My Alaska Anxiety Undoing

Our travel documents for Alaska arrived less than a week before we leave. To my horror, I discover that they call for three flights on Northwest Airlines: JFK to Detroit, Detroit to Minneapolis and Minneapolis to Fairbanks. Having to make two connections is bad enough, but the one in Detroit stuns me. The flight from JFK is scheduled to land at 2:40 p.m. and the flight to Minneapolis departs at 3:10 p.m. 30 minutes later!

“This is nuts,” I say to Mary Ann. Frantic calls to Northwest, and the travel agent fail to solve this potential mess. There are no discounted seats left on direct flights to Minneapolis.

When I share my dilemma with a friend, Frank D’Ambrosio, Frank replies, “I agree, you’re in a fix. So how can you be proactive?”

I look at him strangely, but he continues, “Why don’t you FedEx your bags directly to the hotel in Fairbanks. I’ve done that with my golf clubs on a trip to Hawaii and Suzanne and I send things to our realtor in Sanibel, Florida to be delivered to our house there.”

I check with the Westmark Fairbanks Hotel who sees no problem with this plan. FedEx estimates the cost per bag at $100 for two-day delivery if they each weigh-in at 40 pounds or less. Monday, May 30 is Memorial Day but the agent that I speak to at FedEx confirms that they deliver on that day.

I convince Mary Ann to a three-part baggage strategy to help me cope with my anxiety over these connections. We will send two bags via FedEx containing clothes and items we will need on arrival, pack a large bag with the things we won’t need until we board the RYNDAM and take a small carry-on that contains items we will need should we miss our connections. Mary Ann drops off the two bags a day early on Wednesday, May 25 at Kinko’s in Glen Cove. Of course, it’s not as easy as I hoped. She tells me, “It took me 45 minutes. They did not want to ship the bags because of the straps and they didn’t have a box big enough for them. They had to construct a large box out of two. Another thing, since I dropped them off today, they will arrive Friday afternoon.”

At least the cost was in the ballpark. Shipping the two bags cost $201.64.

Ah, but so much for being proactive. On Friday night I track the bags on FedEx’s web site that confirms the bags have been delivered. I call the hotel to double check delivery but I am told that only one bag arrived. Curious, I call FedEx’s 800 number. When I give the agent my tracking numbers, she tells me there is a problem. It turns out that one of the boxes has been sent to Anchorage. The agent says it won’t be delivered until Tuesday as they are off on Monday. “No, no!” I say, “Your agent told me that you are delivering in Fairbanks on Monday.”

“Well I’m in Pittsburgh and we are closed on Monday. Hold on, I’ll call Anchorage.”

The agent in Anchorage admits that they received the box, but they have already forwarded it to Fairbanks. “We’re closed on Monday and so is Fairbanks. You can’t get it until Tuesday.”

This really pisses me off and I tell him: “This is unacceptable, first, it should be in Fairbanks, today, and, second, I was told it could be delivered on Monday.”

He replies, “I can hang up on you.”

“No you won’t,” I reply, my voice fixed and stern. “I have not used foul language or threatened you in any way. I am justified to be upset and I am not being unreasonable. Your job is to solve this problem. Like it or not, you are FedEx’s representative. Now what are you going to help me?”

His lame reply is, “You’ll have to call Fairbanks.”

“Fine, that’s great, what’s their number?”

He hesitates, has a side conversation, then returns to the line, “I can’t give you that number, you have to call the 800 number.”

“Great, what’s your name?”

“Ron.”

“Ron what?”

“Ron Fales,” (pronounced Fails.)          

I call FedEx and am transferred to Deanna, the tracker assigned to my claim. She conferences in their Fairbanks office and things just get worse. The Fairbanks agent, Brittany, advises that the box will not arrive at their facility until after we leave for our next stop, Denali National Park. Brittany’s bad news continues, “FedEx does not ship to Denali. We use a local courier service and I don’t know how long it will take them to get it there.”

As I’m absorbing these blows, I notice that the Holland American Lines’ (HAL) itinerary only shows a post office box for McKinley Chalets, not a street address. As FedEx does not deliver to a P.O. Box, I ask Mary Ann to call the hotel on our other line to obtain a street address. She obtains one that reads, “Mile Post 239.8, Denali Park 99755.

Since Brittany can offer no joy, I say to Deanna, “I must really speak to a supervisor.”

 Finally, she puts me through to a supervisor in Memphis, Doris Copper. Ms Copper cuts through some of the complications and determines that she will guide the process to have the bag delivered to McKinley Chalets in Denali National Park on Tuesday afternoon.

She promises to personally supervise this on Tuesday and we exchange phone numbers. By this time, I have no options left so I agree that this is an acceptable solution. I don’t tell her about Ron Fales, I’ll leave that for later. God only knows if this will work.

Of course, the big outstanding question is, whose bag is at the hotel in Fairbanks?

 We sent two almost identical bags one filled with Mary Ann’s gear and one with mine. The only difference is mine is blue and hers is red. Normally, the hotel puts the FedEx box in their luggage room unopened. Mary Ann calls and explains our dilemma, “The only way we can know what we have to bring is if you open the box and tell me what the color of the bag is.”

At first the agent says that she cannot do this, but Mary Ann tells her, “Have another employee talk to me and I will confirm my instructions to him or her.”

The agent agrees. We wait a couple of minutes before she returns to the telephone. “It’s red.” Thank God, I lose! Mary Ann’s bag made it and I ducked that bullet.

 My only recourse is to pack the essentials I will need into the carry-on including toiletries extra socks and underwear. This will get me through until Wednesday. After that, sans the FedEx bag, I will need a credit card to continue.

We reach McKinley Chalets on Tuesday, June 1st and, as if by wizardry, so does my blue bag. FedEx also refunds the $201.64.

Life is good.