Travel Nightmares Part 2 – Hate

My luggage

In continuation of my Travel Nightmares Part 1 – Love, not everything went so well on my journey from Canada to Panama in December 2016.

While being pampered in Air Canada Premium Rouge class with extra snacks and upgraded food, I advised staff that I was supposed to connect to a flight to Panama but that it had likely already departed. They told me there were a few others on the flight with the same connection and that there was no current update, but we could talk to Air Canada staff after we cleared immigration, about any arrangements that needed to be made.

This is where my luck ran out and everything went downhill fast (or maybe slow would be a better description).

I was the third person off the plane and second person in line to go through immigration when we arrived in Kingston, Jamaica. The officer checked over my passport, asked me a few questions and asked for my boarding passes. When she discovered that my connecting flight had already departed, that’s where the real ‘fun’ began. She asked me where I would be staying. I explained to her that I needed to find an Air Canada rep in order to find that information out. I also told her that I was told there would be someone to speak to after I picked up my luggage (which was after immigration). She would have nothing to do with it. She told me she couldn’t let me pass until I could tell her where I was staying. I tried to explain my case again but no luck. I told her there were others in the same situation and that I thought they had already passed through, but she stood her ground. She kept my passport even though I pleaded to have it back and sent me to the back of the hall to an information desk where ‘apparently’ I could talk to ‘someone’.

The information desk was unattended, but I hollered ‘hello’ and heard an ‘I’ll be there.’ So, I waited. A nice lady come to the front, but unfortunately I wasn’t my normal chipper self, having just had my passport held and denied entry into the country that I wasn’t even supposed to be staying in. She called an Air Canada rep over the intercom no less than five times. Eventually a lady sauntered over (I’m still not sure if she worked for Air Canada or not). I explained the situation, including that I didn’t have any information on my connecting flight as we were just arriving and Air Canada had not given us any information. Further to that, I couldn’t get past immigration to find out if my flight had already departed or find a rep to discuss my situation. The lady was quiet. Not mean or unhelpful, just not very communicative. She made a couple of calls and told me that Air Canada had arranged for all of us to stay at Pegasus hotel for the night, but that we would have to call Aeroplan (because each of us were flying on points redemptions) to rebook our flights. Apparently we could do that after customs and immigration. She told me to bring my passport and come with her, to which I had to re-explain that the immigration officer held my passport and wouldn’t give it back.

Off the two of us went to the desk to get my passport back and sort this out. Except, the immigration officer didn’t just need where I would be staying, she also wanted to know which flight I would be departing on. Now, I understand that to be let into a country they want to know when you are leaving. This is a fairly standard rule. But, my frustrations were ever compounding because Air Canada had not rebooked my flights or provided any information. At that particular moment in time I was stuck in a country being denied entry, but also not able to make any further arrangements. And, I’m not in possession of my own passport. Of course they wanted me to call Air Canada Reservations right then to get flights sorted. Um no. I was not paying roaming charges from Jamaica to call Air Canada and wait on hold to sort this out. There had to be another solution. After all it wasn’t my fault that the weather was bad, the connections were missed and Air Canada left us to fend for ourselves.

The lady who was trying to help me disappeared without a word (would she return? I didn’t know). I connected with two of the other passengers who were just about to try their luck going through immigration. And then the lady came back, asking us all to come to one specific immigration desk. Except, the immigration officer still wouldn’t give me my passport. I waited for her to finish with the next client and saunter her way over to the other desk. One of the other girls who had been on my flight had actually been sent to a holding room without any information or her passport and she was just rejoining us.

In the end, we all made it through immigration somehow and were told to go to counter 41 after we had our luggage. There we would find a phone and could call the Air Canada rep to come out and talk to us about our hotel, transfer and hopefully our new flights.

You may remember in Part 1 I talked about how much luggage there was for all of the Jamaicans heading home from Canada after Christmas. Passengers had too much carry on luggage that was then put into checked luggage, plus, I’m sure more than half the plane had two bags (or boxes) per person. It was a steady flow of luggage coming along the belt, but it went on for an hour or more before they loaded the last piece. The other passengers that had missed their connection had gathered their luggage about 45 minutes into the process and left to see what they could find out about their flights and transfers. I told them I’d catch up as I suspected my luggage didn’t make the connection in Toronto and I would have to file a lost baggage claim.

