rather think you were the Designated Hero of the Week once. I'll have a look next time I boot up the Geriatric Machine with the LJ archive on it (damn thing is non-searchable otherwise).

Otherwise, perhaps you should be an upcoming one for reminding me to restart it - it seems the last two DHWs were in 2007, and even then I commented that it had become an irregular thing.

I was always worried that something like a Failed Hero of the week would be oversubscribed :)

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