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Night 1 - Back Home in Utah in Our Own Bed Again! - February 26, 2013

You read it correctly.  We have returned to our home, having completed our journey today.  I cannot believe how fast our 40 days and nights went by!  We are both exhausted, but I wanted to give you all an update before I crash into my pillow.  With our good neighbor, Bob, driving us in his car, we arrived at the Salt Lake City airport promptly at 10AM, exactly 3 hours ahead of our 1PM departure time.  It took a few minutes to show passports and visas and get our boarding passes.  The United Airlines agent was very friendly and helpful, and changed our seats to have a better chance at getting an empty seat for the overnight Sáo Paulo flight.  All good.  About a 20 minute wait to go through TSA and millimeter-wave "naked scanning." Because we had small metal buttons and snaps in our clothing, both of us got some extra groping at the checkpoint.  Both pockets of my cargo pants, and the lower part of K's blouse.  Could have been worse.  K had left an elastic pony-tail tie in one pocket, and that was detected by the machine and inspected by the agent.  No questions on our liquids, pills, or powders, and K even was thanked for having the powders out of the luggage and ready for inspection.  I called Bob and let him know we were through.  He was a bit preoccupied, having decided to go to the Salt Lake Apple Store and get himself an iPad.  12 hours later, and he is fully addicted now.  Bob - the newest member of the Apple cult family!

We had plenty of time, so we made the long walk from the B concourse to the entrance to the E concourse and arrived at Vino Volo.  There we tried several flights of decent wine along with some cheeses, nuts and fruits.  Very delicious, and amazing to be served wine in Salt Lake City before noon - it's illegal everywhere but at the airport.

After about an hour and a half we headed over to our gate, a long walk back to the B concourse.  We had plenty of time, and arrived and found seating nearby.  About 15 minutes before boarding time, the airline announced a 15 minute delay due to bad winter weather in Chicago.  15 minutes later the delay was incremented by 45 more minutes, making an hour total.  We had 4.5 hours to make our connection to Sáo Paulo, so no worries.  Then the delay became a total of 2 hours.  Then 3 hours.  At 4PM we boarded the plane, and at 4:15 we left the gate and started across the ramp towards the taxiway.  About 30 seconds later the pilot shut down the engines and we were parked less than 200 yards away from the gate.  The pilot informed us that he had been ordered to hold another 30 minutes.  We still had hope, as the total delay would leave us an hour to make our connection - easily achieved since we had no checked baggage.

After 30 minutes more, the pilot announced that the delay would now be an ADDITIONAL 4 hours and 15 minutes.  He assured us that all other flights leaving Chicago would also be delayed, but the internet told us our Sáo Paulo flight was at the gate already and would depart on time. (Ultimately it did depart and arrived in Sáo Paulo only 1 hour late.)  Then another 15 minutes delay until we could go BACK to our gate.  We managed to be first in line to be assisted for re-booking.  The agent was very helpful, and after reviewing several choices, we decided the best thing was to return home and try again the next day.  The agent booked us on a Sáo Paulo flight out of Houston (avoiding Chicago) and managed to get us upgraded seats (Economy Plus) and in a row to ourselves on both legs.  With nothing to lose I asked her, "Since we are losing the first day of the trip, can we add an extra day at the end?" Surprisingly she said that this is often done, and proceeded to make that change for us also.  So we may still have 40 days and 40 nights ahead of us!

All this was working out OK, and we were ready to accept it and go home to try again.  We called Bob, but he did not answer, so we called another friend Barbie.  She was happy to send her husband Rick to come to get us at the airport, and it was good because he was just leaving work and was closer to us.  We thanked him by buying him a dinner at In-N-Out Burger in Centerville, and we had a nice meal and drive together - Rick and I both ordered a 3x3.  Upon returning home, we went to change the reservation for our flight from Sáo Paulo to Curitiba, which we had obtained for $115 for both of us.  Their English website was mostly in Portuguese (one or two words in English), and it looked like it was telling us that there is a "no show" penalty of $150 - more than the original tickets.  If we were to cancel the tickets or make any changes, the penalty dropped to $120.  Alternate airfare was about $315, so we looked at making the change.  Shockingly, the change fee of $120 was added to the fare for the new tickets of about $210, making the cost of the change $330 and bringing the total for this 45 minute flight to a whopping $440.  Such a deal!  And just to walk away with nothing would cost $150 more.  And if we miss the new flight, the same rules apply AGAIN!  Talk about a Brazilian wax job on my wallet!!!

We called our friend Gerusa who is from Rio, and she looked at the website and agreed that it could be saying that. And she decided to call the airline directly.  They confirmed that we were correct.  If you get a cheap fare, there is a penalty for EVERYTHING you do or don't do afterwards.  I checked GOL, a different Brazilian airline, and they have the same policy.  I hope this penalty for doing nothing does not become normal in the USA.  So I went back to the website and made the change and tried to pay for it.  Transaction DENIED by my credit card company - fraud alert.  Really annoying, since they had no problem with the first payment to the same vendor a couple of weeks ago.  I called and went round and round with their fraud agent, who instructed me to try the website again.  But the airline had also flagged my record, and would not let me even attempt to pay.  Catch-22.  The website said I must call a number in Brazil.  So I hung up on the less than helpful credit card agent, put on my headsets, and made a VOIP call to Brazil (only costs 2.8 cents per minute that way) using LocalPhone.  The person answered in Portuguese - imagine that. But I was semi-prepared with some handy Portuguese phrases and responded, "Desculpe-me. Náo entendi.  Fala English?" which means, "I am sorry, I do not understand.  Do you speak English?"  The lady responded, "Moment please" to which I responded "Obrigada" which is the correct way to say "Thanks" to a female.  A helpful man came on who spoke English and I explained the problem in detail.  He pulled up the reservation and let me know that the change had been processed and booked, but the payment was still pending.  I gave him my credit card, but it was declined again.  So he told me the best thing would be to pay it at the airport when we arrived, and it would be no problem.  I thanked him and we chatted a bit before disconnecting.  I still think my credit card is blocked, despite repeated assurances from their person that the hold was removed and would not be applied to future purchases.  I guess we will see tomorrow, when we will repeat Day 1 again!

Now, time for me to crash...


  1. OMG! I cannot believe what you have gone through to resolve this issue and get your flight. I would have dissolved in tears and given up by now! You are one tenacious guy!

  2. We took a South America cruise in 2009 starting in Buenos Aires. Some of our group flew to Brazil first and they were telling stories about the difficulties including having to pay for a visa and getting on the flight to Buenos Aires. Hope those visiting Brazil for the upcoming Olympics are ready for all this. Even our travel agent wasn't informed about the Brazilian requirements.