August 2005
  Rainy Day

July 2005
 Lazy Afternoon

May 2005
 Sailing 1

 Sailing 2

April 2005

March 2005

Jan 2005

contact me at:
justin (@) deepdrift dot com


GyozaQuest is a non profitable site,

So this exemplifies, my easy going, unplanned, random, I'll figure it out as I go attitude.

I've just completed a business trip to Korea. I guess there's a part of me that really enjoys the sheer pleasure of getting a deal.

Two weeks ago, knowing that this trip is happening. I scan the internet looking at fares. I'm not going to purchase anything because there's part of me that's always doubtful that my business trips are going to happen when they say they will. So I usually don't purchase tickets until at the earliest a week before my trip. On Friday, my manger says to start looking for tickets, I'm supposed to be there next week, and prices are going up quickly because of the one week rule. I look it's gonna be about $1200-$1800, I hesitate. I decide to I wait the weekend, knowing tickets may be in the $2000+ range Maybe I don't really want to go on this trip. I tell my boss I need to be back on the 28th for a city zoning board meeting. He says okay.

On Monday, the trip is confirmed, so resignedly, I set out to buy tickets. Now mind you, my company, like most decent companies will reimburse reasonable travel expenses, what's reasonable in extraordinary circumstances is what makes it business I guess. Paying last minute fares and spending three thousand dollars for a full fare economy ticket (but not business class), might raise some eyebrows, but isn't against policy, and they'll probably sign off on it.

I could call the airline directly, but I'm not too satisfied with the prices I find on the web. I could call our corporate travel agent, but they always seems to only find very high fares, in addition to their $79 booking fee. In theory, I don't have to do anymore than that, take what the designated corporate travel agent gives us. I'm only being paid to get a ticket, it's their job to make sure it's reasonable. Anyhow I decide to call a discount travel agency who'd I'd used two years ago, to book tickets to China.

It's Monday, I tell the consolidator, I want to leave on Wednesday, and return on the a Tuesday, about a week and a half later. He quotes $950. Since it's leaving on a Wednesday, and returning on a Tuesday, it qualifies for the mid-week fare. I ask him about change policies, he says I should be able to change it for the standard $100, I figure the usual disclaimer applies. I'm ecstatic and purchase the ticket.

I get on the plane, and then get to the Korea. The work's smooth, and think I'm going to wrap up early. I look at my Itinerary, and realize that the flight back is Seoul-San Francisco-Boston. Great, I can stop in SF on my way home, and visit my relatives. I think about sailing in the bay with my cousin. I want to leave on Saturday, spend the weekend in SF, and then go back on Tuesday to Boston.

I call the airline and ask them if I can change the flight, and stop in SF. It should be a little bit more expensive to layover, and a little bit more expensive for the weekend flight. But I figure it's do able.

They can't see the fare basis because it's a consolidator fare, but do say that there's NO space available on either Saturday or Sunday, and the fare isn't even valid on a Saturday. It's valid for weekday only travel. Oh brother, I should know that I'm going to have some problems with this.

I a little nervous about being able to change my ticket, and ponder spending the weekend in Seoul. It wouldn't be a horrible thing. But I've got a sailing appointment with my cousin. Calling reservations isn't very helpful, I keep getting told the same thing. So even without a confirmed reservation I decide to wing it and head to the airport Saturday Morning.

My co-worker is also leaving on Saturday he's got an awfully crazy flight (he's going Seoul-Hong Kong-Bangkok-Bombay­-Dubai-London-Boston) and well... he's maximizing his miles and segment points by going that way, and might get elite status really quick by doing that. However even for me that's too strenuous and sounds crazy, even I'll fly the most direct route possible. Strangely enough he wants to go out and go drinking

We catch the bus from the hotel to the airport at 6:40 AM. My head's throbbing because of drinking the previous night, with the aforementioned co-worker. I still don't have a reservation, and am committed now to winging it.

