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The Evil that is.. dah dah dah…. Separate Tickets (insert scream here)

Background

Whenever I travel I have always bought tickets together and it all seemed to flow so nicely. If there was a screw up or a delay, no problem the airline gave you a hotel or meal voucher.

But during my attempt to fly to Venice to start my next contract on the cruise ship I experience the horror that comes when tickets are purchased separately and for airlines that are not partners.

And it Begins…

Checking in was a breeze, although some sweet talk was required as my bag was overweight but, hey, I am on a seaman’s ticket. They checked my bags all the way to Venice, even though the tickets were separate. However, they couldn’t give me my boarding passes but all I had to do was pick them up at the kiosk, no problem. She also casually informed me that, due to San Francisco’s infamous fog, flights were delayed but again, no problem, I should make my flight.

Waiting in the lounge the emails from United Air went something like this:
Your 10.30am flight is delayed to 11.30am
Now your 10.30am flight is delayed to 1.19pm
oh wait we mean 12.30pm

Ultimately we left at 1.30pm, but with the absolute assurance from all involved that making my 3.30pm flight would be a snap. When we landed I had just over an hour and all I had to do was jog over to Air France, grab my boarding passes and head to the gate. No Problem!!!

Marathons
Let’s rephrase shall we: I RAN down through the domestic terminal to the international terminal that was “right next door” and tried to find the Air France counter. I finally got directions and sprinted dragging my carry on behind me. Rounding the corner to the Air France counter I discovered nothing… no-one….nada…. the counter was closed, with still an hour till the flight. I tried the kiosk but kept getting a “Do not recognise flyer” message. By now panic was rising, the tears were forming, the sweat was poring, I HAD TO MAKE THIS FLIGHT!

I saw a young man and asked if he worked at the counter, he said yes listened to my desperation and went to find the supervisor. Both of these guys had been on their way to lunch…. not anymore. The supervisor told me gate closed, no go, have to rebook. As I was waiting for them to get me a phone number a French couple rounded the corner with the same look of desperation. Turns out they had the same problem flying in from a different airport. The Air France guys gave us the number, said sorry and disappeared as fast as their little feet could take them. Although the young guy did really want to help more.

Hello Operator???

The french couple asked me to help with the phone call so we dialed and hoped for the best. After a few transfers we were finally connected to United… I think… not sure why…
For both of us the answer was that we had booked on separate airlines so that means there was nothing they could do, they couldn’t rebook us, they couldn’t give us information… nada!!

Customer Service at its best!!

Then we headed off to United to see if there was anything the counter could do. Once again it was a dead end, they could proved us a note claiming we missed our next flight due to a delay and a coupon for a hotel discount, but nothing else. Also they weren’t sure where my bags were, but we relatively certain they were somewhere in the airport… fantastic!

Delta????

A good friend suggested we go see Delta, as they are partners with Air France…. it couldn’t hurt really, we had hit a wall at every possible attempt. The staff at the Delta Air counter in San Francisco were not only kind and friendly they were downright incredible, phenomenal and pretty damn awesome. We spent 5 hours at the counter but they would not give up. The first lady could not help me but she was able too sort out the couple’s tickets with just a small change fee. Then just as I was about to give up, after trying to call any number I had to reach someone in Italy… an amazing member of the Delta team put his foot down and was determined to discover a way to get my ticket sorted. He would not give up, and eventually against all odds, possibly with a little magic involved he handed me my tickets for the next flight and even had me do online check in and choose my seats. I wanted to kiss him, all the stress and strain dissipated.

Luggage in transit

During this miracle of reticketing, I went to United to find my luggage. They had no record of it other than when it was scanned to go onto the airplane in…wait for it…. Eugene, OR. So either my bag was still on the Eugene flight, or it had been transferred and was flying to venice or it was backstage somewhere in the airport. At that point it just didn’t seem like a big deal… am was sure I would find it the next day.

The Round Up

The 3 musketeers left the airport and headed for our hotel feeling utterly exhausted, bordering on starvation but not defeated now that Delta had saved the day. After a shower and rest we celebrated the insanity of the day over dinner and drinks and then planned to meet the next day at the airport.

In the end I made it to Venice, the Air France flight was great, I had a whole row, great movies and good food. But the stress to get there just proved the fact that buying tickets all within the same partnership can significantly diminish stress when delays occur.