My luggage
Last seen when I took this photo in Halifax Dec 29th at 3:45am

I waited for the belt to stop and the remaining bags were removed from the belt. Mine was nowhere to be seen, so off to the baggage counter I went. Go figure, it was unstaffed. I asked another staff member if there was an Air Canada rep around and she said ‘Ya, someone was here,’ and then turned her back to continue her conversation with a colleague. A minute later I approached her again and asked, as politely as I could after all of this, ‘Could you please help me find the Air Canada baggage rep?’ She sighed, started asking a few people and slogged off looking to see if she could track someone down.

When I turned around, there were now four or five others lined up at the Air Canada desk. A few minutes later, I jostled my way back to the counter when the rep finally arrived. I gathered the required paperwork to fill out and quickly returned it to the desk, anxious to get out of there and on to the next obstacle.

Although I was the first person to hand over my paperwork, somehow I was the second last person in the line to have my paperwork completed. Seems as though mine was more difficult, or maybe I had someone new working on my file. After a good 20 – 30 minutes at the counter, I was sent to stand in a line up to go through customs with a piece of paper saying my luggage had been lost. Thankfully they had created a separate line up for us because 100+ Jamaicans were still waiting in the customs line up to have their luggage approved for entry. I’ve seriously never seen so much luggage!

I had no issues at the customs desk, returned the piece of paper to the baggage claim area and made my way out the doors, officially into the heat of Jamaica.  Now the hunt was on for counter 41 where I hoped my fellow displaced passengers would be waiting for me, although I was a little skeptical as I had been well over an hour longer than them in the baggage area. After checking with the info desk, I was directed a few hundred meters away to the departures area where I would find counter 41 and my ‘pals’ waiting for me. Apparently they had come looking for me a couple of times but weren’t allowed back into the baggage area, so they just had to wait for me to appear. They had used the phone and spoken to an Air Canada rep who had told them that we would be staying at a different hotel, the Knutsford Court Hotel and we would all be transferred there as soon as I arrived. They had tried to make arrangements for their flights, but there wasn’t a phone available for use for that purpose, so it would have to wait until we got to the hotel.

Of course, the Air Canada rep had gotten tired of waiting for me (for over an hour) and had gone on break or to do something else and told the others to call through on the phone when I arrived. Because I already told you that the story keeps getting worse, it’ll be no surprise that dialling through on the phone line got nothing but a busy signal for the next 15 – 20 minutes while we continued to wait and had no contact with the rep and no way to call our transfer driver to take us to the hotel.

One of the other passengers went to talk to staff from another airline and ask for help. I asked one of the airport staff to help us and eventually the Air Canada rep appeared again. She called our transfer driver, introduced us to him and as we were about to load our luggage into the vehicle, she realized he wasn’t the right driver, so she re-introduced us to someone else. Gah! Seriously?

The five of us piled into two different vehicles and off we went in what we hoped were the correct vehicles, going to the correct hotel. We had touched down at around 4pm local time and it was now after 7:30pm as we were arriving at the hotel.

Check in at the hotel went smoothly, thank goodness as just about all of us were ready to burst from frustration. The hotel even offered to let us use the business centre phones to call Air Canada to sort out our flights for the next day. Unfortunately Air Canada and Aeroplan 1-800 numbers don’t work from International phone lines and they don’t provide a regular number. One couple had a travel roaming package for their cell phone, but that also wouldn’t help because the 1-800 number still didn’t work from Jamaica. Frustrations mounted even higher. We had really been left in the lurch.

I was slightly less panicked than the rest of the people as I knew I would be able to use Skype to call the 1-800 number. (One of the many useful pieces of information I’ve learned while being a digital nomad.) I told the others, but of course not all of them had Skype, or laptops. I offered for everyone to come to my room and we could try to do all of the changes at once, if the internet connection would hold.

One of the girls dropped by just as I was dialling Aeroplan as we had been advised they were the ones that would have to take care of it for us. We waited on hold for 1 hour, 16 minutes and 12 seconds (Skype shows me these stats). At about 45 minutes, one of the other girls came to visit and said that she had messaged her parents in Toronto. They weren’t able to get through to Aeroplan because of the long wait time, but they had gotten through to Air Canada and her flight was all taken care of for the next day’s departure. She was in the clear. As we continued to wait on hold with Aeroplan, I had the idea to call the travel agent line from Air Canada. Originally I hadn’t thought of it because we were told to call Aeroplan specifically. (Good thing I just did 10+ hours of Air Canada certification training to help my agency keep access to this special service line because it sure came in handy!)