I get to the airport at 8AM, the scheduled flight is at 1PM. My co-worker walks over to the other counter, and starts to check in. For him, it's a quick process for him. I tell him I'm going to check in for my flight, his flight is at 10:30AM, we've got time to kill, he might as well wait for me.

Now the drama begins. Perhaps Ignorance is bliss, that I didn't understand a lot of the things going on in Korean behind the scenes there.

I get to the check in counter.
 The ticket agent starts to look to see if it's possible to change the reservation.
  There are seats available but the SF-Boston portion is full.
   All I want to do is get to San Francisco.
    He can't split the ticket, if I stay in SF, it'll count as a layover, that costs extra.
      I'm thinking. It doesn't matter, as long as I get to SF, I'll pay the change fee.
     At worst I could purchase a new SFO-BOS 1 way ticket, I think they're about $300.
   At this point I don't really care, as long as I'm confirmed to San Francisco.
 But for some reason he needs to confirm my itinerary all the way through to Boston.

So I keep asking. If San Francisco to Boston is full? What else can he do?
 I ask if I can connect in Chicago, he says no.
  I ask if I can connect in Los Angeles, he says no.
   Denver, He says no.
     Washington DC, no.

In any case the agent says... It's not possible,
 At this point he couldn't even change the ticket Seoul-San Francisco.
   I not sure if the problem is the connecting flight which I have,
    or if it's the ticket itself not being valid on the weekend.
    or any other of the myriad of rules they have.

Yet at this point, I have a pretty good notion they can make an exception.
 There are seats available, so I know it's physically possible for me to get on the plane.
   I'll get charged one change fee, and be on my way.
    I shrug, and say 'please, can you try again'

The agent asks his supervisor, she says no...
 I'm waiting about ten minutes,
  He comes back and tells me that they _might_ be able to get my ticket changed to a non-weekend.
    Thus I could travel on Monday.
  I'm starting to sweat now, I might actually not get on the plane today.
    I ask the agent 'please try again.'

He walks over and asks his supervisor, the flight manager, a second time.
 I think she asks someone higher up.
  The agent comes back and says 'it's not possible, can you come back after the weekend is over'
 I'm not pleased.
  I ask him if he can sell me a ticket on the flight,
   he's admitted that there's seats available, I could just purchase a ticket.
    Even the ticket agent doesn't think that buying a ticket is that great of an idea,
   He mentions that the seat is about $12,000,
     Even he sees that charging me that much is absurd, and I'm not that desperate.
      Since I've got a consolidator fare to begin with, I'm not about to just pay anything

The ticket agent starts to tell me of hotels nearby where I can stay.
 I ask the agent to 'Please try again.'

He explains to me the same thing again.
  At this point, I know the issue and apologize, but tell him I really want to go to leave today.
   I'm not sure if there's anything else he can do.

My co-worker has finished checking in and has been watching me from across the terminal for all this time,
 He comes over, and wonders what's taking so long.
  I've been talking to this guy for about 45 minutes now.
   I explain that I don't really have a ticket, and can't change the reservation.
    My co-worker is even telling me to spend the weekend in Seoul.
      My co-worker leaves to get his flight.
    I'm still not pleased, and tempted to give up and get on the bus back to Seoul.
   Yet, I decide to continue my polite inquisition,
    I ask the agent 'please try again'

He says he'll ask his supervisor one more time again.
 He walks the other direction this time...
  I think he's going to someone even higher up.
   I'm hesitant, this isn't working, and tempted to give up.
    I wonder if I'll have the patience to make them call all the way back to the home office in Chicago if necessary.

He finally comes back, and says that 'just this once' they'll get me on the plane.

I'm relieved... okay I'm more than relieved,

   He starts to print it out, and says 'window okay?'.
  At this point I don't really care if I'm in the middle seat in the last row next to the lavatory.
 My heart is racing, I'm going to get out of Korea!
It's like I've been liberated or something.