As for making it to the ship…. I did, barely, but that’s a story for another time.

 
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Posted by on November 16, 2013 in Cruise, Italy, Travel, Uncategorized

 

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Seoul, Korea – Week 1

1 Oct 2012

Flying United

You would think by now I would be an expert at packing. But add in some dive gear and I am lost… Trying to fit in my fins turned out too much work.

The most important aspect to my packing was my faithful friend, who traveled all year with me in 2011 and never once demanded a mention. Well here he is my faithful African Wild Dog:

The shuttle picked me up at 3.45am for my 6am flight. I wonder why I do flights at these ungodly hour, literally before the butt crack of dawn.

My fabulous, amazing parents allowed me to use air miles to get a flight to Seoul on United Air. I have flown United many times and usually they are ok, not brilliant but ok. Well this flight lived up to all the expectations… of other people who say United is shite! The flight attendants looked miserable and never smiled, only offering water once during a 6hr section of the trip. They even refused to help anyone with their bags. So much for it being a customer service based industry. The lunch they served was almost inedible, it tasted like they had warmed the salad up with the “chicken” dish. They had also run out of choices by the time they got to me and the back half of the plane, and of course the only choice they had was the one I didn’t want.

The entertainment was still the old way with the TV in the center of the aisle every few rows, and about 25 people didn’t have any sound… it was a 12 hr flight! But it felt like longer.

Luckily the passengers were super nice in my area, some of them helped me get my bag up into the overhead as the attendant just glared at us. As I got to my seat, I realised there was a couple behind me with a 8mth old little one, named Hudson. My first thought was “blooming hell, 12 hrs with a screaming child”. But then the mom handed out little pieces of paper attached to ear plugs introducing little Hudson and apologizing for nay crying. You can’t be angry when the parents are considerate.

My seatmate was flying her first international flight and was super nervous. She tried to upgrade, even to first, but they refused to let her since she had already boarded, once again United steps up to the plate. She had booked a window seat and been assured she would get one but instead she had the 2nd seat in from the aisle in the 4 seat section. I had the aisle, and I would have switched but I couldn’t do a 12 hr flight in an inside seat.

She was on her way to visit her husband for their anniversary, he is a soldier at the Yongsan Army base in Seoul. We chatted a lot and I helped her through immigration and customs.

Old Friends

As we came through the doors I saw Jamie, I had not seen her in almost 8yrs. We met on a Korea Tourism trip and had stayed in contact ever since. When I told her I was planning to go to Thailand she said I should visit her in Seoul as she would be returning there to do 2yrs at an international school. Sounded like a plan to me and it meant that I could try meet up with Korean friends and hopefully my taekwondo masters.

It was fantastic seeing Jamie and chatting about everything, both good and bad that had happened in the last few months. The shuttle bus took almost an hour to get to her place and then we hopped in a taxi to go the last 10min rather than lugging my bags… I was already sleep walking as it was. After a shower I felt much better and then we headed out for my first meal of Sam Geup Sal (Korean BBQ with thick bacon like pork), my favorite.

Visa Run

Wednesday turned out to be a public holiday so we couldn’t go to Itaewon (the Foreigner area) till Thursday. We spent Wednesday meeting a friend of Jamie’s to help her with an application essay. I was really jetlagged and tired, but after some Donkas (fried pork cutlet) I felt much better. We also went for coffee and a delicious brownie. I ordered an iced coffee and had to pay 200won for the ice, how funny is that!

Then we walked around Namdaemun market (South Gate Market). One of my favorite places from when I lived here. I was still able to find my way around even after 8yrs…

Thursday morning we got up early to find the Thai Embassy in Itaewon. If Jamie had not been with me I would have been lost for sure!! To find the Thai Embassy you go out exit 3 and walk straight until you see, what I termed, the lego building on your left, then turn right and go downhill till you find the embassy on your right.

I went to pull my number noting about 20 people in front of me. As I pulled number 4 the dinnger dinged and showed 4, well that was quick. Less than 5min later we were out the door and I could pick up the visa in the morning. Turned out I couldn’t get the 90 day visa, as I hoped, as the letter from Lotus Divers was not an original.. dangit. But I have a 60day visa and can do a visa run to the immigration office near where I will be staying.