Air Canada Certificate

About 30 minutes later, the staff at our travel agent line had my flight and one of the other girl’s flights all taken care of. There were a couple of glitches, such as the internet cutting out and dropping the call … but in the end, a second call, even with a different agent on the line and everything was sorted.

What a relief, right?

We headed down to have dinner at the hotel restaurant at close to 9pm and the last couple of people still hadn’t found a way to contact Air Canada as the 1-800 numbers weren’t working from Jamaica. I went and ordered my food and then came back to check on them to see if they had found another number. They hadn’t. I called the 1-800 number for them via Skype on my phone and advised there would be quite a wait time. I left them with my cell phone hoping the internet connection would hold and went back to have my dinner.

Unbelievably, an hour later when I was done dinner, the poor lady was still on hold. Actually, she had spoken to someone, gotten nowhere and was back on hold. It was a never-ending story for these folks.

I jumped on Skype on my computer while she continued to hold on my phone. I called the travel agent line again and had it sorted for her in another 20 minutes. Meanwhile she had still gotten nowhere with the phone call she had been on for a total of 1 hour, 42 minutes and 7 seconds.

What a disaster.

Finally, around 11pm, all five of us were sorted with new flights for the next day. Our transfer had been arranged and with any luck, we would arrive in Panama City 24 hours later than planned.

Just when you think the story has a happy ending …

With a good night’s sleep under our belts, we headed to the airport on time and there were no line ups to check in at the Copa desk (one of Air Canada’s Star Alliance partners). The first couple checked in with no problem. Done. Ready to go. The other two girls were at separate desks. One agent was asking for the girl’s proof of departure from Panama. At the other counter, the agent was telling the other girl that she could only check one bag and that her second bag would cost $125 USD to check through to Panama. This was after the bags had arrived in Jamaica without any fee. The real kicker on this though was that her second suitcase was full of items that she was planning to donate when she arrived in Panama.

At this point, my lost luggage was actually a blessing in disguise. Imagine! Since I had no luggage to check with me, I was able to check her second bag as my own for no cost. Problem solved … until they had difficulties finding my newly booked flight! Seriously, the complications just don’t stop!

I’ve got to say though, that between all of us being rested and in better state of mind and the Copa Airlines staff who were super helpful, these issues were handled much better than those of the very long day before.

While I’m now checking-in luggage for my new friend and the Copa Airlines staff are trying to get my ticket to appear on their system, the girl at the other counter is stuck with the same problem … her ticket won’t appear on their system. Thankfully the Copa staff were proactive and started talking to the manager, conversing with Air Canada and making sure it got fixed rather than leaving us to sort it out on our own. What should have taken five minutes for us all to check in, took 30+. A big thank you Copa Airlines for doing what it took to find the problems, correct them and get us all on that flight.

Fast forward …

We boarded the flight to Panama on time, it was smooth sailing and we finally arrived in Panama City. I was hoping that my luggage would have been sent on the same flight routing as the day before and that just maybe, it might be on the baggage belt with everyone else’s. No such luck. I waited until the end of the luggage unloading and then went to baggage services just in case they had marked it and pulled it before it went around the belt as it would have been traveling unaccompanied. Again, no luck, but they gave me phone numbers to call and check on the status.

This incredibly long story started on Thursday, Dec 29th, 2016 when I left my sister’s house at 3:15am. Tonight as I’m writing the final few sentences, the fiasco is still living on with me as my luggage is currently MIA. It’s now Monday, January 2nd at 11pm.

