“Sir, Your Flight Does Not Leave Until Tomorrow Night…”

D espite the airplanes being full of passengers, the itinerary for my unintentional trip around the world has gone quite smoothly. In fact, too smoothly, I thought just yesterday.

Something told me when I woke up for my flight to Shanghai early this morning from Seoul that the airline on which I was about to fly would surprise me — and sure enough, it did…

“Where is your final destination today, Mr. Cohen?” asked the woman at the check-in counter at Incheon International Airport.

I thought that was an odd question to ask.

“Well, my final destination is Manila later tonight”, I replied. “But I am traveling to Shanghai for the day first as my connection.”

“Sir, your flight does not leave until tomorrow night. There is no flight to Manila tonight.”

I just stood there with my mouth open. I have been accessing my e-mail account. Why was I not notified?

“You mean there is no way I can get to Manila tonight?”

“No. I am sorry, sir. Do you still want to go to Shanghai?”

The first flight to Shanghai was indeed scheduled to depart on time — but what choice did I have? I had to go through Shanghai eventually anyway.

When I first booked my reservation with an Internet travel agency whose name begins with an O — and it is not Oxpedia or Otravelocity — that flight existed. My intention was to spend a day in Shanghai — no more than that. If I would have known this was going to happen, I would not have chosen such an early flight from Seoul; rather, I would have chosen an afternoon flight and stayed overnight.

“It is not your fault”, I said. “This just messes up my hotel plans. I have a reservation at a hotel in Manila; but I will not be able to get there in time because I am taking the flight tomorrow night instead of tonight.”

Bizarrely, the flight from Shanghai to Manila is an overnight flight. It is scheduled to depart at 11:45 in the evening and arrive in Manila at 3:40 in the morning. Thus, I must cancel my hotel reservation in Manila and book one in Shanghai for tonight — quickly.

“Is access to the Internet in this airport free of charge?” I asked.

She replied no; but that I can purchase access at an Internet café.

“Does Shanghai Pudong International Airport have free access to the Internet?”

“No. You are probably better off accessing the Internet from here.”

How in the world does an airport like Incheon International Airport — supposedly considered one of the best airports in the world — not have complimentary Internet access? Singapore Changi Airport had free access to the Internet plus a whole lot more when I was there a few years ago. Now that is an airport.

No time now: I must get through airport security — and the lines are excruciatingly long but moving.

Once I got through all of the roadblocks and took an airport train to get to the terminal where my flight was scheduled to depart, I arrived at the gate, whipped out my laptop computer and found that there indeed was free Internet access.

I immediately canceled my existing hotel reservation in Manila and scrambled to book a hotel reservation in Shanghai. I wound up choosing the Hyatt on the Bund. It will cost me $100.00 more than the Hyatt Regency Hotel & Casino Manila; but I chose the Hyatt for several reasons — not the least of which is that I could easily find it in Shanghai. I did not do much research on Shanghai because I was only supposed to be here for the day. Hotel rooms in Shanghai seemed rather high — probably because it was a last-minute reservation and that I booked a hotel right near the Bund — but I did not have the time I needed to do some research, as boarding for the flight to Shanghai was about to begin at any moment.

By the way, the urgent warnings about a significant change in my flight did not reach my e-mail account until only approximately seven hours before my flight — even though the airline employee told me that the change occurred in September and that all of the Internet travel agencies were notified of the change.

“I was not notified of the change”, I replied to her as I started to wonder why that unnamed Internet travel agency did not warn me about this significant change sooner.

I checked amongst the plethora of e-mail messages which that unnamed Internet travel agency had sent to me — most of which attempted to sell me on airfare sales and lodging discounts — and there was not one urgent notice amongst them; although there was one e-mail message from two days prior with a benign title containing no alert simply reminding me to prepare for my trip. The schedule change was buried in there.

…so although I plan on contacting that unnamed Internet travel agency which begins with the letter O about why they did not warn me about this major change to my trip sooner as I had carefully planned out the lodging aspect, I will ask you: as I believe that it is inexcusable to inform of such a major change in an itinerary only hours before a flight — where most of those hours were overnight while I was sleeping — do you believe that I should seek compensation; or should I just chalk it up to another unexpected adventure while traveling?

