Stuck in Chiang Mai is not the way our 20-year-old daughter, Piper, expected her study abroad experience to end.
She left in May with 20 other LSU students to experience LSU’s global leadership program, which was a huge success. The problem started last week on the day Piper was supposed to return to Bangkok for her trip home. Although she felt fine, she and another student tested positive for COVID. Fortunately, Ozzie Crocco, assistant professor of Leadership and Human Resource Development at LSU, has come forward to help in ways we didn’t even know we needed.
He helped both students settle into a new hotel for their quarantine and brought them their favorite treats, snacks, medicines and more. She spoke to her parents and helped overcome the drama and trauma of the situation. We are grateful for her going beyond her duties as a professor.
On the other hand, the airlines didn’t help at all. Although the requirements for COVID testing were dropped on Friday, the unexpected $ 975 expense of changing Piper’s return home ticket makes the ticket process even more complicated. At this point, we’re still not entirely sure when he will return home, based on a number of international factors.
Bringing our daughter home from Thailand was made more complicated by a decision I made as a parent. Over the years we have traveled extensively as a family. It was a priority. I handled all the logistics. I decided that, since she was 20, and she was a mature and responsible girl, I would give her the money and let her organize the trip for the study abroad experience based on the itinerary provided by the university.
He used a third-party online travel service to book his ticket. Big mistake. First, the class of the ticket booked made everything much more difficult. Second, the online service is not there to help in any way. Third, the airlines helped, but getting their help proved more difficult and ultimately more expensive due to the initial purchase through third parties.
Bottom line: We will never book air travel through a third party online travel service again. I spoke to two Baton Rouge travel consultants, Cheree Scardina and Sierra Lytle, of House of Travel, to learn more about how to avoid similar problems in the future.
“If they are going away from home, we will recommend travel protection,” Scardina said. “A minimum policy is usually only $ 25 to $ 40 per person and covers up to $ 25,000 for medical expenses.”
Lytle said she has encountered as many cases of people with as many problems as we have this week in an effort to do the best thing to get our daughter home.
“Some of the airlines have been more flexible and easier to work with,” Lytle said.
Lytle explained that the “basic budget” ticket (which is what my daughter bought) “is the lowest entry-level fare and offers no flexibility.”
According to Lytle, main cabin or economy tickets are named differently between airlines and mean that changes can be made and credit will be given for the entire flight.
“So, you lose nothing of your investment,” Scardina said. “You can’t get a refund, but you can use the investment. Since COVID, they have given more credits to expire. “
Scardina explained that before COVID there was no flexible change.
“You always had to pay a $ 200 exchange fee,” he said. “Now they have different classes. If you buy the basic economic ticket, no changes are allowed. We recommend that you obtain a main cabin ticket to allow for the flexibility to allow for the change. Typically, the price difference is less than $ 100 “.
With the latest lifting of the COVID travel restrictions, who knows what will happen to the increased flexibility, but this is what I know: next time I give one of my children the money to buy a ticket to travel abroad, I will recommend working with a local travel agent or directly with the airlines to purchase the ticket.
“We like to tell our customers that when they call us, we are here for them. Nothing is worse than being in a foreign country and not being able to help guide you through the steps and work with airlines as needed, “Scardina said.” Just a couple of days ago, I got a message at 3am. morning that someone’s train was late: this is the advantage of working with someone locally. “
Lytle added that when everything is on time and working great, third-party and online tickets seem fine.
“But when problems do arise, a travel consultant comes in handy,” he said.
Despite the global nature of our daughter’s program, travel and hardship, having a local contact to help with the logistics, drama and trauma would have been a win.