Flight path

You all know that I’m going to Egypt in July, right? I may have briefly mentioned it before …

So I got this email from the intarnets-company-from-whom-I-purchased-the-airfare on Wednesday. (No names, but theirs does have “Ex” at the beginning.) It informed me that one of my flights’ departure and arrival times had been changed, so I was URGENTLY requested to call them, as they had made previous attempts to contact me without success.

WTF?

First of all, what attempts had they actually made? I had received no previous emails, nor had I received any phone messages. I hadn’t even received a letter in the mail. The company had my contact information for all three of those modes of communication.

And second of all, which flight and how was it changed? Did this mean that I wasn’t going to get to Egypt as planned, or that I wasn’t going to get home as planned? Was I going to be stuck in some airport somewhere waiting for a connecting flight that would never come?

So I got on the phone. Of course I had to punch in about three thousand numbers to navigate their system, I expected that. Then a recorded voice announced that because so many travellers were trying to contact the company, wait times to talk to an operative were currently more lengthy than normal. Then the Musak started. Really, really loud Musak. But I couldn’t turn the phone volume down because then the recorded voice was inaudible.

So I waited.

About ten minutes later, a real person finally answered. I explained the email I had received and asked which flight was affected. It took him a while to figure it out (he decided to read through every one of the SIX flights I’d booked to get us to and from Cairo), but we discovered that it was the flight out of Cairo to London Heathrow, our first leg home. That flight no longer existed, apparently.

The airline was offering us a flight that left many hours later – in fact, later than our connecting flight from London Heathrow to Edmonton. So obviously, that wasn’t going to work. The company had to find us a flight that would enable us to make that connection, or else they had to rebook everything. And I made it clear to the fellow I was talking to that I had no intention of paying any extra, since it wasn’t MY idea to change any flights, that the airline had forced me into it.

That’s when he told me that maybe I should just stay in Cairo. Because I could stay at his place. Because this particular company’s Canadian call centre is located in Cairo.

I was actually speaking to a Egyptian man in Cairo! I was so excited! I started asking him all kinds of questions about the city and Egypt in general, and he asked where we were visiting, and we just had this wonderful conversation.

Then he told me that he’d have to contact the airline, and since that took a long time usually, he’d have to put me on hold. I declined, telling him that I’d call back later that evening when I had more time. He assured me that he’d make notes on my file, so that when I called back, the operative would know what was going on.

Except he didn’t. After waiting about ten minutes to speak to a real person when I called back, I had to explain the issue all over again. But I had another terrific chat about Cairo and its people with this second guy, who was actually very informative, so I didn’t really mind. This time I stayed on hold while he attempted to call airlines to find out about alternate flights. This took probably an hour out of my evening. Eventually the call was dropped and there was no more loud Muzak, just silence and then the dial tone.

I gave up for the night, determined to try again the next night.

I spent most of Thursday evening on the phone, punching numbers, being on hold, talking with men in Cairo (sounds sordid, doesn’t it?), and having three phone calls dropped. What is WITH this company that you can’t be on hold without them dropping your call??? I don’t think it was me, because this happened on three different phones, one at work and two at home. The second time, I complained to the operative, who told me if it happened again, he would call me right back. And he did. Twice.

Anyway, each time we got a little further along, and the third time we couldn’t go any further because the airline that he was trying to contact was closed. It was also bedtime here in Vancouver, so he told me the flight he was trying to confirm for me and told me to call back tomorrow morning. He was going to try to call that airline as soon as they opened to get us on that flight – and of course he’d leave notes in my file so that the next operative could just carry on.

But he didn’t, so when I called back this morning, I had to explain everything yet again. And then I was put on hold and – you guessed it – lost the connection. I called back an hour later. This time, I think the notes were finally, magically in my file, because the operative took a moment to check when I gave him my itinerary number, then said, “Didn’t you get an email showing your revised itinerary?”

No. No, I did not. I had just checked my email literally five minutes previously, and there was nothing there. He offered to send it again, but asked if I could check quickly before he did so. I checked. There it was. I thanked him and hung up … before that disconnection thing could happen again.

And the ironic thing is that the new flight is pretty much the same as the old one: same departure time, same arrival time, same airline, just a different number.

But wait, there’s more ….

