Sometimes booking a flight can be a nerve wracking experience. It turned out that I had spoken too soon on my previous post. I thought I had a ticket. Gah, I thought I had two tickets, a choice even. Apparently, it don’t happen till the fat lady sings. Or in this case, until travel agent lady hands over ticket. Till such time it’s all virtual and in ‘the system’.

Sometimes choice can be a bad thing. I found myself in a state of high tension like a stockbroker, faced with two tickets and trying to hold off until the right time to let go. I had a ticket to Bombay and back and then I had a HK-Bom-Bangalore-HK ticket which I was sure wouldn’t come through but did and then I had another option on HK-Bombay-HK, all of which had deadlines.

Anyway, I finally decided on the HK-Bom-HK one on Air India – a fatal error – because it was the cheapest and I was already pushing my budget. But when I go to pay for it, the travel agent tells me there’s a problem. Apparently, they had not put in my middle name (father’s name – gahhhh, enforced patriarchy rises to slap me in the face. Enforced because this is the Indian bureaucracy’s doing and not my father’s) which means that if they issued the ticket the name on my passport and the name on my ticket would not tally. Normally, this would not have been a problem but it’s Air India. Apparently, they had to send a note to Bombay to amend the name.

This is when it gets crazy. Getting anything processed from the mothership could take ages. Not only that, the quirks of babudom could deem that they cannot be arsed to change name and cancel ticket. In no other airline would this be thinkable, but it’s Air India. In no other airline would they have to get authorization from Bombay for this.

Now, all this wouldn’t matter if I had ages. But I don’t. I have two tickets ticking away in the background and the idea of letting them go, only to lose this one is too much to bear. Neither can I blithely take those tickets when the possibility of this one is open because frankly, those tickets are really expensive.

All calls to the airline go straight to an automated message that says ‘sorry there is no space to record new messages’. Huh? I don’t want to record a message, I want to talk to somebody dammit. Why am I calling the airline you ask? Um, because I don’t think that the Chinese travel agents are properly equipped to deal with Indian bureacracy.

And so in desperation, I use ‘influence’. I ask my mom to ask somebody who knows somebody in Air India in Bombay to please check what the status is on my ticket. Can you believe it? A simple thing like amending a name on a ticket – on which a note to the airline staff should suffice – has now come to the favour-asking stage. This person checks and says my name has been amended.

But the saga continues. My travel agent, being the over-enthusiastic soul that she is – is holding another ticket for me on another date, booked with the correct name. So what the girl in Bombay checked could well have been that flight because she didn’t have a pin number. Arrrgh.

I call another friend in Bombay who promises to check. But the next morning I haven’t heard from her and now the deadline for the ticket to be issued is drawing near. I am desperatetly trying to call the airline in Hong Kong, Bombay, anywhere but all their lines keep ringing. It’s like nobody ever picks up the phone.

I get through to some number in Hong Kong where the lady at the other end sounds like a replica of every frustrated secretary I have ever encountered in India. “Yes?” she says loudly on picking up. I politely state my request. “No no office is closed,” she says. I explain that their lines are ringing the entire day without being picked up. She is adamant that she cannot be bothered because this is after all, the ‘director’s office’ and the office is closed. I slam the phone down thankful that I had not identified myself because who wants her petty revenge?

Finally, my mom calls the girl in Mumbai again and she says she’s sure it was for the 3rd and not the 5th and that the name was changed. My dad asks his travel agent in Mumbai to check. They are all nonplussed that this is such a big deal. It is after all a middle name and doesn’t everybody know that those don’t matter?

I am beginning to think that while it has been updated on the Mumbai system, it is not showing up on the Hong Kong system and so I must check with the Hong Kong airline guys. I am just about to go down to the airline office in Hong Kong to try my luck there and confront the dragon lady from the phone yesterday, when suddenly someone picks up the Air India line in Hong Kong. She breezily confirms that the change has been made and that I must get the agent to issue the ticket in my name. “Remember the deadline is 2 pm,” she ominously adds.

I rush down the the travel agent where the name change is still not showing up on their system. It is now 1 pm. Frantic calls ensue to the airline and Abacus, the programme administrator. Suddenly, as the travel agent is on two phones at the same time, the new name pops up. We all do a little girly scream of relief.

And that’s how after two sleepless nights, I now have an Air India flight to Bombay. Thank you God. I will not rest until I board.

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