  He checks my bags, and hands me the boarding passes.
 I bow, and say a deep _Thank You_ then leave the counter.
I've got four hours to wait for my flight to leave.
I go through security and immigration. I find my co-worker, he's stunned to see me. I wait for his flight to leave. I go on a small shopping spree in duty free. I'm buying stuff I vaguely think I might need, but otherwise I think it's pure luxury (cosmetics). Or just plain bad for you (cigarettes).

I check into the lounge and take another shower.
I eat some food, read the newspaper, surf the web.
When I finally get on the plane is almost full but there's about five or six seats still empty.
I settle into my seat for a long, restless flight.

I realize later that the ticket agent that I'd talked with for over an hour, he hadn't even asked for the $100 or $125 change fee. I'd gotten the ticket to San Francisco for free.

The irony of this is that I'd most wanted to be back because I had an appointment to go sailing in the bay. And yes, I do get into town on Saturday morning, early enough have breakfast with my sister, then take a short nap. However right before my sailing trip was supposed to start, my cousin calls and says it's raining too hard, he's not going sailing, sigh...

I roll over, jet lagged and go back to sleep in the guest bedroom at my sister's apartment.

I've pulled some pretty crazy stunts, travel wise and gotten accommodated by the airline.

For example, I've showed up in Taipei, knowing that my flight was supposed to leave from Tokyo, and expect to be able to get back to the US.

On another occasion, having a ticket from Kuala Lumpur, but somehow trying to leave from Penang. After failing to confirm it with the airline, I just headed to the airport, before the flight was supposed to leave. In the end they charged me for a Penang-Kuala Lumpur ticket, and put me on a flight straight through to Singapore. From there I would have to have my ticket re-routed, mind you, making changes after the trip is underway.

Kids, don't try this at home. It's only for the courageous, stubborn, or just plain idiotically stupid, who think they can get away with anything.

For me there wasn't that much to lose. Having a flexible schedule and flying with just one person helped. A strong desire to go home, as well as knowing the worst thing that would happen was wasting a day, shuttling back and forth to the airport, and having to come back again at a later date. It also takes, bit of courage, and a sense of entitlement, as well as just plain gall. Having the backing of a corporate expense account that knows if strange stuff happens, they'll pay for things that appear 'reasonable' helps too.

This is the kind of stuff that only comes from being a very frequent flyer, who's always changing his schedule. I think I've paid a change fee on usually international, but sometimes even domestic flights, on about half if not more of my business trips.

This one was probably the most egregious example of not accepting or doing what you're supposed to.
I wasn't supposed to fly on the weekend.
The ticket wasn't even valid,
I was told that all the flights were full,
Even before I got to the airport, I was warned that I might not get on the plane.

But yet I did, and for almost nothing.

I guess this proves that even the tightest fare rules, if you go high enough, there's someone who has the authority to overrule it. The airlines have their restrictions and rules, but I don't think the rules apply to me. I must think I'm special or something.

Yet I'm far from deserving of special treatment, by them. I'm am airline cockroach to my favorite air carrier at this point. While I may pay full fare for tickets on a discount carrier, on this major carrier, where all my frequent flyer miles are, I'm probably a considered a pest. I'm one of those people who flys all the time, and even has elite status, but at this point if they look at their records, they'll see that I'm not one of their cash cows, in fact they might not even be making any money at all from all my travel. My philosophy about air travel is this, even if there are change restrictions on the ticket, buy the cheapest fare you can find, because even if there are rules on what you can and cannot do with the date, routing, or even destination, in the fare that would accommodate your changes, would cost more than the change fees, or even purchasing a second ticket.

At this point, I don't know if I'll try to pull a stunt like this again, or knowing that this is possible, thinking that I'll have to find a way to push the boundary even further of what an airline will do for their customers. The rules can be changed, and overridden. Ultimately the decision whether I get away with it lies not in their complex computer system, but on the judgment of a person. And in this case, persistence paid off.