We were just stopped from entering our flight at Singapore airport for not having a return ticket to our destination in the Philippines.
The guy on the Cebu Pacific Air counter took great pleasure in seeing us run around trying to buy the needed ticket in the 10minutes he gave us before he would pull our bags off the flight. First I went to the Cebu Pacific ticket counter and asked them to sell me four tickets out of the Philippines to any destination. This took a while as the lady had a few calls on her mobile phone which she insisted on answering as my anxiety grew. She then quoted me a fair of S$823. I assumed that I could get most of this back if I subsequently cancelled the ticket, so I agreed and handed her my credit card. "We don't take credit cards" she said, "only cash". I tried to explain to her that I don't usually leave Singapore with $800 dollars of local currency in my back pocket. She pointed over towards some ATM Machines on the opposite side of the concourse. My daily limit is about US$500, but I tried anyway. THIS EXCEEDS YOUR DAILY LIMIT!
I went back to the guy at the check-in. Go to Tiger airways he said, they accept credit cards. So off I ran. The only ticket they could sell me was one that returned to Singapore. Ironic since under these rules I couldn't actually even use it since there was no ticket out from Singapore. She quoted $700 and said there were no refunds on the ticket.
I went back to the ticket counter. The guy said I could get a refund if I wrote a letter to Tiger Airways, but I sensed more than a little dishonesty in what he said. At this news I ran back over and asked the lady if this were the case. "Who told you that?" she said. Ryan. Ryan doesn't work for Tiger airways, these tickets are non-refundable. She then called Ryan on her mobile phone. Ryan eventually came. He didn't speak to the woman. he simply said "That's it! I've taken your bags off the flight".
As I walked back to the desk with Ryan to inform my wife, my three year old and one-yr old kids that we had been abandoned at the airport I said to Ryan, "You better get used to the sight of me Ryan cos I'm gonna be in this airport as long as it takes to get this put right, and the reason you can be sure of that is because we have nowhere else to go!"
When we got to the counter he ceremoniously tore the tags from our luggage and Jennifer began to weep. I asked him if he had a superior I could talk to. He said he didn't, that he was his own boss. I said in that case can I have his surname. He refused, storming off saying that our problem wasn't his problem.
We had a hotel booked for that night in Manila and an onward domestic flight the next day to the north of Luzon. We could just forget all that and change plans…head back into Malaysia and up into Thailand overland, or cross over into Sumatra.
But it was the principle. I couldn't walk away from this.
I ordered some coffee, got the kids installed in the McDonalds play area and went to work. I talked to many people and eventually found out who the boss was. After an hour or so I eventually got to speak to her. She didn’t work for the airline, none of the check-in staff did. They were employed by the airport. Ryan was from the Philippines so that meant that he had a supervisory role over the flights on Cebu Pacific. I began my pitch with “I know the reason we weren’t allowed on the plane is because we didn’t have a return ticket and those are the rules…”
I spoke to her for about fifteen minutes. She never said a word. Then she said she would come back in 10mins after talking to some people. After twenty she returned and said she had convinced Cebu Pacific to put us on the next flight in two hours and that in the meantime could we go online and book a ticket out of the country to satisfy the policy.
We decided that we would fly to Thailand in December. We spent an hour trying to book a flight online with Tigerairways and then enlisted the help of two very friendly individuals who work for the airport to assist in such matters. They couldn’t get the payment to go through either. They questioned whether both our credit cards functioned. Then one of them approached the Tigerairways sales desk. Apparently the flight we were booking was a code share and couldn’t be booked online. Nowhere online had it stated this. We had wasted an hour.
We didn’t even consider booking with AirAsia as I know from previous experience that AirAisa does NOT accept US Credit or Debit cards. This I know because I spent an afternoon back in June on the website failing to buy tickets. I then spent an eternity on hold after calling AirAsia to book the same tickets over the phone. This again failed leading the salesperson to question the validity of my credit cards and who then told me to contact my bank(s) and ask them why the payment wasn’t going through. The banks said no payment had been requested. I then called AirAsia back and eventually was able to speak to someone in a senior position who said “Oh Yeah, AirAsia doesn’t accept US Credit Cards”. Nowhere on the website DID it say this. I said it might be a good idea for them to put this information on their website. I have no idea if they have.
Anyway, we eventually booked a ticket online to Thailand with Cebu Pacific and boarded the plane.
The next day at the Cebu Pacific Air desk the check-in lady said our luggage was overweight. We had paid for 30kilos online - she said and the scales were at 33. I seriously thought she was joking. But no, she said I would have to pay the equivalent of $30. I took out my rain jacket and put it on, Jennifer put on her hiking shoes and I gave the check-in lady a New Zealand guidebook, for which she seemed rather happy. Upon seeing this my three year old son broke down and started weeping hysterically, “I want our book!” he said. The book was awkwardly returned to my son as all eyes in the checkin queues turned to the check-in lady.
Incidentally, our flight was delayed by 3 hours. Ten minutes after it was due to depart I asked someone about the flight. They told me it was delayed. I asked if they planned to make an announcement to this affect. "We're busy" the guy said as he stood and chatted with four of the check-in girls.
For the record, the flight from Singapore to Manila with Cebu Pacific was booked online back in June. It had been a promotional fare. It was advertised as FREE ($0.00). After all the additional costs (which if you look closely, ARE RIGHT THERE ON THE WEBSITE – some printed in font larger than others) the free flight actually cost us S$156.
Sometimes you get what you don't pay for!
[Edited: 2011 Nov 09 00:47 - aspiringnomad:90 ]