What do you think? What would you do?…

…and I was actually concerned about a volcano possibly disrupting my itinerary to Manila

  1. This reminds me a situation I had with SAS in spring 2013, when they had also cancelled flight while I was travelling in Asian jungles and discovered it in the airport. They said that they had been in contact with BMI British Midland agents (my ticket for SAS flights had been issued as BMI award back in May 2012, just weeks before it ceased to exist while merging BA), who according to SAS had been in phone contact with me (which was certainly not the truth). While I questioned them who SAS could have possibly in contact with BMI – an airline that did not exist any more – probably some superpowers, which enable to talk with the dead… I got a blank reply… and they rebooked me instead of business class to economy on Lufthansa, without any compensation. (oh, and I was SAS Gold back then…) One of the most horrible services I have had…. adding to the fact that it was a day before my birthday…

  2. Impressive trip — but for such a complex itinerary, I’m surprised you didn’t “babysit your PNR” as frequent flyers would say. Even on simple domestic tickets, I manually check both my PNR and my flights once a day starting a week or so before travel commences, then every half-day starting a couple days out. From the day I commence an itinerary to the day I arrive home, I probably check my PNR two to three times a day — and every hour or two on the date of travel.

    No, I shouldn’t *have* to do this — and thanks to the increasingly effective mobile apps and email alerts offered by major full-service US-based airlines, it’s becoming less and less necessary. But I still count on my ExpertFlyer subscription to notify me about alternative INVOL reroutings when IRROPS occur.

    Also, as regards airport Internet access, although I very much agree it should be offered free of charge at major international hubs, don’t you have lounge access while traveling in any class on an international itinerary (which all but invariably includes free lounge Internet)? I know that hundreds of millions of people fly across the world without elite status every year, but I just don’t feel comfortable transiting one of the major oceans on a connecting interline ticket without *G, OW Sapphire, or SkyTeam Elite Plus to get me through rough patches.

    1. I have not had airport lounge access at all during my entire trip, Ryan Radia; but interestingly, I have not needed airport lounge access for much of this trip.

      Between trying to experience as much as I can while traveling and writing articles for The Gate simultaneously, I barely have any time to keep checking my itinerary. Past experience suggests to me that in the years I have traveled, I rarely have ever had a change in my itinerary such as the one I have just experienced. There may have been a delay here or a cancellation there — but nothing which really adversely affected me — which means that I would rather use my time on more productive things.

  3. I’m with Ryan Radia. It pays to babysit your upcoming flight schedule. Now only if there was a way to babysit your luggage so it wouldn’t get lost like what happened on my Spirit flight last month. Gone but not forgotten….

  4. You don’t need airport lounge access. Actually no one ever needs it! When I was a kid travelling my family never had access to the lounge and we survived! 😉
    For a complex itinerary I would have also babysat the PNR. It could’ve been worse though (i.e. staying in PVG airport all day if you didn’t have a Chinese Visa or if China didn’t have that 72 hour visa free policy.)
    Stay positive and enjoy your trip!

    1. Those points are all too true, Joey. Thank you!

      By the way, the remaining flights in my itinerary are still correct…

      …and I “babysit” the weather, actually. Except for that rainy night in Dublin — about which I will eventually report — the weather throughout this entire trip has been absolutely spectacular. That has been simply amazing considering all of the diverse locations to which I have been…

  5. I don’t know if I would “babysit” my itinerary, but I would never leave for the airport without checking the status of my flights. Taking a few minutes to do that could save hours in the end.

  6. I realize that this is rather late in coming, and I can’t guarantee that this would have worked in your situation or will work all the time, but a possible way to help mitigate this kind of situation is to have an account on every airline on which you fly and make sure that all of the airlines can send you a text/email. So, after you get your main record locator, find all the associated record locators for each flight (they are usually different than the originating one if on a different airline), and add that itinerary to your account on each airline. As a predominantly SkyTeam flyer with Delta, I also have accounts on AirFrance/KLM and Alitalia and may add others as I utilize different Sky Team flights. I do the same with UA and a couple Star Alliance partners as well as with OW. I still keep my main FF number in the itinerary for possible points accumulation and status recognition, but they also have my mobile/email and the record locator, so if they have a decent automated system, they can text/email you directly instead of relying on “not-Oxpedia” alone. Yeah, it’s kind of cumbersome, but it can add some extra lines of communication in a pinch.

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