I’ve been able to confirm that it was *supposed* to be sent to Kingston, Jamaica on Dec 30th. Not much of a confirmation as no one can tell me if it actually arrived there or not. I’ve been authorized by Air Canada to spend $100 USD on essentials which they will reimburse me for. And, I’ve been advised to call back in 24 hours. Apparently, although they take all of your contact information (at home, in destination, hotel address and phone number, email addresses) they tell me that I will not be contacted with an update on when to expect it to arrive. It’s still my job to continue following up. In fact, the agent’s exact quote was worth noting ‘You’ll definitely be contacted sometime maybe, but you should call back to follow up.’ #CustomerServiceFail

Air Canada and Aeroplan, if you are reading this … all five of the customers (including myself) who have gone through this ordeal deserve an apology, some kind of compensation for the hours of hold time, stress of being at an unplanned destination overnight, being denied entry into the country with little to no assistance and left to rebook flights on our own. So much of this could have been avoided if our flights were proactively rebooked for the next day and the information had been communicated to the staff in Kingston, Jamaica. Since hotels arrangements were made for each of us and that was communicated … I’m left wondering why the flights weren’t?

And, because it’s January 2nd and I’d like to start the year on a positive note, I’m very thankful to be in Panama City (finally) and have met a couple of great new Canadian friends! Although sanity was lost during the process, new friendships have been gained.

Ever had a travel nightmare of your own? Did you file a complaint with the company / companies involved? Did they ever respond? Leave me some comments!

South East Asia – Chapter 2 – Air Canada Flight Cancelled

I woke up at the pleasant hour of 4:45am on August 14th. I guess my body felt four hours of sleep was sufficient! Maybe it was preparing for the crossing of the date line a little early.

Around 6am I headed to my sister’s house as she was going to drive me to the airport. Along the way I see a road sign that says something about construction on Blue water Road. I don’t think too much of it as Blue water road is off Hammonds Plains Road and I’m not heading that way.

I drive about five kms and see that Kearney Lake road is completely closed to traffic … Right at Blue Water Road. Who knew?!

So, I turned around, headed back out to the highway and down Hammonds Plains Road, finally arriving at my sister’s at close to 6:30 (it should only have taken 10-15 minutes!)

Jump forward to the airport … I grab all of my stuff, double check for my phone and my passport and then head inside, while sissy is on her way back home.

I go to the kiosk to print my baggage tags, but it can’t find my confirmation number. I tried three times, searching by confirmation number, flight number and date of travel. No luck. Finally I asked one of the Air Canada staff and informed me that the flight was cancelled and to see the ladies at the counter.

The lady at the counter told me the flight was cancelled due to weather. High winds and fog had prevented the plane from landing the evening before so it was not coming, therefore the flight was cancelled. I asked her to help me get rerouted, but I already knew the answer.

Her: I’m really sorry, but this ticket is issued with United Airlines, so they have to do all those changes for you. You’ll have to call them.

… Did you just feel my heart break?

I headed to the benches, unloaded my backpacks and hit redial on the United number that was in my phone from the night prior.

Oh, hello Mr. Automated Man! I see your hearing didn’t improve overnight …

Him: What is your departure city?
Me: Halifax.
Him: I’m sorry, could you say that again?
Me: Halifax.
Him: I’m sorry, but I’m having trouble understanding you. Could you try one more time?
Me: HAL…. I … FAAAAAXXXXX
Him: I’m sorry. Let’s try this another way. Please say your last name.
Me: Tucker
Him: Are you Donald?
Me: No.

… You see where this is going right?

Eventually Automated Man got tired of me and put me through to a person. No wait time! Great!

I explained to the lady the situation and she began looking for new flights for me. I won’t go through all of the long boring details, but after some sighing and grumbling, she informed me that she couldn’t get me out of Halifax today at all. All flights were booked. I asked about an upgrade to business or first class to get me on one of the flights. Of course, they can’t do that because it’s not the same class of service (cheap flight) that I originally booked. I went through a bunch of options with her and tried to get her to look at flights to other places, but she was stuck on flights to Toronto and the fact that they were all sold out. She informed me I simply could not get out of Halifax today.

She went on to tell me that the next flights she could find were on Friday morning, putting me in Bangkok on the 17th. I explained that I would miss connecting flights and part of my tour. Was United going to do anything about any of that?

Her: I can’t answer that for you. I’m in reservations, you would have to talk to the customer care department for that.

Eventually I got tired of asking her to search other routes because she just kept telling me everything was full. I understood that everyone on the Halifax morning flights had been rebooked and that most flights were full, but I was increasingly annoyed that she wouldn’t consider putting me in a higher class of service to keep me on track rather than making me wait two days to leave and miss my connections / beginning of my tour.

Finally, I gave up.

