Sunday, May 22, 2011

Why I don't like traveling

The Aurealis Awards were great. Coming home from them was something else entirely.

First, we stopped at a cafe outside of the hotel for breakfast. They brought my plate out promptly, and I have to admit the scrambled eggs were so good I ate them instead of fobbing them off on Sara. It's true I was disappointed in the sausage, but that's just an Australian thing (I temporarily forgot what continent I was on, and was expecting Jimmy Dean). The bacon, as always, made up for it.

However, twenty minutes later, my plate was empty and they hadn't brought Sara's pancakes, despite being reminded at least once. I went in to ask, and I could see that the grill didn't even have pancakes on it. I wanted to just walk out, but Sara made me pay for my dish and her latte. The waiter was apologetic, but as I pointed out, "sorry" didn't get my wife breakfast, now did it? Seriously, how hard is it to not bring out two plates until both of them are ready? Isn't that like one of the first things you learn in waitering training?

If I believed in prophecies, I would have recognized it as a sign of things to come.

On the way to the train station, we saw a cab, so we asked what the fare to the airport would be. The cabbie assured us it would be $35 or so, which was close to the $30 a pair of train tickets would cost. Since the Sydney train is a noisy, filthy sty (unlike the Melbourne trains), we went for it.

It turns out the cabbie was wrong. After a sickening ride (literally, Sara almost lost it from the curves and hills), we were presented with a bill for $43. But not until after being subjected to a racist rant by an ancient, decrepit cabbie so hard of hearing I had to communicate the name of our airline terminal by pantomime.

Which brings us to the true villain of the day, Tiger Airways. We got to the airport so early our flight wasn't even on the board yet. When it did show up, it had the word that I can never really comprehend when associated with flight information: cancelled. What does that even mean? It's not like I cancelled the freaking check I gave you. It's not like I can just go home and come back the next day - the whole point is that I'm trying to get home.

So we're standing in line, talking with a few other dispossessed travelers (hi Robin & Sharon!) and the fact emerges that Tiger has a reputation for this. Being me, I stepped out of line (a very long line, I might add), went up to the desk and asked a clerk what they were planning to do about it.

His response was that they had 4 seats on a later flight, and everyone else would have to wait until tomorrow. I walked backwards through the line, asking people if they were going to Melbourne, and when I got to six, I stopped counting.

After a brief conversation with Sara, I went off to Jetstar to buy a pair of tickets for $400. Considering that staying in Sydney another night would have cost us as at least $250, not counting me losing a day of work, it seemed worth it even if I didn't have a baby-deprived wife jonesing to get back to her bundle of joy.

I asked the Jetstar clerk if I could cancel the tickets if Tiger got us on a flight, but of course the answer was no: one-way tickets bought at the counter for a flight in the next two hours are pretty much the definition of not refundable.

"Are you sure?" she asked me. I shrugged and handed over my debit card. Literally two seconds after I pressed "Enter," Sara came running up to tell me that Tiger had given us seats. I yanked my card out of the machine, but this wasn't a Hollywood movie. It was too late.

But the Jetstar clerked was an angel. She hadn't completed the booking in her computer, so she immediately escaped out of the booking screen. Then she spent the next thirty minutes trying to figure out how to give me my money back. Apparently it had been so long since anyone in the airport had issued a refund that nobody knew how to do it anymore. Eventually she just cleaned out her cash drawer for us.

I stopped by the Tiger desk to give the clerk a bit of a debate on an epistemological phenomenon that seems surprisingly unfamiliar to many people: namely, that the wrong answer is actually worse than no answer at all. I am not sure he was as appreciative of the information as he should have been.

However, I found our discussion to be quite informative, as I've now learned that Jetstar will bend over backwards to help someone who isn't even their customer, while Tiger can't be trusted to count their passengers, let alone deliver them to their destinations. Good to know, I think.


  1. The bizarre thing is that the "later" flight they crammed us on was actually an earlier one that had been delayed since 9AM this morning. A whole bunch of passengers were even more peeved than we were.

    As for our bundle of joy, she could walk 10 steps when we left for the weekend. Now she can walk 17 and we missed it! We can never leave her again.

  2. sounds awful! when our flight was delayed 12 hours, thankfully we were in atlanta and josh let us stay with him. i can't believe sophie is walking!! you are both dearly missed.

  3. Did some research... apparently there was a TV show exposing how dreadful Tiger is. Reading about other people's experiences, it seems we got off easy!

  4. You are very brave for trying Tiger. No freaking way that I would, so you must have quite the set of cojones!

    But you're safe in Melbourne now ;-)