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So before I get into my story, let me just first say that I understand that traveling during the current COVID-19 pandemic is somewhat of a hot topic and that many people have strong opinions on travel during the pandemic or even the pandemic itself. I am a believer that COVID-19 is a real thing and that you can take steps such as mask-wearing and social distancing in order to contain its spread.

I believe that travel can be done responsibly, but that you should be careful about it and think twice about your trip. As I have already mentioned, our family of 8 took a driving / Airbnb trip to Upper Michigan last month. I felt that we were no more in danger nor contributing to the spread of COVID on that trip then I would have had we been here in Ohio. Some commenters disagreed.

I urge you that if you do travel, please do so responsibly and take care to wear a mask (not a chin strap!) while in the airport and on the airplane. Do not be one of “those” people who gets kicked off your flight and/or banned from the airline

Our trip to Portland

Anyways…with all that being said, my son and I have a trip planned to Portland Oregon. As many of you know, my family and I are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and many members of the church choose to serve 2-year missions for the church. My son recently applied to serve a mission and was called to serve in the Oregon Portland Mission.

For a while, we were not quite sure if a mission would be in the cards, or what that might look like. The Church is being very conservative with the health of the missionaries, and what they are or are not allowed to do. In addition, many missionaries from the US who were called to foreign missions were brought home back in March / April and reassigned domestically.

For example, the two missionaries that are currently serving in our area of Cincinnati were originally called to and serving in Cameroon and Jamaica. Different missions are in different “phases” of reopening, with different restrictions. The missionaries here in Ohio, for example, are now allowed to visit people as long as masks are worn and 6 feet of distance is upheld.

The Missionary Training Center in Utah, where my son would normally attend for 3 weeks before going to Oregon, is closed indefinitely, and all training is being done virtually. The Church Travel department would provide us a ticket to Oregon, but I am planning on traveling out to Oregon with him so would prefer to book the two tickets myself and be reimbursed.

The initial schedule

Originally, I booked us on a Southwest flight that left Cincinnati on a Tuesday afternoon, arriving in Portland around 11 p.m. PDT with a connection in Denver. He is supposed to report to the Portland mission office on Wednesday, so I figured that gave us plenty of time.

a screenshot of a flight schedule

Itinerary changed

A few weeks later, I got an email that my schedule had been changed. Now, instead of connecting in Denver, we would be connecting in Chicago Midway. And instead of arriving super late, we would get there Tuesday by noon. That would give us most of the day on Tuesday to acclimate and hang out together before he reported on Wednesday.

a close-up of a ticket

All in all, an ideal schedule change.

But then…. the time-traveling?

But then the other day, I was in the process of converting our Southwest travel funds to points. And I noticed that my itinerary looked weird. Instead of it saying “Trip to Portland”, it said “Trip to Chicago”. And when I clicked through, it gave me the following schedule

a screenshot of a flight schedule

Ummmm….that’s going to be tricky to make. Now instead of a normal one-way from CVG-MDW-PHX, it appears that Southwest has converted it into an open jaw originating and returning to Chicago. All fine and good except a) there is no way to get from Portland to Cincinnati in 4 hours and b) I don’t live in Chicago ;-). Or maybe I should leave Cincinnati at 4:25 p.m., time travel, and arrive in Portland at noon?

It appears that Southwest has eliminated all but that 4:25 flight from Cincinnati to Chicago. Whereas back in the “good old” days, Southwest operated 5 or 6 daily flights between Cincinnati and Chicago, now there is only one. I mean, I totally get it – air travel has been decimated and airlines are kind of making up schedules as they go.

What concerns me most is that, as far as I can tell, I was given no notice of this change whatsoever. Not to mention the fact that this itinerary is literally impossible. I’m travel-savvy enough that I will figure this out, but what about Joe Random Traveler? He shows up to the Cincinnati airport at 8 a.m. only to be told that his flight does not exist?!?

Now what?

Well, checking for flights to Cincinnati and Portland on Southwest gives an error message.

a screenshot of a message

It does look possible to stitch together some 2 or 3 stop itineraries from Cincinnati to Portland, but I don’t know if they would be valid itineraries. I plan on calling Southwest a little later in the day to see what they say but I can’t imagine they will be able to help. Thankfully, Southwest has a great cancellation policy (and then I can convert the travel funds back to points!).

Southwest was really our preferred airline in this case because a) they are blocking middle seats and b) they have 2 free checked bags. I’ve also looked into Frontier which has a flight (and I’m an elite member so get free seats and checked bags).

Have you ever had an itinerary changed on you like this? Share your experience in the comments

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