Continuing on from my UN-trip Report started here, then here picks up below. For clarity, these were the choices once Air Asia denied our boarding for not having cleared tourist visas in advance of our trip to Myanmar, though according to the government we should have been allowed entry for transit purposes. None of this was due to our mistake fare pricing or ticket. Here again are the choices before us:
• If we find a way to Yangon (there are three flights that will still get us there in enough time to start our trip) then we can pay for the ticket and we have no more issues.
• We can get the Malaysian Airlines folks to drop the first flight off our itinerary without penalty and just spend all day in the lounge and airport waiting for our night flight.
• We can try to trick the system in some way. We could just spill it all, explaining that Air Asia essentially rejected our Myanmar transit visa, therefore we were in some sort of weird immigration limbo and would end up like Tom Hanks in Terminal without their help.
The Sherpstress and I weren’t sure which outcome to go for, so we didn’t just kind of let the Malaysia Airlines staff lead the way. Often, it seems to be that the American approach is to go up to the counter like a crazy person and flip over your purse spilling all the contents and making it the other person’s problem while you loudly search for something you couldn’t find.
We didn’t do that.
We just walked up to the business class counter (where we were booked for this portion of the trip) and handed over our passports. “Sir, do you have the confirmation number, it’s not pulling either of you up in the system.”
I open my email and find Sherpa mistake number two, I only have the Travelocity confirmation number.
Side Note: Travelocity, why oh why, do you not have any identifier in your iPhone app for the itinerary other than your Travelocity assigned itinerary? What about the airline’s record locator? How about the ticket number? Odd.
The patient young lady looks us over, and then confirms that we are indeed business class, a pet peeve of mine for different reasons that I won’t bore you with now. She asks us to see the ticket sales booth as they should be able to research it and print her the information she needs. We oblige. As we walk to the ticket counter we see some kiosks for self-service and this gives the Sherpa a great idea. What if we just self-check in and print all of our boarding passes, and then just miss the first trip? If we have checked in, and we have our onward boarding passes and we are already in Kuala Lumpur, maybe the system will think it’s all good.
“Sorry sir, these kiosks are only for domestic. International economy check-in is at counter C.” Strike two Malaysia Airlines. But I say nothing, just smile and nod because I need all the friends I can get right now. We pass some more helpful gents, that again try to push us to the international economy section, we decline (which I am sure confuses them) and then walk to the ticket sales counter.
The sweetest woman in the building takes our passports and finds our reservation in the system. She doesn’t indicate whether or not there is an issue, and because I have had several communications with the MH team prior to the trip and I am positive there are remarks connected to the tickets. She types a few more keys, then slides her hand expectantly over the printer waiting for the documents to follow. Until we get our tickets in hand we are nervous wrecks.
She mumbles something in Malay and then types, again, followed by her hand over the printer. My gaze zeroed in on the indicator lights on the top of the printer as if my life depended on it. I was waiting for a flashing green light, suggesting that it was working on it, and to be patient. Just solid green as if nothing was happening. The seconds creeping by were exhausting.
I tried making small talk, “So did you just start your shift or are you about done” as if I have any insight at all into the scheduling — why did I think this was a way to distract her, what an odd question and weird way to phrase it.
“I started 5AM.”
“Oh, great” I say back because I hadn’t prepared a clever response or way to continue to diffuse the awkward wait.
She spoke to someone else, again in Malay, pointing to the screen then to the printer. What would come out the other side, what was going on? The tension was killing us! This went on for 15 minutes. In our minds, the sun had already come up and then set again.
Finally, in hand, was a very bland and simple copy of our itinerary which clearly showed how much we paid for our ticket, the last four of the credit card used, and excluded any remarks that may have existed. We would go back to the counter with the information the agent needed, but we still had to decide on one of the previous four strategies (anchor). She was occupied when we returned, then we went to the woman seated next to her, who was apparently ending her shift because she slid a ‘Closed’ sign in front of her desk and then started to collect her things. We started looking around when an older man approached us and asked if we were flying business class today, we nodded and then he walked us over to his desk to help us check in.
One thing we learned a long time ago form many customs situations where we just want to pass through and get on with our day (our itineraries are seldom basic and usually look strange), was to smile a lot, be very interested in the person checking us in, and affable.
We made small talk as we loaded the bags onto the conveyer and handed him our itinerary with our passports. Some highlights included:
Agent: “Are you traveling?”
Sherpstress: “You can just leave me here if you want, I love Malaysia!”
Roars of laughter. Seriously, side splitting stuff.
Sherpa: <Pointing to the agent’s very old ID badge> “Looks like you got a haircut”
Thunderous applause coming from all directions.
Sherpa: “Are you just starting your shift or ending it?”
Sherpa: “Are you just starting for the day or are you about to go home?”
Agent: “I started at 5AM.”
Sherpa: “Oh, good, we have you at your best.”
Seriously, what was I thinking? Who says this stuff?
Then we come to the red herring that no one has discussed.
Agent: “Are you just coming in from Yangon, or…” trails off.
Sherpa: “We were heading there, and then back and then Frankfurt and then Montreal” I say making lots of hand gestures and kind of talking away with him.
He still can’t quite make sense of it, and looks at his watch.
Agent: “Will you go spend the day in the city?”
Sherpa/Sherpstress: “Yeah/Maybe” we say talking over each other.
Then he puts his hand down to collect the tickets he printed. There are only two, one each, Kuala Lumpur to Frankfurt, leaving at one minute to midnight (17 hours from then). I flip mine over to see the bags are checked through to Montreal and he indicates that yes, they will go from here all the way through, but as we are connecting with a different airline in Frankfurt we must have our tickets printed at the transit desk there. They are time stamped to right now, so at least we have a record of where we started our trip, what time, and that based on our bag tags we had a reasonable expectation that everything was just fine and missing our flight to Yangon, which we didn’t really discuss, would be no problem at all.
But it feels off. By our ambiguity and his, we don’t really know if he has taken care of the missed flight, if he knows we intend to miss the first flight, and what the situation might be later in the day. I feel as though we crossed one hurdle, but it didn’t seem like we had put enough distance between ourselves and our problem.
Do we ever get home? How many other struggles will we face? Find out, here in the dramatic conclusion of Ticketless in Malaysia.