Adventures in Flight Booking

A few years ago I booked a trip to Malta for a friend’s wedding and decided to add on a quick visit to Dubrovnik. That was my first experience with booking plane tickets on non-US airlines and in foreign currencies. In one sitting I booked a set of flights on Delta in US dollars, a flight on Air Malta in British pounds, one flight each on RyanAir and easyJet both in Euros, and a ferry ticket in Euros. My credit card got flagged for fraud twice within an hour. Ever since that day, I have gone into every internet purchase in a foreign currency knowing I might have to call my credit card company and explain that yes, I am booking a flight on AirAsia from Macau to Kuala Lumpur in Macau Patacas.

However I recently booked some flights with my friend Amanda, and the experience was baffling. I called her for our phone date to finally book our trip to Tahiti, Bora Bora, and Easter Island, which we have been trying to plan for almost two years now. We filled out all the required spaces, repeatedly having to provide our passport numbers and other vital information. Finally LAN Airlines had all information it could possibly need from us short of our blood types, and we each clicked the “process” button. Error. I tried my credit card number again. Error. Meanwhile, Amanda wasn’t having any luck with her booking either. I checked my email and the voicemail from the 800 number I ignored, only to find that American Express thought this transaction was fraud. I’m not sure what it was about booking a flight on a major airline in US dollars from Tahiti to Easter Island that concerned them, but easy fix. Amanda still couldn’t get hers to work, and had no fraud warnings from her credit card, so I started the process again to put hers on my card, luckily with no issues.

Since the Easter Island tickets went on my card, she agreed to put both of our Tahiti to Bora Bora tickets on her card. This leg of the trip had to be booked on Air Tahiti in “Tahitian thingies” as we called their currency (XPF or CFP Francs, but that’s no fun) so I braced myself for trouble. We both breathed a sigh of relief when it appeared her credit card was going to work. But then she got this message on her screen:

“Thank you for your interest in purchasing a ticket. This message is to let you know that we will be sending you a fax to let you know that we are considering your request. Once you confirm to us your acknowledgement of our consideration, we will contact you telepathically before mercury is in retrograde. At that time you must cut down the mightiest tree in the forest with a herring. Once we receive proof that the tree was in fact the mightiest in the forest, you must send payment via carrier pigeon in the form of coins only. Then we will have your ticket delivered by the Tahitian Pony Express. We find this simplified process helpful for all parties involved. And swimming is good exercise for the ponies.”

Ok it didn’t actually say that, but the message on the screen did say, “we will be contacting you within 72 hours not including weekends and holidays in order to process your payment and confirm your booking.” And then she got an email stating the exact same thing. Huh? So today Amanda got an email from Air Tahiti and had to click a link to confirm and our tickets were officially purchased, 48 hours later. Seems like an inefficient way of running an airline, but I guess if you’re the only airline flying between the French Polynesian islands you can do whatever you want.

As crazy as this seemed, it can’t be the craziest result of booking a plane ticket, or any other type of transportation for that matter. I’m almost excitedly waiting for the next ridiculous thing. What bizarre experiences have you had with booking transportation?