I asked her to book the flights for Friday that she had suggested and then to transfer me to the customer care department.

Her: You can reach the customer care department online at … (and she spewed out an address)
Me: Oh. Actually, can’t you transfer me there once you’ve booked my flights?
Her: No. I’m sorry. They don’t have a phone number to transfer you to. You’ll have to contact them online.
Me: Did I just hear you correctly? Your customer care department does not have a phone number?
Her: Yes, that’s correct ma’am.
Me: And, if I don’t have access to a computer at this time?
Her: Well, Ma’am, you’ll have to wait until you do. That is the only way to contact them.
Me: Really? It is called the Customer Care department and they have no phones?
Her: Well, yes, they do have phones, but not a number for the public.
Me: Ok. ok. Please book the tickets for Friday morning and I will contact your Customer Care Department online.

Eventually after holding, the tickets got fixed up. The confirmation stayed the same and once again, I was done an hour long conversation with United Airlines.

By this time, I figured I could call my manager at the Adventure Travel Company and maybe not wake him up. He’d help me!

After all, if I was in front of a computer with access to the flights, I would have been able to look for my own routing and I’m sure that I would find that I could actually get out of Halifax today. But, it wasn’t worth arguing over as I wasn’t getting anywhere.

My manager told me he’d look in to it as soon as he got to work. Phew! I had complete faith he’d find me a great option. I would hang tight at the airport for a bit just in case there was another option leaving relatively soon.

In the meantime, I called my favourite (& only) sister to put her on standby that she may have to come back and retrieve me from the airport.

Then, more phone calls. It was time to get an insurance claim started. Based on being rebooked on a Friday flight, I was going to miss my already paid for connecting flight in Asia from Bangkok to Yangon. I was going to miss out on my airport transfer, a night’s hotel and most importantly, the beginning of my tour in Yangon. If I couldn’t get to Yangon by the afternoon of the 17th, then I would need to catch up in another part of Burma, missing a couple days of the tour and trying to navigate Burma on my own. Not looking forward to that part at all.

When the insurance lady answered it sounded like I had just woken her up!

I explained the situation and that I had been rebooked, but I would be incurring expenses to catch up to my tour which I would now be late getting to. She explained to me that I only had $1000 to use toward flights (no hotels, no tours, nothing else, just flights). This didn’t make sense to me as my policy was for $5000. She kept telling me I could rebook flights and use up to $1000. After asking her to repeat it a couple of times and different ways, she put me on hold. Then she came back and told me the same thing again. So, I guess it was up to me to ask it a different way so she would give me a different answer.

Me: Ok, so if all my policy covers is $1000 for flights, what is the other $4000 of the $5000 for?
She came back with the same spiel about being able to use $1000 for flights. UG!
Me: And, the $4000 of other coverage? What is it for?
Her: Not for your flights.
Me: Ok. So, if I’m reprotected on a flight on Friday. I do not need to book a new flight to Asia as the airline has that covered. Do I have coverage for changing my connecting flight in Europe.
Her: Yes. I told you. $1000.
Me: Ok. I understand that there is $1000 for flights. So, what about the tour and the transfers / hotels etc that I am not using. Is there any reimbursement for those?
Her: No. Not for this reason.
Me: What reason is that?
Her: Cancelled flights. If they were delayed, yes, but not if they were cancelled.
(This still doesn’t make sense to me)
Me: Ok, so because of the delays, if I use my $1000 to rebook flights into Yangon and then my tour has departed and I need to catch up to that tour by bus, is that covered?
Her: Yes.
I never did find out if that comes out of the $1000 or not …
Me: Ok. Could you please start a claim for me as I will be rebooking my Asia flights and may need some other things straightened out. So, I might as well start the process now.

After also digging to find out exactly what information I needed in order to submit my claim (official notices from both airlines that the flights had been cancelled and why … as well as receipt for my new flights), I asked for the claim number, for email confirmation and got off the phone.

I asked my sister to come back and get me as I wasn’t overly hopeful any more for getting out of Halifax today. And, I was cranky.

While I waited for my ride, I went to the Air Canada desk and got confirmation of the flight cancellation. I then went to the United desk and did the same.

The United staff member, Colleen, asked me to wait a moment, but didn’t say why.
Her: Why is it that you aren’t just going on the Halifax to London flight with Air Canada tonight and then in to Bangkok the next day?
Me (with huge bright eyes): Really? That’s an option? The United call centre told me I couldn’t leave Halifax today.
Her: Let me just double check to make sure we can do this.

