We had two weeks left in Japan and decided to climb Mt. Fuji. The morning of the climb, we received the news that my husband’s Grandma had passed away. As we wanted to make it to the funeral, we shortened our stay in Japan by a week. In that last week, I madly packed and cleaned our house. My boss was kind enough to give me the week off. I spent hours on the phone with Expedia trying to change our flights. I spent hours on hold. Part of the problem was that the flight was booked through two different flight companies. It was the exact same flight we wanted, just a week earlier. Finally, it worked after hours and hours, the flight got changed.
Our friends from Tarui-Cho came early that morning to see us off and Allan’s supervisor and another man from the school board office drove us to Nagoya airport. On the way there, I had that feeling in my stomach, “What if the flight hadn’t been changed? Maybe, I should have double checked it.” I’m a double and a triple checker, so I pushed this worry out of my mind. Besides, I couldn’t do anything about it at the moment. I had already checked 4 times to make sure I had my passport.
We got to the airport and went to check in. “You don’t have a flight booked today.”
“What?!” Actually, we spoke some Japanese English to the stewardess.
“Your reservation number shows that you cancelled a flight. There was no re-booking.”
Now, if this would have happened in Canada or the US, there would have been quite the commotion. In Japan, everyone is so quiet and polite, so the conversation continued quietly and politely.
I was dumbstruck. We got Allan’s supervisor with her cell phone- we didn’t have a phone- to call Expedia. This is when we made our first mistake, she talked to them on the Japanese side of things. The Japanese and English sides of Expedia do not communicate. So, the Japanese side had no record of any of the conversations I had had to rebook our flights. Meanwhile, Allan and I have no idea what is going on, the airline people are talking to Expedia, Allan’s supervisor is talking to the airline people, and we just wait patiently for an hour and a half until we receive the news that we will miss our flight and nothing has been resolved. That’s when we start taking action and talking to the English side of Expedia and giving them a piece of our minds. Allan’s supervisor eventually leaves us and the airline graciously lets us use their phone for the next several hours.
Allan handles the conversation since he’s much better at dealing with customer service issues having worked at a call centre himself. We’re put on hold and on hold some more. We’re told that they need to investigate which could take up to 5 business days and they would call us back after the investigation. We keep demanding to talk to supervisors, they want to call us back. We keep explaining that we can’t wait. We have no phone and no home and are stuck in the airport until we get a flight! “Yes, we are stuck in an airport in Japan with no home, no phone, no flight, and a funeral to attend back in Canada,” we repeatedly explain. At a certain point of being on hold, we start laughing and making jokes about the whole situation since that was about all we could do in a very stressful situation. Allan starts updating facebook with pictures of us waiting and making jokes about the process. My legs are tired and I’m sitting on the floor guarding our luggage. We haven’t eaten in hours.
Finally, Allan gets to talk to Joe from Bangladesh. Joe from Bangladesh turns out to be an alright guy. Unfortunately, we are told that we need to call back in half an hour. We explain that we don’t have a phone, but nonetheless we hang up.
Luckily, I had packed some food, so we sat down for a late lunch. At this point, we had been in the airport for 5 hours. After the half hour elapses, the airline graciously lets us get back on their phone with Expedia. After much rigmarole of explaining that we had been talking to Joe, being put on hold for 20 minute stretches, and my husband telling the person on the line that they need to check in with us every five minutes. On one such occasion of waiting for a good 20 minutes, the person comes back on the line and right away Allan starts in with, “You need to come back every 5 minutes to update us…”
“Allan, Allan, it’s Joe, it’s Joe.”
Well turns out Joe had a meeting with some other supervisors and managed to get us a business class flight later in the day. Relieved, we got to eat our last Japanese fast food meal. Of course, we advocated for having our initial flight reimbursed and money to cover our food expenses. Late on, I wrote a formal letter to Expedia explaining the situation and asking for remediation from such a stressful situation and I never got a reply.
Business class turned out to be pretty nice. We went to check in our luggage and the stewardess had sheets of paper with pictures of suitcases on them. Then, she proceeded to circle any parts of the luggage that were broken. Well, let’s just say you could tell we weren’t the usual business class travellers as she had to circle something on every suitcase: a small piece of ductape in one corner, a missing handle on another. She came to our suitcase which earned the name “Tough Guy” while we were waiting on hold for hours. She circled the whole picture. Needless to say that I doubt we would have even noticed if something had happened to some of our bags. We had a short lay over in Tokyo where we took full advantage of the business class lounge with free food and drink. The extra room on the plane in business class was also nice. In the end, we only got home a few hours later than our original flight since the business class flight was shorter. We made it for the funeral. Tough Guy made it in one piece too.
Lesson learned: don’t book over sea flights with Expedia. Just don’t do it. Ever.