Of Bargain Flights and Advanced Travel Plans

If  I were to faithfully follow my travel plans based on all the flights I had booked and paid for in advanced, I would  be presently hiking the desolate but beautiful landscapes of the Grand Canyon in the US of A.  I would have gone through the Bright Angel Loop and exiting at the South Kebab trail.  I would be tired but totally exhilirated.  I could probably pass of as a African-American as I would be dark—really really dark.  And that’s not all due to all the hiking in the open but because prior to flying to LA on Nov 3, I would have just spent a couple of days in Boracay.  I would have been a true jetsetter— arriving in Manila from Kalibo on Nov 2 late in the afternoon and with just enough time to pack my bags, get some sleep, throw my clothes to the laundry, say good bye to friends, family, and co-workers, then board my PAL flight to LA the next day.

After the Grand Canyon, I would have returned to LA to base myself at my friend Jeff and David’s place in Pasadena to take in more sun at Santa Monica beach, marvel at all the freaks at the Venice Beach boardwalk, enjoy the breatheaking Getty Museum, and see the stars once more laid at Hollywood Boulevard.

Then I would have come home on the 25th, immerse myself in work, then leave again on the 18th of December for southern Vietnam and the Mekong Delta, Christmas in Phnom Penh, New Year in Siem Reap, then a final blast at Bangkok before heading home on the 4th of January.

It would have been a perfect travel schedule fit for a world traveller.

That is, if I actually boarded my Oct 30 Boracay flight and my Nov 3 LA flight.

So what happened?

US$ 473 MNL-LAX-MNL Airfare Story

It all started with an ad in the newspaper.  You know, the kind that when you turn the page, your heart suddenly beats faster, and not because you’re on stationary bike while reading the morning paper. But because in BIG BOLD LETTERS, you read “ALL IN”  and “2-days only.”  PAL was offering really cheap fares to the US and other international destinations.  The catch is, you had to book online during the 2-day promo and travel time was between September to December.

I wasn’t planning to go to the US this year as I had passed-up the IDEA Convention in July.  I wasn’t too keen on traveling in the later part of the year too as I had a Dec 18 MNL-SGN and Jan 4 BKK-MNL Cebu Pacific tickets I bought last February for about Php8,000.  But the ad beckoned.  So I did  what I always do whenever there’s an  online promo— I made a mock booking.  The system kept shutting down, probably due to too much online traffic. A couple of attempts later, I figured, it wasn’t meant for me.

The next day, I tried again.  Twice, I managed to choose my flights but when it came to payment, the system would shut down.  I stayed away from my pc and went back to work. After a few minutes, a voice whispered to me, “One more try. . . what if you give it one more try.”  I clicked the PAL tab.

Choose your flight.  Click next.

Input passenger details.  Click next.

Input payment details.  Wait… waiting… then…an apparition appeared.  The magic words —- CLICK NEXT!

Then the screen froze and an error message appeared about having to do it all over again.  I would have stopped right then and given Fate the finger for false expectations.  But I was worried about my card being transacted already.  Plusyou must understand that by this time, that the travel bug had truly bitten me and it was rabid!  I called my card company.  The transaction came through. I called the PAL hotline, listened to the recording of the PAL theme punctuated by “Your call is important to us.  Please hold while we connect you to a representative” for 30 solid minutes.  I was just about ready to give-up when a male voice came on the line.  He checked my booking.  It was there but it had been cancelled.  I told him that it had already been transacted in my card. He held me for about 15 minutes and when he returned, he said he would re-instate my booking since policy dictates that if it had been paid for, it had to be booked.  Next problem was ticketing it since it was handled by another department.  Apparently, even if a flight had been booked, if it does not get ticket, which is automatically done, it could still get cancelled.  But due to the high volume of booked flights, it would take a while for my booking to be ticketed.  I was assured however that I would get my e-ticket which I did after about an hour. In short, I had a confirmed booking on Nov 3 MNL-LAX and Nov 23 LAX-MNL flight.

Halloween in Boracay

After receiving my PAL e-ticket on my email.  I was ready to settle down and just wait for my November flight.  Lots had to be done—go on a diet, workout, save some dollars.  But again, it was not to be.  I had forgotten all about my previously booked flight to Boracay.

The Lenten Holiday was my first ever trip to Boracay and I was totally wasted!  A couple of days since getting back to Manila, stories of how fun the island was during Halloween got me and 2 other friends booking a Zest flight for the end of October.

So my travel plans now meant arriving back from Bora on the 2nd of November then flying out to LA the next day.

So what happened?

It was all Bangkok’s fault.  At least for the US trip.

Bangkok was still supposed to be for New Year on the trip I had planned and booked already as early as February.  I normally book a December-January trip in the first quarter of the year when flights are cheapest due to  Cebu Pacific’s seat sale.  But sometime in August, I got wind of a fitness convention in Bangkok in November.  Everything totally changed from then on.

Not exactly as liquid as my travel plans would like it to be, I was ready to give-up joining the convention.  But . . .but…but.. it was going to be the first fitness convention in Asia in so many years…and it was in Bangkok…and some people I know were going.  Out came pencil and paper. And with the help of my rudimentary math skills, I figured it was still cheaper to say bye-bye to my paid for and confirmed PAL flight and just proceed to Bangkok.  I guess, what was really priceless was going to Bangkok with a group of first-timers. It would actually be fun acting as their tour guide:)  The result — a US$123 rountrip PAL Econolight MNL-BKK-MNL and a US$249 2-day pass to the Asia Fitness Convention. The ups and downs and ups of the AFC registration is another interesting story to tell and deserves a blog all its own.

Verdict?  It’s the middle of November and I’m still here in Manila.  On the afternoon of Nov 3,  I imagined hearing my name being announced at the check-in counter.  “Mister Earl Clarence Jimenez… Mister Earl Clarence Jimenez.. please proceed to the PAL check-in counter… I repeat… ” Because it was a promo fare, it was non-refundable, non-rebookable, non-transferable. As the guy on the other end of the line said, “Sir, sumakay na lang kayo.”

Cancelling trips aren’t really new to me.  To date I’ve cancelled an MNL-ILOILO-MNL and a MNL-DUMAGUETE-MNL trip.  The latter actually beats all th trip cancellations hands down.  All I had to do was board the flight but I didn’t.  Circumstances from the flight being delayed then eventually cancelled then rebooked for the next day then delayed again made me think of the move “Final Destination.”  I didn’t board the flight and had my bag off-loaded.  At least my terminal fee and my tickets were refunded.

So here I am. Still dieting, still working-out, and still saving some precious dollars.  There is an ongoing Air Asia zero-fares online promo.  A roundtrip Bangkok-Yangon sounds so tempting.  I tried to do a mock booking the other night but I always get a service error.  The promo ends tomorrow.  Some travel blogs advise booking early in the morning.  Maybe I can tempt Fate once more.  Hmmm…

Categories: THICK THOUGHTS | Leave a comment

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