It’s about percentages…

…or so I tell myself. I think that I fare pretty well considering how often I fly, so the more I travel, the more I should expect these kind of things.

No more sleep-under-the-barren-sky desert trip for me: my flight yesterday was cancelled for maintenance issues and that eliminated my window of opportunity, so I had them issue my new flight straight to Germany. It’s sad, but I’m yearning to be back with Mandi and welcome the two day verkurzung of the trip.

It’s working out well despite the fact that it’s difficult not to be upset. The original flight to Abu Dhabi was just as long as my entire new trip and I slept in a comfortable hotel instead of on the plane.

That being said, I’m on my fourth airline and fifth re-reservation. At the lowest point yesterday I was super excited to have my flight home on Turkish Airlines, but upon asking the gate agent if there might be some way to get a gluten free meal (because of the rebooking there was no time to do the normal day-ahead request) she took my tickets and told me I was unable to board! Just like that my hopes were shattered and no amount of pleading could help – they have some policy like that.

A supersupervisor (two levels up) stayed with me to the end (I was literally the last passenger in the airport before it closed for the night) which was kind of her. She felt bad both because of my hassle and that she couldn’t do a thing about it – the most sympathetic airport staff I’ve worked with.

Now I’m on the bus for the terminal and hope things turn out okay today: definitely not asking about the meal 😐. KLM has a flight from Amsterdam to Hannover, which I am going to ask about instead of returning from Amsterdam to Frankfurt – that would save me several hours and one train trip.

Will update as the day goes by.

A perfect storm (going without gold)

I’ve officially spent more than 10% of my time in Hong Kong on the phone with my credit card company. No need to bore you with the details, but it’s quite a story, so here it is for you in bulleted outline form!

  1. Leave credit card in Phoenix Sky Harbor
  2. Arrive in Germany
  3. Purchase flight from Japan to Germany with said credit card number and info
  4. Request a new credit card from issuer following loss in (1). Have them overnight it to a friend so I can pick it up in Japan when I arrive, as there is no time to retrieve it in Germany.
  5. Realize that airline from Japan to Germany requires original purchasing credit card at check-in counter else no boardy on flighty.
  6. Take credit card for same account but with Mandi’s name (as authorized user on account) and leave for Singapore.
    1. Credit card assured me:
      1. I can legitimately use the card as I am the primary account owner for it
      2. They will write a certificate to state that I am the authorized owner of the first credit card that made the filght purchase.
  7. Try to get Sing Dollars from ATM in airport; ATM requires PIN; credit card has no chip and no PIN.
  8. Call credit card company. VISA says that everyone who accepts VISA must accept it without PIN as well.
  9. No one is responsible for the machine. It is faceless. Use backup plan – German bank card.
  10. Fly to Hong Kong; run out of money.
  11. Find American Bank – CityBank; tellers closed; employee says wouldn’t matter – they need a PIN.
  12. Call credit card issuer – they told me earlier a quick call would authorize transaction – they have Cantonese speaking support.
  13. Proceed on phone in bank for an hour while credit card company issues a PIN. They previously told me this was impossible.
  14. Attempt to withdraw cash; PIN fails; card locked out.
  15. Call credit card issuer – they set a PIN for the wrong card (mine, not Mandi’s); hour later, new PIN set for Mandi’s card, I can make withdrawal.
  16. Withdrawal fails.
  17. Try German card as backup; transaction fails.
  18. Call Notrufnummer (emergency number) from back of German card – invalid number.
  19. Call credit card issuer; 24-hour hold is from ATM network, not credit card; we are helpless; not our problem.
  20. Three hours later (standing next to ATM the whole time in middle of city), hold still active, no way to get money. Spoke with credit card issuer and with VISA.
    1. Only two options:
      1. Show two IDs to bank with credit card – a couple of banks told me they could not do this
      2. VISA can send emergency cash through Western Union
      3. All options were open when I started the call to credit card issuer. All options were closed by the end.
  21. Take $1.25 in pocket and make long walk home – taxis, busses, trams, etc… do not accept credit cards. Most food places also don’t – the ones that do are closed.
  22. Find a 7 Elevent that accepts normal credit card transactions (vs cash advance which is blocked) and buy prepackaged salad for gourmet dinner. Sleep.

When you travel frequently, you expect things like this to happen. The most frustrating part is how many people from my credit card company seemed to lead me on like I would be able to make a withdrawal from an ATM in just a few minutes. Throughout the night the excuses kept changing and kept getting closer to the truth. There was a severe not-my-problem feel to the experience, culminating in a joint conversation with my card issuer and VISA at the end. The eighth person from my credit card told me that the temporary hold was completely from VISA. When speaking with VISA, I asked the representative if he could authorize a cash advance at the specific ATM for the specific amount I wanted (information I had been previously asked about by my card issuer). His response was, “let’s check with your card issuer, we don’t authorize or block those transaction.” Irony – she was on the phone with us and had been the one to pull in VISA because she was unable to authorize it. So frustrating and stressful. Had I been given an honest and full disclosure at the beginning, I could have explored a big part of the city, ate at a restaurant that accepted credit card payments, and gotten home earlier.

Somewhere in this is a great lesson about customer service, miscommunication, and bug reports. Maybe I’ll write about that later.

Travel Blunders

This comes just a little late, mainly because of my trip to Sofia right after I arrived in Germany, but I wanted to share about one of the less exciting aspects of being a nomad, namely damaged luggage.

I travel often but this is the first time I have personally experienced damaged luggage. When I flew to Japan last summer, Air Canada was very worried about an article a friend of mine had – they even held it back and delivered it to his door, but in the end there was hardly a scratch on the bag – that was service.

Now, however, it’s my baggage and it’s really messed up. The black bag was a going-away gift from the engineering department at the Johnson County REMC, a wonderful place full of warm and amazing people. Although I planned on taking with me to Bulgaria last week, I couldn’t because of the torn strap. The green bag is also brand new, as Mandi and I decided we needed some durable luggage of our own (I think we had always borrowed luggage in the past). We’re glad we got something built like a tank (props to Osprey luggage!) because it was banged up pretty badly and I’m pretty sure the other suitcases we had been using would have left our stuff strewn across the conveyor system

So, from here on out we’ll see what happens with it all. Hopefully the airline will take care of it. Below are the pictures of the damage.