Sunday, January 18, 2015

Passport Validity is No Joke but Amazing Service Can Make All The Difference

As a travel advisor, it is my job to travel the world and learn about the places we recommend.  First hand experience is everything in our business, however, sometimes, the familiarization trips we take teach us what to do and what NOT to do as well.  Therefore, I am writing this blog a bit humbled and hoping to save others from what could have been, the trip that didn't take off.

Anyone who knows me, knows I am a meticulous travel advisor.  Details are my life, but somehow, when it comes to my own personal travel, I just don't always pay attention.  So, when I planned our girls trip to Barcelona, Spain, I made sure that everyone's information was in order.......except of course my own daughter, Courtney.  It wasn't until the night before we left that we discovered that her passport was going to expire in 2 months. Spain requires that your passport must be valid at least 3 months past the departure date.  I called my office in a panic and on the advice of my colleague, Nancy Borzino, I printed the passport renewal applications and had it signed and notarized by Courtney's father, on the way to the airport.....just in case.  

Hoping and praying that they would not notice or make an exception, and with no other options, we went to the airport and tried to check-in.  The American Airlines ticket agent, Judith Riso, was incredibly sympathetic but advised me that Courtney was NOT going to Spain.   We begged, pleaded and even cried a little but Judith explained, in the nicest way possible, that they could be fined if she let us board the plane.  Judith suggested that we go immediately to the US passport office in NYC, about an hour from JFK airport and see if they could issue a new passport on the spot.  She said she would work on getting us moved to a later flight while we were gone.

It was 1215pm and the passport office closed at 3pm, but we had to try.  There were five of us traveling, so the three girls who had valid passports waited with Judith at the airport, while Courtney and I took our journey into the city.  The stress level was at an all time high but we were lucky, and they were able to give us an appointment to reissue the passport that same day.  

As Courtney and I waited for the passport to be issued, Judith worked diligently to get our flight for later that evening confirmed and kept our friends apprised of the situation.  She called us on our cell phone and calmed us down when we were ready to break but by 4pm, we were back in a taxi, on our way back to JFK with a brand new passport and an 8:30pm flight to Barcelona.  

Judith stayed at the counter well after her shift to make sure our tickets were reissued correctly and we were on our way and we thanked her profusely and hugged her as we headed for security.

This was BY FAR the most stressful time I have ever had with a trip and this could have been completely avoided had I done what I tell ALL my client to do......check your passport when you make the initial plans for your trip and MAKE SURE there is 6 months validity.

I guess with all my travels, I have become a bit complacent with my own travel, however, thank goodness for a great travel advisor's advice and the absolutely amazing women at American Airlines our trip was saved.

The trip has been great and this first hand experience of "what NOT to do" will stick with me forever.  I'm just glad that this information was learned by my own experience and not one of my clients.  Thanks Nancy and Judith for being amazing at your jobs and truly making a difference.......you are both truly wonderful.