Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Getting my flights booked and ticketed

So I've finally managed to convince the company (admittedly with some concessions) to allow me to travel Business Class overseas.

The next problems were:
1) Finding an agent in Colombo to do the booking and ticketing, and
2) Getting to Colombo to pick up the ticket.

My contacts came to my rescue with the first problem - the Cathay Pacific agent in Colombo is used to dealing with foreigners looking for cheap fares. As for the second point, frequent flyer points would be my only option as I had no money with which to afford the airfare (see previous blog post about buying and selling property). The obvious route from Sydney to Colombo is via either Singapore or Bangkok, but of course there were no frequent flyer seats available. I was eventually able to secure a seat from Canberra to Sydney to Hong Kong to Bangkok to Colombo, so I grabbed it. Next problem was getting the ticket, since for some reason the Hong Kong to Colombo flight could only be produced as a paper ticket rather than an e-ticket (electronic ticket). I was using American Airlines frequent flyer miles, and AA wouldn't send the ticket to me in Canberra - they would only send it within the US. So I asked them to send it to my company's office in Reston Virginia who would then send it on to me. There was plenty of time for all that to happen.

Fast forward two weeks. I realised I hadn't heard from the Reston office. Hopefully they had received the tickets and sent them, but just forgot to let me know. After all there was only one week to go until I had to get on the plane. Better double check ...

The tickets didn't make it to Reston! AA say they were send by FedEx two weeks ago. It's now Friday, and Monday is a holiday in the US, so there is no way that the tickets will reach me in time. I phoned AA in Sydney to ask whether they could reissue the tickets for me. No real surprise when they said no, since the originals were done in the US. Time to call the super secret Executive Platinum phone number at AA - these people are the best agents AA have, and they can do things that mortal agents can't. I called and asked for my options.
AA: You need to drop in to an AA office in the US and ...
Me: I'm in Australia. How many other options do I have?
AA: None.
Me: Have you counted them all?
AA: Twice.

Eventually we talked it through and came up with a few possible solutions. Some were bad, while others were really bad. Cutting an absurdly long story slightly less absurdly long, after a few more calls to the US and Australian AA offices (including a very stressful weekend when the Australian AA office was closed), the AA office in Sydney faxed me a form which I filled out and faxed back. Within the hour they had sent new tickets by Express Post, and next morning I had my tickets! WHY DIDN'T Y'ALL COME UP WITH THAT SOLUTION IN THE FIRST PLACE?! Gah!

Anyway, I now have tickets which will get me as far as Colombo.


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