Time for breakfast at a place called Gecko’s, Jamie, being a veggie, ate all the non meat, I cleaned up the rest. Then a treat for ourselves, a pedicure. Bit more expensive than I would have liked but it was fun. Of course in the subway on the way home a lody rushing for the door stood on my foot and took off half the paint on my left big toe. Dammit!!!!

Meeting Masters

Jamie headed home but I went to meet my 1st Taekwondo Instructor, Master Kim Eun Cheol. I hadn’t seen him in over 8yrs. He had sent me text saying I must go to Jamwon and exit 4. Finding his school again was going to be a miracle, but then again if I can find a curio shop in the middle of Namdaemun market, there was hope. Low and behold I found it. I just walked straight then a left and then there was something about the door across the road that looked right, 3 floors up and woohoo, there was Sindong Taekwondo.

Now, since I had 2 masters during my 3yr stint in Korea, it became easier to describe them as Number 1 and Number 2 when talking to my mom. So for future reference that is how I will write them here.

Number 1 was out of the office when I got there but his assistants, who spoke no English, looked like an honored guest had arrived and scurried around finding me coffee and getting me a chair, it was kind of cute. They called number 1 and he said he was bringing the van and to bring me downstairs. There was much bowing and smiling when they took me to meet him.

I got in the van and it was like we had just seen each other last week. He took me to lunch at a place famous for its beef soup and kimchi, delicious. He showed me pics of his 2 kids and caught me up on all the other masters I had known. He called number 2 who nearly had a heart attack when he tried to give me the phone, as he was terrified of speaking English to me. It was all rather bemusing.

Back at his gym we chatted more and he told me about his second gym he had opened. We planned to get everyone together and meet at the restaurant of one of the masters, Maximus had opened a korean BBQ place and also had a gym. I looked forward to seeing all of them, but wasn’t holding my breath as we all know how busy Koreans can get.

Back at “home” I made Jamie some Pasta Italiano, thanks again to vet Nicola from Italy who taught me the recipe in the jungle of Ecuador. It has been a favorite of all my vegetarian friends.

Visa in my Hot Little Hands

Friday I got an early start and left a note for Jamie. Got to Itaewon and went straight to the embassy. This time I had to wait a whole 2min before it was my turn. What a pretty visa it is, 60days sorted need to make a visa run to Koh Samui at some point to get a 30 day extension.

Then went back to the nail place to have my pedicure fixed, no problem and no charge. The fascinating thing was, that when she switched on the dryer for my toes, there was air blowing. Yesterday there hadn’t been any and I just assumed it was one of those ultra violet type ones… no wonder the pedicure didn’t dry properly.

The Insanity of Myeongdong

Jamie is a bit different to me on the shopping scale. In other words she got the shopping in stores and malls gene while I didn’t, much preferring the open market crowds vs the mall type crowds. She needed to get a few things for winter and so we planned to meet at Myeongdong. I think I have been to this area once, and now I remember why. It was blaring music and signs and lights and people…

Since she was running a little late I went to find a coffee shop, which turned out to be harder than expected. Eventually desperate to get off the insane street I picked a place and ordered the cheapest thing on the menu, a lemon tea for 5500 won ($5.50). It tasted like hot lemon crystal light with a piece of lemon in it and it looked a rather luminous yellow color. But it was out of the noise and street so I guess that’s what you pay for.

Did You Say Cat Cafe???

Jamie, still recovering from being sick, arrived and looked pretty miserable and sick, but we decided to give shopping a try. As we walked towards H&M I saw a sign for a Cat Cafe… I insisted we go look, Jamie thought it was just some stupid name, but I was certain it was like the ones in Japan I had heard of, where you have a coffee and can sit with a bunch of cats.

It was heaven and the cats were fantastic. Only photos can do it justice:

This little bugger is in time out for peeing on a customers bags and escaping.


Our favorite Juno, who gave Jamie some much needed kitty therapy

After some much needed cat therapy Jamie looked much better and was able to shop all afternoon. Can’t say that I faired very well, but then when we figured out the girls outside the beauty shops were enticing us with free face masks and such I was much better. You don’t have to buy you just have to look. Sounds good to me and I get free stuff… I really have no shame in that department, Jamie felt bad though and bought something in almost every shop.

Stir Fry and a Korean Movie about a Tsunami that wipes out Busan (city in the south).

1 week down another to go. So many things to see and do and friends to meet up with…

 
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Posted by on October 23, 2012 in RTW, Travel, Uncategorized

 

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