December 25, 2008

Hardcopy Infant Airline Tickets
Istanbul, Turkey

Tatiana's big Christmas present today was the joyous resolution of a battle we'd been bitterly fighting with the airlines for the past week.

We left Bulgaria in a state of ticketing limbo. Processed, but not issued. (If you haven't already, read up on the problems.)

American Airlines again dropped the ball this week (or should I say continued to screw up). Despite being promised e-mail confirmation and issuance of Tatiana's electronic ticket, none ever came. Her credit card was charged though! US$692.80 for her flight: Istanbul to Miami, then back to London about three months later.

It took yet another phone call to AA this week to get her e-ticket issued and into her inbox.

But this was only part of the battle. Over twenty calls have taken place to the airlines trying to get all this ticketing taken care of, and now we were dealing with the added bonus (read: pure misery and confusion) of trying to add Aidric as an infant lap passenger to Tatiana's purchased flight.

No e-Tickets for Infants

Tatiana was so fed up with talking to airline ticketing agents over Skype that I'd taken the reins on this messy project since we entered Turkey. It had to be done. One agent (of questionable intelligence/accuracy) had told us that every day we waited to purchase the infant ticket would only result in a higher fare (as the price was calculated as a percentage of the current day's market value for a matching coach ticket). But hey, maybe it would just be the taxes and fees, like another agent had told us—we really had no idea what the hell was going on with these people.

We'd purchased the tickets through the American Airlines Web site, but their partnered carrier, British Airways, was going to be the airline transporting the pair for the bulk of her ticketed travel.

I was getting quite the song and dance from the AA agents on the other end of the phone in the States. One of them flat out told me that since I was flying British Airways that I'd have to talk with them for the issuance of infant tickets (as American was only used in a domestic leg of her travel, from Miami to Orlando in April).

So I called British Airways, and they said that was absurd. That the ticket was purchased through American Airlines, and thus had to be taken care of on their end.

Back to American Airlines, and I told them to stop jerking me around. The agent said they could add Aidric's information to the system, and the ticket could be issued upon physical check-in at the airport. But, she couldn't tell us the price, and said that it might change between issuing it now and then. Additionally, she said that there was no way she could issue an electronic ticket for Aidric.

This was absurd. We flew both Aer Lingus and Easy Jet this past summer, and were able to have e-tickets issued for Aidric for all legs of that flight. Tatiana agreed.

I called again and had better success—but the call quality was just shit. Half way through our Skype call, in the middle of giving the credit card number, the agent couldn't hear me, followed by a dropped call.

Completely frustrated, I let Tatiana have a crack at the next call. She seemed to be making some excellent progress, had even gotten as far as reading off the credit card numbers for the bill (I gave her my card to use as I didn't want a repeat of the Peruvian billing address fiasco again), when I suddenly had a bad feeling. I turned to her and said in serious whisper, "MAKE SURE THEY'RE NOT GOING TO MAIL IT TO MY HOUSE!"

Sure enough, the next question the woman asked her in the headset was where she wanted the physical infant ticket mailed. No, no, no…

I got on the headset and talk with the agent. She said it was 100% impossible to book an electronic infant ticket, and that since we were in Istanbul, we'd have to go to an authorized travel agent to make the purchase.

Just wonderful. Thank God we're in a primary city for all this shit.

Jumping across the Bosporus

Giving up on the phone calls this week, I made it our mission for today to get over to the other side of Istanbul to reach out to the only authorized American Airlines agent in town—yep, just one of 'em. We couldn't even confirm their address/location, as the people answering the phone at the location spoke pretty terrible English (but at least confirmed a travel agent office was at the other end of the phone).

This was our first time back across the Bosporus—to the 'European' side of the city—since our arrival on the evening of the 22nd. I'm very happy that we've got Google Maps on our side in this bitter fight—big tip of the hat to these folks on getting us to where we needed to go.

Buried inside the second story of a nondescript apartment building in the middle of what seemed to be the financial district of town is this travel agency. The giant 'American' sign hanging above people working there gave us a warm feeling, as if this all might finally come to an end.