In the mean time, my manager was texting me saying he had found that same option. So, I let him know that United was working on it.

A few minutes and a couple of phone calls later, she said that it was AOK, but she would have to print me an old school paper ticket, not an e-ticket. Several of them struggled light heartedly over trying to get the paper ticket to work (it’s been MANY years since they had to do those) and then finally handed me my new tickets with explicit instructions not to lose them as they were like cash. Ok. Got it.

I thanked her profusely. I wasn’t expecting her to even try to find anything for me and she found me a much better option, much earlier and no cost to me. How could I not be happy with that?

So, I left the airport at around 9:15am (after arriving at 6:45am) and went back to my sisters to get my car for the day. I now didn’t need to be at the airport until 8:30pm tonight. YAY!

Despite the chaos and poor customer service throughout the day with United Airlines, Colleen was super helpful without being asked. In the end, I got better connections, I’m not transiting through the US and I’ll be flying with Air Canada and Thai Airways (one of the best in the business!)

To top it all off, I’m traveling on a true Around the World ticket where I will be crossing both the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans in my travels, one on my way there and one on the way home. I guess it is my new claim to fame.

The chaos did not end there though! I was still going to miss my connecting flight in Bangkok to Yangon and had to get that taken care of so I wouldn’t be trying to figure it out in Bangkok.

South East Asia – Chapter 1 – United Flight Cancelled

I worked overtime this weekend and stayed later than planned on Tuesday to finish up client work before leaving on my South East Asia trip. I was pretty anxious by 4pm on Tuesday when I was supposed to have finished up work at noon. I felt like I had a million things left to do and such a short time. I rushed around doing final errands and then home to do some photo work that needed to be tidied up before I left.

Around 9pm I felt like my to-do list was under control and went to United Air’s website to do my online check in for my flights scheduled in 12 hours.

That’s when it all fell apart.

I entered my confirmation, but it denied my check in and told me to call reservations. I get the automated man who wants to ask just a few questions to help serve me better, but Mr. Automated man must speak another language because he couldn’t seem to understand any of my words, like Tucker or Halifax or August … Eventually he got tired of repeating himself and I was put on hold for about 10 minutes. That’s not really all that bad for an airline queue.

The man who answered my call, however, was no sunshine on my rainy Halifax day! The conversation went a little something like this:

Me: Hi, I just tried to do my online check in for my flight tomorrow and it advised that I needed to call reservations.

… provided booking details and personal info.

Him: Ok. I see. You can’t check in because that flight has been cancelled. (note the period at the end of that sentence)

… silence …

Me: Ok. So, what’s next?
Him: Well, it’s cancelled.

… silence … (except in my head where I’m screaming no kidding!)

Me: Ok. And how are you going to help me out with that? (Because I should totally have to ask for assistance when an airline cancels a flight … it’s totally my responsibility to figure all of this out).

Him: Well, I guess I can have a look to see what other flights there are.
In my head: Gee thanks for that!
Me: Ok.

**Side note: For those of you who aren’t aware, if an airline cancels a flight it is their responsibility to get you out on the next available flight. If that causes you to need hotels / meals or miss tours etc, that is where your interruption insurance kicks in, depending what you are covered for.

After five minutes or so he explained that he was checking flight routings, but there were not a lot of options on such short notice. (as if I had cancelled the flight on short notice, not them!)

Me: It’s ok. I’m a travel agent. I completely understand it takes awhile to look through flight options. Can you take a look at options through Chicago or Toronto? Maybe there’s a direct Toronto to Bangkok flight?

Him: I’m looking at everything.

(ok!)

Another five minutes passes (and no, I’m not exaggerating).

Him: Can you fly another day?
Me: Sorry. Not really, I have connecting flights in Asia and a tour that I would have to be caught up to. I’m not sure what United is going to do about that.
Him: Well there aren’t a whole lot of options.

Another five minutes passes.

Him: I’ve found you something leaving tomorrow morning with Air Canada to Toronto, to Newark, to Hong Kong and then on to Bangkok. You’d arrive around 10pm on August 15th. Will that work for you?

