Day 129 - Managing a Travel Crisis in 6 Easy Steps
Trip Start Jan 10, 2011
221Trip End Jan 08, 2012
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
We showed up at the very basic airport about 90min before the flight and were informed that check-in wouldn’t start for another 20min by the airport staff. We waited first in line at the check-in counter. At some point an airport worker arrived and said something to us. All we understood was the word ‘cancelled’. Eli went into problem solving mode while Mia watched over the bags gleaning the crowd for further information and ignoring a woman who instantaneously began to almost internally combust at this egregious affront to her consumer rights. Mia was right when she said the woman had ‘crazy eyes’ but this didn’t faze the gentleman at all.
Step 1 – Confirm Information
Eli pointed to our flight itinerary and asked “Cancelled?” getting a “Yes, Cancelled”. The question of “Fly today?” was met with “No fly today”.
Step 2 – Investigate Alternatives
Asking a couple of other foreigners in a line at another airline where they were going confirmed that there was another flight to our destination leaving soon.
Step 3 – Evaluate Risks
With the cost of our next flight (later that day from Bali to Sulawesi) at risk, purchasing a ticket on a replacement flight was the best option. We at least had the possibility to get a refund on our cancelled flight.
The replacement flight cost was almost 50% more. Despite this, it seemed the best to not abandon our waiting flight and hope for the refund – not to mention keeping to our existing itinerary at our new destination!
Step 4 – Mitigate Potential Obstacles
Eli approached a couple of westerners waiting at a 3rd counter who looked like they were in the same situation. They said they were waiting to hear back if they could get on another flight. Eli suggested: “I will wait in this (busy) line and if I find something will tell you. Can you do the same?” The fifty-something year old man (who turned out to be Dutch) eagerly agreed: “We should cooperate on this together.”
Step 5 – Execute Best Option
Making eye contact with each other, Eli motioned for Mia to join him and now the Dutch man and his wife at the counter. We counted our reasonable contingency fund of Indonesian Rupiah and calculated that we were 400,000 IDR short (calculations using 9000 IDR to 1 CDN on the fly is a good example of ‘using’ math in the real world…). Visa or Debit did not apply in this scenario.
We did have the general contingency of US Dollars that we keep to pay entry Visa’s and for just such an emergency. The Dutch man kindly offered to trade us for our shortfall. Without a verbal word spoken, only fingers and a calculator, the agent took the cash and gave us our boarding passes motioning us to THE gate across the room. Eli eyeballed our names and seat numbers on the had written manifest, lilting“Teer-ee-ma Kass-ee” (which is thank you in Bahasa) before we moved to the seats beside the door to the tarmac – lest they had overbooked this flight!
Step 6 – Follow Up
Immediately on landing we were first in line at the original carriers ticket counter and were directed to a customer service rep. After an assumptive request they agreed to pay us for the cost of the replacement flight (a pleasant surprise - though reasonable - given it was more expensive than what we had paid for the cancelled flight). However, when they retrieved our ticket confirmation/receipt from the replacement airline the price was $40 CDN less than what we had paid.
In the scramble for the last remaining seats, the agent had brazenly pocketed this amount, ushering us onward. Eli considered the lack of info but did not want to risk being bumped for ‘rocking the boat’. Without a receipt or even a name we spent 10 more minutes with the replacement airline staff, not holding our breath that they would refund our money.
The net result is that we got where we needed to go, on time with a maximum exposure of less than $50 total. We’ve considered this a victory for pragmatic and active problem solving in the face of western expectations re: service and reliability in the 3rd world.
We had planned for a 7hr lay over to accommodate delays or reschedulings (but not outright cancellations the morning of!) and ‘checked’ into the airport Starbucks. The experience and prices were nearly exactly the same as in North America save for the internet being slower but free and unlimited…
We spent the remainder of the day in Camp Starbucks working on our admin list, visiting the bank to replenish our stock (cash is king!) and working towards a plan to: return to Bangkok for our stuff, get to and from Laos, navigate or skip precarious border crossings in Cambodia and avoid the temptation to cram a whirlwind tour into a few weeks… We got a lot done and although closer to the options do not have firm plans.
It was time to grab a quick local dinner and board our flight to Manado in Sulawesi. At the airport we met a couple of Irish girls who needed a place to stay so we shared a cab to our rather palatial hotel. Mia had found a great deal for online! The ladies had been partying earlier that day and were ragged and strung-out but reasonably friendly and definitely appreciative.
After a long day we had no trouble falling asleep around midnight in our nice comfortable king sized bed.