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RIP: What Would Have Been Our EPIC Trip To Peru

For those of you who follow, especially on Instagram, you know that we've been planning this epic trip to Peru and Machu Picchu since January. I booked the trip before there was any talk of back surgery, and 12 weeks post-op, I was still anxious about the trip because I still have a lot of pain, and all of that sitting on the planes was giving me major anxiety. But when the day came to leave, I was still excited.

There were storms headed our way-we got an early start out to JFK, and got there in plenty of time. The whole ride to the airport, I was monitoring our flight from my phone for delays-we were still golden. Made it there in record time-check in was a breeze-flight still on time. Get to the gate and decided to go grab a bite to eat. The pizza place we were going to eat at had flight boards right next to it, so once again we decided to check out flight-and saw that it was delayed. Now we were scheduled on a red-eye flight that was supposed to depart at 11:55PM-and the delay on the board was reading 12:30PM-as in 12 and a half hours from now. It has to be a typo, right? LOL at that thought.

We went right back to the gate, where we were informed that yes, our flight was delayed for over twelve and a half hours due to aircraft maintenance issues. At this point, we went into survival mode. We started working with the gate agents on figuring out what our options were. We had a 9:45AM connection from Lima to Cusco, and if our flight wasn't leaving NY until 12:30PM-obviously that was an issue. We wouldn't be arriving into Lima until 7:30PM-with no connecting flight available until Saturday morning. So besides missing our flight, we would also be missing the train for Machu Picchu Saturday morning-and therefor half of our trip (and the main reason for going). 

Now when we saw the delay, we called the after-hours number for our travel agency right away. We were the first ones in fact to notify them of the issue. After that, we spent hours upon hours trying to call them back, not getting an answer until about 2am when we were finally in the car on our way home from the airport. We were told then that they were trying to rebook the train to Machu Picchu for us, but that the train ticketing center was closed, and so we wouldn't have an answer until 8am the next morning. 

Now-as I pointed out-they couldn't begin to make alternate travel arrangements until 8am. If the flight was leaving at 12:30pm (as it ultimately did), we would have had to be back at the airport no later than 10:30am. Even if they managed to call all 55 people by-say 9am with the new arrangements-there's no way in hell for us to make it to the airport on time.

We took a nap (because at that point, that's all it was) so that we could get up early and see what the hell they were planning on doing with it. We were told that we needed to be patient. The second agent advised us to go to the airport anyway-and so we did.

We didn't even shower-we threw our stuff in the car and hauled ass back to JFK. Now if you haven't had the pleasure of flying in or out of one of the NYC airports, let me share something with you: IT'S A FUCKING NIGHTMARE. The traffic-no matter the time, day or night, is horrific. There's constant construction. And sometimes, once you make it onto airport property, there's a chance you can sit there just trying to make your way to the terminal. An absolute nightmare.

So we flew back there, and of course hit massive traffic. By the time we got inside, they had already closed the luggage check for our flight (though the flight hadn't departed). So after royally fucking us with a 13 hour delay, you can't make an exception and check our luggage for us and let us on the flight. Unbelievable. We could have made it through security and to the gate in time too, which is the sad part. They had a chance to redeem themselves and made absolutely no effort. No "Let me check with a supervisor", no picking up the phone to see if anything could be done- we were just told NO and that was that. No supervisor to even argue with.

Now, in the morning before the travel agency opened, we had called the insurance company that we had travel insurance through. They wanted a letter with very specific language stating that it was due to a mechanical failure of the aircraft. We were given a letter at the airport before leaving the first time without this wording. Would you believe that nobody from the airline would type us up a new letter? There were multiple ticket counter agents sitting there doing ABSOLUTELY NOTHING while waiting the several hours for the next flight. Conveniently, no supervisor was available. Calling them on the phone didn't help-we were told to fill out a form and wait for a response (which takes 30 days). We only have 30 days to file the claim, which obviously wasn't going to work.

So we now have to file a claim with insufficient paperwork, and then fight for it to go through.  I would just like to take a moment to say FUCK EVERY SINGLE EMPLOYEE WE ENCOUNTERED AT LAN CHILE with the exception of the awesome woman who found our lost luggage for us, and the ticketing agent who went above and beyond and tried every trick in the book to get us there on time. Beyond that, we encountered nothing but utter incompetence, complete disorganization, and total lack of responsibility. Your airline is a joke. We got different stories from different employees throughout the two days. Ironically, while waiting for our luggage, we started talking to a man who works for the hotel that the airline was booking passengers into, and we found out more about the situation from him than from all of the LAN employees together (ie. the flight was downed for maintenance issues the day before, and they knew about this all day long yet allowed all 300+ people to make the trek to the airport anyway).

Now let me be clear on one more thing-while 90% of this is the airline's fault, I still fault the lack of communication for the rest to Gate 1 Travel. We called for HOURS trying to get in touch with them overnight to see what they recommended for us to do. In the morning, after speaking to them, I was promised a call back when they came up with a solution. It's now 5pm-and I never heard anything back from them. The only way that I knew that they were indeed able to reschedule Machu Picchu was because they called the people who I was traveling with (but not me). Had I been traveling solo, I'd still be sitting at home with a finger up my ass. 

Janine from travel run live was able to sum up this massive mess-and even included a handy dandy time line:

My husband Brian and I ended up in a situation where we had to cancel our Gate 1 Travel escorted tour to Cuzco/Machu Picchu due to mis communications from Gate 1, massive flight delays from Lan Chile caused by mechanical repair and maintenance being done to the aircraft on 8/19 - 8/21, and the fact that the replacement flight would make us miss 50% of our paid tours.

