Finally found a spot near departure Gate 60 which has reasonable WIFI reception. Where? Land of fragrant harbour. Flight is 4.15 pm to LA which is going to be about 12 or 13 hours of sore bums. Then another 3 hours or so to Chicago. Why? In an effort to overcome climate change, I am burning up carbon. OK, don't jump. The organisers promised it will be a carbon neutral event. So, we have to tell them all about our travel mode to the conference so that they can offset it somehow (will let you know how).
This morning I was there at the Penang Airport bright and early. Ah, but there was drama fit for Hollywood. Even heard those scary stories about people booking their tickets online with their credit cards but refused boarding? Apparently, there is fine print on the e-ticket that says that the person travelling must be the person who's credit card is being used to pay for the ticket. So, some poor girl got stuck at the airport because her mom had booked it online with the mom's credit card. If that is the case you have to show proof it's not fraud or something.
My story is just as spell-binding. The organisers who invited me to the conference offered two options. One, I buy the ticket and then claim back the fare. Or get them to book, so no hassle with reimbursements. I chose the second option.
I them told what I wanted, they booked it, I said OK. They asked for my name as in the passport, seat preference, diet. Then came an email telling me I should go to the airline to get a physical ticket.
Hey, isn't everyone into e-ticket already? I asked around at the office. Should be OK. I called up the Penang Cathay Pacific Office (Boustead Bldg) .. no answer, 2 or 3 times. Called up their office at the airport, spoke to a man. He says, no problem, we use e-ticket. No need physical ticket.
Then on Saturday morning, when sending off my wife who was heading for Europe with my sister and sis-in-law, I brought the printout of the itinerary to the Cathay check-in counter to confirm. Guess what? Of course, no problem. e-ticket OK.
Fast forward to 6 am at Penang Airport this morning. Mr. Lee do you have the ticket? Huh, I said. I checked twice and you guys say e-ticket OK.
Well, apparently, the travel agent in Chicago screwed up. They originally booked my flight using Meng/Lik. After asking for my passport name, they send me confirmation of the change Lee/Likmeng.
But this morning I learned that there a "reservation/booking" record in the computer system. And then there is a "ticket" record in that same system. And they don't talk to each other. My reservation name was updated. But not my ticket name. So, they can't issue the ticket.
Who can change it? The original travel agent. So, does that mean I can't travel today. "I am sorry", says the Cathy people. I said, I am not coming back to the airport tomorrow. Either I travel today, or I am not traveling. What's my option? There's no way I can communicate with Chicago to get it changed on the spot.
Well, there's one option. I have to purchase a ticket on the spot. I asked them whether the organisers can get their money back from the ticket. They said no problem; maybe they have to pay administrative fee.
I gave the it about 5 seconds of thought and said, OK. I will buy the ticket. I will trust Harold to get me my money back.
The line is forming for the boarding to LA. A young girl beside me is very angry with his boyfriend. She keeps bugging the boy to call her before she boards (she was on skype or something) ... but she is furious and still no calls. So, where's the recession. And the H1N1 flu? Wow, the line is really long.
I better sign off now. Stay tune for more stories of my Journey to the East ... ahh, make that the West.
Hong Kong Airport