Buying plane tickets is really one of those things that should be pretty easy. As long as there have been commercial flights, people have had to purchase them, right? So why is it that the last two times I’ve bought tickets, things have been impossibly difficult???
Case-in-point: Thursday. We got online with Cheapoair.com (don’t use them, if you were considering it…) and went through the process of booking tickets online. Pretty much every site you use is identical, so I figured there wouldn’t be much of an issue using THIS particular service to book through. Wrong.
After going through the whole process: picking out the flights, entering in all our vital information, travelers, payment information, blood and urine sample, etc. (just the basic stuff) and click “Book”, we get a “page cannot be displayed” error message. Right on. So we try one more time with the same result and finally call their 800 number for assistance.
“Tank you fer culling Cheeep-ohhh-errrr, can I hep you?”
“Yes, I just tried to book online and got an error message instead of tickets. Can you book over the phone for the same rate?”
“Yes a-ma’am, I can a-hep you. Where are you traveling to in from?”
“Uh, we’re traveling from Abu Dhabi, UAE to Spokane, Washington on August 7th through August 20th.”
(type type type….. several minutes pass…)
“Yes, I jus a-try to fine da flighs you say……….. der no flighs from Abu Da-habi to ‘Po-can, mum.”
“Ok, we’re leaving Abu Dhabi on the 7th, connecting in Paris and Salt Lake City, and continuing on to Spokane…”
“Ahhhhh, ok ok ok. I see. You no say have conne-ting fligh-s. Ok. (mumble mumble, type type type)”
(In my head: “Right. Because there are SO many flights from One side of the world to the other without any connecting in major cities along the way…”)
“So’kay. I foun da fligh-s. Who is name on da credit cod?”
“Suart Foz, ok. You can spell for me?”
“Sure, S-t-u-a-r-t… F-o-x.”
“So is, S-u-a-r-t…”
“… no, S-T-u-a-r-t.”
“Ok, and lass name is Socks?”
“No, F as in Frank, O as in Oscar, and X as in X-ray.”
“Ok, Fox… Oh, like in ‘Foxtrot?’” (giggles)
“Yes. Good one.” (Sigh)
We go through the conversation with similar issues spelling Boise, Idaho, Shadowmoss (our address), Sydney, Kaden, and restating the credit card number at least four times. Finally at the end she tells me the card will be charged and to enjoy our flight to “Po-can”. Ok, so that was pretty painful, but at least we have tickets now, right? Wrong again!
We go to dinner and when we get back we have a message waiting for us on the phone telling us our credit card has been declined and we need to call back with alternative payment. Now, we’re thinking, what in the world? We transferred money from savings to specifically cover the tickets (we only keep enough in checking to pay for what we need to, the rest is for savings, duh, the whole reason we’re in this Allah-forsaken country in the first place. So the money should have been there. We assume we screwed up in transferring it. So Stu calls them back while simultaneously getting online to check our banking balances. While they are telling us they tried to run our card, he realizes there is a charge from an airline, but not for the correct amount. It was for about 500 less than our tickets were supposed to be for. Weird. So after Stu gets frustrated with the Indian guy who barely speaks English (but is a customer service rep for an American company……..) they decide to get a US Bank rep on the phone too to sort out where the charge came from. I take over here.
I sit down at the computer to look at the bank charge and the email I got from Cheap-O telling us the card was declined and low and behold, the same merchant number appears on BOTH. NAUFH. Huh. So I learn from the US Bank guy (who mercifully DOES speak English) that only the merchant will have access to its own merchant code and there is no way this charge could have come from anyone else other than them, or they (duh) wouldn’t have cited it in the email they sent me…
So, Indian guy (as they all are) is offended that I am insinuating the mistake was on their end. He keeps trying to pawn me off on American Airlines (with whom we aren’t even going to be flying) and trying to give me their 800 number. So, after an hour and a half or arguing, I ask, “Do you have a way, on your system, to search for an exact dollar amount, instead of searching by the client?”
“Well, yez mum, but I am telling you, dis charge you see is NOT from uz”
“Please just run the search for the dollar amount in question.”
(ten minutes go by with me on hold)
Suddenly, I am very much worth said Indian guy’s respect and profuse apologies. Someone else’s tickets were paid for by our card and so (duh again) when they then tried to run our card for close to 4 grand (again) it was declined. So we finally figured it out, and wasted an hour of my life arguing with this idiot who I knew was wrong to begin with. You gotta love customer service anymore, eh?
So the bottom line is, walk into a travel agency or airline and personally purchase your tickets if you are going to be flying overseas (I recommend Qatar Airways… awesome experience with them). It may cost a few extra hundred, but the peace of mind is worth it, trust me.
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