Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Everyone Gets a Window Seat?

One of the minor adventures in planning our future California trip has been the projected flight over The Grand Canyon.

Yes, I know, The Grand Canyon is not quite in California, but if you have a small enough map it doesn't seem that much of a detour & a pity to miss while you are so near.
Anyway, many people, including unknowns on travel forums & even actual friends, have unanimously (& that's rare) recommended seeing The GC from a helicopter.

Digging around, I found that:
There are several organisations running various helicopter flights (see below).
25 minute flights are expensive & longer flights are very expensive.
There are several organisations (including some of the above) running light aircraft flights.
You seem to get about 50 minutes, starting from the same airport, travel further (good) but a bit higher (bad?).
They are cheaper than helicopter flights (reasonable as helicopters are notoriously expensive to run).
They mainly seem to use twin-engined planes with 3-abreast or 4-abreast seating, so visibility (the whole point!!) may not be very good for some in the middle or for anybody looking/photographing through the propellers.
Air Grand Canyon offers 50-60 minute flights in single-engined planes where "Everyone Gets a Window Seat!" & they are cheaper than anybody else.
Too good to be true?

After some hesitation, partly because, with all the power of Google, I could not find a single forum report of anybody actually using Air Grand Canyon, & partly because their site seems to describe 3 different flight paths but then the booking form doesn't use any of those 3 flight path names, I eventually decided to go for it, & booked for the time & date we wanted – no problem.
Our credit-card account was soon debited with the right amount, but I did not receive the expected & promised Reservation Confirmation.
I e-mailed them on one of the 3 addresses on their site, but the mail was bounced back with:
"I'm sorry to have to inform you that your message could not be delivered to one or more recipients. The mail system : host mx.papillon.com[] said: 550 Requested action was not taken because this server doesn't handle mail for that user"
The other 2 addresses gave the same result.
They all still do.

I tried the phone number on the site, but it rang for 3 minutes with no answer.
Ten times in succession over a couple of days…
I cannot find any other phone number (except a 1-800 one) or any postal address (except a PO box) for AGC.
I did find a related news article about embezzlement:
Eventually, I contacted the Arizona Department of Transportation - Airport authority, who were extremely helpful & confirmed that AGC is really a bona-fide company & is really operating from the expected airport.

They suggested my connection problems might be due to 3ft of snow at the airport, but I respectfully doubt that.
Surprisingly for me, but apparently not for them, they said that reservations are being handled by Grand Canyon Airlines, one of the above competitors.
I contacted GCA about my lack of confirmation from AGC & got a rapid reply with confirmation!
The rapid & friendly reply was under the header "Papillon Airways Inc." – another of the above "competitors" and included the line "Thank you for choosing Grand Canyon Scenic Airlines" – yet another "competitor"…
Encouraged by that success, I asked which airline I would be flying with & for confirmation that the flight would be in a single-engined plane where "Everyone gets a window seat".
That seemed to be taking things too far & replies ceased…

So I am anything but confident in what I have booked & paid for!
The confirmation mail does say "Most tours can be changed or cancelled without penalty" & I am quite tempted, but on the other hand, having struggled so far, I really want to see what's at the end.
Watch this space…


Parting thot: "If you keep thinking about what you want to do or what you hope will happen, you don't do it, and it won't happen." - Erasmus

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