Preparing to shoot a few segments of Big Jon in 5 for BEER2WHISKEY in our upstairs studio at Barley's Taproom in downtown Greenville. That's owner Josh Beebe preparing for his closeup.

Monday, January 31, 2011

It's Official: No Happy Chinese New Year in Hong Kong for Me

No doubt you've been on pins and needles about my Hong Kong trip. Let's all heave a collective sigh of relief; I am still in the States.

My drop-dead deadline for making a decision was noon yesterday with the first leg of the trip set to depart Greenville-Spartanburg Airport at 7:30 AM today. On Thursday I pointed out to the PR agency in charge of arrangements on this end that my name was incorrect on the tickets. Had I purchased these tickets myself, I would have had the problem fixed with a 10-minute phone call. But what do I know?

The crux of the issue was that the tickets had only my middle and last name rather than my first, middle and last name as it appears on my passport. Adding to the problem, the travel agent booked the domestic and international flights separately. So the mistake had to be fixed twice.

56 Hours After Notifying Them of the Error/40 Hours Before Departure
Sometime between Thursday morning and Saturday afternoon, when I received a voicemail that the fixes were made, the travel agent changed the international tickets (and someone paid $150 to do so) so that my first name was added; but it was added as my middle name. The domestic tickets were unchanged.

I was on the phone with both Delta (the domestic carrier in this debacle) and Cathay Pacific (the international carrier). Getting a boarding pass wasn't an issue with Delta; I had a confirmation number. I could do it online. Delta wasn't even aware I was to end up in Hong Kong. I did want to get credit for the domestic miles, though, and to have my usual Delta clout in case something went wrong with any of the flights due to weather or whatever. Nope, sorry, can't add your Sky Miles number because the name isn't the same. I did question whether TSA would let me through security in Greenville without my first name on the boarding pass.

Cathay Pacific told me in no uncertain terms that they wouldn't issue my boarding pass with my first and middle names reversed.

58 Hours After Notifying Them of the Error/38 Hours Before Departure
I passed this info back to the Hong Kong U.S. tourist bureau that was now wrangling this issue. I heard nothing more on Saturday.

72 Hours After Notifying Them of the Error/24 Hours Before Departure
I popped out of bed Sunday morning, checked again to see if my Delta tickets were changed and they were not. Unless you are registered as a frequent flier on Cathay Pacific, you can only confirm flights over the phone. I called to discover they are closed on Sunday. Closed on Sunday! What sort of third-world operation is this?

Write this down: Never fly Cathay Pacific on a Sunday. They are closed.

I promptly sent an e-mail to my contact at the HK Tourist Bureau and CC'd a few other folks who had been involved up and down the line, saying I was canceling I immediately received a flurry of e-mails from several players in this comedy of errors asking me to give them a few more hours. That's when I announced my drop-dead deadline of noon.

75.5 Hours After Notifying Them of the Error/20.5 Hours Before Departure
At noon I get yet another e-mail saying that the problem was close to being solved. By this time my head was pounding and I was ready to strangle a Koala bear. Instead, I went to the gym.

78.5 Hours After Notifying Them of the Error/17.5 Hours Before Departure
I returned home around 3 PM, somewhat revived and a good bit more calm to discover that the errors persisted. In the hot-and-heavy exchange of e-mails throughout the morning, I saw one from the actual travel agent in which she stated that my Delta tickets didn't need to be changed because Delta only looks at the first name. (I have no clue if that is actually true.) At that instant, I suspected the travel agent, who had been telling everyone else that I was good to go, was under the impression that Russell is my first name.

I had an e-mail from the HK Tourist Bureau asking me to contact the travel agent directly in the hope that she could make dumb-ass me understand that everything was all right. Unwilling to have a Rush Limbaugh moment, all I will say about her command of English is that it leaves a little something to be desired. In serious CYA mode, she chattered on about how everything was okay and I should go. When I finally found the opportunity to jam a word or two into the conversation, I managed to say that "Russell" is my middle name and not my first name. That slowed her down. After repeating that a couple of times, along with repeating "Donald" as my first name, she finally grasped the concept. "Then these tickets are wrong," she said. Ding, ding, ding, ding, confetti filled the air! We then had a conversation about how Cathay Pacific wouldn't issue a boarding pass to me with my name wrong. Hmmm... where had I heard that before?

80 Hours After Notifying Them of the Error/17 Hours Before Departure
At this point I was three and a half hours past my drop-dead deadline and sick of the whole mess. I e-mailed all the players telling them that I was officially canceling my participation in the trip. What a weight off my shoulders. But wait, we're not done yet.

83 Hours After Notifying Them of the Error/14.5 Hours Before Departure
At 6:30 a message was left on my voicemail and then another at 7:00. Both telling me that everything is finally all fixed and I'm good to go. The HK Tourist Bureau has been in contact with the VP of Cathay Pacific and he has personally assured them that I will be boarded with no problem.

Yeah, well, I don't think so. If I could have solved this issue with a 10-minute phone call on Thursday, why couldn't the half a dozen people who were working on this not get the job done until Sunday evening? Amazing.

I didn't even respond last night. When I got up this morning, I e-mailed all the players once again reminding them I canceled out Sunday afternoon and did not get on the initial flight this morning.

Around noon today I get another call asking if I want to reschedule the trip and go tomorrow.

Where the hell is that Koala bear?

1 comment:

  1. Somehow, I think an international incident has been avoided. Think of the fix you'd be in if you got over there and then they became sticklers and wouldn't let you back in. (Insert comic line here.) How do you say "Where is the American embassy?" in Chinese?