Our Itinerary is attached but was scheduled to be

Thursday at 11:55 PM - Fly to Cuzco via connection flight in Lima, Peru
Friday Morning - Arrive in Cuzco and transfer to Urabamba. Full day there with Market tour and Dinner
Saturday - Train 7am to Machu Picchu - full day there
Sunday - Full day Cuzco
Monday - Half Day Cuzco, return home

Upon arriving at the airport and walking to the departure gate at around 8-8:30PM on 8/20/15, we discovered the flight status had changed from On Timeto delayed. The flight was delayed from 11:55pm on Thursday 8/20 to the next day at 12:30pm. We (Myself, my husband Brian, and our travel companion Larissa Cruz) immediately approached the Lan Chile counter at the gate and asked about the delay and how this would affect our connection flight, which was supposed to depart from Lima at 9:40am Friday morning; which now we would obviously be missing. We were told to wait for 40 minutes to an hour for the manager to arrive and explain the situation.

During this time, we did as instructed in the Gate 1 travel itinerary packet and contacted the emergency phone number listed (as it was also after regular business hours at this time) Larissa spoke to an overseas off hours Gate 1 representative explaining the probable situation while I checked the flight details for our secondary flight to Cuzco, realizing that the delay would cause us to miss any flight to Cuzco on Friday and therefore we would have to fly in from Lima on Saturday morning.

We asked the Gate 1 representative what time we were scheduled to depart from Urabamba to Machu Picchu via train - to which he replied our tickets were for 7am and then told us he would work on itand get back to us shortly. Based on the tone of the conversation, we had the impression we would be missing the Machu Picchu tour on Saturday since the earliest flight didnt get us to Cuzco until 6:45am, which after getting our bags from bag check, driving an hour to Urabamba, checking into the hotel, and then driving to the train station would make us miss the last scheduled train of the day with almost absolute certainty.

Around this time the Lan Chile manager arrived and confirmed for us that there was no way we would arrive in Cuzco before 6:45am. This confirms we would miss both Friday and Saturdays tours, leaving only Sunday and the Half day Monday remaining for the trip. It would have also made our commute time 18 and a half hours to get there after the time we had already wasted in the airport while awaiting information, which was more time taken away from the trip.

As soon as we received this confirmation of flight times from Lan Chile, I called Gate 1 back but no one answered. I tried 2-3 more times before finally leaving a message with the relevant information telling them to get back to us as soon as possible. When another hour went by and we still hadnt heard anything from Gate 1 on guidance, we decided to call it a night.

Lana Chile had made an announcement to go back to the ticketing desk for a delay letter for our insurance (for any transportation/lodging costs the delay may have caused) and while there I found out from an employee associated with the situation that the aircraft we were supposed to take had been grounded since the day before (Wednesday) and that the mechanical issue may not even be resolved for the 12:30 departure, so we started our commute home with the intention of canceling due to missing Machu Picchu and 50% of the trip.

Around 2AM on the way home from the airport (there was hours of traffic on the way home) we finally received a call back from Gate 1, still saying they were going to work on it but they had already paid for the train tickets for 7AM and werent sure they could get a later time. Feeling that a later time still wouldnt work given the time constraints, we again expressed our thoughts on canceling with Gate 1 to which they replied that the ticket counter doesnt open until 8am and they would call us in the morning.

9AM Friday Morning - 8/21/15. Both myself and Larissa hadnt heard a word from Gate 1. I called them via the regular customer service number where I got a manager who told me they still werent able to rearrange anything.

10:30AM. We still hadnt heard back anything. We decided to go back the airport anyway as a last ditch effort just in case this trip had any way at all of being salvaged.

At this time, the original itinerary was still applicable, and we would still be missing Machu Picchu for lack of hearing anything to the contrary. It seemed Gate 1 would not be able to satisfy the itinerary provided to us, nor the cost we paid for this trip and service.

10:50 AM - Gate 1 calls me and tells me they were able to change the Machu Picchu tour to Sunday. This is the first time this option was ever mentioned to us, and way too late in my opinion as the boarding time was in 40 minutes.

11:30 AM - We arrive at the airport, an hour before our flight was set to depart (12:30). Lan Chile tells us the cabin is closed and had been for an hour; and there is no way for us to board the flight.

We call Gate 1 and are forced to cancel the trip, as we now had no way of getting to Urubumba until Sunday, and being we were scheduled to return home Monday afternoon this would not be a logical or sensible choice.

When processing the claim, please take the above into account and the original itinerary and you will see the only reasonable thing for us to do was cancel this trip.

Based on the original itinerary we were missing:

1.    All of Friday - Including Pisa Market tour in Urabamba and welcome dinner
2.    All of Saturdays tour - Machu Picchu Scenic train ride and the tour of the Inca Ruins

This would only leave a city tour on Sunday, 1 dinner, and a half a day Monday. In conclusion, we would have missed more of the itinerary than we would have seen, due to Mechanical issues from the plane and the lack of timeliness and communication in fixing the itinerary from Gate 1. 

So there go my hopes and dreams of seeing Machu Picchu, shooting the Milky Way from the mountain tops, and taking selfies with alpacas. All because LAN Airlines can't get their shit together. See my itienerary in my previous post to see all of the amazing stuff that we were supposed to do. Now that I'm home and typing this out, it's all starting to hit me. I'm completely devestated. I'm off to take a shower and a nap. Sorry to disappoint with the lack of crazy stories (besides this one) and all of the amazing pictures that could have been but now won't.


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