Mar 31, 2008

The Long Way Home

Another spike in the skin removed - after 2 months procrastinating, haggling, negotiating, weighting consequences, and considering pros and cons, my air ticket to France is finally settled, with a rather unreasonably expensive price.
The entire process started with a simple phone call. I placed my booking with MAS Taipei and was given a Auto Ticketing Timelimit (auto TTL) of April 30. However, my tickets were not the cheapest in town, as I placed my booking 'a little too late' according to the MAS staff. The price were not known at the time I placed my booking (early February).
Coming back to Taiwan, I called MAS every week to check and update my ticket details - a little change of date, a request for air-side hotel accommodation, an inquiry on ticketing rules etc. The following month was both torturing and exciting. I aim to quickly settle this matter and gather full speed for my studies and planning my trip; and excitement sparkles in every phone call to MAS Taipei - the clerk picking up the phone, me telling her my PNR (Passenger Name Record), and hearing her typing into her keyboard.
On one March morning I got very impatient. I decided instead of waiting for MAS, which is now very busy in buying aircrafts and planning to make more money, I can book other airlines and compare their prices as well. In 2 hours, I placed bookings with Singapore Airlines, China Airlines, EVA Air, Thai Airways, KLM and Air France, all through the convenience of a few clicks and phone calls on the net (Skype). Not all provided point-to-point flights, some will have me routed in Hong Kong or Amsterdam, and their prices ranges from approximately RM4000 to RM6000. My overwhelming enthusiasm and impatience scared a few airline customer service representatives, and of course, they weren't too happy somebody called them up and grilled them on airline business, which they assume they know so much about - the jargons and rules of playing passenger.
Days went by with intensified enquiries on fares, ticket conditions, and they repeatedly telling me 'we haven't confirm the fares yet'. Nevertheless, the MAS staff in both Kuala Lumpur and Taipei are very professional (yes, I even called up KL, to get first-hand information). Unlike tour operators and several European airlines, they always mechanically tell me how this 'fare procrastination' process work. They insisted should I want to have my ticket as soon as possible they would have to put me through a 'special lane' where they CEOs of MAS would held a meeting and discuss how much they would charge me on my ticket - very special treatment. Deciding I would not like Idris Jala to sacrifice more of his Transformation time, I'd wait then.
On a warm Friday two weeks ago, I called MAS for the n-th time. This time they excitedly tell me KL had finally given them the new list. After several minutes of banging on the keyboard, the price turned out to be NT$55000+ including tax (RM6000). Once again, MAS offered help. They said I could change my Taipei-Kuala Lumpur-Paris sector to a lower class (cheaper but more restrictive fare rule applies), which could save me NT$4000. I agreed, and that shortened my auto TTL to 31 March, less than one week.
I appointed a travel agent to assist me in completing my ticketing process as the time I would be in Taipei would never coincide with MAS' office hours. As they are good negotiators and also in the line of bullying customers, travel agents usually provide a little discount. A few hours after submitting my request they quoted me NT$51660, non-negotiable.
I swiped MasterCard that very evening, so as to ensure the speculated fuel price hike would not further chew away my dollars.
So, this is the schedule of my long way home this summer:
June 30 Taipei-Kuala Lumpur-Paris
July 30 Paris-Kuala Lumpur-Penang
August 31 Penang-Kuala Lumpur-Taipei
Long-long flight with MAS.


Chen Yi said...

Wow you're going to Paris. Awesome!!!

How long will you be there?
Last time it was Italy and now France, am delighted for you!

PS: Yeah i agree that MAS is not the most efficient among all airlines.. and they don't even have online check-in available for customers, this is something i find quite shocking.

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