Then I got home and there was a message on the phone. It was from the company, and a rather snotty woman told me that they had tried to contact me several times to tell me that there had been a “slight” change to one of my flights, but that the new flight we were booked on was at the same time as the old one, just operated by a different airline (which it’s not, really. It started out a codeshare, operated by two different airlines. One airline isn’t in on the deal any more, the other one is still running the flight. That’s the one we originally booked with, so all that has truly changed, as I said, is the flight number. But who’s arguing?).

And just after dinner, there was yet another email from the company telling me that the airline had made a “minor” change to my itinerary and detailing the revised flight schedule. This email was apparently sent well before I even phoned them this morning, but I only received it early this evening. So this company not only can’t figure out how to get me an appropriate flight or how to keep me on the phoneline, but now they can’t get emails to me in a timely manner either???

But basically, the whole thing turned out to be much ado about nothing. I am going to Egypt as planned …

… and I will also be coming home.

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10 responses to “Flight path

  1. We all were so proud of ourselves cutting out the middle man and being able to compare airline prices and book our own trips…but I’m thinking maybe it is time to re-engage the services of a professional travel agent (and no, I’m not one)…I’m planning a trip to Italy though and I’m thinking…research myself and be informed of best rates, but let the pro deal with the headaches.

  2. We’ve had a lot of annoyance calling credit cards and stuff on the toll free numbers in the US since we’ve been in the UK. I just save myself a lot of hassle and use Skype, which doesn’t care.

    Should you care to really read about it, here’s the Wikipedia link to the Toll Free Number article, it is kind of interesting: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toll-free_telephone_number

    • Kimberly – That article really IS interesting! Who knew toll-free numbers could hold my interest that much? Thanks for the link. And yeah, Skype, how did we live without it?

  3. From London we can’t actually call 1.800 numbers at all, they just don’t work. Which is really annoying when you try to deal with US companies and they are saying to call the toll free number instead of a real phone number.

    • Kimberly – I wonder if we here in North America can’t call European-based toll-free numbers then? I never thought of it before – I shall have to ponder this a little now!

  4. VioletSky – So don’t call a “toll-free” number in Europe unless you have a bucket of money to waste on the call, huh? I had no idea! That’s so weird!

  5. How bizarre a coincidence that the call centre was in Cairo!
    I felt like beating head against a wall just reading about this ordeal.

    …and did you know that those ‘toll-free 1-800’ numbers are not actually free in Europe? and probably not in Africa, either.

  6. Isn’t it enough to drive you mad, though? And the cost of those phone calls?

    • Kimberly – I’ve never had any trouble with that company before, and I’ve been buying air tickets through them for five or six years now, but I’m sure going to think twice next time. I understand that glitches do happen, but the fact that it was so damn hard to get ahold of them was maddening – and their website is quite clear that you must phone them for any changes you want/ need. That seat selection thing sounds ridiculous, too. Well, I guess it’s buyer beware – and also, sometimes you get what you pay for!

      Nora – I was so frustrated! The only thing that made me keep my cool was the thought that I was phoning Cairo and all those Egyptian people were so very nice, offering all kinds of information about their city and telling me how very welcome I was to visit their country. And fortunately, I was calling a toll-free number. The cost would have been astronomical otherwise, wouldn’t it?!

  7. The trip to Egypt sounds so cool, except for the tour thing, though hopefully it will be better than we all might expect. I’d love to go to Egypt, can’t wait to hear about it.

    But about the travel company with an ‘Ex’ at the beginning of their name… They did similar annoying things to me when we were going to Germany last year and mistakenly bought our tickets from them. The flights changed a number of times, which wasn’t their fault or a big deal. However, them not actually getting the seats that they let us reserve, was a big deal. They let you go through the whole process of allegedly reserving seats and don’t actually say that they can’t really guarantee that you’ll have those seats assigned because all they can do is make a request, maybe, from the airline (don’t know if this is with all airlines but definitely US Airways). Turns out they don’t even try very hard, at least not with US Airways, and aren’t honest with the customer because they never get the seats reserved with US Airways. Luckily, I found out about the seat problem from US Airways directly and they were able to fix it because yeah, thanks to the crappy company with an ‘Ex’, my husband and I weren’t even sitting together and were sitting in middle seats on the long flight to Europe. Nice.

    Sorry for the rant!