…And it did.

The friendly, helpful woman working with us squared us away with a smile. Problems with using Tatiana's credit card with a Peruvian billing address? Nope. None at all. Aidric fare was $113.

Finally.

Tatiana and Aidric are scheduled to depart Istanbul on the morning of the January 14th, flying back to Europe on the 8th of April. So, for 12 weeks, I'll be on my own again. Plans are for her to meet up with me in the Middle East—probably Israel. Leaving Turkey, Syria and Lebanon for me to explore alone.

Now, all that we've got to worry about is that bloody international letter of consent for children traveling abroad without both parents. Joy.

Comments:

Canada

Jen/YVR

February 23rd, 2009

I know this is long past, but thought I'd comment anyways. The whole crossover from paper tickets to e-tickets has been a messy one. Every airline in the world was supposed to be completely changed over by the beginning of last year, but for various reasons, infant tickets have posed a pretty big problem. Even working for a travel agency we have run into our fair share of issues with this whole situation. Some carriers have been more advanced and managed to switch over their infant tickets to e-ticketing at the same time as the regular tickets. Others, who shall remain nameless, were nothing less than full-on pains in the ass. Once adult tickets were issued, forms had to be completed, faxed to airline ticketing offices in heaven-knows-where, paper tickets couriered back to the original point of sale…nightmarish if the passenger was trying to leave within the week.

I had thought that this had been rectified for most carriers by now, but apparently not!

As for them not even allowing you to add an infant online, that's just painful. If they tried charging you a cent over 10% (the general cost of a lap infant's ticket on an international flight) of what Tatiana's ticket cost, due to a later ticketing date, I would kick up a stink. The infant ticket should always be based on 10% of what the adult's ticket cost. It wasn't your fault that you couldn't add the infant at time of purchase, nor should you be penalized for it.

Here I go, ranting on something that happened two months ago. Ha - spot the jaded travel consultant.

Glad to hear you eventually got it all sorted. Booking online certainly has its place, but sometimes you just need to deal with a real live person. I'd like to think my industry is still safe for a few more years!

Turkey

Craig | travelvice.com

February 23rd, 2009

Well said, Jen!

Germany

Jayvis

February 23rd, 2009

Hi Craig - new commenter but I've been following your hugely interesting stories for months now. I read this and just wanted to mention you really shouldn't give out your credit card details over a Skype call - while it's a great service for casual chit-chit, it's so insecure you're practically handing over your info to the kinds of people you absolutely don't want to have it. Probably nothing will happen, but do keep watch over the account. You seem like the kind of guy who takes your personal security seriously so I thought you'd want to know.

Anyway I hope your travels do you well and I enjoy reading these posts immensely. Your photos of the Bosporus in the next chapter were beyond awesome. Keep up the adventure - and the writing!

Turkey

Craig | travelvice.com

February 24th, 2009

Hi Jayvis, thanks for reading along (and for the compliments).

Here's an interesting read that was recently published: NSA Wants Help Eavesdropping on Skype

Unlike regular phone calls over a landline, Skype-to-Skype communications are encrypted (see the article above, and this one: Bavarian Government Wants to Intercept Skype Calls. But there certainly issues (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skype_security#Security_flaws).

The biggest threat you're likely to have with Skype is eavesdropping at the end points of the communication. I personally avoid keying a credit into a public computer (think keystroke loggers). There are lots of people that do though, and probably a fair amount that will go into a busy Internet café and call off the details of their credit card to someone over the phone (be it on Skype, or otherwise).

But it all starts with intercepting your communication, and frankly, it's a lot of effort on someone's part to do as much with the hopes that one day a person they're gathering data on will speak a credit card number. Why, when it's just easier to go out and steal a wallet? The manpower required to ratio of return is just way off.

I say speak with confidence. Buy things with a credit card online from your favorite e-tailer and tell your travel agent your credit card number from the privacy of your home.

Don't worry, none of us are likely important enough that anyone's listening. The disruption to your lifestyle is greater than calling a card in stolen, even if it does happen.

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