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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.
So I keep asking. If San Francisco to Boston is full? What else can
In any case the agent says... It's not possible,
Yet at this point, I have a pretty good notion they can make an exception.
The agent asks his supervisor, she says no...
He walks over and asks his supervisor, the flight manager, a second
The ticket agent starts to tell me of hotels nearby where I can stay.
He explains to me the same thing again.
My co-worker has finished checking in and has been watching me from
across the terminal for all this time,
He says he'll ask his supervisor one more time again.
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?'.
He checks my bags, and hands me the boarding passes.
I check into the lounge and take another shower.
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.
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.
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.