After getting him to repeat the full details of times etc, and double and triple checking that all of the 1 hour or 1.5 hour connections met minimum requirements for the airports I was going to, I decided that if there were absolutely no other options, I would take the flight with three stops (instead of my two original stops) and that it wouldn’t affect any of my other plans going forward. So, not so bad. That is, if all went according to plan and I was able to meet all of my connecting flights!

He puts me on hold this time to go take care of the ticket.
10 minutes later he comes back and advises that they have to call Thai Airways directly to ensure there is still room on the last leg of the flight from Hong Kong to Bangkok. He advised it would be another few minutes, but asked me to stay on the line. So, I did. After all, it was going to all be taken care of … right?

At approximately 49 minutes into the call (close to 10pm), we got disconnected.
(really? are you kidding me?)

So, back to Mr. Automated Man I go. My frustration has increased significantly at this point and Mr. Automated Man still can’t understand me! I ask for help, speak to an agent etc and he just keeps saying ‘I’d like to ask you a few questions to serve you better.’ This time he understood ‘Tucker’, but asked if I was Stephen. When I said no, he asked if I was Dorothy. When I said no, finally I was put in the hold queue again … Another 10 minutes …

A lady answers and I explain that someone else was looking into the situation. She checks the notes on the account and reiterates everything that the other guy said. Well, at least there were notes on the account!

Her: Are you ok with this option?
Me: It was the only option I was given. Are there other options?
Her: Let me have a look.

Five more minutes …

Her: That’s the best option I can find. It says here that we have to call Thai Airways for confirmation on the flight. Can you hold while I do that?
Me: I can, but that’s how I got cut off last time. The other guy was supposed to be calling Thai Airways. Is there a note on the account? Maybe he got through to them?
Her: No ma’am. I will have to call them for confirmation.

Easily another five minutes passed. (well, not so easily for me!)

Her: Thanks for patiently waiting. I’m still working on your file and trying to contact Thai Airways to confirm that ticket.
Me: Ok

Repeat …
Repeat again …

Her: Thanks for patiently waiting Ma’am. I’m sorry but Thai Airways isn’t open this evening. They re-open tomorrow. Can you call back then to confirm that segment of your trip?
(Seriously? It has taken two staff members and me being on hold a good 20-30 minutes under the guise of them checking with Thai Airways, just to find out that they aren’t open? Seems like that could have been relayed a little earlier.)
Me: Actually, no I won’t be able to, seeing as I will be flying all day with short connections in between all of my flights.
Her: Well, Ma’am that is the only way that you’ll be able to confirm that portion of your ticket from Hong Kong to Bangkok.
Me: And if I don’t confirm it, what will happen when I arrive in Hong Kong?
Her: They will have to check then to see if there is room on the flight for you.
Me: And if there is not?
Her: Then you would have to call us to see if we could find you another flight.

Alright … so at this point after a full hour and a half (or more) on the phone with United, I have become incredibly frustrated. No yelling. I was still mostly nice, but honestly!

Me: I’m not sure you are hearing what you are asking me to do. Based on the flights you are rebooking me on, I will be on a plane when they (Thai Airways) open and I can’t call them from a plane. I will not be able to call and confirm that flight.
Her: Let me put you on hold and I’ll see what we can do.

Her: Thanks for patiently waiting. I have noted the account and we will call Thai Airways to confirm that segment for you tomorrow. Can I get your contact number so that we can call you?
Me: Sure, but again, I will be flying nearly all day tomorrow. I don’t think you’ll be able to reach me on an airplane by phone. Can you email me and I’ll try to get WIFI if I have time between connections?
Her: We can leave a message on your voice mail.
Me: That’s fine, but I’m not sure if my phone will even be working in these other countries, so can you email it to me?
Her: Yes, we will do that as well.

After two hours of phone conversations and a lot of horrible hold music, I was now scheduled to leave at 8:50am on an Air Canada flight from Halifax to Toronto on August 14th, 47 minutes earlier than originally scheduled. Toronto to Newark. Newark to Hong Kong. Hong Kong to Bangkok (to be confirmed).

I got my confirmation number, reconfirmed that United would call Thai Airways the next day and finally got off the phone. I logged into Air Canada and did my online check in. Phew!

I called my mom. Talked to a couple of friends. Tried to breathe and then went to bed for my early morning rise at 5:30am.