Sometimes, no matter how prepared you think you are, your plans are just destined to go wrong.
Traveling to Indonesia was one of those days for us. After debating back and forth about how much time we should give ourselves at the airport before our flight departed, we decided on 2 hours before take-off since PDX is a fast airport (and oh did we need every second of it).
First off, let me just say that when departing on a long journey, taking as late of a flight from home (7pm) as we did can be a blessing. Alli and I spent the entire day double and triple checking our carry-on backpacks, eating copious amounts of delicious Portland food, and laughing the hours away with some of our closest friends from high school and college. It was bliss… until we reached the check-in counter at the airport.
Our Flight Fiasco: A Story of Staying Positive
I could tell something was wrong from the second the woman behind the counter took our passports and itinerary and typed in our names. Her fingers were tapping the counter, eyes were searching, brow was furrowed, and it was clear our tickets were nowhere to be found. We crossed our fingers and smiled hoping our names would pop up and tickets would print off… but instead, we were given the dreaded news: “I’m so sorry, you’re not in our system.” In other words, we didn’t have seats on the plane even though they were listed on our itinerary and would have to pay $780 to get on the flight.
After figuring out what “you’re not in our system” really meant Alli asked “what would you do if you were in our shoes?” to which the woman responded, “If I were you I would call your booking company and see if there’s anything they can do because we have no record of you in the system tonight, or ever in the future. Normally I could switch your flights and put you on this one instantaneously, but since I have no record of you there’s nothing I can do.”
Queue slight panic mode (but staying positive!). Alli called Vayama (our third party booking agency) and spent 30 minutes on hold before getting ahold of someone. She suggested I call too just in case I got to someone faster (I’m glad I did as this was our saving grace). Alli finally got a hold of someone, gave them our booking reference and our e-ticket number and was told “Virgin Airlines canceled your first flight two hours ago, they canceled the flight so there’s nothing we can do. You’ll need to talk to Virgin America and they will help you out, I can’t do anything”.
One problem: the flight wasn’t canceled like the man from Vayama told us. People were checking in for the flight we were supposed to be on left and right and it most certainly hadn’t been canceled… which Alli told the man on the phone to which he would only respond “I can do nothing. Talk to Virgin America and they will sort you out”. He said this on repeat and it’s all he would say (you get what you pay for with cheap 3rd parties I guess).
So, with a smile on her face, Alli went up to the counter again and explained what the phone call had consisted of. The woman behind the counter was very kind and said that this is what third-party booking sites always do. As Alli was trying to sort this out with the woman, I finally got ahold of someone at Vayama (thankfully I was still on the line trying to sort it out with someone more helpful than the fellow Alli spoke to). If you have the time, I suggest trying another customer service representative if the first (or sometimes even second) person you talk to seems incompetent or gives you a bogus answer.
This second Vayama rep said our flight had been canceled from PDX (Portland) to SFO (San Francisco). Again, not true. After some more convincing and digging, he finally suggested calling Singapore Airlines (the company the remainder of our flights were booked through), so I did.
Let me just say, I now love Singapore Airlines. The woman I spoke with was incredibly helpful and even suggested that I put her on the phone with the Virgin America rep behind the check-in counter. She waited on the line while I anxiously stood there waiting to get up to the counter again. When I reached the front, I explained the situation and handed the phone over. After some back and forth deliberation, the problem was discovered.
Apparently, we had been booked on the 6AM flight, not the 6PM flight that our itinerary clearly stated (though we were never sent an updated itinerary). Thus, when the woman originally tried to pull up our seats she couldn’t find us on that flight or anything in the future. At this point, we had about 20 minutes before the gates would close and we’d miss our flight (we were still not through security mind you).
The woman from Virgin America told me that we would be cutting it close, but that she would do everything she could to get us on our flight. Suddenly we had two ladies running back and forth trying to get us seats on the plane (going well beyond what was required of them), calling their own customer service agents, and printing our boarding passes. With ten minutes to spare we were handed our tickets and sprinted to security (thankfully there was no line and we made it right through). Two minutes before the gate closed, our tickets were scanned, we boarded the plane, and gave each other a triumphant high five.
36 hours of travel later we landed in Bali, Indonesia with smiles on our faces ready to find a taxi to our hostel 🙂
Morals (yes there are multiple) of the story:
It’s amazing what positive thinking, and not resorting to thinking about the worst possible outcome, can get you (in this case making our flight with two minutes to spare).
Be kind and smile
People are SO MUCH more willing to help you if you are kind to them. Why on Earth would they want to help someone who is frustrated, stressed, and not being friendly and kind towards them? They usually won’t. So, kill them with kindness and they’ll usually go out of their way to help you (plus you’ll feel better with a smile on your face). In this case, the women from Virgin America went out of their way for us and we actually made our flight!
“What would you do if you were in my/our shoes” or “what would you do if you were me/us right now”? This works not only for flights but many other things. Asking what they would do if they were you means that they remove themselves from their “work brain” and really think “what would I do?”.
Work as a team!
Had we not put our heads together and called the right people (trying multiples times), we would never have made it on that plane.
Travel can be stressful at times, especially with time-sensitive things like plane tickets but staying positive and exploring all possible avenues will often get you a better result and even if it doesn’t it will at least make you feel better for trying to solve the issue!
Have you had any troubles with flying? Share them in the comments. We’ve just started our year long journey, but I’m sure we’ll have more of these stories to tell down the road.
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